Defense22 December 2014

Notes From Norm: Cuba

In 2003, as the Chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee in the United States Senate, I visited Cuba.

It was only months after a brutal crackdown by the Castro regime, which had arrested 75 human rights activists, on a variety of charges; all of whom were imprisoned and sentenced to lengthy prison sentences, within twenty days of their arrest.

One of the many people I met with, was Oswaldo Payá, a prominent critic of the Castro Regime, at his home in Havana. 

Payá was a leader of the Varela Project, which focused on peacefully bringing democracy to Cuba.  25 members of the Varela Project were among those imprisoned.

Payá introduced me to three women whose husbands had been among the recently imprisoned human rights activists.

The women were part of a Group called Damas de Blanco, or Women in White, which had protested the arrests after Mass every Sunday since the arrests. 

During the conversation, which Payá assumed was being recorded, he quietly passed me a note saying- “The US should ends its embargo on Cuba, when Castro ends his embargo on the Cuban people.” 

Payá's words still ring true. 

It’s important to note that Payá died in a car accident in Cuba in 2012, when his car was rammed from behind and driven off the road. Many believe he was murdered by the regime.

The Castro Regime has murdered, imprisoned, tortured and deprived untold thousands of innocents during their 50 year tyrannical rule of Cuba.  President Obama’s justification to ignore a 50 year American commitment to withhold recognition of these oppressors and their oppression as being out of date is a slap in the face to those who have suffered under this regime.  

If the Castro Regime had demonstrated any effort at real reform over the past 50 years, it would have made the President’s decision something that could be justified. But Cuba remains time locked-both in its continuing repression and its refusal to demonstrate any movement toward democratic principles. American values and standing up for the freedom and liberty of those around the world will not only outlast the Castro Regime, they will also withstand the President’s assault against them with his decision.”

As a blanket rule I am not opposed to normalizing relations with Cuba.  If the Castro Regime had made simple overtures to real reform I would be open to normalizing relations.