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Thursday, April 16, 2009


Obama on Cuba

President Obama was interviewed on CNN today. I liked the way the discussion of Cuba started:
Q You're going to Trinidad and Tobago. Most of these countries...want to bring Cuba up as an issue...How is this issue going to play out?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know, I have no problem with them bringing up Cuba as an issue. I think I've been very clear about my position on Cuba.
In other words, they can say whatever the hell they want. I'll pretend to be listening but nothing they say will change my mind.

But for sheer ignorance, it's hard to top this response:

Q Fidel Castro reacted to your lifting of sanctions, saying it was a positive move, but that he expected the lifting of the embargo. And he said that Cuba won't beg, but that's what eventually they expect from the U.S.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't expect Cuba to beg. Nobody is asking for anybody to beg. What we're looking for is some signal that there are going to be changes in how Cuba operates that assures that political prisoners are released, that people can speak their minds freely, that they can travel, that they can write and attend church, and do the things that people throughout the hemisphere can do and take for granted. And if there's some sense of movement on those fronts in Cuba, then I think that we can see a further thawing of relations and further changes.

But we took an important first step.
Some of those require a long explanation. But that we have a President who doesn't know that Cubans have the right (a right they exercise) to attend church is an appalling demonstration of ignorance, and of the power of stigmatization (in that it can effect even otherwise intelligent and well-educated people like Obama).

As far as the right to travel, Obama really has a good deal of nerve to bring that up. This (the U.S.) is the country which refused to allow 77-year-old Ibrahim Ferrer to travel to the U.S. to attend the Grammys in 2004. This is the country which refused to allow eminent Cuban scientist Dr. Vicente Verez Bencomo to come to a scientific awards ceremony in the U.S. (and, by the way, refused to allow him to accept his $50,000 award).

And this is the country which was recently condemned by Amnesty International for refusing permission for the wives of two of the Cuban Five to travel to the U.S. to visit their husbands, permission which has denied for many years in gross contravention of international law and basic humanitarian standards.

Obama closes by saying that the U.S. took an "important step." Perhaps so. But the restriction that he removed was a restriction on U.S. citizens (and only some of them, of course). He has done nothing to remove the U.S. actions against Cuba, most notably the internationally (and universally) condemned blockade and the ten-year imprisonment of the Cuban Five anti-terrorists.

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