Obama’s Cuba Visit Illustrates US Arrogance

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Originally published by Counterpunch.org.

“During his trip, Obama frequently referred to human rights in Cuba, particularly “political prisoners.” In his speech to the Cuban people, he declared, “I believe citizens should be free to speak their mind without fear, to organize, and to criticize their government, and to protest peacefully, and that the rule of law should not include arbitrary detentions of people who exercise those rights.”  ”

“But who are these so-called political prisoners? Political prisoners are defined as those accused or convicted of crimes committed to achieve political objectives. In other words, they have broken the law. Such offenders are not “prisoners of conscience,” which are people engaged in non-violent activities that have been imprisoned solely for their political views. According to Amnesty International’s latest report, there are currently no prisoners of conscience in Cuba.

Media coverage of Obama’s visit has repeatedly focused on the Ladies in White organization, which protests weekly in Havana in support of so-called political prisoners in Cuba. The US media highlighted the fact that the Ladies in White protesters were rounded up by police during a demonstration on the day Obama arrived in Havana. These arrests have been repeatedly pointed to by the media and pundits as a graphic example of how Cuba violates the human rights of peaceful political protesters. As such, it would appear that arrested members of the Ladies in White constitute prisoners of conscience. But these analysts have conspicuously ignored an important component of Amnesty International’s definition of “prisoner of conscience,” which states, “We also exclude those people who have conspired with a foreign government to overthrow their own.”

Last August, Wikileaks published a memo dispatched from the US Special Interests Section in Havana to the State Department requesting $5,000 in funding for the Ladies in White. The memo also revealed that the US government had previously funded the group. It is illegal under Cuban law for Cuban organizations to receive funding from the US government, which is not surprising given that Washington’s stated objective for decades has been the overthrow of the Cuban government and socialism. Consequently, imprisoned members of the Ladies in White cannot be considered prisoners of conscience but they could be considered political prisoners that broke the law by receiving funding from the US government.

The Ladies in White are not unique, the US government has supported and funded many anti-government groups in Cuba in its efforts to replace socialism with capitalism in that country.

Consequently, the Cuban government claims that many of the so-called political prisoners in its jails are Cubans who have received funding from a foreign government that is intent on achieving regime change. One such foreign program was conducted by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) which, under the guise of “democracy promotion,” distributed Internet and satellite communications equipment to Cuban opposition groups in direct violation of Cuban law. The project came to light when US aid worker Alan Gross, under contract to USAID, was arrested by the Cuban government in 2009. Such activities make it clear that it is the United States that has failed “to leave behind the ideological battles of the past.”

One can only imagine the outcry in the United States if a foreign government such as the Soviet Union or China were funding anti-capitalist organizations in the United States during the Cold War in an effort to bring down the US government and overthrow capitalism. Undoubtedly any American citizens receiving such funding from ideological enemies in order to engage in activities that sought to overthrow the US government and bring down the capitalist system would have been considered traitors and charged with sedition.”

Read the full article here.