Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Cuba visa issue is a matter of principle

    Cuba visa issue is a matter of principle
    Posted By José R. Cárdenas Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - 4:26 PM Share

    The usually sober editorial board of the Washington Post misfired badly
    in a recent editorial, "The refuseniks of Cuba," in which it lambasted
    the Obama administration for denying visas to a few Cuban academic
    apparatchiks who wanted to attend an upcoming conference of the Latin
    American Studies Association (LASA) in San Francisco.

    Now, there are good reasons to criticize the administration's decision
    on the matter -- but on the grounds of its apparent incoherence, rather
    than as a statement directed against the Castros' totalitarian regime.
    It turns out that only 11 visas were denied, some 60 were approved, and
    a few more are under review. Given the non-transparent visa issuance
    process, there is little to explain why any of the decisions were made,
    including granting a visa to Raul Castro's daughter, Mariela, a noted

    Predictably, the result of the administration's apparent
    split-the-difference approach wound up pleasing no one. Pro-freedom
    Cuban American members of Congress were irate that the State Department
    granted travel permission to Mariela Castro, who Senator Robert Menendez
    called a "vociferous advocate of the regime and opponent of democracy,
    who has defended the regime's brutal repression of democracy activists."

    Yet, in attempting to make the case for the 11 Cubans who were denied
    visas, the Post went over-the-top, completely distorting the issue at
    hand. For example, calling the denied Cubans "refuseniks" eviscerates
    all known meanings of the term, which originated behind the Iron Curtain
    and referred to those who requested exit visas to leave the Soviet
    Union, an act of betrayal in the eyes of authorities from which they
    suffered greatly.

    The fact is that not a single member of the Cuban LASA delegation has
    ever said or written anything that deviated so far from the party line
    that they had to pay any professional or personal price. They all live
    lives of relative comfort and ease under the benign care (and watchful
    eye) of the regime.

    Contrast this to the thousands of Cuban men and women who have dared to
    think freely and independently and continue to do so. Not only are they
    harassed daily, jailed, or forced into exile, but many have paid the
    ultimate price for refusing to relinquish their fundamental human
    rights. To equate in any way their sacrifices to the experiences of
    pampered regime elites is simply obscene.

    Unable to comprehend this point, the Post can only attribute opposition
    to the granting of visas to "fear," as if people are afraid the Cubans'
    sanctioned talking points couldn't be rebutted or would change anyone's
    opinion about their murderous regime. The assertion is risible on its face.

    Rather, the point is that a regime that has denied a truly free and
    independent thinker such as the blogger Yoani Sanchez permission to
    leave Cuba some twenty times simply does not deserve to enjoy the same
    rights as a reward to its academic collaborators, whose
    all-expenses-paid visit to the United States is designed only to whip up
    public sentiment against the U.S. embargo anyway.

    Then there is the matter of the jailed American Alan Gross, who has been
    incarcerated in Cuba for more than two years for trying to help Cubans
    link to the internet without going through regime censors, as is their
    human right. Once again, in granting any visas to the Cubans, the
    administration has sent the signal that the abduction of Mr. Gross
    continues to be cost-free.

    The principled decision would have been to deny all the visas in
    solidarity with the thousands of Cubans who cannot speak their minds in
    Cuba or travel freely or had to flee Cuba to enjoy those rights;
    moreover, to reaffirm that there will not be business-as-usual as long
    as Alan Gross remains unjustly imprisoned. But all this has been muddled
    by half-measures: Deny some, allow others. It may be that the
    administration doesn't mind drawing both the ire of the right and the
    left, but political expedience is never a good choice over principle.