Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Havana’s unchanging hardline

    Posted on Saturday, 02.15.14

    Havana’s unchanging hardline
    OUR OPINION: Human rights should remain the measure of U.S. policy
    toward Cuba
    HERALDED@MIAMIHERALD.COM

    Suddenly, there appears to be movement, or at least the start of a
    conversation, regarding policy toward Cuba on the part of the European
    Union and Americans interested in the welfare of the Cuban people.

    This is a healthy development. No policy should be declared sacrosanct
    and off-limits for periodic review, particularly those framed during the
    height of the Cold War.

    There’s just one thing missing in this picture: The Cuban government.

    The government’s hard-line stance on human-rights issues represents an
    obstacle in the thawing of relations that cannot be ignored. Moreoever,
    not only is there no sign that the Castro regime is interested in any
    sort of dialogue or negotiation over its despotic policies, but rather
    the opposite.

    The latest evidence of the regime’s perfidy puts the Castro government
    squarely in the middle of a global weapons-supply chain to North Korea,
    in violation of explicit U.N. sanctions.

    And just days before pollsters in this country released findings
    indicating that majorities across the board, including people of Cuban
    descent, favored a thaw in relations between the two countries, police
    raided the home of prominent dissident Jorge Luis García Pérez, known as
    Antunez. He was hauled away and detained for hours — and so was his
    wife, after demanding his freedom — before being released. Their home
    was vandalized and sacked.

    This is standard operating procedure by the Castro security apparatus.
    Both at home and abroad, Cuba stands on the side of the oppressors, as
    it always has.

    Opponents of the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba, which grew out of
    restrictions imposed in 1960 by the Eisenhower administration, would
    argue that the failure to make an impact on Cuba’s behavior after all
    these decades is proof that the embargo doesn’t work.

    But countries in Western Europe and elsewhere that have fielded a more
    flexible and engaging policy toward Cuba haven’t made a difference
    either. The larger point is that the Castro government cannot survive
    without resorting to the use of police-state tactics to maintain control
    and refuses to risk any softening, regardless of the carrots and sticks
    extended by other countries.

    Why, then, should this be the time for any country that wants to help
    the Cuban people soften the policy toward the government?

    The European Union has set in motion a review of its “common position”
    toward Cuba, but European leaders say any progress in relations will be
    conditioned on improving human rights in Cuba. That must remain the
    uppermost consideration. To be fair, the process should involve getting
    input from dissidents, meeting with independent members of civil society
    and sticking with the current policy until all the issues have been
    resolved.

    For the United States, the release of American Alan Gross from a Cuban
    prison where he is serving a 15-year sentence for what amounts to a
    customs violation should be a pre-requisite for any consideration of
    changes in policy.

    It has been clear for years that attitudes toward Cuba were changing in
    this country, particularly among younger Cuban Americans. But Cuba’s
    dismal human-rights record should be the foremost consideration in any
    domestic dialogue about U.S. policy.

    Unilateral steps by the United States must be measured by the prospect
    that they can provide relief for average Cubans from the daily abuses
    they continue to suffer under the unchanging regime of the Castro brothers.

    Source: Havana’s unchanging hardline – Editorials – MiamiHerald.com –
    http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/02/15/3936356/havanas-unchanging-hardline.html