Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Cuba should not be rewarded for denying freedom to its people

    Cuba should not be rewarded for denying freedom to its people
    By Editorial Board October 20 at 7:56 PM

    THE OTHER day, Fidel Castro wrote an opinion column for Cuba’s state-run
    newspaper, Granma, as he has done periodically from retirement. He
    lavished praise on an editorial in the New York Times that called for an
    end to the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba. But Mr.?Castro had one complaint:
    The Times mentioned the harassment of dissidents and the
    still-unexplained death of a leading exponent of democracy, Oswaldo
    Payá, and a younger activist, Harold Cepero, in a car wreck two years ago.

    The assertion that Cuba’s authoritarian government had yet to explain
    the deaths was “slanderous and [a] cheap accusation,” Mr. Castro sputtered.

    So why has Cuba done nothing to dispel the fog of suspicion that still
    lingers over the deaths? If the charge is slanderous, then it is long
    past time for Mr. Castro to order a thorough investigation of what
    happened on an isolated Cuban road on July?22, 2012. So far, there has
    been only a crude attempt at cover-up and denial.

    We know something about what happened, thanks to the eyewitness account
    of Ángel Carromero, the young Spanish politician who was at the wheel of
    the rental car that was carrying Mr.?Payá and Mr. Cepero to a meeting
    with supporters. Mr. Carromero, who visited Washington last week, told
    us the car was being shadowed by Cuban state security from the moment it
    left Havana. He said his conversations with Mr. Payá as they traveled
    were mostly about the Varela Project, Mr. Payá’s courageous 2002
    petition drive seeking to guarantee democracy in Cuba. Many of Mr.
    Payá’s supporters in the project were later arrested and imprisoned.

    After the wreck, Mr. Carromero was pressured by the Cuban authorities to
    describe it as an accident caused by his reckless speeding. But he
    reiterated to us last week that what really happened is that the rental
    car was rammed from behind by a vehicle bearing state license plates.
    Mr. Carromero showed us photographs of the damaged car, damage that
    seemed inconsistent with a wreck caused by speeding. But the precise
    details of what happened are unknown and need to be cleared up by a
    credible investigation. Mr.?Payá’s family has sought one for two years,
    without success. When the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of
    the Organization of American States sent a query to Cuba about the case,
    they got no answer. Nothing.

    The U.S. embargo has been substantially relaxed in recent years to allow
    hundreds of millions of dollars of food and medicine exports, in
    addition to consumer goods supplied to Cubans by relatives in this
    country. The question is whether a further relaxation is merited. The
    regime’s persecution of dissidents is unceasing; it continues to
    imprison American Alan Gross on false charges. While Cuba has toyed with
    economic liberalization and lifted travel restrictions for some, we see
    no sign that the Castro brothers are loosening their grip. Fully lifting
    the embargo now would reward and ratify their intransigence.

    A concession such as ending the trade embargo should not be exchanged
    for nothing. It should be made when Cuba grants genuine freedom to its
    people, the goal cherished by Mr. Payá.

    Source: Cuba should not be rewarded for denying freedom to its people –
    The Washington Post –
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/cuba-should-not-be-rewarded-for-denying-freedom-to-its-people/2014/10/20/753b7bd8-588f-11e4-b812-38518ae74c67_story.html