Days after President Obama’s message of human rights, rescue from tyranny and violent oppression was delivered, Cuban police suppressed pro-democracy protesters gathered in a park several blocks from where Obama’s missive of relief was given.
Describing the ferocity of police action as “brutal,” Yahoo News correspondent Patrick Symmes, an eyewitness, chronicled the arrest of two demonstrators and recounted how a third protester attempting to flee was seized, thrown to the ground and punched repeatedly by Havana police.
Onlookers captured vivid images of protesters being beaten, kicked and arrested by authorities.
Witnesses stated several hundred people entered Parque Fe del Valle, a locale known to attract visitors for its free Wi-Fi.
Chants of “Down with Fidel,” “Obama Si, Castro No” and other pro-democracy catchphrases followed as the crowd swelled. The group later proceeded to march toward the site of Mr. Obama’s speech days before, the Grand Theater.
The crowd was immediately met by flocks of uniformed Havana police and plainclothes agents of the Castro regime and proceeded to beat and arrest dissidents.
It is unknown how many demonstrators were arrested.
As pandemonium ensued and arrests increased, the crowd evaporated according to witnesses.
“This isn’t about a dialogue between Obama and the Cuban government. We need a dialogue between the Cuban people and the regime,” said activist Rosá Maria Payá.
Aware of how Havana confronts dissent, it is unlikely Mr. Obama’s speech was drafted to inspire widespread demonstrations.
It is also true Mr. Obama’s words went unheeded by Havana’s government: The Castros have no intention introducing any incarnation of political reform nor do they plan on relinquishing power.
While Mr. Obama’s words were greeted with enthusiasm by pro-democracy activists, his Cuba ploy will do nothing to encourage the island to adopt democracy or establish civil liberties.
Departing Cuba after uttering rhetoric resonating with opponents of the Castro regime, what is deeply troubling about Mr. Obama’s trip is it appears as if he was willing to offer largess in the form of diplomatic recognition and economic relief without the smallest reciprocation in return.
Deserters from American justice have found refuge in Cuba for decades; Americans persist in litigation against Havana for property seized after Castro’s takeover; and dissidents toil in dank prison cells.
This continues despite assurances from the Castro brothers.
A noble and valuable gesture to punctuate Mr. Obama’s visit would be for the president to issue a harsh reprimand and continue to protest the activity of the Castro regime and, particularly their brutal police force, for the crackdown on dissidents following his visit.
Should Mr. Obama remain passive and ignore the plight of demonstrators, all of which occurred in full view of the entire world, Mr. Obama’s so-called “historic” trip was meaningless.
Such harsh condemnation of the Castro’s brutality from Obama is unlikely to occur.
[Yahoo News] [Photo courtesy miamiherald.com]