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Embassy for Cuba Flies in the Face of Dissidents

By: Belén Marty - @belenmarty - Jul 2, 2015, 9:00 am

EspañolIn a historic departure from the wishes of Cuban dissidents, a US embassy is in the works for Havana, to open on July 20. Marcelino Medina González, the regime’s interim foreign minister, received confirmation in the form of a letter from President Barack Obama on Wednesday, July 1.

The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a brief protocol ceremony in one of its halls, and later in the day, Obama made a public appearance to address the change.

Jeffrey DeLaurentis (Izq) se reunió con su par cubano, Marcelino Medina González (Der) (Flikr)
Jeffrey DeLaurentis (left) met Marcelino Medina González (right) in Havana. (Flikr)

Regime officials also released the following statement: “Jeffrey DeLaurentis [head of the US interests section in Havana] delivered a letter from President Barack Obama, addressed to Army General Raúl Castro, president of the Council of State and Ministers, which confirms the decision to restore diplomatic relations between both countries, and permanent diplomatic missions in the respective capitals.”

Minutes later, Cuban ruler Raúl Castro returned a letter to confirm the restoration of relations: “In making this decision, Cuba is encouraged by the reciprocal intention to develop respectful and cooperative relations between our two peoples and governments.”

However, the Cuban ministry of Foreign Affairs used social networks to insist that ending the embargo is vital for the normalization of relations.

This announcement marks the next step in the restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, following the preliminary steps taken on December 17, 2014. The United States cut ties with the communist country in 1961, after Fidel Castro took power and ordered the confiscation of US assets on the island.

“Won’t Help Us At All”

The reactions from Cuban dissident leaders were swift. PanAm Post spoke to a number of human-rights activists on the island and collected their views on the opening of the US Embassy.

Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, believes that the opening of embassies will not help the Cuban people or civil society “at all.”

“First, [the United States] must demand that the Cuban government respect human rights, and then do the opening [of the embassy].” Soler believes that the opening of embassies is closely related to the regime’s search for profit through the negotiations.

“We demand an end of violence against human-rights activists, especially against women,” she said.

Moreover, she asserted that the Cuban regime has been repressing the Ladies in White “in dungeons” for 11 consecutive Sundays, after demonstrating in favor of the release of political prisoners. She further noted that “neither of the governments have released any statements” on this matter.

Ovidio Martin Castellanos, member of the Coordinating Council of the dissident Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), stated that the regime has a “great need” for these things to happen.

“According to what we are seeing here, it seems there is no progress in the fundamental changes [needed]. We can clearly see that the Obama administration is trying to get things ironed out in Cuba, but all the Castro-communist dictatorship is looking for is its own welfare.”

He asserted that just as a group of US officials gathered with Cuban authorities over the weekend, “the peaceful opposition were being brutally repressed” on the streets of Santiago de Cuba.

“The government arrested more than 103 opposition members of UNPACU on Sunday, to prevent us from attending mass at the Sanctuary of El Cobre.”

Los disidentes cubanos están preocupados de que la represión no cese. (Strategic Culture)
Cuban dissidents believe that the regime’s repression will not stop. (Strategic Culture)

As for the touted benefits the restoration of embassies could bring, he said “there is nothing for the people, no recognition of civil society, no recognition of the opposition.”

Castellanos believes that all of the Castro brothers’ moves are aimed to guarantee their continuation in power.

Meanwhile, Karel Becerra, secretary of international relations for an Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID), told the PanAm Post that Obama may have hope for normalized relations, but that “absolutely nothing” will change with the opening of such diplomatic establishments.

“Clearly, the Obama-Castro relationship has taken a personal direction, in which the first one is trying to go ahead against all odds, while Castro just smiles at each gift he receives.”

As for the reactions from elected US officials, one of the first to make his views known was Representative Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL), who fiercely criticized the opening of embassies. In a statement to the press, he said that with this policy, Obama “continues to appease brutal dictatorships that threaten American interests.”

“If a Cuban embassy opens in Washington, it will not represent the Cuban people. It will represent the Cuban intelligence services that perpetuate human rights abuses against the Cuban people. It will serve the interests of the military generals that illegally smuggle weapons to our adversaries. And, most directly, it will serve the dictators that will continue to impoverish and oppress the Cuban people.”

Translated by Rebeca Morla.

Belén Marty Belén Marty

Belén Marty is the Libertarian Latina, a journalist based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has lived in Guatemala, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States and is a former candidate for local office with Argentina's Libertarian Party. Follow @BelenMarty.