Cuban authorities prevented the head of the Organization of American States (OAS), a former Chilean minister and an ex-president of Mexico from traveling to Cuba to attend an award ceremony hosted by dissidents, Reuters reports:
Cuba opposes anything that legitimizes dissidents, who it claims are mercenaries funded by foreign interests. It also views the OAS as an imperialist instrument of the United States. OAS chief Luis Almagro reported that Cuban authorities said they were “astonished” at his involvement in “anti-Cuban activities” which were “an unacceptable provocation.” A U.S. embassy official attended the ceremony, organized by the Latin American Network of Youth for Democracy, a group opposed to the Communist government. Almagro’s seat was left empty in symbolic protest.
Empty chairs with the names of Almagro and Chile’s former Education Minister Mariana Aylwin sat inside the home of Rosa Maria Paya, right, daughter of late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, in Havana (above), McClatchy reported.
While some observers suggest that the Cuban regime wants to pursue reform and détente with the US, others are more skeptical. “The decision to block Almagro’s visit highlights Cuba’s continued refusal to meet or advance toward the hemisphere’s basic standards for human rights and political freedoms,” said Cuba analyst Roger Noriega.
In a letter to the dissidents, Almagro said he had assured the Cuban authorities he did not have an anti-Cuban agenda.
“My trip to Cuba was no different than others I have made to attend similar events in Latin America organized by civil society,” Almagro (left) posted in Spanish on Twitter, adding that the reason he could not receive the Oswaldo Payá award in Cuba was because his visa request was denied. He added that he has attended similar events by civil society organizations “without the government supporting them, but without censoring them because they are part of the tolerance of democratic systems and values,” The Miami Herald reports.
The OAS’s only interest was to “help move Cuba closer to the values and principles upheld by the organization in relation to democracy and human rights,” he said.
In an analysis, Michael Shifter [a former program officer at the National Endowment for Democracy] and Ben Raderstorf of the Inter-American Dialogue think tank called Mr. Almagro’s Cuba trip a “characteristically bold move” by an OAS chief who has repeatedly “defied expectations and attempted to push the envelope in his position.”
Other analysts appeared more understanding of the Communist regime’s predicament.
“It doesn’t surprise me that there are doubts about whether the Cuban government will admit a high official to talk about internal democracy and human rights, subjects that are still very sensitive,” said Cynthia Arnson, director of the Latin American Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Cuban journalist Henry Constantín Ferreiro (right) remains in detention after being arrested on his way to cover the ceremony in remembrance of Paya, the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas reports.
Juan Carlos Vargas (left), a former student at the Central University of Chile and member of the executive board of the Latin American Youth and Democracy Network that was hosting the ceremony, was removed from the island not long after the daughter of former Chilean President Patricio Aylwin, Matiana Aylwin, was also prevented from flying there this week for the same event.
Whatever the state of US-Cuban relations, millennials should be aware of the Communist regime’s brutal history, analysts suggest.