In the mid-1970s, a recently ordained priest trekked the Cuban countryside, defying the communist government by distributing hand-printed religious pamphlets to townspeople bold enough to open their doors, The New York Times reports:
In more than a dozen interviews, those who know Juan de la Caridad Garcia (left) said they expect him to transform the Cuban Catholic Church in his new post as archbishop of Havana, which he assumed late last month. After three decades under Cardinal Jaime Ortega, a skilled diplomat comfortable in the halls of power, Cuba’s most important non-governmental institution is being led by a man focused on rebuilding the church’s relationship with ordinary Cubans….His predecessor has been criticized by dissidents and anti-Castro Cuban-Americans for praising achievements of the Cuban revolution and maintaining a non-confrontational relationship with the government, even as he helped negotiate the release of prisoners including those held on political charges.
In 2007, President George W. Bush awarded the Medal of Freedom in absentia to the Cuban human rights and democracy activist Oscar Elias Biscet. This week, he was able to place the award on Biscet’s shoulders (right), writes Council on Foreign Relations analyst Elliott Abrams, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy.
“This presidential gesture provided for and sped my release from prison as well as the release of all the prisoners of conscience from the Black Spring repression in Cuba,” said Biscet. “In the same way it laid down the basis for the Castro-communist government to publicly recognize the existence of human rights and sign several universal humanitarian agreements of the United Nations, such as the international civic and political treaties, even though it systematically violates them, continually and flagrantly.”
Rosa Maria Paya is in favor of countries engaging with and investing in Cuba, but argues that media coverage of the thaw in U.S.-Cuban relations, and the ways both governments have sold the rapprochement, have created the false perception that a political transition is underway on the island, The Atlantic adds:
That perception is in part the result of Cuban elites cynically exploiting the free market and the symbols of the free world, she said: “I’m talking about Mick Jagger in Havana, or Chanel [fashion shows], or a Fast & Furious [film shoot] taking place on the Malecon.”
“The totalitarian regime is still intact,” she said. “Fundamental human rights that have been violated for 55 years are still being violated, and the life of the common Cuban hasn’t changed at all.”