California senators wrong to applaud representative of communist Cuba | The Orange County Register

The Orange County Register, July 8, 2022

California senators wrong to applaud representative of communist Cuba

By John Suarez |

PUBLISHED: July 8, 2022 at 6:00 a.m.

President Biden was vindicated, as The Washington Post editorial board pointed out on June 27, 2022, for his “refusal to permit Cuba’s attendance at the recent Summit of the Americas.”

With the world distracted, Cuba cracks down on dissident artists,” the editorial board wrote.

Normalizing authoritarians does not improve their behavior but makes them more aggressive and compromises democratic norms.

During the Summit of the Americas, California state senators undermined the president’s correct stand when they welcomed Alejandro Garcia del Toro, deputy chief of mission to the Embassy of Cuba in the United States, to address the California Senate on May 26.

They were wrong to do so.

On July 11, 2021 when tens of thousands took to the streets in Cuba and nonviolently called for freedom and an end to dictatorship, President Miguel Diaz Canel went on national television and said “the order of combat is given; revolutionaries, take to the streets.”

Government agents responded, beating up, and firing on unarmed protesters, organizing mobs, giving them clubs and bussing them in to also beat up protesters. Cuban protesters were hurt, shot and some were killed. This has been followed by 11 months of political show trials, and long prison sentences for hundreds of demonstrators and those bystanders who recorded video of the protests and caught regime agents carrying out violence against unarmed Cubans.

On July 12, 2021, human rights defenders Felix Navarro, 68, and Sayli Navarro  Álvarez, 35, father and daughter, inquired about the protesters’ condition. They were also jailed and sentenced to nine and eight years in prison, respectively.

To ignore this and invite a representative to address the California State Senate legitimized this criminal behavior, and invited more of the same.

On June 24, the Cuban government delivered stiff prison sentences of nine and five years respectively to Cuban rapper Maykel “Osorbo” Castillo and Cuban performance artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara.

The first Summit of the Americas, held in Miami in December 1994, was “based on shared democratic values and the promise of increased trade and commerce to improve the quality of life for all peoples and preserve the hemisphere’s natural resources for future generations,” recalls the U.S. State Department.

The summit is supposed to be a gathering of democratically elected heads of state throughout the Americas.

Havana was not invited to the first six Summits of the Americas.

The first time Castro was invited was in 2015 in Panama, and again in 2018 in Peru, and it did not go well.

Havana did not respect democratic norms at the Summit of the Americas in 2015 and 2018. Pro-regime mobs were flown in, led by formal officials like Abel Prieto, a former minister of culture, to violently shut down discussions in civil society meetings.

They did not want dissidents to be heard. People were hurt in Panama after being assaulted by Cuban diplomats.

The Cuban dictatorship’s authoritarian nature is not only an internal feature of the system, but one exported to Venezuela and Nicaragua, creating crises with negative impacts across the region.

Havana is currently carrying out a disinformation campaign for Russia throughout Latin America defending the invasion of Ukraine.

The California Senate giving an audience to a representative of the Cuban dictatorship without inviting Cuban democrats or questioning Cuba’s human rights record, and concluding with a standing ovation for the dictatorship’s representative, is shameful.

Normalizing the Castro regime also sends a signal that there is no accountability, endangering the lives of Cuban dissidents.

The California Senate should call on the Cuban government to free Felix, Sayli, Maykel and Luis Manuel, invite Cuban pro-democracy activists to address the California Senate, and observe the upcoming anniversary of the murder of Cuban dissident leaders Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero by Cuba’s secret police 10 years ago on July 22, 2012.

John Suarez is executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba.