Michelle Marchante/ Assistant Opinion Director
President Barack Obama is the student who stays up all night studying for a test but then forgets to set the alarm.
He may have started the most important and powerful job of the United States with good intentions but since he took office, he’s been nothing but a disaster. Even if he thinks he’s doing good, he somehow finds a way to royally screw it up. From the complete failure of ObamaCare to the horrible Iran Deal, the latest Hit ‘n’ Miss in Obama’s legacy is his trip to Cuba and unfortunately, his response to the Brussels bombings.
For the first time in almost 90 years, an American president stepped onto Cuban soil, an act that for some is an achievement of progress and for others, an insult to all the political refugees who fled it’s communism and all those who died fighting for Cuba’s freedom. Obama’s goal was to show the world that by beginning to build a relationship with Cuba again, the U.S. could help improve its human rights. Sounds wonderful except for the fact that as long as Cuba continues to be run by a totalitarian regime, nothing will change.
Sunday, March 20, 2016, just hours before Obama’s plane landed in Jose Marti International Airport, over 50 members of the Ladies in White, a peaceful human rights group that marches every Sunday for the liberty of political prisoners, were arrested.
This group of women are beaten, not just by government officials but by other citizens, arrested and detained for hours, for marching down the streets, asking not just for their husbands, brothers, sons and other family members who were arrested for protesting against the government to be freed but for Cuba’s liberty.
“For us, it’s very important that we do this so President Obama knows that there are women here fighting for the liberty of political prisoners,” Berta Soler, one of the founding members of the Ladies in White, said in an interview with USA Today before being arrested. “And he needs to know that we are here being repressed simply for exercising our right to express ourselves and manifest in a non-violent way.”
You would think that in honor of Obama’s visit, Cuba’s government would give them a chance to protest peacefully, but they didn’t, showing the entire world that Cuba has no plans on improving the rights of the people, despite the new “relationship” with the U.S. What can we expect when dictator Raul Castro didn’t even show up to greet Obama at the airport?
We must give Obama some credit though. He did meet with dissidents and civil society leaders at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, leaders that included members of the Ladies in White and Elizardo Sanchez, the president of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation. He also called Castro out.
When Obama was in the middle of answering a question, Castro was talking to someone. Saying excuse me, Obama called Castro’s attention and then turned around, charismatically giving a wink and a smile to the audience, making Castro’s struggle to find an excuse even more amusing. After all, it’s not everyday you see a dictator fumbling like a child who got reprimanded.
But Obama, unfortunately, screwed up when CNN reporter, Jim Acosta, asked Castro why he had Cuban political prisoners and why he wouldn’t release them.
“Well, give me a list of political prisoners and I will release them immediately. Just mention the list,” Castro said. “What political prisoners? Give me a name or names or when — after this meeting is over, you can give me a list of political prisoners, and if we have those political prisoners, they will be released before tonight ends.”
Acosta should have had the list on him or at least know some names but Obama could have intercepted. Castro was acting like there aren’t any political prisoners-a complete lie- but by not saying anything, Obama was accepting this lie. Obama himself should have known at least a couple of political prisoners by name, after all, wasn’t this visit to Cuba specifically to focus on human rights?
Obama’s positive speech on Cuba’s future was also destroyed when NBC’s Andrea Mitchell’s asked Castro about the future of the two countries in relation to their different interpretations of democracy and human rights.
“I think human rights issues should not be politicized. That is not correct. If that is a purpose, then we will stay the same way,” Castro said. “…It’s not correct to ask me about political prisoners in general. Please give me the name of a political prison, and I think with this is enough.”
It’s clear by Castro’s answer that Cuba isn’t going to change its ways anytime soon but then again did we really think it would?
Let’s face it: Obama’s visit to Cuba was a vacation under the guise of presidential business. He chose to attend the Major League Baseball exhibition game in Cuba between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban National Team after giving a speech where he stressed that the world must unite to combat terrorism instead of returning to the White House when Brussels was hit by a terrorist attack that morning.
Maybe he thinks his decision to stay and watch the game is an act of defiance, showing the terrorists that they don’t have enough power to change his plans but it looks more like he just doesn’t give a hoot because hell he’s on vacation. Let’s hope that our next President will take terrorist attacks more seriously instead of heading off to dance the Tango in Argentina.
The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of FIU Student Media Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.
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