REPRESSION

Freedom still beyond reach for Cubans

 
 
Elsa Morejon's husband, Oscar Elias Biscet, was released from prison in 2011.
Elsa Morejon's husband, Oscar Elias Biscet, was released from prison in 2011.

The Washington Post

A few weeks ago, President Obama invited my husband, Oscar Elias Biscet, and me to a dinner to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Many thought that in light of Obama’s efforts to improve relations between the United States and Cuba, Gen. Raúl Castro, Cuba’s president, would approve a passport for Oscar so that he could attend. Such was not the case.

Oscar is a physician, but he is not allowed to practice medicine. Amnesty International has named him a prisoner of conscience for his years in jail for defending human rights. He is a follower of the philosophy of Gandhi and King. In 2007, President George W. Bush awarded Oscar the Medal of Freedom. But he could not receive the award in person because he was in prison, where he had been sentenced to a term of 25 years. Oscar was released in 2011, but in many ways he’s still a prisoner because he can’t leave the island.

I, however, was permitted to travel to Washington, and I attended the recent dinner, where the president and Secretary of State John Kerry told me that they regretted Oscar’s absence.

Because of the widespread belief that Cubans now have the right to travel abroad, some have expressed surprise that Oscar was not allowed to leave the island. The right to travel is enjoyed without restriction by billions of people worldwide. It is recognized by the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

But there is much confusion about what is happening in Cuba today. For example, the political prisoners released a few years ago through the offices of the Catholic Church were compelled to accept that their release was conditioned on their exile, and that of relatives including children, to Spain.

My husband is grateful to Presidents Obama and George W. Bush, to Americans and to people in Europe and Latin America for their support of Cubans’ desire for freedom. Oscar would have wanted to speak to the president about the tragic conditions in which the Cuban people live:

•  Regime repression has increased to a level unparalled since the 1960s. Hundreds of arbitrary arrests have been made this year, as well as physical attacks on peaceful demonstrators.

•  Raúl Castro does not permit Amnesty International, the International Committee of the Red Cross or similar organizations to visit Cuban prisons.

•  The promises of Raúl Castro are all too reminiscent of ones made by his brother Fidel. In 2007, Raúl Castro said that every Cuban would have a glass of milk. We are still waiting.

•  International humanitarian aid sent to the island after Hurricane Sandy was not distributed to people in flooded areas but instead given to armed forces and directed to stores where it could be resold at prices well beyond the reach of ordinary Cubans.

•  Despite Obama’s efforts to improve bilateral relations, the Cuban regime continues to hold an American hostage. Alan Gross was condemned to 15 years in prison for giving a portable computer and a cellphone to Cuban Jews, actions not recognized as crimes in the civilized world.

Many thought that Raúl Castro’s accession to power would end the government’s support of international terrorism and of terrorist anti-American regimes around the globe. But just this summer, Panama intercepted a North Korean ship carrying a load of Cuban sugar. Beneath the more than 200,000 sacks of sugar were Soviet-era missile radar equipment and other weapons — in violation of U.N. sanctions against the provision of weaponry to North Korea’s tyrannical regime. In recent days, the Cuban regime has been carrying out a vast military maneuver, known as Bastion 2013, to defend the island against an American invasion that will never come.

As the Christmas season approaches, my husband and I pray to God that the resources the Cuban government devotes to its armed forces and to the repression of the civilian population will instead be used to ameliorate the poverty and hunger of the Cuban people. We pray also for the prompt arrival of freedom in Cuba.

Elsa Morejon is a human-rights activist and registered nurse who resides in Cuba. She has been forbidden from practicing medical work since 1998.

Special to The Washington Post

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">GAZA DESTRUCTION:</span> Palestinians sit amid the rubble of a building this week while attending a “victory rally” organized by the military wing of Hamas.

    MIDDLE EAST

    People of Gaza must be helped

    Now that the guns have fallen silent, leaders of Israel and Hamas are busy trying to convince their respective peoples that they emerged victorious from this 50-day war.

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE:</span> The rise of a terrorist state in the Middle East may be the defining crisis of President Obama’s presidency.

    WHITE HOUSE

    Obama too detached to lead?

    Having once served a president, I don’t begrudge any president a vacation. There is, in fact, no escape from this relentless job. A change of scenery does not involve a change in responsibilities, or even a release from the essence of the president’s routine.

  •  
REGALADO

    IMMIGRATION/EDUCATION

    Up close and personal with migrant children in Dade school

    This year, on the first day of the academic calendar, I kicked off the day at Francis Tucker Elementary in Coconut Grove donating book bags and supplies to excited kindergartners in this historic and economically fragile neighborhood of the City of Miami.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category