If nothing else, President Obama’s state visit to Cuba has served to put on display the profound cynicism of its aging leaders and the cocoon of unreality and fear-induced obedience that has surrounded them for more than half a century.
“Give me the list now of political prisoners to release,” a rattled Raúl Castro replied to a questioner from CNN at a rare news conference that he was obliged to attend because it’s the custom for American presidents on foreign visits: “If there are political prisoners, they’ll be free before nightfall.”
If?! How utterly shameless. Or, better said in Spanish: Qué descarado!
In Cuba, Castro and the hierarchy never have to face questions about the failures of the revolution or the authoritarian disregard for human rights that characterizes the state. Not from the state-controlled media or from anyone else. As Castro’s answer amply put on display, they are completely unprepared to respond to anything besides softballs from a servile press.
Within minutes of his astonishing reply, cyberspace was buzzing with lists of political prisoners and detainees held in Cuba. Here is one recent list compiled by the independent Cuban Commission on Human Rights. Here is another from the Cuban American National Foundation.
We’ll take Raúl Castro at this word. Now that the lists of political prisoners have been made public, we’ll expect their release by nightfall.