(El País/Spain) Within President Barack Obama’s remit, besides making the economic embargo on Cuba more flexible, his government has removed Raúl Castro’s regime from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. This isn’t uncommon for the announced re-establishment of diplomatic relations between both countries. Even then if we take into consideration that during the period of these negotiations, the Cuban part still hasn’t provided anything outstanding in return.
Indeed, Raúl Castro’s government had not even released all political prisoners still keeping in jail, among others, the writer Angel Santiesteban and the graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado El sexto. The Sunday’s repression on Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) and UNPACU activists has not ceased either. The only thing left for him is that during Pope Francis’s visit to Cuba, this coming September, he gives another master class of repression to opposition leaders as happened during Benedict XVI’s stay.
Cuba’s government would be less willing to make a move in matters of a political openness. It seems hardly achievable as it could produce a domino effect weakening the relentless social control that characterizes Cuba’s regime. For instance if Cuba provides legal recognition, within negotiations between the United States and the European Union, to independent Civil society organizations with aims opposite to that of the « socialist society’s purpose », the right to freedom of association would imply the exercise of rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression along with a following request to order new multi-party elections to renew the Assembly of the People’s Power in 2018.
The recognition of freedom of association in Cuba, along with the legalization of opponent activities, would represent a cracked wall that will crumble the totalitarianism barrier sooner or later. Meanwhile, what else can Cuba provide, but a tiny political openness sign which doesn’t involve risking their closed political system?
To the concrete gesture from Obama, in addition to conceding political prisoner’s release of a Revolution grace, Raúl Castro should answer by repealing Law 88 for the « Protection of National Independence and Economy of Cuba », sanctioned on February 16, 1999. As the first article says, the aforementioned law’s aim is to « categorize and penalize these facts which support, facilitate or cooperate with Helms-Burton Act’s purposes, the blockade and the economic war against our people, directed to break the internal order, to destabilize the country and to liquidate the Socialist State and the Cuban independence».
It is worth reminding that in the sentences pronounced by the popular courts against peaceful opponents during the « Black Spring of 2003 », they were sentenced by using this law, including sentences to 28 years of imprisonment for exercising rights which are considered as misdemeanors in Cuba. Most of political prisoners from the group of 75 prisoners, sentenced
on that occasion after summary trials, were forced into exile and currently only 8 of them are staying in Cuba, those who are free with an extra penal license, which prevents them to exit and return to their country, although many opponents were invited by external organizations.
If Raúl Castro truly wants Obama to have a bigger support in Congress to lift the embargo, he has to provide a gesture on his part which could include repealing Law 88. Since this wouldn’t involve the political risk of making a reform which stems from the recognition of the exercise of fundamental rights. If Raúl Castro doesn’t even repeal Law 88, this might be because he feels very confident that the dictatorship he installed with his brother Fidel is entirely safe from international pressure and questionings.
Thus, when Obama leaves the US presidency, Castro will maintain unacceptable conditions to block negotiations, keeping everything he achieved with this « normalization » excluding the necessity to give something in return. There is a reason why such a closed dictatorship remained more than half a century in power.