Cuban Americans for Engagement welcomes the handshake between Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela's Memorial. As Cuban-Americans interested in better relations and reconciliation between Cuba and the United States, we believe that there is no better way to honor the South African giant than by mature dialogue at the highest level of government between our two countries. Words are good, but actions are better. Let's remember that presidents Castro and Obama were on the same side of the struggle against apartheid, and from this common ground let’s build a new future for our two nations.
We emphasize the issue of Cuba being listed as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. Like Nelson Mandela being on the State Department’s terrorist watch list until recently, it is a political manipulation of a serious issue that affects the credibility of U.S. foreign policy. We also call on Cuba and the United States to remove any obstacles to free travel between our two nations.
Obama’s call on governments to tolerate dissent as part of Mandela’s legend is coherent with the administrations focus toward Cuba and is welcome. The problem is that in the case of Cuba, the policy of the U.S. does not promote the right to dissent, but rather selects favorite opposition figures who promote regime change, imposed by Washington, thus offending the strong nationalist sensibilities of the Cuban people. The U.S. policy does not help to create more space for a patriotic loyal opposition in Cuba. On the contrary, it is an obstacle and a distraction, by smothering demands for democracy with interventionist actions. In fact, a policy of détente and engagement would have more credibility in promoting human rights, because it would emphasize the value of the democratic process, instead of imposing an outcome on the Cuban people.