The Obama administration has responded coolly to overtures by Cuba’s communist authorities.
State Department Assistant Secretary Mike Hammer said that while Washington was willing to engage the regime, the government should first respect Cubans’ human rights.
“This administration has repeatedly stated that the US government is open to forging a new relationship with Cuba, but Castro’s government must begin by allowing the Cuban people to exercise their human rights and determine their future,” Hammer told a press conference.
He also condemned the “despicable” arrests of democracy activists during the funeral of Oswaldo Payá (left), one of the island’s most celebrated dissidents.
“Our message is very clear to the Castro government… that they need to begin to allow the political freedoms that the Cuban people demands,” Mr Hammer added.
The communist authorities targeted Payá because he “crossed a red line in challenging the government’s relations with the church, which had become a pillar of the government’s strategy of survival…. at a time when the regime, emboldened by the cardinal’s silence at the mass arrests during the pope’s visit to Cuba in March, was not about to tolerate criticism,” said Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy.
The regime’s political credentials were on display at this week’s celebration to mark the raid on Moncada barracks, a turning point in the Cuban revolution.
“We will be like Che,’” said first vice-president José Ramón Machado Ventura, repeating a slogan drummed into Cuban schoolchildren.
“The cult of Ernesto Che Guevara is an episode in the moral callousness of our time. Che was a totalitarian. He achieved nothing but disaster,” noted left-leaning analyst Paul Berman.