Plainclothes police in Cuba harassed an internationally respected human rights leader and his colleague in separate incidents on Tuesday. Sounds like Cuba’s government is carrying out yet another crackdown on its dissident community. The Associated Press reports:
Elizardo Sanchez said two plainclothes officials stopped him near his Havana home on Tuesday, shouting physical threats and using crude language. That night, dissident Guillermo Farinas was allegedly attacked by a man with a wooden stick elsewhere in Havana, resulting in light injuries.
There was no immediate comment from the Cuban government, which considers all of the dissidents to be mercenaries paid by Washington to stir up trouble.
The 68-year-old Sanchez runs the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation and acts as a de facto spokesman for the island’s small opposition group. He made the accusations in a letter sent to foreign journalists Thursday that included an official complaint he lodged with Cuban Interior Minister Abeladro Colome the previous day.
One possible goal of all this could be to forestall any moves by the Obama administration to ease relations. The Castro government fears an end to the U.S. travel and investment embargo. The last thing it wants is to see the island overrun by partying gringos while wealthy Cuban Americans buy up choice properties and make investments that give them a major stake in the island’s future.
If Cuba really wanted better relations with the United States, this would be the time to ease pressure on dissidents, give more room to religious voices on the island and introduce a few economic reforms. Even within the restrictions of U.S. law, there are a lot of steps the Obama administration could take in response.
We’ll see, but for now it looks as if improving relations with the Colossus of the North is the last thing on Havana’s mind.