By: Ben Weingarten
What is it about dictatorships that make Americans swoon?
Juxtaposing two recent articles published within 24 hours of each other on Cuba is instructive.
First, a Wall Street Journal article titled “Amid Thaw, First Authorized U.S. Yacht Sails to Cuba on Hopes of Travel Surge” reads:
The 78-foot Still Water docked in the marina late Wednesday after a four-hour jaunt. Aboard the sleek yacht were three crew and 12 passengers eager to see Cuba before the sharp economic and social change that many Americans expect to sweep the country as a long-frozen U.S.-Cuba relationship thaws. Some also hoped to sniff out business opportunities that such a transformation might spawn.
“Being born in the 50s and being indoctrinated the way we were, it’s interesting to be able to see this,” said 57-year-old passenger Jack McClurg, who manages his personal investments from Colorado and sails the Caribbean in his own 115-foot Italian-made yacht. “I’m just wanting to see this change happening.”
… Though Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro agreed in December to restore diplomatic relations between their countries, the trade embargo remains largely in effect. But officials and entrepreneurs in both countries are chipping at its edges, hoping to marry U.S. investors with Cuba’s hope to revive its economy.
“The genie of free enterprise is out of the bottle and it is a powerful genie,” Jose Viera, a retired senior Cuban diplomat, assured the yacht’s group in a private briefing. [Emphasis mine]
Contrast this sunny view with what is actually happening on the island to non-apparitchiks:
With tense bilateral ties recently renewed after five decades, and top US diplomat John Kerry due in Havana in days, Cuba arrested some 90 activists on Sunday.
Cuban security forces rounded up marchers — about 50 with the Ladies in White dissident group and around 40 other activists, some wearing masks with the image of US President Barack Obama, according to an AFP reporter.
One protester slammed Obama, and said the December announcement to normalize relations between the former Cold war foes had bolstered Havana’s crackdown on dissidents.
“It’s his fault, what is happening,” said former political prisoner Angel Moya, speaking about Obama.
“The Cuban government has grown even bolder,” he added before being detained. [Emphasis mine]
This is just the latest in a series of crackdowns on dissent in Communist Cuba, where in July the Cuba Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) documented 674 political arrests, the highest number since June 2014.