In another long string of unintended consequences, dissidents in Cuba are paying in advance for the Obama visit.
Cuba’s Dissident Crackdown Peaks Ahead of Obama’s Historic Visit.
Detentions hit five-year high in January, rights group says
President plans to meet with civil society groups in Havana (Emphasis added)
Even some supporters of President Barack Obama’s moves to strengthen relations with Cuba are questioning the timing of his planned visit to the Communist island next month, after arrests of dissidents by Raul Castro’s government reached a five-year high.
Obama vowed Thursday that he’ll promote human rights during his historic visit, the first by a sitting American president since 1928. But more than a year of warming relations between the nations, separated by just 90 miles, have so far failed to slow the Cuban government’s crackdown on political dissidents.
The Madrid-based Cuban Observatory on Human Rights said 1,474 people, including 512 women, were “arbitrarily” detained in January. The arrests have been climbing since the December 2014 announcement that the two governments would improve ties.
“A presidential visit should occasion a broader progress on the human-rights agenda. And I haven’t seen any changes on that front,” said Christopher Sabatini, an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs who has supported the rapprochement.
Sabatini said Cuba can take a number of steps to show progress ahead of Obama’s March 21-22 visit, including freeing its remaining political prisoners, allowing greater freedom of expression, providing citizens with more access to the Internet or joining the Organization of American States, which would place it under the scrutiny of the regional body’s human rights commission.