A brave act in Cuba deserves American support

From the Washington PostBRINGING FREEDOM and democracy to totalitarian Cuba will be no easy task. Two indispensable ingredients, though, must be courage on the part of the country’s dissidents and democrats, and international solidarity with them.

Both were on display in Havana over the past week. At the center of events was Rosa María Payá Acevedo, daughter of the late Oswaldo Payá, a recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought who lost his life in a still-unexplained 2012 car crash. Ms. Payá decided to pay tribute to her father by awarding a human rights prize in his name and chose as the first recipient Luis Almagro, the Uruguayan secretary general of the Organization of American States, who has distinguished himself through forthright condemnation of repression in Cuba’s authoritarian ally Venezuela. Ms. Payá invited former Mexican president Felipe Calderón, former Chilean education minister Mariana Aylwin (daughter of a former president) and Martin Palous, a former Czech ambassador to the United States, to attend.

Raúl Castro’s regime blocked them all from entering the country, telling Mr. Almagro that Ms. Payá’s entirely peaceful program was “anti-Cuban activity” and a “provocation.” Officials also detained journalists attempting to cover the planned ceremony, including Henry Constantin Ferreiro, regional vice chairman of the Inter American Press Association’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information. No doubt Ms. Payá’s unauthorized attempt to honor an international diplomat before such distinguished company did present the regime with an awkward choice: to tolerate an elementary exercise of her rights, and the rights of her invitees, or to deny it, and incur international political damage. How revealing of Havana’s true nature, and true priorities, that it chose the latter. Indeed, Cuba’s foreign ministry said the crackdown showed its determination not to “sacrifice its fundamental principles to maintain appearances.” …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

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