HAVANA TIMES — Cuban dissident Oscar Elias Biscet and his wife, Elsa Morejon, were invited by President Barack Obama to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Medal for Freedom, issued directly by the White House.
Dr. Biscet received this award in 2007, issued by then-President George W. Bush, something that, according to the dissident, “sent a strong message to the Castro dictatorship because I was in prison and that accelerated the process of my release.”
However, only Elsa could travel to Washington. Oscar, released in 2010, was one of the few political prisoners who wanted to stay in Cuba and now is subject to the “Provisional release” clause, a kind of probation that prevents you from leaving the country.
The invitation to Biscet and his wife adds to the meeting Obama recently held with Cuban dissidents Guillermo Fariñas and Berta Soler, during a fundraising dinner in Miami, where he voiced that things are changing in Cuba.
Biscet without permission to travel
“The event will be held today at the White House and all those who have received this medal awarded by the US government are expected to attend, but my husband did not receive permission to leave Cuba,” said Elsa Morejon shortly before leaving for Miami.
The wife of the opposition leader said she intended to “inform president Obama of the lack of freedom that exists in my country and the situation of political prisoners.” However when asked how many there are she said that “there are many and those who were freed in 2010 can’t travel.”
That year the government of Raul Castro set free all prisoners of conscience, most of them chose to go to Spain with their families, only a dozen decided to stay in Cuba, on probation, one of them is Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet.
The 12 former prisoners attempted to unify the opposition but their efforts were unsuccessful, the leaders of the different organizations never agreed and dissent has continued fragmented into small groups to the present.
In the doldrums
In the interview, Dr. Oscar E. Biscet said “that the contact (from Washington) with the dissidents is a message of solidarity being sent by the US president, as did President Bush, who awarded me the Medal of Freedom in 2007.”
However, the opponent does not share the view that there are changes in Cuba, recently expressed by Obama in Miami. “What we have is a process of improving its communism, they are changes within the dictatorship,” he said.
Dr. Biscet thanked “the president for this gesture to two simple citizens,” and asked that “this visit serve to make a deep analysis of the situation in Cuba and to generate direct support, firm and decisive to our people.”
However, all the support of Washington has been unable to prevent dissidents from being at a low point as to their social influence, something recognized by Jonathan Farrar, the former US Interests Section chief, in his cables to the State Department from Havana, revealed later by Wikileaks.
The ways of the Lord …
Nobody knows for sure why Obama initiates contacts with Cuban dissidents. It could be framed within the campaign to raise funds but the recognition of changes on the island makes it harder to understand the direction that policy towards Cuba might take.
In making the atmosphere even more strange, Washington sent its diplomatic mission in Havana an open message – that could be read by the Cuban government – with the names of US organizations and beneficiaries in Cuba of a multi-million-dollar project to support dissidents.
For his part, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that he supports eliminating the travel restrictions to the island for US citizens and reaffirmed that “we are encouraged by some changes that are occurring in Cuba”, although he qualified himself by talking about “the authoritarian situation faced by Cubans.”
The atmosphere causes such uncertainty that some dissidents seem concerned. Guillermo Fariñas and Berta Soler asked Barack Obama in Miami to not leave out the opposition if he should start negotiations with the Cuban government.
(*) Visit Fernando Ravsberg’s blog in Spanish.