Warming of relations with Cuba has done nothing to help an artist imprisoned for disrespecting the Castros
Let me introduce a young Cuban man who goes by the name of El Sexto. He is a street performer, popular with young Cubans.
As we've discussed, not much has changed in Cuba, and the latest in El Sexto's story is another example:
Not long after his return, El Sexto was arrested in December for attempting a performance featuring two pigs named Fidel and Raúl. He planned to let them roam around Havana’s Central Park, but was detained before he could get there. The reason: disrespect of national figures. Yet Maldonado hasn’t been formally charged in the ensuing nine months of imprisonment.
Typical Castro style: Throw away the key, ask questions later. His mother, Maria Victoria Machado, says his jailers only give her the run-around and set dates for a release that never comes. “He committed no crime,” she says in a video.
To protest, Maldonado, the father of a toddler, has been on a water-only hunger strike since Sept. 8.
At the United Nations on Monday, President Barack Obama once again publicly extolled the virtues of the people-to-people policy he has taken to a whole new level, lifting every restriction on travel and trade with Cuba he can possibly remove without congressional approval.
But in the afterglow of the American olive branch, Cuba has continued to operate with the same repressive stance of the last 56 years.
El Sexto is just the latest evidence that people-to-people contact works only when both sides act in good faith.
At some point, the Obama administration has to hold the Castro regime accountable for this disregard of human rights and the rule of law. This is all happening in front of our eyes, almost like the "in your face, Obama" speech by Raúl Castro. In his speech, Castro called for Puerto Rican independence and condemned NATO encroachment on Russia. As someone said, with friends like that, who needs enemies?
Furthermore, where is Hollywood? the artist community? Where are these groups when one of their own gets thrown in jail for expressing a political point of view? Where is the American left when an artist gets thrown in jail for disrespect of national figures?
El Sexto's ordeal is the perfect opportunity for President Obama to demand something from the Castro regime. He can start by saying that civilized countries do not lock up people for mocking their leaders. Furthermore, President Obama should hold Raúl Castro personally responsible for El Sexto's health.
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