Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Martha Beatriz, off the reservation? [Updated]

In an item below, I cited a Reuters story from Havana that covered the Bush-dissidents videoconference based on statements of dissidents who participated. In that story, Martha Beatriz Roque was said to have urged President Bush to make it easier for Cuban Americans to send remittances.

An AP story, including reporting from Havana, includes this:

Some of what Bush heard echoed the challenges to his Cuba policy that he hears from some at home. Roque asked Bush to make it easier for Cuban Americans in the United States to visit family members on the island and send money to their relatives here.

The U.S. Interests Section in Havana, where the activists went to participate in the conference, did not say what, if anything, Bush said in response to Roque's request.

For Roque, this is a new position. In general she has been in favor of American sanctions against Cuba, and when it comes to travel, she has called for easing restrictions only for those who carry aid to dissidents.

If this is Roque’s position, it is fair to ask: Can there be a single Cuban in Cuba who is in favor of the Bush family sanctions?

A sign of the trouble that Roque’s statement is already causing was reported by Alejandro Armengol on his Cuaderno de Cuba blog. He says that the videoconference received scant mention on Radio Mambi, and that Roque is barely mentioned on that station since April, when she joined other dissidents in a call for a Cuban transition that takes place in “an atmosphere of national reconciliation.”

Armengol says Roque now suffers “double censorship” – from the Havana government and the “extreme right in Miami that until recently exalted” her.

Update: The dissidents’ press release about the videoconference said nothing about U.S. policy toward travel and remittances. But as a reader pointed out, NPR’s Tom Gjelten, in Havana, interviewed Martha Beatriz Roque and confirms that she asked for a change in U.S. policy regarding remittances and family visits.

Here, from AP, is how Berta Soler (one of the participants in the videoconference) described it:

“Ella (Roque) le pidió que fuera flexible sobre las visitas (de cubanoamericanos) a Cuba y el envío de las remesas en lo que representó un cambio a su anterior apoyo al endurecimiento de las sanciones contra la isla”, comentó Soler.

My translation:

“She [Roque] asked him to be flexible regarding visits [of Cuban Americans] to Cuba and the sending of remittances, in what represented a change in her earlier support for the strengthening of sanctions against the island,” Soler commented.


Mambi_Watch said...

I'll add that it certainly is true that Martha Beatriz Roque has not been on Radio Mambi for a while.

She used to appear regularly on the radio by phone with Ninoska Perez Castellon, but not recently. The reason is unknown, but Armengol may be right in his argument.

Still, Armando Perez Roura last week praised Cuban dissident "Antunez" even though Antunez also signed to the recent Transition Agenda calling for national reconciliation.

I think hard-liners on Radio Mambi (and in general) are gonna walk a fine line in this case: giving the impression of support for dissidents by emphasizing their shared goals (i.e. release of political prisoners, democratic changes), but ignore the differences in policy (i.e. travel and remittances).

What is clear is that the three dissidents (Beatriz Roque, Soler and Antunez) who appeared in the teleconference, all seemed to share the view of changing US policy on travel and remittances. It is also clear that Pres. Bush has either ignored those recommendations or rejected them.

In an NPR report yesterday, Tom Gjelten says that Beatriz Roque "stayed up all night" in preparing her comments for the video conference with the White House. The NPR report is titled: "Bush Rejects Dissidents' Call to Change Cuba Policy."

It should be interesting to see how hard-liners take this news and still defend US policy. So far, the focus has been on praising Bush for holding a video conference, and no mention of the dissident travel and remittance recommendations.

It seems that the dissidents may go ignored yet again.

Unless Sen. Barack Obama's Cuba policy is adopted.


"Armengol says Roque now suffers “double censorship” – from the Havana government and the “extreme right in Miami that until recently exalted” her."

I have never gotten the sense that anyone in the exile community wants to censor her. In fact, the only opinions on Roque I've ever heard from exiles are ones of pride AND "exaltation." I wonder where Armengol is getting this from?


Phil Peters said...

Based on what he writes, it seems he gets it from listening regularly to "la primera en Arbitron."

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viva la libertdad! viva mi madre que quiere verme.

abajo castro, abajo bush! abajo mafia!

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