Before we get too excited about the tide of change in Cuba we should probably consider the case of Daniel Llorente. When the first U.S. cruise ship in the living memory of most of us arrived in Castroland, Daniel was pretty enthusiastic. In fact, he was down on the docks waving an American flag. Some of his fellow observers expressed concern over this overt display of pro-American unity sentiments, but Mr. Llorente was not dismayed. He said, “I’m not scared of talking. I’m not scared of the government.”
As it turns out, that really didn’t work out very well. (Fox News)
A Cuban dissident was arrested on Monday for waving the American flag near the Havana pier where the Carnival cruise ship Adonia docked on Monday.
The man, Daniel Llorente, was holding the flag across his back at the waterfront as the ship approached. He was detained after making a speech about liberty on the communist island. It’s unclear what charges were leveled against him.
A video of the event shows a crowd of tourists and locals gathering around Llorente, and him getting into a verbal exchange with an unnamed woman. The arrest was first reported by Noticias Martí, a Miami-based news organization focused on Cuba.
“You’re making a clown of yourself,” the woman told him. “The American flag. What are you doing, for God’s sake?”
Anyone who has been following our coverage of the big Cuban rapprochement over the past year or so will recall that I couldn’t bring myself to oppose the effort at normalization of relations. As I noted at the time, my decision wasn’t made because I had any particular hope of success or any real change inside of the communist regime, but just because what we’d been doing since before many of you were born simply wasn’t working. And really… how much worse could it get?
Since that time we’ve probably not seen any signs of it getting worse, but it seems equally clear that the early months aren’t producing anything significantly better either. Shortly before Obama’s visit, Castro locked up the Ladies in White and a number of other pro-democracy groups. Now, with the nascent flowering of capitalism (?) in the form of tourists showing up, Daniel Llorente was packed off to a jail cell as well. Any western interests seeking to do business in Cuba will no doubt be welcomed with open arms, but if they’re smart they will limit or find some way to secure any property they develop or resources they flush into Havana because it would take nothing more than a single fit of pique in Castro’s office to see their goods seized “in the public interest.”
In the end, we can’t really expect the Castros and their long established communist party infrastructure to simply walk away from all the power and wealth they’ve accumulated over generations at the expense of their people. Nothing will bring about that sort of change short of a revolution, but if we’re very lucky it doesn’t have to be the sort of revolution that involves guns and cannons and party officials being wheeled off in tumbrels to the guillotine. If there is sufficient public unrest and demand for freedom and the release of political prisoners, it could be combined with the threat of cutting off the wealth which comes with rapprochement and just possibly get the regime to begin opening up a bit.
And if it doesn’t… at least we gave it a shot.