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Top Cuban Dissidents Snub John Kerry After Embassy Schmoozefest

Two of Cuba’s most prominent anti-communist leaders refused to meet with American Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit to Havana last weekend, condemning the Obama administration for “caving” to Castro regime demands and meeting only privately for a social event with the dissidents.

“We’re working hard, fighting 17 Sundays of repression and resistance; we don’t have time for ceremonies,” Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) head Berta Soler told U.S.-based Martí TV regarding her decision not to meet with Secretary Kerry at the United States embassy in Havana. Soler is currently actively working for the release of four Ladies in White arrested during Secretary Kerry’s visit. Speaking to Spanish newswire service EFE, Soler added that she was disappointed that the American government had “caved in” to the Cuban regime and agreed to schedule a “low profile” event with dissidents, rather than bring the fight for human rights in Cuba front and center.

Soler’s group, consisting of mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives of currently imprisoned political Cuban dissidents, has faced mass arrests every Sunday for the past seventeen Sundays. The predominantly Catholic group attends Mass together on Sundays, which makes them easy targets for state police. Ladies in White have been tarred and beaten, and have disappeared from Catholic churches; one church banned them from practicing their religion entirely to avoid angering the government.

Antonio González-Rodiles, the head of the Estado de SATS dissident group, also rejected Secretary Kerry’s invitation to a reception at the embassy. “When the Cuban regime opened their embassy in Washington on July 20, they invited whoever they wanted,” Rodiles noted, in contrast to the American embassy opening, where the Cuban government successfully coerced the United States out of inviting dissidents. A bevy of anti-American communist Cuban icons celebrated the opening of the embassy in Washington, from folk singer Silvio Rodríguez to terrorist Ramón Pez Ferro. Rodiles called the invitation to a private event “lamentable” and added, “It is not comprehensible that the administration of President Barack Obama also suffer the repression of the Cuban regime.”

Rodiles and Soler helped lead a protest the weekend before the embassy opening aimed at pressuring the United States into inviting dissidents to the event. More than 90 dissident leaders, many wearing masks of President Obama, were arrested, and others were put under house arrest to prevent them from attending the protest.

Independent journalists who have found it easier to navigate their business in communist Cuba, like blogger Yoani Sanchéz, did attend the Kerry event, even taking a selfie with the Secretary of State for good measure:

During remarks to the Cuban regime at the embassy opening, Secretary Kerry implored the Castro dictatorship to help the Obama administration fight climate change, and he assured regime leaders in Spanish that “there is nothing to fear.”

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