Dr. Óscar Elías Biscet, Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient sentenced to 25 years in prison by the Castro regime, told Breitbart News on Wednesday that he considered the Obama-era policy of closeness to Cuba a “disaster” that “increased repression” against people like him.
Biscet issued his remarks to Breitbart News shortly after being arbitrarily detained once again last week. He explained to Breitbart News that he was never shown a warrant for arrest or told why he had lost his freedom. A communist official told him that he had not been “detained,” but “retained,” a word that carries no legal meaning in the Cuban penal code.
Dr. Biscet is currently the leader of Project Emilia, a movement to use non-violent resistance and civil disobedience to bring a democratic government to Cuba that will respect the human rights of its citizens. His insights are of particular concern to Americans in light of Democrat presidential primary frontrunner Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) repeatedly defending the Castro regime on television this week, insisting that “not everything was bad” about the Cuban Revolution.
If elected, Sanders would be expected to expand the policies of former President Barack Obama, who legalized tourism to Cuba through a loophole known as “people to people” travel and allowed cruise ships to use property Fidel Castro stole from U.S. citizens to dock in major Cuban cities. Sander has openly opposed the embargo on Cuba and called for friendlier ties to the regime.
“The policies during the period of 2008-2016 were a disaster. They gave more strength and legitimacy to the Castro tyranny and increased repression with impunity,” Biscet told Breitbart News. “With the change of direction in 2017 by the current government, [the United States] has shown the leaders of the dictatorship that consequences exist for violations of the human rights of the Cuban people and that the American government [supports] liberty and democracy alongside the Cubans – not just in theory, but in practice.”
President Donald Trump has significantly limited the reforms of the Obama era, ending American cruises to the island and expanding sanctions on officials who violate human rights. Trump has also ended “people to people” travel and elevated the voices of Cuban dissidents and former political prisoners, inviting them to several events throughout his term. Trump has also allowed American citizens to sue corporations that use stolen Cuban property in American courts, an unprecedented overture to the victims of communism. While not allowed to leave the country, Biscet was honored among other dissidents during this month’s National Prayer Breakfast.
“This new policy directly affects the socialist tyranny; of course, it is not enough, as it does not completely shut off the sources of resources for it to sustain itself in power in the country,” Biscet said. He noted that Cuba has long engaged in drug trafficking and worked with allies to traffic drugs, such as Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela and Pablo Escobar.
“Cuba is a criminal state that traffics drugs into the U.S., Europe, and other parts of the world. This was denounced by the bodyguards of Fidel Castro and Pablo Escobar, of the Medellín cartel. Even today, this continues with the Venezuela of Nicolás Maduro, that is why it is difficult for the economic, financial, and commercial embargo to function realistically,” Biscet explained.
On his own detention last week, which occurred on Thursday, he noted that the “Hitlerian” political police seized his property and detained him without reason. He said that he lost hundreds of books and documents in the raid of his home, including books by Newt Gingrich and Gene Sharp.
“The detention was arbitrary as the political police officials did not present me with a warrant for arrest. When I asked an official organizing the operation, she told me I was not ‘detained,’ but ‘retained,’ using new language to minimize the detention that is not present in state jurisprudence,” Biscet said. “The detention process lasted more than nine hours and at the same time they raided my home, which took about four hours. They seized my personal computer and other instruments and materials in my office. They also stole over 400 books and documents and a similar number of letters, all considered subversive.”
Among the lost books were The Contract with America by Newt Gingrich, From Dictatorship to Democracy by Gene Sharp, and several documents on the history of democratic Cuba prior to the Revolution of 1959. Many of the documents seized were written by pro-democracy activists to help plan a way forward for Cuba without the Castro regime.
“Despite the long hours of unjust detention – including being handcuffed in the police car, where I had to protest and say these were conditions of torture – I feel well health-wise and spiritually, as this demonstrates that the Castro socialist regime is worried about the work we do to fulfill the basic human rights and liberties of the Cuban people,” Biscet said.
Biscet’s seven-year-old Emilia Project is working to recruit Cubans to engage in peaceful resistance to the regime and establishing institutions that can last and protect individual freedom. It is named after Emilia Teurbe Tolón, the first woman forced into exile from Cuba for her political beliefs.