Publisher note: Original title was Cason Defends Advocacy of Cuban Dissidents and my apologies to Anita Snow for changing it but can’t help seeing how stupid Cason is every time he makes the press.
By ANITA SNOW | Associated Press Writer
James C. Cason, the head of the American mission in Cuba, defended his outspoken advocacy of dissidents during a July 4 celebration Monday night, marking the last public address of his three-year tour on the island.
Responding to criticism he has continuously provoked Fidel Castro’s government since arriving here in 2002, Cason took issue with “those who think it’s more dignified to protest the Cuban regime’s repression behind closed doors.”
“Is it provocative to point out that Cubans live under one of the most repressive regimes in the world?” Cason asked several hundred people at an American Independence Day celebration at his official residence.
The garden party ó Cason’s last major event before he leaves in the fall ó featured a cookout, a live zydeco band from Louisiana, white and blue bunting and a U.S. Marine Corps color guard.
After Cason’s speech, workers unveiled a three-story-high metal sculpture of the Statue of Liberty, its silhouette traced in blue electrical lights and holding a torch traced in yellow bulbs forming the number “75” ó the number of dissidents rounded up Cuba’s crackdown on opponents in March 2003.
“Is it provocative to remind western journalists of Cuba’s 300 political prisoners?” Cason asked. “Is it outside the scope of normal diplomatic activity to provide uncensored information to Cubans?”
“Nothing will come ó indeed, in almost 47 years nothing has come ó from being polite to a dictator,” he said of Castro, who has repeatedly referred to the top American diplomat in Cuba as a “bully with diplomatic immunity.”
Some of Cason’s detractors say quiet diplomacy could help encourage an opening in this still closed society. They also say easing more than four decades of U.S. trade and travel sanctions against the island ó rather than further isolating it ó could help provoke political and economic change.
Castro launched the crackdown on the opposition several weeks after he was enraged by Cason meeting openly with dissidents at one of their homes. At the time, Cason declared that “the Cuban government is afraid: afraid of freedom of conscience, afraid of freedom of expression, afraid of human rights.”
Cuba later accused the U.S. government of bankrolling the opposition ó a charge American officials have vigorously denied. The dissidents rounded up were accused of being mercenaries, charges they denied.
“If we thought that keeping quiet would bring about political reforms, we would be quiet,” Cason said Monday. “If we thought that lifting the U.S. embargo would result in a democratic Cuba, we would have 747s full of Americans on the tarmac tomorrow.”
Castro, who turns 79 next month, has been in power 46 years, making him the world’s longest ruling head of government, and leader of one of only five remaining communist states. The others are in Asia: China, North Korea, Vietnam and Laos.
Repeating a tradition begun two years ago, the Cuban government on Monday held its own July 4 event, a concert paying homage to the American people. Havana emphasizes that it respects the American people even while it disdains their government’s policies.