By Ernesto Ariel Suárez
Today, May 4th, 2010 I received the following reply to a letter I sent to my congressional representative in the US House of Representatives, Emanuel Cleaver II, on March 23, 2010:
Thank you for contacting me regarding the state of affairs in cuba (sic). I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue.
It is an honor to serve as your representative in Congress. Your thoughts on this issue are important to me as I continue my work in the 111th Congress. Please know that I am working hard for the people of the 5th district of Missouri. I am very interested in hearing the concerns of my constituents, so I will be better able to serve you as your elected representative.
Again, thank you for sharing your views with me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I may be of further assistance. Also, I encourage you to visit my website at http://www.house.gov/cleaver, where you can sign up for my electronic newsletter and receive updates on my latest activities as your Representative.
Emanuel Cleaver, II
Member of Congress
I would like to believe that, judging from the first paragraph (lack of proper word capitalization aside), Mr. Cleaver actually wrote this reply after he read my letter. However, the rest of the email shows that it is just a form letter probably sent by an aide.
In my letter I offered Mr. Cleaver a summary (with links to further details) of the circumstances surrounding Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s death, the (still ongoing) hunger strike by Guillermo Fariñas, and by inference, the situation of other Cuban political prisoners. I also urged Mr. Cleaver to sign the petition for the liberation of all Cuban political prisoners, but Mr. Cleaver did not sign.
I want to believe that Mr. Cleaver is perhaps too busy, working for the people of District 5, to take five seconds to sign the petition. I want even to believe that Mr. Cleaver thinks that I, with my request that he takes a just stance for others’ human rights, do not represent an important part of his constituency. And that is fair enough, albeit all the negative implications of considering some constituents more important than others, or simply ignoring them.
I cannot forget, however, that Mr. Cleaver visited Cuba in 2009 as part of a Congressional Black Caucus delegation. I cannot forget that Mr. Cleaver said of Raul Castro that the aging dictator is “one of the most amazing human beings I’ve ever met."
It is sadly imprinted in my mind a statement made by Mr. Cleaver after he saw the Potemkin villages the Cuban regime shows visitors to the island:
“To see all of these myths melt right in front of my eyes was something to behold. We’ve been led to believe that the Cuban people are not free, and they are repressed by a vicious dictator, and I saw nothing to match what we’ve been told."
I would like to believe that Mr. Cleaver is just naïve or misinformed. Nevertheless, I have provided Mr. Cleaver with documentary proof that the Cuban people are not free, and are repressed by a vicious dictator. Even if I had not done so, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Guillermo Fariñas, the Ladies in White and other opposition leaders have been almost constantly on the news lately. Furthermore, even before all these recent events unfolded, there are more than 50 very well documented years of terror, abuse, and constant violation of human rights committed by that regime against the entire Cuban people.
How could Mr. Cleaver be so misinformed? He, is a very educated man and a member of the US House of Representatives Committee in Homeland Security with access to extensive information on foreign affairs.
Has Mr. Cleaver chosen to ignore the truth and instead, believe the tall tales the regime told him?
Will Mr. Cleaver side with a regime that let one valiant black man die of a hunger strike, ignores the two-month long hunger strike of another valiant black man and keeps dozens of black men, like Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet, in prison just because they dared to think differently?
If so, as a constituent, I demand to know why. Why would he, a man of God, a pastor, side with a regime that for decades prohibited, and continues to obstruct, the free practice of religion (even as they deny it, and use a minuscule group of loyal pastors as a show of tolerance)?
The rights of all humans are sacred, Mr. Cleaver. Do not forget that.
You are missing out, Mr. Cleaver. You will not join thousands of people worldwide in a just cause. You will not sign a demand to release unjustly incarcerated people whose only crime is to want to build a better future, a much freer future for their homeland.
Mr Cleaver at Havana's exclusive Hotel Nacional on April of 2009. He's the one on the left wearing an olive green guayabera.