June 10, 2012, 5:54 p.m. ET
O'Grady: Castro Endorses Obama
The dictator's daughter gets a visa to make speeches here while the regime continues to hold an American hostage.
President Obama has received yet another endorsement, this time from the daughter of Cuban military dictator Raúl Castro. Mariela Castro proclaimed her support for the sitting president 10 days ago, during a visit to the United States. "I believe that Obama needs another opportunity and he needs greater support to move forward with his projects and with his ideas, which I believe come from the bottom of his heart," she said in a CNN interview in New York.
Columnist Mary O'Grady on why the dictator's daughter gets a visa to make speeches here while the regime continues to hold an American hostage.
The dictator's daughter, who is a vociferous proponent of the Cuban status quo, was ostensibly in the U.S. to discuss matters pertaining to her field of expertise, which has something to do with advocating for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights. As the Cuban-born writer Carlos Alberto Montaner put it in a syndicated column last week, "Mariela is tolerant of sexual preferences and intolerant of all the rest." He added: "For her, freedom and emotional coherence are something very specifically situated south of the navel."
Notwithstanding her "work" as what she calls "a sexologist," the Communist Party official did not shy away from carrying water for Uncle Fidel and her despotic daddy while on American soil. Much of her time was spent promoting the party line and disparaging human-rights defenders. Among other pearls from the child of privilege came the claim that in Cuba "people who dissent don't go to jail." She also put on the table again Cuba's view that if the U.S. wants to win the release of U.S. Agency for International Development contractor Alan Gross, who has been languishing in a Cuban jail since December 2009, it should agree to release the five convicted Cuban spies who are in jail in the U.S.
Ms. Castro's affinity for the American president aside, it is passing strange that the administration even issued her a visa. It claims it is doing all it can to free the ailing 63-year-old Mr. Gross, and Ms. Castro's desire for entry presented an opportunity to make that point to the regime. But apparently the importance of pleasing the Obama base in San Francisco, where she was invited first to talk about homosexual rights, was an even higher priority than the "high-priority" Mr. Gross.
Mariela Castro, niece of Fidel and daughter of Raul.
The State Department defended the visa decision on free-speech grounds. But that's hard to square with its history of using visas as a policy tool. There are many examples of elected Latin American officials and military brass being refused travel to the U.S. for reasons that override their rights to express themselves. Two prominent examples come to mind. First, numerous members of the Colombian military—which is under civilian command—and in some cases members of their families, have had their U.S. visas pulled by the State Department merely because the soldiers were accused by left-wing nongovernmental organizations of human-rights violations. Even when acquitted, most never had those visas restored.
Then there was the visa-yanking by the Obama administration when it decided in 2009 that the Honduran Supreme Court was undemocratic because it had ruled that President Manuel Zelaya's removal from power was constitutional. Team Obama also pulled the visas of members of the interim government, even though it took power in strict adherence to the constitution and with the backing of the major political parties, the Catholic Church and the country's human-rights ombudsman. Those visas were not returned even when the interim government presided over a free and fair election and left power on schedule.
Only last week did the State Department announce that some—not all—of the victims of this injustice may reapply for entry to the U.S. Over the years, visas have also been pulled for allegations of corruption on the part of elected officials in other countries.
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So if the bar that has to be cleared is set by democratic standards, human-rights records and anticorruption, how in heaven's name did this regime mouthpiece sail into the U.S. while her father is holding an American hostage? The State Department maintains that the official policy restricts access only for "senior [communist] party members and senior members of the government." Yet Ms. Castro did not travel in the U.S. like a private citizen. She was flacking for her old man and the State Department even gave her a security detail. A department official told me that she was entitled to that as a "child of a head of state."
This is the kind of thing that makes U.S. presidents look weak in the eyes of tyrants and that seems to be the way Ms. Castro likes it. If Mr. Obama had more backing from Americans, she speculated in her CNN interview, U.S.-Cuba relations could be "as good or better than we had under President Carter." And isn't every American just pining for the good old days of Carter foreign policy?
Write to O'Grady@wsj.com
A version of this article appeared June 11, 2012, on page A11 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: O'Grady: Castro Endorses Obama.