A new day for Cuba was not suppose to happen like this.
A new day for Cuba was suppose to be marked by the demise of a dictatorship and the rise of democracy. The celebration, in Cuba, in Miami, wherever Cuban blood pumps in the hearts of a waiting people, was to be astounding.
A new day for Cuba -- or better put, the promise of a new day -- did come this week. But it is not something to celebrate.
Instead, we are stunned and angry, unbelieving in the face of yet another capitulation to tyranny by an American president. As a middle-age Cuban American -- born here of Cuban parts several years after my parents and grandparents arrived as refugees -- this must have been what it felt like after John Kennedy abandoned the 2506 Brigade at the Bay of Pigs.
Regardless of how some of us never trusted Barack Obama, and his promise that Cuba under Castro would have to change before the U.S. would offer the olive branch, the lifeline, the regime was so desperate for, we are shocked at how blatant and crass is his disregard for the hopes and aspirations of the Cuban people. Just a week after at least 240 Cuban dissidents were detained while trying to commemorate International Human Rights Day, at the end of a year marked by some 8,000 political arrests, the U.S. administration made clear that the human rights of the Cuban people would not stand in the way of Obama staking another ignoble place in history.
"I do not necessarily think that we are talking about direct human rights conditionality in the restoration of diplomatic relations part," said Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson. "That is a legal process, if you will, or a diplomatic process, that will be fairly mechanical."
Many of us in exile, and not just our parents and grandparents, feel betrayed, not only as Cubans but as Americans. Betrayal of those who share our values is not suppose to be how the United States operates.
Imagine how those Cubans in Cuba who every day risk what little freedom they enjoy to fight for their human rights, to fight for their freedom, feel when they consider how the leader of the beacon of freedom to the north, cut a deal with the dictatorship that oppresses them.
"Obama was not considerate of Cuban citizens and of the civil society that is facing this tyrannical regime," said dissident leader Antonio Rodiles. "In Miami, Obama promised that he would consult Cuba measures with civil society and the non-violent opposition. Obviously, this didn't happen. That is a fact, a reality. He didn't consider Cuba's democrats. The betrayal of Cuba's democrats has been consummated."
Obama's betrayal was the result of either his ignorance of or, as is more likely, his indifference to the real plight of the Cuban people. There is no other explanation for why he would give up so much -- the "embargo," as littered with loopholes as it is and as "ineffective" as it's been in forcing regime change -- did give the United States powerful leverage that could have been used to force the changes in Havana that might one day make the Castros deserving of a rapprochement with the United States.
The embargo also put us on the right side of history, which in recent decades has shown favors the democrats over the dictators, especially if the United States has their back.
Instead, Obama gave away the credibility of his office, and of the country, for nothing, except for one day soon, an embassy in Havana, sure to stand in the eyes of many Cubans as a symbol of betrayal.
The release of Alan Gross is welcome, as is the reported release of 53 Cuban political prisoners. But by surrendering to the Castros the way Obama did ,with no promises of change in how the dictatorship treats the Cuban people, he made it a very real possibility that in the coming weeks and months, their jail cells will be filled with others.
But this time, it will be with the acquiesience and betrayal of an American president.
That will not be much of a new day for Cuba.