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Cuban Freedom Advocate Returns Home to Harassment from the Regime
On June 23, Cuban dissidents Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet and his wife, Elsa Morejon, traveled to the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas for a long-delayed occasion. Biscet, a leading nonviolent freedom activist in Cuba, finally received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush.
Dr. Biscet was unable to receive his award at the 2007 White House ceremony because he was being held as a prisoner of conscience in a Cuban jail.
Although Dr. Biscet was released from prison in 2011, it was not until this year that the Cuban government allowed him to make his first trip off the island. And while there has been a great deal of attention focused on Cuba since the restoration in 2015 of diplomatic relations with the United States, Dr. Biscet’s story reminds us that there has been little positive change for Cuba’s nonviolent dissidents.
While it took nine years for Dr. Biscet to finally have a chance to wear his medal, he didn’t take it home with him. Biscet said he would leave it in Dallas, entrusting it to the Bush Center for safekeeping, “until Cuba was free.”
On August 15, Biscet and Morejon returned to Cuba after their overseas trip. As detailed on the ICLEP blog, edited by former prisoner of conscience Normando Hernandez, they were harassed by the Cuban authorities. Biscet and Morejon were separated and interrogated by security officials for several hours. Their belongings were meticulously searched. When they returned to their home in Havana, they discovered that the security forces had cut down a tree on their property to provide a better vantage point to observe their activities. And both their landlines and mobile phones had been cut off.
For Biscet and others like him, these are among the constant reminders of their struggle for freedom in Cuba. The Cuban government continues to repress anyone who dares to challenge its authority. Indeed, the Wall Street Journal’s Anastasia O’Grady recently wrote that repression has increased since the normalization of U.S. – Cuban relations last year.
Had Biscet taken his Presidential Medal of Freedom home to Cuba, the authorities almost certainly would have confiscated it from him. Yet despite constant harassment, public vilification, and the risks to his safety, he continues his brave efforts to bring freedom to his homeland. As President Bush said in his remarks when presenting the medal, “(Dr. Biscet) continues undaunted in his struggle for a free Cuba. I’m inspired by his unyielding commitment to his people and his nonviolent defiance of an unjust regime. He symbolizes all the brave men and women of Cuba who continue to have a vision for a free and democratic Cuba. We will continue to stand with a great man with a mighty heart, Oscar Biscet.”
Lindsay Lloyd is the Deputy Director of the Human Freedom Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute, where he manages original research and programmatic efforts to advance freedom and democracy in the world. Lindsay currently leads the Bush Institute’s Freedom in North Korea project, which raises awareness of human rights violations in North Korea, proposes new policy solutions, and engages leaders to help improve the lives of the North Korean people. Lindsay is also responsible for managing the Freedom Collection, a multimedia archive that documents the stories of nonviolent freedom advocates from around the word.
Prior to joining the Bush Institute, Lindsay served for 16 years at the International Republican Institute (IRI), most recently as senior advisor for policy. Previously, he was IRI’s regional director for Europe and co-director of the regional program for Central and Eastern Europe, which was based in Slovakia. At IRI, Lindsay worked with candidates, elected officials, political parties, and civil society activists to develop lasting democratic institutions.
Before joining IRI, Lindsay worked for several members and the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives, as political director for a political action committee, and for Jack Kemp’s 1988 presidential campaign. He graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.Full Bio
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