SOTU Cuba Watch

The guest list for the First Lady’s Box for tonight’s State of the Union speech provides a preview of individuals to whom the President may give a public nod or even praise. One such individual to look out for is Blanca Gonzalez.

Blanca Gonzalez, Mother of Cuban Political Prisoner; (Miami, Florida)
Blanca Gonzalez is the mother of Normando Hernandez Gonzalez, a political prisoner suffering under the regime of Fidel and Raul Castro. In 2002, Blanca Gonzalez fled Cuba and applied for political asylum in the United States; she now resides in Miami, Florida with her husband. While in Cuba, she was a human rights activist and was harassed by the Cuban regime. Her son, Normando Hernandez Gonzalez, is a writer and independent journalist and was arrested on March 18, 2003, in his hometown of Camaguey, Cuba. Normando Hernandez Gonzalez was sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment for reporting on the conditions of state-run services in Cuba and for criticizing the government’s management of issues such as tourism, agriculture, fishing, and cultural affairs. Hernandez received the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award in April 2007, an award that recognizes international literary figures who have been persecuted or imprisoned for exercising or defending the right to freedom of expression. He has also been recognized by the Costa Rican legislature. His health has deteriorated due to a severe, chronic, and untreated gastro-intestinal disorder which causes constant diarrhea, headaches, intermittent fever, and poor gastro-intestinal absorption. He has lost at least 35 pounds. Normando Hernandez Gonzalez remains in prison.

The reference to “the regime of Fidel and Raul Castro” seems to indicate that there will not be a change in U.S. policy towards Cuba until Fidel’s epigone is also gone, which likely means a continuation of the status quo for a few more years. The embargo didn’t bring down Fidel after nearly half a century, so Raul could well cling on to power with enough ruthlessness and some Venezuelan oil and money.

But until that happens, it’s worth remembering just how murderous and brutal the Castro brothers have been, so I hope that Ms. Gonzalez’s appearance tonight encourages people to see the film Shootdown, a new documentary about the shooting down of two civilian planes piloted by American citizens in international airspace. The pilots were part of the Cuban-American Brothers to the Rescue organization, whose mission is to rescue Cubans trying to flee Castro’s socialist paradise on inner-tube rafts across the Florida straits. Trailer here. Theaters and showtimes here.