In his first trip outside of Cuba, Oscar Elias Biscet received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President George W. Bush and the keys to Coral Gables from Mayor James Cason, formerly the chief U.S. diplomat in Cuba.
By Barbara Gutierrez
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (June 30, 2016)—Holding a black and white photo of President Barack Obama shaking hands with Cuban President Raul Castro, noted Cuban dissident Oscar Elias Biscet condemned the U.S.’s rapprochement with the Cuban government, saying countries that “defend democracy should serve as examples.”
“How can you shake hands with an assassin?” Biscet asked at a June 29 press conference held at the University of Miami, referring to Raul Castro’s bloodied history, which includes ordering hundreds of firing-squad executions at the onset of the Cuban revolution led by his brother.
“When you see the faces of Fidel and Raul Castro you are not only looking at their faces, but at the faces of Stalin and Hitler, and they symbolize terror and death,” said Biscet, a physician who spent years in Cuban prisons for his advocacy.
During the hour-long press conference at UM’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies, the founder of the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights reiterated his longstanding belief that the Cuban regime was a dictatorship built on “illegitimacy.” As he noted, the Castro government abolished the 1940 Cuban Constitution, which, inspired by the U.S. Bill of Rights, granted basic human rights and freedoms to its citizens.
“The Cuban people want a complete change,” he said. “They do not want an evolution with this dictatorship. They want to be free.”
Biscet was introduced by Coral Gables Mayor James C. Cason, who, in presenting Biscet with the keys to the city of Coral Gables, called him “the true hero, one of the most principled, determined members of the opposition in Cuba.”
As head of the Cuban Interest Section in Havana during the early 2000s, Cason met Biscet and his wife, Elsa Morejon, and often tried to intercede on his behalf with the Cuban government.
Now 54, Biscet made his first trip abroad to speak out against the repression in Cuba, and to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President George W. Bush for his dedication to advancing human rights and democracy in Cuba. Bush awarded Biscet the medal in absentia in 2007, while he was in prison. Biscet accepted the nation’s highest civilian honor at a ceremony at the George W. Bush Center in Dallas on June 23.
Although repression in Cuba persists, Biscet said he felt the dictatorship is nearing its end because internal opposition is well defined and most Cubans are beginning to lose their fear of the government.
As a sign of the changing times, he noted that his Project Emilia, a petition initiative calling for the end of communism on the island, was gaining momentum. In what is a risky act in Cuba, about 3,000 Cuban citizens have signed the petition, giving their names, addresses, and identity card data.