The missing Cuban dissidents-- or Barack Obama drives one hard bargain

Color me agnostic on the Cuba embargo. I think we could have driven Clan Castro from power years ago if we had subsidized cheap airfares and flooded Havana with hipsters and libertarians. Be that as it may, that was not the deal negotiated by the nimrods in the White House.

No matter what the deal was, if the US is to retain even a thread of its already shredded international credibility it must ensure that the deal that was negotiated is actually carried out. There is no evidence that the Obama administration intends to do that.

From yesterday’s daily briefing by the slightly addled and ever befuddled State Department spokescritter Jen Psaki. The questioner is AP’s Matt Lee:

QUESTION: New topic, please. Cuba?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Under the Administration’s deal to normalize relations with the Castro regime, 53 Cuban political prisoners are set to be released. Do we know who they are and where they are now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, when the announcement was made in December, of course, the United States shared the names of individuals jailed in Cuba on charges related to their political activities. We’re not going to outline who those individuals were. We shared them with the Cuban Government. Obviously, it’s a topic that we will remain engaged with them with, but I don’t expect we’ll be releasing a public list.

QUESTION: There’s a prominent dissident group in Cuba, the Ladies in White; they’ve been protesting the new policy. And they say the list is so secretive that no one knows who’s on there. Is there a lack of transparency?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we know who’s on there, and the Cuban Government knows who’s on there, and we’ve given a specific number. Obviously, there are a range of steps that both sides will need to continue to work together to take over the coming weeks. One of the reasons why we felt so strongly about changing our policy is that this – the old policy was not just broken on the economic front, but it was making it impossible for civil society and people to operate and kind of live and communicate in Cuba. So there’s a range of benefits, not just the release of the prisoners, which, obviously, we see as something that’s positive and we’ll continue to discuss and press; but there are other steps that will help, I think, groups like you mentioned, and we think it will take some time but over the coming months.

QUESTION: Jen, are you saying that you don’t – you cannot confirm if Cuba has actually released a single one of these 53?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to confirm for you publicly, no.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Well, hold on. Hold on a second. Can we – I mean, is it – what’s happening? Are they out? Are they not out? Have some of them gotten out and others are – we’re not asking for – I’m not asking for names. It would be nice to have them, but where are they?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more updates to provide for you, Matt.

QUESTION: So you don’t know or you cannot tell us if —

MS. PSAKI: It’s not that I don’t know; I don’t have any updates to provide for you.

QUESTION: I don’t – okay.

QUESTION: So you do know.

QUESTION: So you know that they have not been released. Is that what you’re saying?

MS. PSAKI: That’s not what I’m saying. I will see if there’s more – anything more publicly we can share.

QUESTION: It would seem to me that if you come out and announce that the Cubans have agreed to free 53, then you should be able to say whether or not you know that the 53 have actually been released or not. That would seem —

MS. PSAKI: It’s always easier for me when we can provide more details publicly, as you know, but I will see if there’s more we can provide.

As the Washington Post genteely headlines the story Mystery surrounds 53 Cuban political prisoners supposed to be set free

An air of secrecy surrounds the fate of 53 political prisoners who Cuba agreed to free in its historic deal with the United States last month, as Washington and Havana’s refusal to publicly identify the dissidents is fueling suspicion over Cuba’s intentions.

Almost three weeks after the agreement, neither dissidents on the island nor leaders in the Cuban exile community know how many have been let out or whether any of the prisoners they are aware of are among those slated to be freed.

Both the White House and the State Department refuse to publicly name the prisoners included on a list U.S. negotiators provided their Cuban counterparts amid negotiations to normalize relations, though officials said a prisoner release was not a precondition for renewing diplomatic ties. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday that not everyone on the list has been set free yet, but it was always understood that they would be released “in stages.”

This is a disturbing propensity (one of many) of the administration, to negotiate agreements with various tyrannical regimes and psychopathic dictators that grant them everything up to and including the kitchen sink and then do nothing when the US doesn’t receive the pittance it was promised.