Foreign Policy Blogs

Mariela’s U.S. Visit Continues

Mariela Castro’s U.S. tour continued this week with a visit to the United Nations, a meeting at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, and a public presentation at the New York Public Library. The East Coast stopover followed a busy agenda in San Francisco last week, and has upset those who say that Castro used the visit to “bash” the United States, others who found her comments regarding President Obama (that she would vote for him if she could) overly controversial, and of course, those who believe that she should never have been granted a U.S. visa for the visit in the first place.

But in reality, the visit appears to have gone quite well, and is deserving of some kudos.

The beauty of free speech in a country like the United States is that Mariela Castro is allowed to visit and share beliefs with which many people agree — say, regarding the rights and equality of LGBT persons — as well as beliefs with which many people disagree — for instance, that the current political system in Cuba is open, fair, and democratic, as she stated Tuesday evening. Those who listen and participate in an exchange with her are able to formulate their own opinions, and should be allowed that privilege.

David da Silva Cornell, an international business attorney based in Miami, appeared to provide the most reasonable treatment of the issues around this visit in a Huffington Post article this week. He repeated Moshe Dayan’s famous quote “If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.” and added: “Refusing even to engage in dialogue with those with whom one disagrees never seems to yield results.”

In his opinion piece, da Silva Cornell called upon Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) and Castro’s co-panelist for the New York Public Library session on Tuesday, to challenge Castro by raising the connection of LGBT rights to the larger context of universal human and civil rights that are so limited in Cuba. And sure enough, Carey did. She asked Castro on Tuesday evening whether she would anticipate expanding her push for LGBT rights to “people with different religious or political views.”

The fact that Carey did not receive much of a reply matters little. What is important is the clear difference in certain convictions between Carey and Castro as interlocutors, and the peaceful exchange of ideas nonetheless.

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  • Mario Faz

    Miss Lockhart, I can see from your picture that you are a very young woman, you have your own political views but some of them are distorted by Castro’s propaganda. If you put aside the confrontation between Castro and the US what is left? The same government with the same faces for over half a century. After Batista was overthrown and could Castro’s government resolve social injustices in Cuba? If he proclaim independence and sovereignty why he has to become an ally of the URSS? Why so many Cubans has emigrated to the US? I bet you can not answer these and many other questions. you are the kind of people with a political idiocy on Cuba’s real life because of your ideological hypocrisy.

    • Melissa Lockhart Fortner

      Hello Mr. Faz,

      Many thanks for reading and for taking the time to share your thoughts. I trust you recognize that a youthful appearance has nothing to do with my ability to reason through the failures of a half-century long U.S. policy toward Cuba, and the benefits of dialogue between parties that disagree. The issues surrounding the Castro regime, the struggles of Cuban citizens, and the challenge of creating useful policy to address both have all been close companions since the day I was born into a Cuban-American family in the United States — a family that departed the island in 1960 and has never returned for a visit. My views have been carefully shaped by their experiences, my own, and many years of close study and analysis. The fact that you and I disagree after all of that is no problem at all.



Melissa Lockhart Fortner
Melissa Lockhart Fortner

Melissa Lockhart Fortner is Senior External Affairs Officer at the Pacific Council on International Policy in Los Angeles, having served previously as Senior Programs Officer for the Council. From 2007-2009, she held a research position at the University of Southern California (USC) School of International Relations, where she closely followed economic and political developments in Mexico and in Cuba, and analyzed broader Latin American trends. Her research considered the rise and relative successes of Latin American multinationals (multilatinas); economic, social and political changes in Central America since the civil wars in the region; and Wal-Mart’s role in Latin America, among other topics. Melissa is a graduate of Pomona College, and currently resides in Pasadena, California, with her husband, Jeff Fortner.

Follow her on Twitter @LockhartFortner.