We need a 'Dennis Rodman rule' for celebrities who travel to rogue nations
By Mike Gonzalez
Published April 11, 2013
The quiet dignity of Rosa Maria Paya was unmistakable Tuesday as she
asked the international community to pressure Cuba's government into
allowing a plebiscite on democracy and for an investigation into the
murder of her father, dissident leader Oswaldo Paya.
Her poise also offered a sharp contrast to the spectacle unfolding in
her country with a visit there by celebrity Beyonce and rapper Jay-Z.
"It would be nice if the Cuban government were peaceful and respectful,"
she told a crowd at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington,
D.C., "but that's not true because state security of this government
calls my family's house to say 'I'm going to kill you.' They did it
before my father's death and they still do it." She was flanked by
pro-democracy campaigners from left to right and by Washington Post
editorial page editor Fred Hiatt.
"I'm sorry, but things are not nice right now in my country. The Cuban
people are in a real dangerous situation," she said. The international
community must "stop the impunity of the government inside the island."
Oswaldo Paya, a truly audacious dissident who endured decades of threats
and insults against himself and his family, was killed in a car crash
last July 22. The driver, Spanish politician Angel Carromero, says the
car was rear-ended by a state security vehicle chasing them. The Cuban
government denies the charge. Take your pick.
The courage of Cuba's dissidents as they brave incarceration, beatings
and assassination to stand up for what we take for granted in this
country is one of the untold stories of our times. What we are seeing on
our screens, instead, is the disgraceful free propaganda that Beyonce
and her husband Jay-Z are giving to Cuba's tormentors.
If they knew the racism that is practiced on a daily basis against
Cuba's blacks, especially Afro-Cuban dissidents, the couple would have
perhaps thought twice about going to the island nation.
They could, for example, have watched this video released just last week
by the Castro regime to see how the leader of The Ladies in White
dissident movement, Berta Soler, is depicted as an ape just because
Or, before donning a Che Guevara T-shirt, Jay-Z might have contemplated
that the great revolutionary once said of blacks, "The n***** is
indolent and lazy, and spends his money on frivolities, whereas the
European is forward-looking, organized and intelligent."
We need a Dennis Rodman Rule, named after the exotic erstwhile
basketball star who went to Pyongyang to fete the dictator Kim Jong Eun
just weeks before the North Korean threatened to blow the world to
smithereens in a fit of pique. The rule should be: celebrities who
disregard the lives of millions by celebrating those who torment them
deserve only our contempt upon their return home.
Our reverence and support should be saved for the Rosa Maria Payas and
Berta Solers of this world. The long-suffering dissidents in Cuba — and
elsewhere — deserve nothing less.
Mike Gonzalez is Vice President, Communications, at The Heritage
Foundation. He is a former Bush administration official, Wall Street
Journal editorial writer and foreign correspondent.