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“If I had told you that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban people…you might have said our sights were set a little too high.”

So said President Obama in his farewell address to the country Tuesday night. Obama often touts his administration’s actions on Cuba as evidence that his approach to diplomacy has worked. The Obama administration did open up a new chapter with the Cuban regime — restoring diplomatic relations with the government and making it easier for Americans to travel and do business there. Unfortunately, the new chapter reads like something out of a Stephen King novel.

Cuban dissident and human rights activist Dr. Oscar Biscet was arrested Wednesday morning by state police in his home in Havana. He was released after six hours and told that he’d be imprisoned if he did not stop organizing for Project Emelia, an initiative he recently launched to help teach Cubans how to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience.

Biscet is a leading advocate of nonviolent resistance to the Castro regime and of a peaceful transition to democracy on the island. Biscet is a physician and human rights activist who has spent 13 years in the state’s prisons. He has been imprisoned for a variety of “crimes,” including exposing the gruesome practice of partial-birth abortion, displaying the Cuban flag upside down in an act of protest and organizing to carry out nonviolent acts of civil disobedience. This last act earned him a 25-year prison term, for which he served 8 years.

Biscet has been awarded numerous awards for his work, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, bestowed by President Bush in 2007.

Biscet left the island for the first time last year and arrived in Washington D.C., visiting the Washington Examiner’s offices in June. He told the Washington Examiner that Obama’s outreach had been “a strategic error” because it rewarded the regime and got the Cuban people nothing in return. He warned that the reforms Raul Castro had enacted were mostly cosmetic and that true change would only come once all Cubans had secured the basic rights of free speech, religion, assembly and a free press.

Biscet is hardly alone in being targeted by state police. As Obama has “open[ed] a new chapter” with Cuba, the Cuban regime is still reading from the old playbook when it comes to political repression. As Amnesty International put it about Cuba last year, “Despite increasingly open diplomatic relations, severe restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and movement continued. Thousands of cases of harassment of government critics and arbitrary arrests and detentions were reported.”

During his summer visit to D.C., Biscet told the Washington Examiner that he was anxious to return to Cuba to launch Project Emelia. “I have a moral and ethical commitment to return. I can’t leave my people enslaved.”

Daniel Allott is deputy commentary editor for the Washington Examiner

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