A few weeks ago, President Barack Obama invited my husband, Oscar Elias Biscet, and me to a dinner to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Many thought that in light of Obama's efforts to improve relations between the United States and Cuba, Gen. Raul Castro, Cuba's president, would approve a passport for Oscar so that he could attend. Such was not the case.
Oscar is a physician, but he is not allowed to practice medicine. Amnesty International has named him a prisoner of conscience for his years in jail for defending human rights. He is a follower of the philosophy of Gandhi and King.
In 2007, President George W. Bush awarded Oscar the Medal of Freedom. But he could not receive the award in person because he was in prison, where he had been sentenced to a term of 25 years. Oscar was released in 2011, but in many ways he's still a prisoner because he can't leave the island.
I, however, was permitted to travel to Washington, and I attended the recent dinner, where the president and Secretary of State John Kerry told me that they regretted Oscar's absence.
Because of the widespread belief that Cubans now have the right to travel abroad, some have expressed surprise that Oscar was not allowed to leave the island. The right to travel is enjoyed without restriction by billions of people worldwide. It is recognized by the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
But there is much confusion about what is happening in Cuba today. For example, the political prisoners released a few years ago through the offices of the Catholic Church were compelled to accept that their release was conditioned on their exile, and that of relatives including children, to Spain.
My husband is grateful to Presidents Obama and George W. Bush, to Americans and to people in Europe and Latin America for their support of Cubans' desire for freedom. Oscar would have wanted to speak to the president about the tragic conditions in which the Cuban people live: