Five Cuban dissidents who have collectively spent decades in jail for their pro-democracy activities were given a top award by the National Endowment for Democracy last night. But, unlike in past years, their representative was not invited to the White House, organizers said.
Carl Gershman, president of the endowment, said the organization asked two weeks ago whether President Obama could meet with Bertha Antúnez, the sister of one of the dissidents, who was picking up the award on their behalf. Gershman said he never got a response. It was the first time in five years that the president had not met with the winner of the Democracy Award, according to the endowment, which is funded by Congress.
"I am disappointed, and also surprised since the President said in the campaign that Libertad would be the touchstone on his Cuba policy," Gershman said in an e-mail, using the Spanish word for "liberty."