For Val, Cuba is a vale of tears to which he contributes more than his share. It took him three days to compose himself sufficiently to write about his trip to the White House, and then, when he finally did, Bush was mentioned only as Willy Chirino's emcee. Once upon a time Bush was a lot more to Val. In fact, Bush was Val's "mentor" as Rev. Wright was Obama's. It was from Bush that Val borrowed his "Pressure Cooker Theory." For Bush was the first to postulate that only by increasing the misery of the Cuban people can their misery end. It's an interesting formulation with many possible variants: such as, only by stoning a drunk man can you make him less stoned and so forth.
Did Val actually see his once-beloved POTUS? He boasts that he was "standing just 20 feet from the president." Imagine. Closer than that and they might have shared an elevator. I'm surprised that Val did not write that their two eyes met in a knowing glance for a fraction of a second which seemed like eternity. Really, it does appear that Val is distancing himself just a tad from the president. "Wet Foot/Dry Foot" couldn't separate them; but $4.00 oil and the mortgage crisis seem to have put some space between them. Maybe.
Just as likely it is Bush who's distancing himself from Val, not the other way around. What do I mean? Perhaps Val was relegated to the overflow room with the big-screen tv and a box of presidential Kleenex. That would explain the lack of "you are there" feel to Val's recollections, which, so far, are limited to expressing his emotion at hearing Willy Chirino sing "Nuestro Día Ya Viene Llegando" and at the playing of the Cuban National Anthem, in that order.
George W. Bush holds the distinction of having enslaved more Cubans than any living man except the undead one. For eight years he has upheld the "Wet Foot/Dry Foot"policy which returned more Cubans to slavery than the Dred Scott decision ever did. He enforced that odious policy longer than did Clinton. Since it is not a law (and, indeed, contravenes an existing law known as The Cuban Adjustment Act ), Bush enforced it, like Clinton, through presidential fiat. Which means that in any of the last 3000 days he could have ended that travesty with a stroke of his pen and did not. Instead, thousands of helpless refugees were hunted like animals on the high seas, their boats capsized and their hapless occupants left to drown or worse. The "lucky ones" among these were returned to Castro's tender mercies. This is the man who "honored" Val with an invitation to the White House and whom Val "honored" by accepting it.
There is no photograph of President Bush with Val Prieto for him proudly to hang in his new kitchen. I guess you have to contribute $10,000 to get one of those or at least $10,000 worth of publicity. Val failed on both counts. But maybe he can buy a signed picture of Bush on eBay. They go for about $5.