Rolando Jiménez Posada
Date of arrest: 25 April 2003
Charges/Sentence: No formal charges yet.
Rolando Jiménez Posada, aged 33, is a lawyer and Director of the Centro Democrático Pinero de Derechos Humanos, Pinos Democratic Human Rights Centre, in Isla de Pinos, which was created in July 2002. In January 2002 he was dismissed from his job as legal adviser of a veterinary medicine company, reportedly due to his problems with state security.
He has been detained and threatened numerous times over the past few years. For example, according to reports, on 10 December 2001, while taking part in a peaceful celebration to commemorate the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he and several others were reportedly beaten and pushed into police vehicles and then dumped in remote areas of Isla de la Juventud.
On 12 June 2002, after taking part in a peaceful march calling for the release of political prisoners, he was temporarily detained and threatened with imprisonment if he continued carrying out opposition activities. On 31 July 2002 he was said to have been threatened at his home in Nueva Gerona, capital of Isla de la Juventud, after handing out copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On 25 August 2002 he was again reportedly threatened at his home by State Security who told him that he would be imprisoned if he continued carrying out public activities in support of political prisoners.
Most recently, he was detained on 25 April 2003 when his home was searched by the Department of State Security and police officers. They reportedly confiscated printed materials, including a book containing addresses of anti-Castro exile groups. He was initially said to be held at the Ministry of the Interior headquarters in Nueva Gerona. An official there reportedly told his wife and mother of their four year old son that if she abandoned her husband, she would get economic help and a good job.
In June 2003 it was reported that Rolando Jiménez would be tried along with Rafael Millet Leyva at a court in Isla de la Juventud, charged with "propaganda enemiga", "enemy propaganda", "desacato", "disrespect" and "espionaje", "espionage", allegedly for writing anti-government slogans on public buildings. However, as yet no formal charges have been made or a trial taken place.
He is currently imprisoned in Guayabo Prison, Isla de la Juventud.
"When we found ourselves forced to disagree with the USSR because of its incorrect decision to negotiate an agreement about the October Crisis with the United States without prior consultation with our country, the fellow turned into an enemy of the Revolution."
According to then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, the Soviet missiles in Cuba put 90 million Americans at risk. In other words, Castro remains unrepentant -- to this very day -- for endangering the lives of 90 million Americans. In the 2004 documentary movie, Fog of War, McNamara says that when he asked Castro about the crisis during a visit to Cuba, Castro told him that he had asked then-Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to be allowed to use the nuclear missiles.
Do we want to negotiate with this regime?
President Obama has pointed out that there are Cuban families who have foreign visas to travel abroad, but the Cuban government does not permit them to leave. Cuba is the only country in the region that requires government authorization for its citizens to travel abroad. Latin American leaders might want to ask General Castro to let them go.
The United States lifted its restrictions on remittances and packages. Now it may be Havana's turn to permit the normalization of postal services between the two countries. Were it to do so, more Cubans could receive assistance from abroad.
The issue here is that Cuban-Americans are swindled to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars by a monopoly developed by Havana in Miami. Havana licenses companies which profit from the desire of Cuban-Americans to help their relatives on the island, by overcharging them for the sending of care packages.
The normalization of postal service is absent from the demands of those who want to ''normalize'' relations with Cuba, because it not one of the priorities of the Castro government. In the case of the remittances, which unlike remittances from Salvadorans, Mexicans and others, do not have a multiplying effect on the island because almost all economic activity is prohibited to Cubans. President Obama has suggested General Raúl Castro reduce the harsh tax it imposes on those transactions.
Q Thank you, Robert. On Wednesday, the AP reported from Havana, "Fidel Castro says President Obama misinterpreted his brother Raul's remarks regarding the United States and bristled at the suggestion that Cuba should free political prisoners or cut taxes on dollars people send to the island." What is the President's reaction to this statement by Fidel, who is reportedly retired? And I have one follow-up.
MR. GIBBS: Okay. I haven't even answered, you've already got a follow-up.
Look, the President took actions many days ago -- I forget how many now -- to pursue our national interests by lifting the embargo for Cuban Americans to travel back to Cuba and for Cuba Americans to send money to the island.
Look, I guess it's a bit amusing that in order to keep what they have, the leadership in Cuba seems a little less sure of themselves based on some of the actions that the President took.
We've talked about this many times. I think the -- I don't see what that leadership has to fear with the travel of people -- of Cuban Americans back to Cuba or the sending of money or the transmission of words and signals over our airwaves. And I think if the Cuban government is serious about reform, then they know the actions and the steps they should take.
"Moreover, for some Americans, the issue isn't "Red" Cuba but "green" - as in money. Conservative groups like the American Farm Bureau and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce favor a more open policy, because farmers and business folks see in Cuba a market for American goods."
As a reminder, Article 18 of the Cuban regime's 1976 Constitution mandates: "the state controls and directs foreign trade."
Therefore, there is no such thing as a "Cuban market" for American goods, but only the "Castro's market," a foreign monopoly.
Indeed, a new Gallup poll released yesterday shows that 51% of Americans favor ending the embargo.
So how does this compare to polls in the last decade?
In 1999, the same poll showed that a similar 51% supported ending the embargo, in 2000 it was 48% and in 2002 it was 50%.
That's not momentum by any stretch of the imagination.
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS HEARING ON FOREIGN POLICY PRIORITIES IN THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION
APRIL 22, 2009
WITNESSES: SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman.
And, Madam Secretary, I also welcome you in -- to our committee. Thank you so much. It's been a pleasure and an honor to have worked with you in your time as -- as senator and as first lady as well.
And this is an era of profound challenges and also one of important opportunities to advance our agenda of freedom, of prosperity and security. However, if this weekend's Summit of the Americas is any indication, we're off to a troublesome start.
The summit served as a forum for despotic leaders to attack democratic values and our free market principles, and for proclaiming their radical vision as the way forward for the hemisphere.
ROS-LEHTINEN: Many of those repressive leaders decided to make the Cuban dictatorship's return to the Inter-American system the pillar of their agenda. The OAS secretary general supports this proposal, ignoring the fact that the Cuban regime is in violation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights.
Sadly, some responsible nations failed to counter the efforts by Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, by Nicaragua's Ortega and their fellow rogues and enablers to subvert our freedom agenda while diverting attention away from their own assault on democratic institutions, their own assault on freedom of the press and association, and the opposition in their own countries to their leadership.
The summit reminded me of the discussions at the U.N. Human Rights Council or the Durban II conference which is taking place -- has taken place this week in Geneva.
Despite clear indications that Durban II would be a reaffirmation of the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, antifreedom hate-fest of its predecessor, many waited until the last minute to announce that they were boycotting. Indeed, for some, it took Iran's Ahmadinejad spewing his venom to waken them from their -- from their stupor.
The U.S. cannot stand idly by and allow such manipulation to take place, particularly when U.S. taxpayer funds are at stake. Many Americans are struggling to make ends meet. We must therefore ensure that we can justify our funding for international organizations and foreign affairs activities.
And without objection, any opening statements by other members will be placed in the record.
And, Madam Secretary, without objection, your full statement will be made part of the record, and the floor is yours.
I yield to my colleague, Mr...
SMITH: I thank -- I thank my good friend for yielding.
And I would like to ask you -- and -- and ask you with everything within my being to press for the release -- the unconditional, immediate release -- of all political prisoners in Cuba. Dr. Oscar Biscet, in 2003, as you know, got a 25-year harsh, totally unjust prison sentence.
Many of us are concerned that he and the other human rights activists who languish in prison today are subjected to extreme tortures and deprivations, need to be released or some will die. So any further movement with the Cuban government, please -- Dr. Biscet, just so everybody knows very clearly who he is -- 25 years in prison.
He -- his -- his daughter and others have cried out for his release. He has been put in solitary confinement over and over again. And like I said, he may be close to death. And I would hope that we would demand minimally, immediately, that the International Committee for the Red Cross be allowed to see, ascertain their health or lack of it and well-being, but to press for their release now.
And also, Mr. Wolf and I have tried repeatedly to get into the prison, as we have done in the Soviet Union in the '80s, the People's Republic of China right after Tiananmen Square. We have been turned down every time and have not gotten a visa.
Others get it. They don't go to the prisons. I think all of us on both sides of the aisle, regardless of one's ideological perspective, need to say free the prisoners.
FLAKE: I want to follow a bit on what Dr. Paul had mentioned and praise the administration for its act of diplomacy and, in particular, for the action that has been taken on Cuba, to allow Cuban-Americans the right to visit family as frequently as they would like to.
I think that that is both humane and the right thing to do, and so I think that was a good move.
My concern moving forward is that there have been certain signals from some of the administration that we may want to condition future action on Cuba based on what the Cubans do.
And the administration has stated that the embargo has not worked, it has not had the desired effect, and I think that that is quite self-evident after 50 years.
But to then say, "So we're going to condition and not move any further until the Cubans take certain action," I think that many of us have been convinced or certainly not convinced that the Cubans want, for example, the travel ban to be fully lifted.
You remember, during the Clinton administration, when action was taken where it looked like normalization of relations might happen, the plane was shot down.
A few years ago, when we moved legislation through the House and the Senate to lift the travel ban or to prohibit enforcement of it, detainees were taken, 75 of them.
So every time it seems that we've taken a move, the Cubans have pushed back with something else, and I fear that if we take the same position that's been, I think, the trap that previous administrations have fallen into, then we'll have the same result.
I think to the extent that we have dialogue with the Cubans, we ought to say something like this, "We've relaxed restrictions on Cuban-Americans. We want to relax restrictions on all Americans. And if you don't start releasing political prisoners, we're going to lift the whole embargo," because, clearly, I think that that is what they fear worse than anything.
So why should we condition future actions based on what they do or they don't do? We should do what is good for America and, in this sense, I think it's also good for Cubans, but I'd love to hear your response.
CLINTON: Congressman, that's an interesting formulation I've never heard before. Look, I think that Congressman Smith and certainly the ranking member are very strongly expressing the opinions of many Americans, not just Cuban-Americans, that a regime which is so dug in and unwilling to exercise the normal functions of a government to have a judiciary that's independent, to have the rule of law, to release political prisoners, is one that is very difficult to move.
I understand that. But on the other hand, I think that the president's actions did draw a response from Raul Castro, which was then contradicted today by Fidel Castro, saying that, "My brother really didn't mean that we would talk about political prisoners and human rights."
So I think you could see there's beginning to be a debate. This is a regime that is ending, will end at some point, and we need to be ready to do that and we have responded to Raul Castro's comments by saying that we would consider a discussion that would include human rights and political prisoners.
As you know, the embargo is part of our law. A president cannot lift the embargo. That has to be done by an act of Congress. If the Congress decides that's in America's best interest, obviously, the administration will abide by that.
But we're going to proceed very carefully in this process, because we know what's happened before. I well remember when those two small unarmed planes, doing nothing more than dropping pamphlets, were shot down by the Castro regime.
And I believed then and I think you said it well today, it was done to prevent us opening, but it was also an act of such aggression and violence that you can't let it go unanswered either. So this is a difficult calculation. Our goal is for a free, independent democracy that gives the people of Cuba a chance to have the same opportunities that their sisters and brothers and cousins -- my sister-in-law, who came to this country from Cuba -- that they have in our country.
And so we're looking at it and we welcome your advice.
FLAKE: Thank you.
BERMAN: The time of the gentleman has expired.
The gentleman from New York, just back from the Summit of the Americas, Mr. Engel, is recognized for five minutes.
ENGEL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I wanted to comment on a few issues and then let you comment on it. I want to say that in terms of Cuba, we should absolutely condition what we do on Cuba based on what they do.
If they are willing to talk about human rights and not just talk, we don't want talk, we want action, and democracy and political prisoners, then we should respond in kind.
But I don't think that short of that, we ought to just open up and give them what they want. They have been a repressive regime and we need to make sure that democracy comes to that country, as it will, but we need to encourage it.
The gentleman from Florida, Mr. Mack, is recognized for five minutes.
MACK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And, Madam Secretary, it's great to be here with you and have the opportunity to speak with you a few times recently, which I appreciate all of those times.
There's so much to talk about. So my guess is that I'll be sending you a letter with some questions, because I don't think we can cover it all in five minutes.
I wanted to talk a little bit about Cuba and associate myself with the conditions that must be met by Castro. And it really is -- this is really not an issue about the United States lifting the embargo. It's whether or not Castro wants to lift the embargo.
If he releases the political prisoners, if there's freedom of expression, if there's free and fair elections, I believe it is the law of the United States that that is what will trigger the lifting of the embargo.
And I think it's also important that we don't lose context about Castro. And I know that you're very familiar with all of this, but we can't forget the Cuban missile crisis, we can't forget the murders that took place on that island, we can't forget the depriving of the people of Cuba human rights, hope and opportunity.
So I think this is part of the discussion that is being lost right now. In an attempt to try to engage, I think we have lost part of the discussion about why it is that Cuba and Castro are in the position that they are in right now, and it is at their own hands, not at the hands of the United States. So I hope that we can continue the dialogue and this is a -- there are people on both sides of the aisle that feel strongly about the political prisoners and the freedom of expression and elections in Cuba.
BERMAN: The chair recognizes the distinguished gentleman from New Jersey, Mr. Sires.
SIRES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Madam Secretary, I apologize for calling you senator when I first saw you. I wish it had been a higher title, but -- I just want to speak a little bit about Cuba.
And I think it's perfectly normal to put conditions on Cuba -- this country has been doing that to other countries over its history; it will do that again -- to promote democracies and to promote human rights.
And -- and let me say, as someone who lived there, I experienced at the age of 11 how to take apart and put together a Czechoslovakian machine gun. I experienced the people knocking on my -- on my house door because they were told my father was carrying contraband on the black market.
I remember the military coming to my house and taking inventory just before I left. And having lived in New Jersey with the mother of the sons that were killed on the plane as they were rescuing people leaving the totalitarian government -- so I don't want to belittle the point, because everybody has raised the issue of Cuba many, many times.
But there's nothing wrong with putting conditions. And may I add that all those people that are in prison today were part -- they were raised -- they were born, raised, schooled in Cuba, all those political prisoners. They didn't come from Miami to Havana. They are a product of the revolution. And there are maybe 300.
But there were 5,000 classified differently that are put in jail because they can't speak about the government. So conditions are perfectly fine, and I hope that the president will take that into consideration.
But I want to raise two other issues that are important. I want to talk a little bit about the Columbia free trade agreement, and I want to talk about Cyprus and Turkey's 43,000 troops in Cyprus. Can you just comment a little bit about that?
CLINTON: Yes, I certainly can, Congressman. And -- and thank you for your -- your eloquent and heartfelt description of why we always have to be promoting human rights and freedom.
BERMAN: And I appreciate your comments on this issue, Madam Secretary. And the gentlelady from California, Ms. Lee, is recognized for five minutes.
LEE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Madam Secretary, as I said to you last week, I truly applaud your -- your bold steps in reshaping America's image and role in the world. And I look forward to working with you and the president in tackling these enormous challenges which oftentimes are seen as -- as opportunities.
I'll submit to you the many questions I have for the record.
Let me go to Cuba first. Yes, I firmly believe that we should promote freedom, human rights, democracy, encourage elections throughout the world. But remember, though, that recent history under the Bush administration shows us that we did this with the Palestinians and we ended up with Hamas. So sometimes it backfires.
With regard to Mr. Mack's point about remember the history, well, yes, we do have to remember the history. And we also cannot forget the Bay of Pigs, assassination attempts, Guantanamo, the dictatorship of Batista. There are many, many issues that also have to be included in this history.
You mentioned the Cuban plane flying over -- the American plane flying over Havana. Well, I'm not so sure, if a Cuban plan entered U.S. airspace, what our response would be.
I raise these questions because these are two sovereign countries which have serious, serious issues to address on both sides. And I recognize it is going to be very difficult as we move forward.
Last week -- the week before last, as you know, I led a delegation of members of Congress to Cuba with one specific purpose, and that was to assess whether or not Cuba wanted to move forward with a dialogue and whether or not all issues, such as political prisoners, human rights, the plight of Afro-Cubans, would be placed on the table, if, in fact, discussions would move forward. Of course, President Raul Castro communicated to us, "Yes."
I'm -- and I applaud yourself and the president for moving forward with the family reunification efforts -- this is the right thing to do -- and the steps that you're taking to help reunite Cuban- Americans and Cubans.
I wanted to ask you if there are any other plans, any other policies you're considering looking at. And do you agree with lifting the travel ban for all Americans to travel to Cuba?
Also, I remember back in 1998, there was a report by the Pentagon that said that Cuba did not present a national security threat to the United States. And so I'm wondering, from your administration's point of view, why is Cuba still on the list of state sponsors of terror? And what can or should Cuba do anything to be removed from the list of state sponsors of terror? And, finally, I have to thank you for your response to my questions regarding the investigation of my constituent, Tristan Anderson, who was seriously injured when he was shot in the head by tear canisters by an Israeli soldier in the West Bank of Na'alin. I hope that the State Department will insist that the Israeli government hold those responsible accountable and that the family and Tristan receive an apology.
And I will send you additional questions to that issue. Thank you very much. Good to see you again, Madam Secretary.
CLINTON: Thank you, Congresswoman.
You know, we have taken the actions that you note so well. In addition to the remittances and the travel for family members, we also have opened up telecommunications investment in Cuba.
We are taking a hard look at this in the response that we receive from Raul Castro. And we are available to engage with the Cuban government if they are willing to do so. We don't yet know whether they really are or not.
And, I have to say, I think that, if they -- if two small, little, unarmed planes had gone into our airspace, they would have been forced down. I don't think they would have been shot down.
I think that there is such a stake that the Castro regime has in making the United States the excuse for everything that goes wrong inside Cuba, but they're going to have to really have a change in attitude about how and -- and under what circumstances they would want to really have that discussion that you described, that you were assured that Raul Castro said everything would be on the table.
But we're considering what they might come back with, but so far we don't really see any movement. But as the president said, we are open.
BERMAN: The time of the gentlelady has expired.
PENCE: Thank you for your service to the country, in this post and over many years.
I want to -- I want to raise an issue with you that's come up in this hearing before, and I want to raise it, with great respect, to you and to the president and to the United States of America that you serve.
In testimony before this committee earlier, I know that the -- the issue of the president being photographed with the virulent anti- American socialist dictator of Venezuela came up. And I know that, according to testimony that was handed to me, that you indicated that you found it, quote, "rather amusing."
But let me say, with the deepest respect, Madam Secretary, I am not amused.
And I -- well, I want to speak to that issue and what I -- and -- and get your sense as an American who is both known and respected around the world about the wisdom of the leader of the free world being seen in that kind of a setting with that kind of a socialist dictator.
Hugo Chavez is, we all know, a Castro wannabe in the region. He has oppressed the media. He has bullied economic interests in the country. He has blacklisted political opponents from state agencies.
There are reports, of which you are well aware, of his lack of cooperation on our efforts to confront narco-terrorism in the region. There are reports of worse by that government. And, of course, he has openly supported Iran's nuclear ambitions and has referred to the predecessor of the 44th president as some sort of a demon, which would not be inconsistent with his long history of spewing vile intentions toward the people of the United States of America.
You -- you made a comment that I'd quote with great respect in July of 2007 in another context, I want to admit, in which you said, and I quote, with regard to potential meetings with North Korea, Venezuela, or leaders of Cuba, you said, quote, "I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year," because you said, and I quote, with much agreement, "I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes."
And so my question, Madam Secretary, is, in light of your previously stated insight, isn't it true that having the president of the United States be seen on the world stage warmly greeting a virulent anti-American socialist dictator that intentionally or unintentionally our president was used for propaganda purposes, to borrow the phrase that you used?
And -- and isn't it also true that, as Natan Sharansky observed memorably in his book, "Case for Democracy," there's almost nothing more demoralizing to people that are fighting for freedom in their own country than to see the leader of the free world in friendly association with the very people that are oppressing them.
Sharansky said we could, quote, "never fully prepare ourselves for the disappointment that came from seeing the free world abandon its own values in that context."
And so, in a very real sense, I wanted -- I wanted to invite in a respectful way your thoughts about that, recognizing that you serve this president, but also expressing to you my profound concern that this administration allowed itself, intentionally or unintentionally, to be used to prop up and promote the image and the interests of a virulent anti-American, a socialist dictator in Venezuela?
BERMAN: I'm going to give the secretary a little bit of time to -- because you characterized an earlier comment that she made -- to respond.
PENCE: Thank you, Chairman.
CLINTON: Well, Mr. Pence, I have lived a long time now. I grew up at the height of the Cold War, when we were on the hair-trigger alert of nuclear war. I remember virulent anti-American communist dictators threatening our country on a regular basis. And I remember our presidents meeting with them, shaking their hands, and negotiating. They did not do so without conditions or without strong principles, but they did so.
I've also seen us establish normal relations with Vietnam. I have seen the 30 years of normalized relations with China. And I don't think there is any contradiction between standing strongly for our principles and our values and pursuing the give-and-take of diplomatic encounter and negotiation where appropriate.
I think that your strong feelings about Hugo Chavez are certainly understood, because he has clearly been someone who has behaved in ways that don't accord with our values and our principles, but so were the Soviet leaders, and so did so many others with whom we eventually created an environment in which we could see some changes that benefited the United States of America.
That is my bottom line, Mr. Pence. My bottom line is, I am here to serve my country, which I have loved ever since I was a little girl. And I'm going to support my president, because he is committed to doing whatever he can in the time he is given to serve to make this a better, safer, more secure world.
There are different approaches. I respectfully say, we spent eight years trying to isolated Chavez, and what has been the result? I don't think it's been in America's interest.
So we're going to try some different things. And I respect your disagreement. We want as bipartisan a foreign policy as possible. And we have wherever we can reached out and will continue to do so to members of this committee and others.
We want your constructive criticism. We want your feedback. But President Obama won the election. He beat me in a primary, in which he put forth a different approach. And he is now our president, and we all want our president, no matter of which party, to succeed, especially in such a perilous time.
So I appreciate your strong feelings, but I think that we are pursuing a course that may very well open up some additional opportunities that we hope will be in our interests, and advance our values, and protect our security.
PENCE: Thank you.
BERMAN: The time of the gentleman has expired.
Dozens of pro-democracy and human rights leaders and advocates from five continents have signed a letter expressing their support for leading Cuban opposition activist Jorge Luis Garcia Pérez "Antúnez" and his fellow fasters as they lead a protest in Placetas, Central Cuba, it was revealed at a Miami press conference. The protest, which began as a hunger strike on February 17 and shifted to a liquid fast on March 15 of this year, seeks to draw international attention to torture committed against political prisoners in Cuba, the acute housing crisis on the Island which has been worsened by recent hurricane strikes, and to demand the Cuban regime publish international human rights agreements signed by the country in state media.
"It is evident to us, from the amount of support that your hunger strike and continued protest have received inside and outside Cuba, as well as from other activities that are taking place on the island, that the pro-democracy movement has entered a new stage of resistance… For the love of human freedom, we urge you to take care of your health so that alongside your compatriots, you may be better prepared to lead the Cuban people in this new and extraordinary stage in their pursuit of liberty," stated the document.
The document, issued by the National Endowment for Democracy, the World Movement for Democracy and the Cuban Democratic Directorate, recognizes the key role being played in Cuba's democratic Resistance by a new generation of leaders who have been born and raised under the Castro Regime. Antúnez's protest has also won the support of hundreds of Cubans not involved in the freedom movement in any formal way.
"Antúnez represents the future of Cuba. His courage and genuine patriotism should command the respect of all Americans as we seek a new relationship with the Cuban people," stated Carl Gershman, President of the National Endowment for Democracy.
Former Cuban political prisoners and Cuban community leaders gathered at the press conference to lend their support to the document and to the grueling protest in Cuba as it entered its 66th day. Among those present was Huber Matos, a leader of the anti-Batista uprising in Cuba who was sentenced to 20 years in prison by the Castro regime for his opposition to totalitarianism.
"We are gladdened that the international community is expressing its support for the fasters and the new phase of civic resistance inside Cuba that they represent. Young people in Cuba must have the support of the world in their struggle for democracy in our country," said Matos.
A dozen leaders from African countries led the list of signatories, among them Eddie Jarwolo, founding director of the National Youth Movement for Transparent Elections–Partners for Democratic Development in Liberia; Justice Mukete Tahle Itoe of Cameroon, the Secretary General of the Global Network for Good Governance, an anti-corruption, good governance organization; and Anyakwee Nsirimovu, Executive Director of the Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in Nigeria, who has faced persecution for his anti-corruption activism.
"I call on the Cuban government to uphold the idea of multi party democracy underpinned by the proliferation of divergent political views and alternatives beginning with the manifest tolerance of opposition politicians and the show of concern and respect for the dignity of vulnerable Cuban people as an obligation of the government and not a favor, or option," stated Eddie Jarwolo.
Signatories from Latin America also offered strong support to Cuba's democratic Resistance.
"Without freedom there is neither dignity nor human rights. I stand in full solidarity with the struggle of Antúnez and his colleagues for freedom, dignity, and human rights in Cuba," stated Óscar Álvarez Araya from Costa Rica, of the Foundation for the Democratic Union of the Pacific.
Naturally, they understand that the only entity authorized to do business in Cuba is the regime (the Cuban people are restricted from private business activities). So there can be no other explanation for their relentless desire to transact with a foreign monopoly and their unconscionable silence regarding the regime's atrocities.
The question remains: What can be expected if these interests were authorized by the U.S. Congress to do business with the Cuban regime?
At that point Cuba's opposition becomes a side-show, a distraction to trade and commerce. But most regrettably, the U.S. then becomes the foremost creditor of Cuba's repression.
Singer Willy Chirino challenged the Cuban government to permit exile music to flow on the island -- and to broadcast his Miami concert.
The Miami Herald
April 23, 2009
Cuban-American singer Willy Chirino made an appeal to Cuban President Raúl Castro on Wednesday: Let my music and that of other Cuban Americans flow -- uninterrupted -- to the island.
''I call on you to stop being an impediment and allow Cubans on the island to freely enjoy the fruits of the Cuban artistic community,'' Chirino said in a statement at the AmericanAirlines Arena.
Chirino then challenged the Cuban government to broadcast his upcoming Miami concert in Havana, at a park along the famed seaside Malecón -- and even offered to pay all costs related to sending a satellite feed. The broadcast in Havana, he added, should be free and open to all islanders.
Chirino's message comes a week after the Obama administration eliminated restrictions on remittances and travel to Cuba for people with family on the island. At the recent Fifth Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain, Trinidad, Obama also urged Castro to free political prisoners and reduce fees on cash transfers sent from the United States.
Raúl Castro has said he would be willing to talk about ''everything'' with the Obama administration, though his older brother Fidel Castro, who ceded power to Raúl in 2006, wrote in a column this week that Obama had ''misinterpreted'' Raúl's comments.
In his news conference Wednesday, Chirino said he had delivered his message earlier in the day to the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C. in a letter. He gave Cuban officials until April 30 to respond.
''The ball's in your court,'' Chirino said. ``It's time for you to act.''
In some of his songs, which are officially banned on the island yet popular among salsa lovers, Chirino calls for freedom in Cuba: songs such as Viva La Libertad (Long Live Freedom) and Ya Viene LLegando (Already Coming).
The singer has long been critical of the Castro regime.
Asked by a reporter if he thought the Cuban government would view such songs as a threat, Chirino said he couldn't understand why. Chirino added that he would not be willing to compromise the content of his songs.
The singer first came to Miami during Operation Pedro Pan, among 14,000 children who left Cuba between 1960 and 1962. Catholic Church agencies put the kids in childrens camps and foster homes until their parents could join them.
Senators Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Richard Lugar of Indiana are the co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus for the Freedom of the Press. The Caucus "aims to advance press freedom around the world by creating a forum to combat and condemn media censorship and the persecution of journalists around the world."
Both Senators have been outspoken critics of current U.S. policy towards Cuba. Recently, Senator Lugar's Latin America Staff at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote a field report critical of U.S. policy, but unfortunately failed to mention the plight of Cuba's beleaguered independent journalists, including those in political prisons -- a real disservice to the Caucus' efforts, not to mention to Cuba's imprisoned journalists.
As World Press Freedom Day approaches on April 29th, please remember -- with the same energy and effort with which you criticize U.S. policy towards Cuba -- those men and women suffering for the "crime" of independent journalism. In particular, don't forget those imprisoned during the the Castro regime's March 2003 crackdown, including Normando Hernández González, Adolfo Fernández Saínz, Julio César Gálvez Rodriguez, Fabio Prieto Llorente, Léster Luis González Pentón, Pedro Argüelles Morán and José Luis García Paneque.
Their lives depend on it.
Today, those same detractors are manipulating and marketing opinion polls, arguing that a supposed "generational change" in the views of the Cuban-American community somehow justify unilateral policy changes.
Respectfully, they need to make up their mind.
The fact remains that U.S. policy towards Cuba has its basis in U.S. law. It seeks to: 1. First and foremost, support and empower Cuba's pro-democracy movement and civil society, and 2. Conditions the lifting of sanctions to the unconditional release of Cuba's political prisoners; the respect and recognition of the fundamental human, civil and political rights of the Cuban people; and the legalization of opposition parties, labor unions and an independent media.
Such a policy towards our neighbor 90-miles away is in the long-term foreign policy interest of the United States; not to mention the human interest of the Cuban people.
Mauricio Claver Carone, a leading pro-embargo lobbyist, noted, however, that the three Miami Republican members of Congress who back hard-line sanctions – and criticized Obama for lifting the remittance cap entirely – were re-elected in November even as Obama garnered an estimated 35 percent of the Cuban-American vote in South Florida.
"The Cuban-American members of Congress who are considered hard-liners outperformed both presidential candidates in South Florida in every precinct," Claver-Carone said. "Which means that there are people who voted for Barack Obama and voted for these pro-embargo stalwarts. These polls are almost nonsensical."
Your election is a tremendous symbol of how civic determination can usher in dramatic political and social change. As you assume and carry out your considerable duties as President, you pay homage to the millions of Americans who have fought for freedom, social justice, civil rights and human dignity.
In Cuba, there is a faith-based, multi-racial movement of men, women, youth and workers who in spite of terrible repression by the regime in power are carrying out a non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights.
Our movement articulates the desire for Change of thousands of Cubans who have braved repression, intimidation and overcame fear to sign their names on petitions for constitutional reform and academic freedom. Thousands more have refused to join State-sanctioned mob attacks on those of us seeking peaceful political change. We gain inspiration from the more than 1.4 million Cubans who boycotted the Regime-mandated one-party, one-candidate elections held in January-February 2008. Each day, in ways large and small, seen and unseen, the Cuban people are withdrawing their support for the ruling regime through acts of civil disobedience.
A great majority of Cubans, including many within the ranks of the Regime itself, desire profound democratic change in Cuba.
The shining example of the civil rights movement in the United States is a beacon of hope so that the full dignity for each Cuban can be restored. We want to determine our future through a democratic process.
We understand that your administration will reorient U.S. policy towards Cuba and the Castro Regime. We urge you against siding with commercialism before political liberalization in our island. Repression has increased considerably during the last year and militarization within the power apex of the Regime is a clear signal of their lack of will to commit to real changes. Today, several thousand political prisoners languish in horrible conditions in squalid jails. Their only crime was fighting for the same freedoms that Americans such as Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. gave their lives to achieve. Make no mistake, Mr. President, their struggle then, is our struggle now.
We urge you to consider a multilateral international strategy that will compel the Castro Regime to open up to its own people by releasing political prisoners, legalizing political parties, restoring the civil rights of the Cuban people and holding internationally-supervised free elections. Such a policy would reinforce and strengthen the work of many Cuban groups devoted to peaceful political change.
This movement for change seeks to profoundly and peacefully transform Cuba.
We urge you to not sacrifice the moral leadership of the United States to the temptations of commercial expediency. Your presidency is a tribute to all that can be accomplished when a cause is just and right. We are offering our lives to Cuba's freedom movement and some day –we hope soon–look forward to having a democratically elected Cuban president greet you in Havana.
Do not forget us. Support us.
We too, have a dream.
1. Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez", Presidio Político Pedro Luis Boitel
2. Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina, Movimiento Cubano de Jóvenes por la Democracia, La Habana
3. Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, Alianza Democrática Oriental, Guantánamo
4. Idania Yánez Contreras, Coalición Central Opositora, Villa Clara
5. Juan Carlos González Leiva, Consejo de Relatores de Derechos Humanos, La Habana
6. Iris Pérez Aguilera, Movimiento Feminista de Derecho Civiles Rosa Parks, Villa Clara
7. Alejandro Tur Valladares, Jagua Press, Cienfuegos
8. Ana Margarita Perdigón Brito, Presidio Político Pedro Luis Boitel, Sancti Spiritus
9. Joaquín Cabezas de León, Movimiento Cubano Reflexión, Villa Clara
10. Ricardo Pupo Sierra, Plantados hasta la Libertad y la Democracia, Cienfuegos
11. Enyor Díaz Allen, Movimiento Cubano de Jóvenes por la Democracia, Guantánamo
12. Cristián Toranzo, Movimiento Cubano de Jóvenes por la Democracia, Holguín
13. Marta Díaz Rondón, Movimiento Feminista de Derecho Civiles Rosa Parks, Holguín
14. Margarito Broche Espinosa, Consejo de Relatores de Derechos Humanos de Cuba, Villa Clara
15. María de la Caridad Noa González, Comisión de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Familiar, Villa Clara
16. Virgilio Mantilla Arango, Fundación Cubana de Derechos Humanos, Camagüey
17. Yorledis Duvalón Gibert, Movimiento Cubano de Jóvenes por la Democracia, Santiago de Cuba
After 50 years of almost continuous antagonism between the U.S. and the Castro-Communist regime, there is a swelling desire in the U.S. and abroad to overcome this predicament through constructive engagement. Since this would not be the first time that engagement has been pursued, let us review the outcome of prior U.S. quests for a rapprochement with this regime, a regime that was expelled from the Organization of American States in 1962 because it had established a Marxist-Leninist tyranny declared incompatible with the inter-American system, had aligned itself with the Soviet bloc and had suppressed all human rights.
Despite a litany of crimes, interventions in the internal affairs of more than a dozen of Latin American countries, and threats to the peace and security of the hemisphere that culminated in the Cuban missile crisis, President Kennedy tried to seek an accommodation with Castro. On Sept. 23, 1963, U.S. Ambassador William H. Atwood secretly commenced negotiations in New York with the Cuban ambassador to the U.N., Carlos Lechuga.
A few days prior to Kennedy's assassination, a follow-up meeting was arranged with Castro in Havana. Negotiations were dropped almost simultaneously because several tons of war equipment that were shipped from Cuba to Venezuela's Marxist "Armed Forces of National Liberation" were uncovered by the local authorities.
In March 1975, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger announced that the U.S. was "ready to move in a new direction," which could lead to normalizing relations with Cuba and the lifting of the then 14-year-old trade embargo. After almost one year of intense negotiations between Assistant Secretary of State William Rogers and Castro representatives, the U. S. called them off when 15,000 Cuban troops landed in Angola.
In March 1977, President Jimmy Carter issued a presidential directive, stating: "I have concluded that we should attempt to achieve normalization of our relations with Cuba." Interest Section offices were established in Havana and Washington, and a large number of Cuban political prisoners were released. Hopes for normalization were quashed when the Castro regime deployed troops to Ethiopia and, subsequently, unleashed the Mariel boatlift, which brought 125,000 refugees to Florida, including over 2,700 criminals and misfits.
President Reagan tried to engage the Castro regime. In November 1981, Secretary of State Alexander Haig met in Mexico with Cuban Vice President Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, and in March 1982, General Vernon Walter spoke with Castro in Havana. Negotiations stalled when Castro rejected U.S. trade and other concessions in exchange for ending Cuban military shipments to Central American guerrillas.
With the Cold War over, President Bill Clinton actively pursued constructive engagement with the Castro regime. He liberalized U.S.-Cuban remittances and travel to the island (as currently under way), and significantly expanded people-to-people exchanges. Castro foiled this quest for a rapprochement with a new rafter crisis in 1994 and when two Cuban MIG jet fighters shot down two unarmed civilian planes of "Brothers to the Rescue," which were flying over international waters in 1996 on a humanitarian mission.
The above examples of frustrated attempts to normalize relations with Communist Cuba reflect a pattern of deception on the part of Castro and his politburo--eager to obtain U.S. concessions without liberalizing the regime, feigning a desire to settle differences with the U.S., yet always scuttling negotiations and resuming their unyielding and contagious anti-Yankee defiance.
Will this pattern change under the dual or solo leadership of Raul Castro--the ruthless party hierarch largely responsible for building the totalitarian military apparatus in Cuba? He has made conciliatory overtures to the U.S., yet he continues to harbor terrorists and support the authoritarian and expansionist design of his chief subsidizer, Hugo Chavez, with over 40,000 Cuban agents, including military and intelligence officers and indoctrinators, based in Venezuela.
Raul Castro has promised structural changes and open debate, but there are no signs of glasnost or perestroika in Cuba; no Chinese-type opening of the inefficient state-controlled economy; no dismantling of the apartheid system, which effectively bars the local population from entering tourist enclaves. A handful of political prisoners have been conditionally released, but more than 300 remain in prison under brutal conditions. Raul Castro has proposed swapping some of them for the five Cuban spies held in the U.S.
Relying primarily on military comrades from the Old Guard, the regime is gearing up to quell increasing discontent and demands for reforms. The dissidents, now more numerous and vocal than in the past, are constantly being harassed, and several high-level government officials, accused of deviationism and disloyalty, were recently purged and forced to repent, Stalin-style.
Notwithstanding these developments, there are those in the U.S. who contend that change in Cuba can be achieved without prodding, through soft diplomacy. They urge Washington to stop, rather that sharpen and intensify, direct support to the dissident movement on the island. And yet it was strong and sustained support to similar movements that helped bring about the democratic transition in Poland and the rest of the Soviet-bloc countries. Others recommend that the U.S. unconditionally lift the embargo on Cuba and give up its levers. That, in essence, is what the European Union did by dropping its sanctions in the vain hope that human rights would improve on the island.
Assuming that Washington will pursue a quid pro quo engagement with the Castro regime, a guarded approach is called for. The key objective from the U.S. side should be to pave the way for democracy in Cuba with tangible steps leading to free elections, and not to prop up the failed and bankrupt tyranny.
It is a tyranny that is striving to perpetuate itself through several means. First, by shoring up its standing with high-level negotiations in Washington and readmission to regional forums. Second, by harnessing plenty of dollars from herded American tourists to supplement Chavez's shrinking petro-subsidies. Third, by obtaining U.S.-backed credit lines along with access to international banks and monetary funds to facilitate the renegotiation or cancellation of its huge external debt of close to $30 billion, as recently reported by the Paris Club of creditors.
That is the bailout that the Castro regime is seeking--a bailout that, without concrete and irreversible measures for a democratic transition in Cuba, the U. S. must not support.
Néstor Carbonell is an international public affairs consultant; author of And The Russians Stayed: The Sovietization of Cuba, William Morrow, 1989; and Luces y Sombras de Cuba, Ediciones Universal, 2008.
HAVANA (AP) — A leading rights activist says most of Cuba's 200 or more political prisoners would rather serve out long terms on the island than be part of an exchange for five communist agents imprisoned in the U.S., as Cuban President Raul Castro has suggested.
President Barack Obama has said Cuba should make the next move as both leaders try to thaw relations — and that releasing political prisoners would be a significant step.
Castro responded in part by suggesting a prisoner swap — sending all of Cuba's political prisoners, and their families, to the United States in exchange for the five convicted Cuban spies.
The prisoners themselves? They want nothing of such a deal, Havana's leading dissident said Monday.
"It's nearly unanimous among the prisoners that they not be exchanged for military men arrested red-handed in espionage activities in the United States," said Elizardo Sanchez of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and Reconciliation.
"They would rather stay in prison."
By Aliya Sternstein
Democracy activists are urging the Obama administration and industry leaders to prevent Cuba from restricting Internet access, as the United States moves ahead with plans to offer expanded telecommunications services in that country. But the administration says it is too early -- and could be legally difficult -- to broker preconditions barring Cuba from suppressing political dissent on the Internet.
U.S. "companies can make all kinds of decisions now to protect users' access. But the most powerful lever here is the Obama government," said Leslie Harris, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology.
Administration officials have said they are waiting to see how the Cuban government and its citizens respond to the telecommunications policies President Obama announced April 13, before engaging in further dialogue.
State Department officials on Friday said they want to help increase the free flow of information among Cubans and between their country and the rest of the world, noting that the policies would help do exactly that. The United States has not been able to make demands on countries such as China to stop controlling use of the Internet, officials added.
"The difference [with Cuba] is we're opening up a new market," Harris said. "We're taking down a long-standing policy partly predicated on Cuba changing its human rights policies," she said, referring to Obama's weekend overtures to Cuban President Raul Castro.
On April 13, Obama directed agencies to permit U.S. network providers to expand cable and satellite infrastructures -- and license U.S. service providers to establish roaming service agreements with Cuban telecommunications firms.
AT&T and Sprint declined to comment on whether they would seek provisos that would forbid Cuba from ordering providers to censor Web sites or disclose the identities of government critics. Verizon, another leading provider of communications services, did not respond to requests for comment.
"This question needs to be on the radar at the State Department as well as the companies. Nothing would damage this important initiative more than a report that a U.S. telecom provider, under Cuban demand, had taken down political content or cooperated in the identification of an online dissident," Harris wrote in an April 16 blog entry. "If Cuba wants to build its communications infrastructure, the U.S. needs to set the terms."
A March 30 study on Internet freedom throughout the world by human rights organization Freedom House ranked Cuba last, mostly due to near-complete denial of access.
"You can basically count on two hands the amount of Internet access in the country," said Robert Guerra, project director of Freedom House's global Internet freedom initiative.
Instead of directly blocking or filtering online content, the Cuban government bars access to the technologies required to see the content with exorbitant prices and slow connection speeds, he added.
In 2008, 11.8 percent of the population had access to the Internet or Cuban intranet, according to the study.
While Cubans can connect to the Internet legally, "the few public Internet access points are priced in such a way that makes it prohibitively expensive for anyone to use it there," Guerra said. The average Cuban salary is about $20 a month. The price of a computer is at least $600, with connectivity costing between $9 and $15 an hour, the study reported.
Cubans must log on through government-approved institutions or access points managed by ETECSA, the state-controlled telecommunications company, the study added.
"The reality is that there are no Internet service providers in Cuba," Guerra said.
Even if the United States cannot gain assurance that Cuba will protect online freedoms, Cubans will find ways to circumvent restrictions, said Eddan Katz, the international affairs director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit civil liberties group.
Cubans already have begun to construct their own antennas, use illegal dial-up connections and create blogs on foreign platforms, according to the Freedom House study.
"That has a lot more to do with the people's willingness to speak out more than any technological regulations," Katz said.
To be sure, "going after bloggers for speaking politically and jailing them and engaging in that kind of intimidation is a terrible practice that governments should be held accountable for," but it will not prevent Cubans from airing their opinions on the Web, Katz said.
But the U.S. government might not be the best advocate for freedom on the Internet, he added. "My only reason for hesitation in saying the government will push [for unfettered access] is that there are forces within the U.S. that are monitoring" usage today, Katz said, referring to allegations that the National Security Agency recently overstepped legal boundaries by intercepting Americans' personal e-mails.
Willy Chirino Addresses Cuban President, Raul Castro, in a Press Conference
WHAT: World-renowned Cuban singer (entertainer), Willy Chirino, delivers an important message to the present ruler of the Cuban people, Raúl Castro.
WHERE: American Airlines Arena, Media Interview Room, 600 Biscayne Blvd, Downtown Miami
WHEN: Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009, 10:00 AM
Please park at the American Airlines Arena's P2 garage and proceed to elevators 3 & 4 for access to the media interview room. For media truck parking, please contact Omer Pardillo-Cid at 305.668.4343 ext 210 or email@example.com.
However, how do the other 29 democratically-elected governments in the region justify supporting Article 78 while advocating for the normalization of hemispheric relations with Cuba? It seems they have an Article 78 dilemma.
78. Our aspirations and goals for the Americas depend on strong democracies, good governance, the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. We believe that democracy is essential for the social, political and economic development of the peoples of the Americas. We therefore renew our commitment to fight poverty, inequality, hunger and social exclusion in order to raise the standard of living of our peoples and strengthen democratic governance in the Americas, and we will uphold the principles of and fully implement the Inter-American Democratic Charter. We reaffirm our commitment to fostering credibility and public trust in democratic institutions, in particular the legitimacy of electoral processes and full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Well, let's bring in now Mauricio Claver-Carone. He's a Cuban-American and a Board Member of the U.S.-Cuban Democracy PAC. He is against easing restrictions on Cuba. And Alfredo Duran was born in Cuba, the founder of the Cuban Committee for Democracy. It's a group that encourages reconciliation.
And I want to say welcome to both of you. Thanks for being with us this morning.
Well, I want to hear briefly from both of you what you think is the most significant thing to come out of lifting the travel restrictions to Cuba?
Alfredo, you start.
ALFREDO DURAN, FOUNDER, CUBAN COMMITTEE FOR DEMOCRACY: Well, I believe that the moment that the Cuban-Americans starts traveling back and forth to see their relatives -- to see their neighbors, to see their friends in the little towns in Havana, who are able to bring back -- take money with them and help them out, and start making the government less relevant in their lives, give them an opportunity to deal with themselves, and by themselves without requiring the government to furnish everything in Cuba -- I think that's going to have a tremendous impact in bringing about a change in the status quo.
And whenever you have a rigid political system where the status quo changes, things begin to happen. Nobody knows which way they will go, but hopefully, towards a transition, towards democracy and national reconciliation amongst all Cubans. I think that is very important that Cuban-Americans are able to visit their families.
DURAN: The restriction was something which is not well worth it.
CHETRY: And I want ask you about that part of it, Mauricio, some of what Obama is doing like allowing more travel, lifting some -- limits on spending -- it sounds like it might make things better for people living in Cuba.
Why were you against that?
MAURICIO CLAVER-CARONE, EDITOR, CAPITOLHILLCUBANS.COM: Well, I think, first of all, I have 50 reasons today up on my blog CapitolHillCubans.com on why we should not lift sanctions. The important thing here is that we do not want to give the Cuban regime any more weapons of repression.
It's one thing for the United States to lift or ease sanctions on Cuban-Americans going to the island, but it doesn't mean that the regime is going to allow all Cubans into the island. If you're a human rights advocate or if you're someone that they consider threatening in any way, then they will not allow you into the island.
I agree with -- furthermore with regards to the remittances, the Cuban regime takes 30 percent right off the top. Eventually, 100 percent ends up in the regime's hands through something called TRDs, which are currency recuperation entities which are owned and operated by a company which is run by Raul Castro's son- in-law, Colonel Lopez-Callejas, which is very convenient.
Cuba is a totalitarian country. Everything is owned, operated and controlled by that regime. It's not China. It's not Vietnam. It's Burma and North Korea.
CHETRY: So, you're saying that, basically, it doesn't matter how much more money flows into it, it's not going to reach the hands of the people.
CLAVER-CARONE: Eventually, 100 percent of every dollar that goes into the island ends up in the hands of the Cuban government. It is a totalitarian economy.
CHETRY: Alfredo, what do you say to that?
DURAN: Look, I think Mauricio is repeating something that we have been saying for the past 50 years, and nothing has changed. It hasn't worked in 50 years and it won't work for the next 50 years. We need to start changing things. And I think that the best way that we can change dynamics inside of Cuba is Cuban-Americans can travel and Cuban Americans can give support to their relatives on the island.
CHETRY: All right. Well, I ...
DURAN: That makes them more independent.
CHETRY: Before we go, I want you to hear what Cuba's new leader Raul Castro said. He talked about it after President Obama said, you know, the ball is in their court. He said, "Everything's on the table for discussion."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAUL CASTRO, PRESIDENT OF CUBA (through translator): We told the North American government, in private and in public, that we are prepared wherever they want to discuss everything, human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners -- everything, everything, everything that they want to discuss.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHETRY: He sounds very passionate about that, Mauricio. Do you think that that's just political posturing? Or, do you think that he's willing to make some changes that might change things for U.S.- Cuban relations?
CLAVER-CARONE: I agree with President Obama that we need to take a new direction in Cuban policy. Raul Castro and Fidel Castro are 77 and 82-years-old, it's not a new direction. That's actually going way, way to the past.
It's almost an illusion to believe that anyone that's been in power for 50 years, obsessed with power for 50 years, that somehow tomorrow, overnight, they're going to want to change. It reminds me here of the anti-slavery abolitionist movement. William Lloyd Garrison, "With reasonable men, I will reason. With compassionate men, I will plead. With tyrants, I share no quarter for arguments go on deaf ears."
Cuban people deserve to be free. And for that happen, we need to have a bottoms-up, grassroots approach toward the Cuban pro-democracy movement, towards the Cuban resistance. To those young people that are out there every day, practicing civil disobedience, fighting against that regime -- that's who we need to be having a dialogue with. That's what we need to be approaching, not those old septuagenarian leaders.
CHETRY: All right. Well, we're going to have -- we're going to have to leave it there. But I want to thank you both, Mauricio Claver-Carone, as well as Alfredo Duran. Thanks for the discussion this morning.
CLAVER-CARONE: Thank you.
Boehner also addressed Obama's break last week with long-standing U.S. policy toward Cuba. On April 13, Obama lifted restrictions on Cuban-Americans who want to travel and send money to relatives in the communist island nation.
"All of this will end up being debated in Congress," Boehner said. "I just don't see Congress dramatically changing our policy toward Cuba or our policy toward Venezuela, two countries that have denounced the United States."
WALLACE: As I mentioned, Raul Castro, the Cuban president, talked about discussing human rights, but we have to point out — and this hasn't been widely reported — it was in the context of a long anti-U.S. diatribe.
Senator Graham, how should we proceed with Cuba?
GRAHAM: "Release the prisoners and we'll talk to you."
WALLACE: Simple as that. Put up or shut up.
GRAHAM: Put up or shut up.
WALLACE: Senator McCaskill?
MCCASKILL: Well, I think we're taking the right steps, and I think the ball is now clearly in Cuba's court. They need to respond and say what they're willing to do. I agree with the sentiments expressed by Lindsey. I must also say that opening up the market of Cuba to Missouri's farmers is very important to this United States senator. I think we have markets there that our agricultural economy in this country needs, and I think we need to look at that as a long-term goal.
But there clearly needs to be more done on the part of Cuba to send the right signal to America that they're willing to engage as a — as a trade partner or to go any further down this line of normalizing our relationship.
It's one of the features of CapitolHillCubans.com, a new Washington D.C.-based blog its creator says will provide "up-to-the minute information and analysis on the important issues and deliberations facing U.S. policy towards Cuba.
"Cuba policy is subject to a great deal of speculation and misinformation," says Mauricio Claver-Carone, the site's founding editor.
"Media attention remains fixated on the Castro brother and sanctions. Our goal is to explain the reality of and rationale for U.S. policy, but more importantly to introduce the D.C. community to the exciting developments amongst Cuba's courageous pro-democracy movement, such as its use of underground music, technology and culture as tools of dissent."
Featured on the blog are "Do's and Don'ts of Cuba Policy," a summary of a "white paper" for the Obama Administration and Congress; a "Campaign for Freedom," which highlights various pro-democracy movements and campaigns on the island; and the "Congressional Hall of Shame," singling out members of Congress that travel to "to solely meet with the Castro regime and its officials."
1. The International Committee of the Red Cross (“ICRC”) has repeatedly requested access to prisons in Cuba, one of the few countries to deny it permission to visit political prisoners. The ICRC “has not been able to visit prisons since July 1959, seven months after Fidel Castro came to power.” (“Red Cross Seeks Access to Cuban Prisons,” AFP, December 7th, 2006).
2. According to the 2008 State Department Report on Human Rights Practices, "The government [of Cuba] continued to deny its citizens their basic human rights and committed numerous, serious abuses. The government denied citizens the right to change their government. At year's end there were at least 205 political prisoners and detainees. As many as 5,000 citizens served sentences for 'dangerousness,' without being charged with any specific crime. The following human rights problems were reported: beatings and abuse of detainees and prisoners, including human rights activists, carried out with impunity; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, including denial of medical care; harassment, beatings, and threats against political opponents by government-recruited mobs, police, and State Security officials; arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights advocates and members of independent professional organizations; denial of fair trial; and interference with privacy, including pervasive monitoring of private communications. There were also severe limitations on freedom of speech and press; denial of peaceful assembly and association; restrictions on freedom of movement, including selective denial of exit permits to citizens and the forcible removal of persons from Havana to their hometowns; restrictions on freedom of religion; and refusal to recognize domestic human rights groups or permit them to function legally. Discrimination against persons of African descent, domestic violence, underage prostitution, trafficking in persons, and severe restrictions on worker rights, including the right to form independent unions, were also problems."
3. Afro-Cuban pro-democracy leader, Jorge Luis Perez Garcia "Antunez," who already spent over 17 years as a political prisoner before his release in 2007, has been on a peaceful hunger strike in his home since February 17th demanding the cessation of torture in Cuba's political prisons. Cuban authorities recently assaulted Antunez' home with tear gas (Amnesty International Miami Herald, March 26, 2009).
4. "Day and night, the screams of tormented women in panic and desperation who cry for God's mercy fall upon the deaf ears of prison authorities. They are confined to narrow cells with no sunlight called "drawers" that have cement beds, a hole on the ground for their bodily needs, and are infested with a multitude of rodents, roaches, and other insects…In these "drawers" the women remain weeks and months. When they scream in terror due to the darkness (blackouts are common) and the heat, they are injected sedatives that keep them half-drugged." Testimony of Juan Carlos González Leiva, State Security Prison, Holguín, Cuba, October 27, 2003.
5. The Cuba Archive Project (www.cubaarchive.org) has rigorously documented over 90,000 non-combat deaths that can be attributed to the Cuban regime through executions, extra-judicial assassinations, deaths in political prisons, missing and disappeared. To put this in perspective, the brutal regime of General Augusto Pinochet was attributed over 3,000 murders, executions and disappearances during its 16-year rule.
6. Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, one of Cuba’s best known and most respected pro-democracy and Afro-Cuban leaders, was sentenced to 25-years in prison on April 7th, 2003. Dr. Biscet was arrested on December 6th, 2002 while trying to hold a seminar on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Seventeen other people were arrested together with him. He was arrested only 37 days after being released from a first three-year sentence that he served on a charge of “disrespect”.
7. Plainclothes police kicked their way into a Roman Catholic church in eastern Cuba, beat and used pepper spray on a group of dissidents, church officials and human rights activists. Seven people were arrested when police entered the parish church of Santa Teresita in Santiago, Cuba's second-largest city, in search of government opponents. (Reuters, December 5th, 2007)
8. "I have never been charged in court yet I am condemned not to leave this Island. This restriction has not been dictated by a judge, nor could I have appealed it to jury, rather it comes from the great prosecutor—with full rights—in which he’s set himself up as the Cuban State. That severe magistrate determined that the old woman sitting next to me would not receive the ‘white card’ because her son ‘deserted’ from a medical mission. The boy who waited in the corner couldn’t travel either, because his athlete father plays now under another flag. The list of the punished is so long and the reasons so varied, that we could establish a huge group of forced islander 'stay-at-homes.' It’s too bad that the vast majority are silent, in the hopes that one day they’ll be allowed to leave, as one who receives compensation for good behavior," writes Cuban (Generation Y) blogger Yoani Sanchez, named as one of Time Magazine's 2008 Most Influential People in the World, after being denied permission to travel abroad for the third time this year alone.
9. It would be exceedingly presumptuous for U.S. policymakers to ignore the pleas of Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet in Cuba - similar to those of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma - that the United States continue not to recognize, and therefore not legitimize, these regimes in a political, diplomatic or commercial capacity.
10. Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a bricklayer and plumber, was arrested on March 20th, 2003 while taking part in a hunger strike at the Fundación Jesús Yánez Pelletier in Havana to demand the release of Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet and other political prisoners. He was sentenced to three years' imprisonment in 2003 on charges of showing “contempt to the figure of Fidel Castro,” “public disorder” and “resistance.” In November 2005 he was sentenced to an additional 15 years for “contempt” and “resistance” in prison. In May 2006,
he was again tried on the same charges and sentenced to an additional seven-year term. He is now serving a prison sentence of 25 years and six months. (“Newly Declared Prisoners of Conscience,” AP, January 29th, 2004).
11. “In the early morning hours of July 13, 1994, three boats belonging to the Cuban State and equipped with water hoses attacked an old tugboat that was fleeing Cuba with 72 people on board. The incident occurred seven miles off the Cuban coast, outside the port of Havana. The Cuban State boats attacked the tugboat with their prows, while at the same time spraying everyone on the deck of the boat, including women and children, with pressurized water. The pleas to stop the attack were in vain, and the old boat-named the ‘13 of March’ - sank, with a toll of 41 deaths, including ten children.” Ted Koppel, ABC’s Nightline, January 21st, 1998.
12. On April 26th, 2006 a mob organized by the Cuban regime’s secret police assaulted Marta Beatriz Roque, a prominent dissident and former university professor of economics. According to the Cuban Committee for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), “several members of the para-police mob attacked her verbally and physically, threw her to the ground and then attacked her inside her house, where a very hefty individual slugged her hard in the face.”
13. In Cuba, all print and broadcast media are under state control. Also, access to the Internet is severely limited outside of governmental offices and educational institutions. During 2006, there was a rise in the harassment and intimidation of independent journalists and librarians. From January to August 2006, journalist Guillermo Fariñas staged an intermittent hunger strike to obtain access to the Internet, without success. (“Guillermo Farinas Ends Seven-Month-Old Hunger Strike for Internet Access,” Reporters Without Borders, September 1st, 2006).
14. The Cuban regime forbids the country's citizens from leaving or returning to Cuba without first obtaining official permission, which is usually denied. Unauthorized travel can result in criminal prosecution. The regime also bars citizens engaged in authorized travel from taking their children with them overseas, essentially holding the children hostage to guarantee the parents' return. Given the widespread fear of forced family separation, these exit travel restrictions provide the Cuban government with a powerful tool for punishing defectors and silencing critics.
15. On March 18, 2003, a severe wave of repression broke over Cuban opposition leaders. For three days, 90 peaceful human rights, democracy and political activists were arrested in the spring of 2003, summarily tried and sentenced to jail terms of up to 28 years.
16. “I can only hope that in their deliberations, Mr. Bush, Congressional lawmakers and the farmers they represent will consider the ‘freedom of movement’ I and the other wives of Cuban political prisoners will enjoy for years to come: traveling every three months to spend just two hours with our husbands.” Written from Cuba by Claudia Marquez Linares, “Free Trade Won’t Free Cuba,” New York Times, November 6th, 2003.
17. Hundreds of thousands of Cuban refugees have tried to flee the regime and navigate the Florida Straits in flimsy rafts made from rope and old inner tubes and in rickety boats constructed from old car parts and bus roofs. Experts believe that for every refugee rescued, two or three are captured by Cuban authorities or have perished at sea.
18. Francisco Chaviano, an Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience, who attempted inside Cuba to collect information on political disappearances, including those of captured rafters, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1995.
19. On April 2nd, 2003 Lorenzo Copello, Bárbaro Sevilla, and Jorge Martínez -- three young Afro-Cubans -- attempted to hijack a Havana ferry in an attempt to flee to the United States. They were caught, summarily tried in closed-door proceedings, and executed by firing squad nine days later in a case condemned by Amnesty International, the United States and other governments.
20. On February 23rd, 2007 the Cuban regime ordered three foreign journalists, Gary Marx of the Chicago Tribune, César Gonzalez-Calero of the Mexican daily El Universal and Stephen Gibbs of the BBC, to immediately stop reporting on Cuba and leave the island. They were told that their work "was not the most suitable to the Cuban government."
21. As Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who taught us all about the horror of the Soviet gulag, noted "we are slaves there from birth, but we are striving for freedom. You however, were born free. If so, then why do you help our slave owners?"
II. NATIONAL SECURITY
22. The State Department lists the Cuban dictatorship as one of six remaining state-sponsors of terror. The others are Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria. According to the State Department’s “Patterns of Global Terrorism,” “The Government of Cuba maintains close relationships with other state sponsors of terrorism such as Iran and North Korea, and has provided safe haven to members of ETA, FARC, and the ELN.”
23. There are over 70 fugitives from American justice enjoying safe haven in Cuba.
24. Cuba has been the #1 source country of agents convicted for espionage in U.S. federal courts, including the Senior Analyst for Latin America at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and five spies that sought to penetrate U.S. Southern and Central Command in Florida.
25. “Asked whether Cuba would continue to send agents to the United States, [Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo] Alarcon shifted from Spanish to English and said emphatically: ‘Yes, with a capital Y.’” (Washington Post, June 3rd, 2006).
26. Cuba’s tourism and trade sectors are completely state-owned or operated through joint ventures with corporations established by, and under the supervision of, the Cuban Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (MINFAR) and the Ministry of the Interior (MININT), and represent the Cuban regime's first and foremost source of income. GAESA, Corp., a front for the Cuban military -- led by Raul Castro's son-in-law, Col. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas -- runs Cuba’s tourist enterprises.
27. American taxpayers should not subsidize the Castros regime. Currently, the Castros regime’s foreign debt represents approximately 600% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). They owe over $30 billion to the Paris Club of Western creditor nations alone. Countries from throughout Western Europe, East Asia, and the Western Hemisphere are taking measures to obtain restitution for the billions of dollars they are owed, and the Cuban regime refuses to pay.
28. U.S. policy in the Western Hemisphere is contingent upon the Inter-American Democratic Charter. On September 11, 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell and representatives of the 33 other democratic countries in the Western Hemisphere signed the Inter-American Democratic Charter in Lima, Peru. This document prescribes that established democratic structures and political freedoms are prerequisites for U.S. recognition and engagement. Any acceptance of a military dictatorship in the hemisphere will weaken U.S. commitment to democracy in the region. The U.S. should not go back to the 1950’s-1980's, when military rule was acceptable.
III. LABOR RIGHTS
29. According to the International Labor Organization’s 2006 Report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, the Cuban regime has systematically violated the labor rights of Cuban workers, relegating them to the most dangerous and undesirable positions with their practice of forced labor.
30. It would be an anomaly to require fair – or improved - labor standards from our democratic trading partners and fail to demand the same from one of the most egregious violators of labor rights in the world.
31. The harassment and imprisonment of independent labor leaders, such as Alfredo Felipe Fuentes, Miguel Galván, Ivan Hernandez Carrillo, Nelson Molinet Espino and Hector Raúl Valle Fernández. According to a 2006 report by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, these trade unionists remain locked in walled-in cells “filled with vermin and rats.”
32. "The only 'crime' they [union leaders] committed was talking with other workers about organizing to bargain with their employers," said Thomas R. Donahue, the former president of the AFL-CIO. "What Castro is doing to these men not only is inhumane, but it also is a violation of international law." (Campaign for Free and Independent Trade Unions in Cuba, June 5, 2006).
33. There are no labor or worker rights in Cuba. Cubans work under a slave labor system where foreign investors cooperate with the regime to prevent the development of independent unions or collective bargaining. For example, Sherritt International, a Canadian company that employs hundreds of Cuban in its mining activities, pays the Cuban government an annual salary of $10,000. In turn, the regime then pays the Cuban worker the equivalent of $15-$20 per month. (‘Engagement’ or Exploitation in Cuba?, Ethics and
Public Policy Center, June 1st, 1998).
34. The Cuban regime markets Cuban workers abroad as indentured servants. The succesful case of Alberto Justo Rodriguez in U.S. federal court under the Alien Torts Claims Act illustrates this practice. Mr. Rodríguez, along with about 100 other Cuban nationals, was sent by the Cuban regime to work in a dry dock in Curacao. When they arrived, their passports were seized, and remained closely guarded by Cuban officials, as they worked. Mr. Rodríguez and his companions were forced to work 16-hour days in dangerous conditions - hanging from the sides of ships and scraping rust or huddling in wet spaces while working with high voltage equipment. Injured workers received no compensation. The Cuban workers received the equivalent of $16 a month - between 3 and 4 cents an hour. The real value of their labor was paid to the Cuban regime by the Curacao dry dock in hard currency. (“Cuba Accused of Slave Like Labor Deal,” The Miami Herald, October 28th, 2006)
35. Cuba's integration of political prisoners into its prison labor programs violates a prohibition on forced labor performed by detainees held for their political opinion. This practice is banned under the International Labor Organization's Convention 105, regarding the Abolition of Forced Labor, a treaty ratified by Cuba.
36. Forced labor victims in Cuba also include children coerced into working in commercial agriculture. Cuban children, often as young as a year old, are forced by their state-run schools to spend the summers away from their parents (families) doing “voluntary farm work” in “schools in the countryside.” (U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2006).
IV. APARTHEID, CIVIL RIGHTS AND CHILD PROSTITUTION
37. Cuban nationals are denied access to the isolated resort enclaves and other facilities -- including beaches, hotels, clinics, restaurants, and stores -- where foreign tourists stay during their vacations. This effectively restricts access to foreigners, while permitting the regime to directly control all income.
38. "Cuba has a tourism industry, government-operated or affiliated. And it engages in promoting child prostitution, which is not only trafficking under our law, but under U.N. protocol, and it's done very openly." Amb. John Miller, Ambassador-at-Large for International Security (2006 Annual Trafficking in Persons Report).
39. Cuba’s tourism and trade sectors are completely state-owned or operated through joint ventures with corporations established by, and under the supervision of, the Cuban Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (MINFAR) and the Ministry of the Interior (MININT), and represent the Cuban regime's first and foremost source of income.
40. In the health sector, senior Cuban Communist Party officials and foreign tourists who can pay in hard currency get first-rate medical services any time they want. The Cuban Government has chosen to develop a two-tiered medical system - the deliberate establishment of a type of "medical apartheid" - that funnels money into services for a privileged few, while depriving the health care system used by the vast majority of Cubans of adequate funding. The Cuban regime’s SERVIMED, the government enterprise in
charge of health tourism, provides dollar-paying foreigners with the medical care and medicine that is denied to most Cubans.
41. A March 2009 report by the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies revealed that Afro-Cubans represent over 60 percent of the island's population, but only 17% of the senior leadership of the Communist Party and 10% of the senior command of the Cuban Armed Forces. Afro-Cubans also represent 80% of Cuba's massive prison population.
42. In 1994, the founder of Havana's International Center for Neurological Restoration, Dr. Hilda Molina quit her position after refusing to increase the number of neural transplant operations without the required testing and follow-up. She expressed outrage that only foreigners are treated. Dr. Molina resigned from her seat in the national legislature, and returned the medals Fidel Castro had bestowed on her for her work.
43. “Homosexuals and transvestites are regularly detained by the police and accused of public scandal for which they can be condemned to three months in jail or a 500 peso fine," a newspaper reported. Article 303 of the Cuban Penal Code punishes "publicly manifested" homosexuality with up to one year in prison. Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar and French designer Jean Paul Gaultier were among the several hundred people detained in an August 23rd, 1997 raid on Havana's most popular gay discotheque, El Periquiton.
V. HOSTILITY TOWARDS ISRAEL AND OTHER U.S. INTERESTS
44. The Cuban regime supports Hamas and Hezbollah and is an ally of Syria and Iran.
45. "Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accepted an invitation to visit Cuba in September to show gratitude for Castro’s support of Iran’s nuclear program... While the Cuba visit itself may be of little consequence, the invitation offers a reminder that our Cuban neighbor is ceaselessly working to pursue anti-American foreign policy." Kathleen Parker, Tribune Media Services, February 26th, 2006
46. During his visit to Iran in May 2001, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Castro discussed "Iran-Cuban cooperation" in response to U.S. "hegemony." Ayatollah Khamenei proclaimed before Castro, "the United States is weak and extremely vulnerable today," and hoped that "U.S. grandeur can be broken." For his part, Castro concurred with words that affirmed and perfectly dovetailed Khameinei's sentiments: "Iran and Cuba, in cooperation with each other, can bring America to its knees. The U.S. regime is very weak, and we are witnessing this weakness from close up." (AFP, May 2001)
47. Cuba, alongside Venezuela and Syria, were the only three countries to support Iran’s efforts to develop an enriched uranium program in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
48. More than 90% of Cuban Jews fled Cuba after the Cuban regime closed down their schools, and confiscated their businesses.
49. Although no bilateral issues existed at the time, Havana broke relations with Israel to ingratiate itself with the Arab states and sent troops to the Syrian front during the Yom Kippur war.
50. Havana is a leader of the anti-Israeli coalition in international organizations and turned over the Israeli Center in Havana to the PLO to serve as its Latin America headquarters. The Cuban regime has continually presented and sponsored UN resolutions condemning the State of Israel and was an active supporter of the anti-Israel campaign at the Durban Race Conference in 2001 and the upcoming Durban II Conference in 2009.
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