Congressional Field Hearing Probes Obama's Cuba Policy

Saturday, November 7, 2015
From CBS Miami:

Miami Hearing Shines Light On Human Rights In Cuba, Venezuela

U.S. officials traveled to Miami to take up human rights issues in Cuba and Venezuela.

The hearing being held, is meant as a form of checks and balances on the administration’s efforts to renew ties with Cuba and to shine a light on human rights issues in Venezuela.

As part of the hearing, witnesses to such violations testified at a Miami-Dade location – a location considered appropriate for the matter.

“This is the home of so many victims of the Castro regime and the Venezuelan regime,” said U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo. “They have contributed a lot to this community and to this country.”

U.S. Congressman Jeff Duncan focused heavily on human rights violations and freedom of expression in both countries.

“I am deeply concerned about the trajectory of both Cuba and Venezuela on these matters,” said Duncan who is the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.

But Cuba dominated the hearing. Duncan said despite various meetings with Cuban officials, the issue of human rights is lacking in conversations with the island nation.

“The Administration has made no real effort with the Cubans to prioritize human rights or property claims issues. They haven’t even scheduled one single meeting in all their bilateral discussions to raise these issues,” said Duncan.

All this comes as a senior state department official said President Barack Obama could relax the U.S. trade embargo without first demanding human rights progress from Cuba.

Duncan concluded his remarks with a call to act on the issues at hand.

“U.S. Congress must do more to hold the Obama Administration accountable for their actions on these issues, and I believe the United States must do a better job communicating a clear message of support to the victims of human rights abuses in Cuba and Venezuela and to both regimes that such repression is utterly deplorable and must end,” said Duncan.

From NBC6:

Congressional Panel Slams Obama's Cuba, Venezuela Policies

The chairman of a congressional panel torched the Obama administration's policy toward Cuba and Venezuela at a hearing Friday to review the human rights records of both Latin American countries.

Rep. Jeff Duncan, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, said the administration "has made no real effort with the Cubans to prioritize human rights or property claims issues'' following the historic rapprochement between the former Cold War foes.

In its relations with Venezuela, the South Carolina Republican said the U.S. has seen "no results'' from talks between the U.S. State Department and the government led by President Nicolas Maduro.

The three-hour hearing was held in Miami, home to hundreds of thousands of Cuban exiles who escaped the longtime communist nation and Venezuelan immigrants who fled the socialist South American country.

Duncan said Cuban President Raul Castro's government averaged 741 "arbitrary detentions'' per month last year and that it rose to 882 during Pope Francis' historic visit in September. He added that more than 6,000 people were arrested and detained in the first 10 months of this year. He said nearly 9,000 Americans owned property that was confiscated after Fidel Castro's revolution.

Duncan said Venezuelan state security forces quashed anti-government protests that triggered weeks of unrest that left 900 injured and 43 dead. He called Maduro's recently announced human rights plans "laughable'' at a time "when human rights atrocities continue unabated.''

Two panels of witnesses, one focused on Cuba, the other on Venezuela, condemned the human rights records of both countries and called for the U.S. to support dissidents and opposition leaders.

Cuban political activist Antonio Rodiles, leader of the relatively hard-line dissident group Estado de SATS, said the Cuban government is aligned with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran to "prolong the denial of fundamental rights and freedoms to the Cuban people.''

He added that Maduro is "a puppet regime'' that is "directly run by Castroite advisers at the behest of the dictatorship in Havana.''