Dr. Biscet to Congress: Obama's Cuba Policy Undermines American Values

Wednesday, July 13, 2016
From McClatchy News:

Cuban human rights leader: Obama policy undermines American values

One of Cuba’s best-known human rights activists and a recipient of the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom said Wednesday that the Obama administration’s efforts to restore relations with the Cuban government had undermined American values.

Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, who spent more than nine years as a political prisoner in Cuba until 2011, told U.S. lawmakers that oppression in Cuba continues and the U.S. policies divide the Cuban and American people.

“Congresspersons, don’t allow the creed of the nation, the Bill of Rights, to continue to be violated. Don’t tolerate the separation of the American and Cuban people,” Biscet pleaded. “Yours free, and mine enslaved.”

Biscet was awarded the United States’ highest civilian honor in 2007 in absentia while he was in prison during George W. Bush’s presidency. Biscet was the featured witness at a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing Wednesday on the human rights situation in Cuba.

Rep. Christopher Smith, a New Jersey Republican who chairs the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, called the hearing to highlight ongoing human rights violations and to press the Obama administration to make the issue a higher priority before making any further changes to U.S. policy.

“Our fear that the administration has not been pushing sufficiently for the release of political prisoners and other human rights concerns has only grown,” he said.

The hearing was scheduled on the 22nd anniversary of the deaths of 32 people who drowned when a tugboat with 63 aboard capsized north of Havana while they were trying to flee the island. Survivors say Cuban government ships rammed the tugboat.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, a group that tracks human rights and political repression in Cuba, reported more than 8,600 politically motivated detentions in 2015, a 315 percent increase from five years ago. In the first two months of this year, there had already been more than 2,500 arrests.