Thursday, May 28, 2015

Crackdown on opposition in Cuba ignored by visiting Congressional delegation

Will the plight of Cubans continue to be ignored for the sake of regime engagement?
Danilo Maldonado "El Sexto" arbitrarily detained since Dec 26, 2014 HRF
 Five months after President Obama's announcement of a reset on Cuba policy repression continues to rise. At the same time the Administration seems to be ignoring the Castro regime's continuing outlaw behavior such as smuggling Chinese arms through Colombia uncovered on February 28, 2015. Visiting delegations of the U.S. government have been focusing on economic opportunities with the dictatorship while remaining publicly silent on human rights situation only to say that they've discussed it privately with officials

One of these individuals, who is in Cuba today, is Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico. Back on December 17, 2014 Senator Udall discussed the policy announcement on UK's Channel 4 and at the time he said: "We are going down the road to empower the Cuban people, for us to be engaged rather than to isolate and we are going to see good things happen in both countries for our people."
Rep. John Larson, Sen. Tom Udall, Sen. Al Franken, & Rep. Raúl Grijalva Photo: Yoani Sanchez
Senator Udall is now in Cuba with Senator Al Franken, Congressman Raúl Grijalva, and Congressman John Larson with an agenda that appears to be focused on trade and lifting economic sanctions.

Unfortunately since December 17th, despite the prediction of Senator Udall, we have seen some bad things happen to Cubans. Rising violence and arbitrary detentions against dissenters among them artists such as Danilo Maldonado "El Sexto", Tania Bruguera, and Gorki Águila. Another example that demonstrates the totalitarian nature of the regime is the case of Yosvany Melchor, imprisoned since 2010 in reprisal for his mother not becoming a regime informant.  Berta Soler, leader of the internal opposition group, the Ladies in White expressed her concerns regarding the Cuba reset.
We, Ladies in White, believe that these relations and conversations between the Cuban and U.S. governments will not be of any benefit to the Cuban people. And even less will it empower civil society, as President Barack Obama says. If no conditions are placed on the Cuban government, it will be more of the same or worse. We don't see the U.S. government, the European Union, or Pope Francis, pronouncing themselves as regards the violations of human rights on the island, which is giving the Cuban government a green light to continue violating them.
Back on December 17, in the discussion with Senator Udall, I had the opportunity to briefly address some of the misrepresentations surrounding the sanctions policy on Cuba and the history of U.S. Cuba relations during the Carter and Clinton administrations and why the current administration's policy reset will not be positive.
Sadly, I disagree with the Senator in much of what he said. First and foremost the embargo policy as it was initiated in 1961 was not to overthrow the Castro regime.  It was to limit its expansion into the hemisphere of the Americas. The policy was successful with two caveats: In 1979 after the Carter administration tried to normalize relations with Cuba, loosen sanctions, open the interests section, Cuba was successful in gaining an outpost in Nicaragua with the Sandinista revolution that they helped finance and support and again in the 1990s when Bill Clinton who shook hands with Fidel Castro then and opened up trade between Cuba and the United States on a cash and carry basis we saw that Venezuela became an outpost of the Cuban regime. Cuban intelligence officials today are killing and being involved in the repression of the Venezuelan people. [...] The problem is you have a Stalinist dictatorship that will not allow normalization to flood in. The US has been trading with Cuba since 2000, not with Cubans, with the Castro regime, with the dictatorship. That has not translated into more freedom for the Cuban people. What that has translated into his hard currency for them to repress the population there.
Senator Udall, now in Cuba, has the opportunity to prove me wrong by addressing the human rights situation publicly and with his colleagues, Senator Al Franken among them, directly assist Cuban artists and others currently jailed and detained in Cuba for exercising basic freedoms.

December 17, 2014 on UK's Channel 4 discussing change in Cuba policy

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