Tag Archives: Human Rights

One Year Later: Assessing President Obama’s Failed Cuba Strategy


National Review, by Jeb Bush and Iliana Ros-Lehtinen

One year ago this month, Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Havana to celebrate the reopening of the U.S. embassy, 54 years after President Dwight Eisenhower severed diplomatic relations with Cuba’s Communist regime.

During the last year, we have seen President Barack Obama, his administration, and its extended echo chamber work exhaustively to portray the president’s misguided Cuba policy as a success. But the realities on the ground paint a different picture. We saw President Obama and Cuban leader Raúl Castro enjoy a baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national baseball team with FARC terrorists in the stadium, host a jubilant joint press conference, and mingle with Nancy Pelosi, Patrick Leahy, and Charlie Rangel over a lavish state dinner at the Palace of the Revolution.

But today, despite the president’s promises to “engage and empower the Cuban people,” little has changed for those suffering under the Havana tyranny.

Dozens of protesters were arrested in Cuba just hours before President Obama’s arrival in Havana back in March. The Ladies in White, such as Berta Soler and Yaquelin Heredia Morales are still being harassed, beaten, and jailed. Sakharov Prize awardee Guillermo “Coco” Fariñas has been on a hunger strike for nearly three weeks to shine a spotlight on Castro’s human-rights abuses on the island. The regime controls the media and the Internet remains highly censored with little access to divergent views. Last month, the Obama State Department even admitted the dictatorship has failed to live up to the promises it made to broaden Internet access. At a meeting of the Cuban Communist party in April, Raul Castro denied Cuba was moving toward capitalism and continued to deride free markets and private-property rights. Elections remain far from free and democratic.

In fact, prominent leaders of Cuba’s peaceful opposition believe President Obama’s concessions to the Castro regime have been counterproductive to the fight for freedom. Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, also known as Antunez, and who spent 17 years in Castro’s gulags, has affirmed that “a vital segment of the Cuban Resistance” view the Obama administration’s policy of appeasement “as a betrayal of the aspiration to freedom of the Cuban people.”

Cuban pro-democracy advocate Antonio Rodiles, who has been arrested more than 50 times, believes repression by the dictatorship and its Communist apparatchiks is actually increasing. He recently said, “the regime is more legitimate after the change in relations with the U.S.,” adding, “Economic changes won’t bring political changes; now human rights and the promotion of democracy are not the priority of the discussion.”

As we assess the results of President Obama’s foreign-policy legacy, it is clear that Cuba, like Iran in recent nuclear negotiations, has received far more concessions from the United States than what we achieved in return. That shouldn’t come as a surprise — at every turn, the Obama administration has put politics over sound policy, pursuing photo-ops instead of pragmatic and tangible objectives.

Continue reading One Year Later: Assessing President Obama’s Failed Cuba Strategy

A visit to Cuba is like a trip to prison



You say you would like to go to Philadelphia for the Fourth? Do you have permission to leave your home town? You do? Then do you have permission from Philadelphia to visit?

Oh, you also want to go to Cuba in September? In other words, you want to go to jail?

This is how I react when people rave to me about Cuba. Maybe they have visited. Maybe they have read propaganda from Cuba.

And this is how I think when I read about the Pope’s visit to Cuba. And when I see stuff about the president’s visit and schmoozes with the Castros. And when I see anything from anyone who cozies up with anything to do with communism.
Sure, Cuba has its charms. Sure, many Cubans enjoy many things about life there. And how about those cigars? Don’t forget the cool music.

Ahh, but those who sing Cuba’s praises overlook a simple sobering fact: Cuba is a type of prison. The prisoners are most of the Cuban people.

This is true of China as well, although China has certainly loosened its controls over its people over the last few decades.

If you feel like shooting off to Bermuda, you can. Book your flight today. Fly next weekend. If you happen to be Cuban you cannot shoot off to Bermuda. Try to and there may be another type of shooting — with you as the target.

The Cuban government owns you. It imprisons you. It tells you whether you can leave Cuba. And by the way, it also tells you who your leader is. You have no voice and no choice in this. One man has chosen himself to be your leader since the late 50’s. He decided a few years ago to let his brother be your leader. Nice of him.

Imagine being owned by a government. Imagine if Obama told you today he has decided to remain as your president for the next 30 years. After that he will let his wife rule you.

Imagine that if you managed to escape this country the family you left behind would suffer. They might get booted from their homes or demoted in their jobs.

This is what happens when Cubans risk their lives to sail to Florida on jury-rigged rafts and boats.

In China in the 80’s people needed permission from authorities to leave their town or city to visit Mom in another city. They needed permission from authorities in Mom’s city to enter.

Those who sing the praises of countries under communism ignore such. They tell us the hotels were modern. They tell us the people are so friendly and so happy. You should learn about their healthcare, they tell us.

You should learn about their jails, I suggest. That is where Cubans and Chinese land if they try to exercise what we regard as basic freedoms.

Ronald Reagan had the courage to cry out for the prisoners of communism. He called the Soviet Union an evil empire. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” he demanded. I call this courageous. Because his advisers insisted he not say such things. Leaders and critics around the world attacked him.

I call this courageous because neither the Pope nor President Obama dares say the same today. Imagine how inspiring either could have been in Havana if he had sung out “Mr. Castro, open the gates of this prison!”

For years much of the world censured and isolated South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) because whites subjugated blacks in those countries. Today the same countries approve of the slavery in Cuba. Cuba is a slave state, pure and simple.

By not speaking out about the slavery, President Obama and the Pope give tacit approval. Leaders around the world are just as guilty. It is pitiful that speaking up for the most basic freedoms requires such courage. Yes, pitiful.

Tom Morgan is a veteran columnist whose column appears weekly in the Observer-Dispatch. Contact him at tomasinmorgan@yahoo.com.

The more Obama gives them, the more the Castros want

Granma, the Castro brothers’ mouthpiece, published a lengthy ‘editorial’ on Wednesday stating that Obama should be able to offer more concessions through executive orders, while at the same time making it clear that no one should expect the dictatorship to make any changes regarding human rights.obamaraul1


Cuba said it would welcome President Barack Obama to Havana later this month, but the Communist government had no intention of changing its policies in exchange for normal relations with the United States.

In a long editorial on Wednesday in Communist Party newspaper Granma and other official media, Cuba demanded Washington cease meddling in its internal affairs and said Obama could do more to change U.S. policy.

The March 20-22 visit from Obama comes 15 months after he and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to end more than five decades of Cold War-era animosity and try to normalize relations.

They have restored diplomatic ties, and Obama has relaxed a series of trade sanctions and travel restrictions, leading Republican opponents and even some of the president’s fellow Democrats to question whether Washington was offering too much without any reciprocation from Havana.

But the editorial made it clear that Cuba still has a long list of grievances with the United States, starting with the comprehensive trade embargo. Obama wants to rescind the embargo but Republican leadership in Congress has blocked the move.

Cuba also objected to U.S. support for its political dissidents, whom some Americans consider champions of human rights but whom the Cuban government views as an unrepresentative minority funded by U.S. interests.

“(The United States) should abandon the pretense of fabricating an internal political opposition, paid for with money from U.S. taxpayers,” the nearly 3,000-word editorial said.

The editorial came during Cubans’ growing anticipation of the Obama visit, only the second by a U.S. president and the first since the 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro that overthrew a pro-American government.

The editorial said Cuba was working to build a new relationship with the United States, but no one should assume it had to “renounce any of its principles or cede the slightest bit in its defense” to do so.

The two countries have also negotiated greater cooperation on law enforcement and environmental issues and agreed to resume scheduled commercial flights and postal services. Obama has removed Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The editorial acknowledged Obama had taken some positive steps but criticized their “limited nature and the existence of other regulations and intimidation caused by the overall blockade that has been in force for more than 50 years.”

Miami Hearing Shines Light On Human Rights In Cuba, Venezuela


CBS Miami

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.

The Obama administration announced their efforts to normalize relations with Cuba back in December 2014, saying the embargo has not worked to help those in the island nation. The United Nations has also condemned the controversial embargo. Last month,  the assembly voted in favor to lift it.

Continue reading Miami Hearing Shines Light On Human Rights In Cuba, Venezuela

Amnesty International: The unlikely chance of a serious human rights debate in Cuba


Amnesty International

Nearly a month since Pope Francis ended his historic visit to Cuba, any hope that authorities would loosen control on free expression in the country is fading as fast as the chants that welcomed him.

At the start of his tour, Pope Francis said Cuba had an opportunity to “open itself to the world”. He urged young people in the country to have open minds and hearts, and to be willing to engage in a dialogue with those who “think differently”.

Cubans listened, but the government didn’t.

Instead, the Cuban authorities continued to prevent human rights activists from expressing their dissenting views.

According to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, an independent organization, in 2014 there was an average of 741 arbitrary detentions each month.

Last September, during the month of the Pope´s visit, the number increased even further, with 882 arbitrary detentions registered.

Activists Zaqueo Baez Guerrero, Ismael Bonet Rene and María Josefa Acón Sardinas, members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unión Patriótica de Cuba, UNPACU), a dissident group, are three of the activists detained. They were arrested on 20th September after they crossed a security line in Havana as they attempted to talk to the Pope and have been held in prison since then.

They are believed to be charged with contempt (“desacato”), resistance (“resistencia”) violence or intimidation against a state official (“atentado”), and public disorder (“disorden publico”). If convicted, they face prison sentences of between three and eight years.

The crackdown seems to have escalated since the Pope left the country.
Continue reading Amnesty International: The unlikely chance of a serious human rights debate in Cuba

Obama’s capitulation to the Castros is bearing fruit: 674 dissidents arrested in July


Cuba locked up nearly 700 dissidents in July, an opposition group has reported. According to the Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation, that’s the highest total since June 2014.
n its latest monthly study, the opposition Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) reported that the government arrested 674 people on “political motives” in July. According to the group, at least 21 of those arrested were treated violently while in custody.
The majority of the detentions were brief, according to the CCHDRN, “in a persistent context of the violation of all civil and political rights and other fundamental rights.”
Most involved Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), who hold regular marches in Havana following Sunday Mass.
Called “counterrevolutionary” and “US mercenaries” by the government, the CCHDRN also reported an incident in which Cuban authorities tried to have dissidents expelled from a democracy conference in El Salvador but failed.
Elizardo Sanchez, the author of the CCHDRN study, said at least 71 of the dissidents arrested in July were victims of “acts of repudiation” carried out by “secret police and parapolice elements.”
The report comes as international attention is focused on Cuba, with the country working to restore diplomatic relations with the US after the reopening of their respective embassies after five decades and the possible easing of a travel ban imposed by the United States.
Cuba recently received several high-level foreign visitors, including German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Obama is willing to go to Cuba, even if violation of human rights continues


It seems that Obama is willing to go to Cuba, even if the Castro brothers continue their violent repression of innocent people in the island, the same people that Obama claims to want to help by restoring relations with their oppressors:

Washington Examiner

WH: Obama visit to Cuba will not ‘necessarily’ depend on human rights
The White House said Wednesday that a decision by President Obama to visit Cuba would not necessarily depend on the Castro regime providing more human rights protections and basic freedoms, but did say progress on those fronts would factor into his plans.
“I wouldn’t necessarily suggest that the successful protection of those rights are required before any presidential visit is discussed,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Monday.
“I’m not laying down any markers in terms of what would be necessary definitively before a presidential visit,” he said.
Earnest quickly added, however, that the amount of progress that the Cuban government makes as it relates to human rights “will factor into the decision by the president to travel to Cuba if he makes a decision” to do so.
The State Department announced Monday that Secretary of State John Kerry would travel to Cuba Aug. 14 to hoist the American flag over the embassy for the first time in nearly 55 years.
U.S. officials played down talk of human rights before the Cuban diplomatic delegation’s trip to Washington Monday to hail the opening of embassies in both countries. A senior administration official told reporters Friday she didn’t want to discuss specific human rights requests the administration would make during the visit.
But Earnest on Monday called the Castro regime’s human rights record “sordid” and said he hopes the opening of the U.S. embassy in Havana would provide an opportunity for diplomats to travel more freely throughout the island and “engage the Cuban people.”
Critics of the administration’s rapprochement with Cuba argue that the Castro regime has showed no signs of slowing down arrests and abuse of dissidents leading up to the embassy openings. Some argue that the detentions have increased.
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the Obama administration’s decision to host the Cuban delegation in Washington for the embassy opening is “appalling” amid reports that the Castro regime is continuing to beat and imprison pro-democracy activists.
“As the Cuban flag rises just up the street from the White House, the Cuban dictatorship continues to arrest and oppress pro-democracy activists,” Boehner said in a statement. “It is appalling to see America’s president welcoming — and rewarding — a regime that shows no regard for our most fundamental values.”
“Instead of mingling with the Castros’ representatives today, our government should be standing with Cuba’s freedom fighters,” he argued.
Boehner brought noted Cuban dissident Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, known as “Antunez,” to Obama’s State of the Union speech earlier this year. Cuban authorities arrested Antunez, who previously served 11 years in prison for advocating democratic reforms in Cuba, Sunday July 12 and later released him, but some in Washington’s Cuban-American community fear he was detained again over the weekend, knowledgeable sources tell the Washington Examiner.
Earnest acknowledged that since Obama announced plans to renew ties with Cuba in December, the White House has not seen “nearly as much progress as we’d like to have seen.”
But, he said, “Considering the previous policy was in place for 55 years, I think some additional time is warranted before rendering judgment about the success of this approach.”
“There’s no doubt that more progress is needed in Cuba, and more that we’re going to continue to press them to carry out,” he said.

Bad Deals With Iran, Cuba — And Their Human Rights Records Are Worse


First Cuba. Now Iran.
It can be painful watching President Obama strike deals with some of the world’s most odious regimes. But as the spotlight of misguided diplomacy shines on these pariah states, it gives those who actually care about human rights a chance to educate onlookers about what life is really like for those beneath the boots of the Castros and the Mullahs.
To understand that is to understand why Havana and Tehran cannot be trusted.
Education is key, as was illustrated by a much-ballyhooed push poll by the Atlantic Council in February last year, which showed wide support for engagement with Cuba. However, once the question included information on how horrible Cuba’s human rights record was, support quickly dropped from 56% to a minority of 43%.
Iran, because of the memories of the hostage crisis and its ritualistic “Death to America” chants, is well-known as a U.S. foe. Many Americans realize that Iran is no friend of gay rights, and some may know that, under the regime, homosexual acts are punishable by death.
But how many Americans know that Iran’s clerics can and do routinely push gays into unwanted sex-change operations? Or that the regime that may soon reap $300 billion to $400 billion in sanctions relief from the Vienna nuclear deal is the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism? Tehran will likely use much of that money to support such proxy groups as Hezbollah, Hamas and a Syrian regime that has massacred over 320,000 of its own people in four years.
Cuba’s human rights violations get even less attention. This is ironic given that, unlike Iran, it lies just 90 miles from our shores and has a history that is deeply interwoven with that of the United States. Cuban soldiers fought in the American Revolutionary War. The U.S. liberated Cuba from Spain in 1898. And, of course, there are close to two million Americans of Cuban descent.

Continue reading Bad Deals With Iran, Cuba — And Their Human Rights Records Are Worse

Debbie Wasserman Schultz breaks with Obama on Cuba: “I believe a relationship with the United States should be earned”

Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Florida Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz thinks President Barack Obama should slow down with Cuba before continuing to reopen relations between the two countries.
“My view is different from President Obama’s,” the Democratic National Committe chairwoman said in an interview with The Daily Signal published Thursday. “I believe a relationship with the United States should be earned … perhaps we should make sure that some of these human rights concessions are secured prior to moving forward.”
Obama announced last week that both countries will re-open embassies in their respective capitals after more than 50 years.
Wasserman Schultz said she hoped the administration could use its position to benefit the country.
“Anytime we’re at the negotiating table with any nation like Cuba that has as horrendous a human rights record as they do, it’s an opportunity to be able to assert our view that making sure that any nation in the world should have freedom of their elections, that people should have the right to elect a person of their choice, that they should be able to speak freely, even if it is against the actions of their government and not be subject to arrest, that they should be able to make sure they can move freely throughout their country,” she said.“So President Obama’s policy allows us to be able to press those priorities at the negotiating table.”     Politico