Tuesday, August 17, 2010

U.S. Reaffirms Support for Democracy in Cuba

U.S. Reaffirms Support for Democracy in Cuba

WASHINGTON – The United States government reaffirmed Monday its support
for the Cuban people determining their own destiny, but avoided
answering requests that the White House respond to the freeing of
political prisoners in Cuba with an easing of its policies toward that

"We will continue pursuing policies that advance the national interests
of the United States, and we support the desire of the Cuban people to
freely determine the future of their country," National Security Council
spokesman Mike Hammer told Efe.

Nonetheless, the White House neither confirmed nor denied news reports
of a possible liberalization of trips to Cuba, particularly those of a
cultural or academic nature.

A coalition of civic, business and academic groups, including Amnesty
International, has recently urged that President Barack Obama respond to
the gesture of the Raul Castro government, which has begun releasing 52
political prisoners.

"The Havana government has now set free a number of political prisoners
and plans to release others. If the U.S. government makes it easier to
travel there, it would at any rate be a relatively small step," Wayne
Smith, who headed the U.S. Interests Section in Havana from 1979-1982,
told Efe Monday.

"Cubans have their problems but they're moving forward – why don't we?
The rest of the hemisphere's countries have full diplomatic and trade
relations with Cuba – we're the only ones isolated on that issue," Smith

According to the Center of Democracy in the Americas, if Obama were to
expand the categories of "legitimate trips" to Cuba, he would give "a
clear signal that he wants to change the policy," although only Congress
can eliminate all the restrictions on travel to the island as well as
the economic embargo Washington imposed in 1962.

Some Democratic and Republican lawmakers in both houses insist that the
United States should not reward Havana for the human-rights violations
on the communist-ruled island.

The subject is also being debated in the Democratic primary elections,
which will choose a candidate to contest Republicans on Nov. 2 for an
open seat in the Senate representing Florida.

Jeff Greene, one of the two Democratic hopefuls in the Aug. 24 primary,
said Sunday that the nearly 50 years of efforts to isolate the Cuban
regime has been a "failed policy" for the United States, and if he gets
to the Senate, he'll be looking at a "revision."

Obama, who in 2009 liberalized rules for Cuban-Americans' travel and
remittances to the island, flies to Miami Beach this Wednesday to
support the candidacy of Greene's rival in the primaries, Rep. Kendrick
Meek, who favors maintaining the economic embargo on Cuba.


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