Sunday, May 25, 2014

Letter to Obama Sparks Controversy

Letter to Obama Sparks Controversy / 14ymedio
Posted on May 24, 2014
14ymedio, Havana | May 23, 2014

A letter published this week, signed by more than forty American
personalities, asked Barack Obama to ease measures toward Cuba. In an
unusual gesture of consensus, former senior U.S. politicians, military,
analysts and businessmen advocate relaxing the embargo on the Island.
Among the signatories are Republicans and Democrats who regard this as a
good time to support Cuban civil society and entrepreneurs.

The missive includes a set of specific requests, such as expanding
remittances, easing travel to the largest of the Antilles from the
United States, and strengthening business relationships between the two
countries. As explained in the text, it is a petition to Obama to carry
our "specific actions." Without falling into "ideological debate," the
signers clarify, with these measures they hope these measures will
contribute to a "significant change" in Cuba.

During 2009 and 2010, the U.S. Administration pushed some relaxations
such as increasing remittances, expanding family travel and academic
exchange. However, this policy ceased when the Cuban government
sentenced the American contractor Alan Gross to fifteen years in prison.

Ending the embargo requires congressional approval, so this letter asks
the president to approve executive orders that circumvent congress.

Once the document was published the controversy erupted both inside and
outside Cuba. Raul Castro's government has barely mentioned it and the
official media just outlined it with a brief note lacking details.
However, this hasn't stopped the issue from being debated in many social

Voices have been heard in two directions. There are those who believe
these relaxations will reduce the Cuban government's control over
society, while others insist that their implementation would provide
economic oxygen to maintain the regime in power longer.

Is a unilateral lifting of the sanctions, without asking for anything in
return or demanding prior compliance with human rights and citizen
liberties a good idea? That is the question 14ymedio asked several
opponents on the Island.

Berta Soler (Ladies in White): Now is not the time to do business with
the Cuban government because it's not going to help the people at all.
We aren't thinking about profit, but rights.

Martha Beatriz Roque (opponent): At this point it doesn't matter,
relaxation or no relaxation. The news of what happens in Cuba is
presented by the regime itself, the dictatorship, and there is a total
destruction, there is no organization, there is a break in the chain of
command. Sooner or later the problem will explode and there's no want
they can avoid it.

Manuel Cuesta Morúa (Progressive Arc): I agree with every easing from
the United States toward Cuba, my position is against the U.S. Embargo.
However, I notice that the letter barely mentions the issue of freedoms.
It misses an opportunity to send a message in both directions: to to the
American government and to the Cuba government. This could backfire
because an opening without an interior strengthening could compromise
any national project.

Dagoberto Valdés (director of the magazine Coexistence): This
contributes to the exchange between peoples and what John Paul II said
about "Cuba opening itself to the world and the world opening itself to
Cuba." There are human rights that are universal and that should be
enjoyed by both Americans and Cubans. This exchange will strengthen
Cuban civil society and will allow the world and American society to be
more aware of the Cuban reality.

José Daniel Ferrer (Patriotic Union of Cuba): We support whatever brings
improvement to the Cuban people, but we insist that the approach also
improves the situation with human rights. Whatever is done should
consider our nation's need for human rights.

Felix Navarro (former political prisoner): There are many private
interests in that letter and I doubt that it puts the critical situation
of Cuban civil society at the forefront. The government will use the
economic oxygen it receives to grease the wheels of the machinery of

Source: Letter to Obama Sparks Controversy / 14ymedio | Translating Cuba

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