Friday, August 28, 2015

“We Will Be More Effective In Promoting Human Rights,” Says Kerry’s Assistant

"We Will Be More Effective In Promoting Human Rights," Says Kerry's
Assistant / 14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz
Posted on August 28, 2015

14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz, Havana, 27 August 2016 — In mid-August Tom
Malinowski was part of the delegation accompanying John Kerry during his
visit to Cuba. The Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights was not
only present at the raising of the flag at the embassy in Havana, but
met behind closed doors with a group of Cuban activists in the residence
of the US charge d'affaires.

Some questions of concern to Cuban civil society and the Cuban exile
were included in the questionnaire that Malinowski agreed to answer
for 14ymedio via e-mail.

Lilianne Ruiz. Several groups within the Cuban community believe that
the historical commitment of the United States in favor of the
democratization of the island has weakened since the restoration of
diplomatic relations between the two countries.What can you respond to this?

Tom Malinowski. The commitment of my Government to promote universal
human rights and democratic principles in Cuba remains as strong as
before, as Secretary of State, John Kerry, said during the opening
ceremony of the embassy in Havana on August 14.

The opening of the embassy in Havana allows us to advocate more for
these values. These changes have already allowed us to increase our
contact with the Cuban people. Secretary Kerry and I were able to meet
with several activists and other representatives of Cuban civil society
on August 14 and it was clear that they are taking advantage of the new
situation to push for real change.

Now we have more possibilities to discuss human rights issues with
Havana. I met March 31 with the Cuban government to plan for a future
dialogue. It will be more difficult to treat US organizations and other
international NGOs as criminals now that Cuba has diplomatic relations
with us.

The new approach also facilitates Cubans' access to information and
resources for they themselves to build their own future.

Ruiz. Will the programs that support Cuban civil society change as a
result of this?

Malinowski. President Obama has made it ​​clear that the US government
will continue the programs that promote universal human rights and
fundamental freedoms in Cuba, as we do in dozens of countries around the
world. However, it is possible that the Cuban Executive will maintain
its objection to these efforts and try to repress those who are
participating in these programs.

After Cuba eliminated many immigration restrictions in 2013, a larger
number of members of civil society on the island has been involved in
training courses abroad, developing their professional networks.

Ruiz. The Cuban government alleges that the economic embargo prevents
the buying of medicine and medical equipment from the US. For example,
there is a shortage of some medicines for cancer treatment in Cuban
hospitals. Is there any truth in the statements of the Executive?

Malinowski. The restrictions on transactions with the Cuban government
do not apply to medicines or medical equipment. At least since the Act
for Democracy in Cuba was approved in 1992, medicines and medical
supplies, instruments and equipment are authorized to be exported to
Cuba. Far from restricting aid to Cubans, we are proud that the people
of the United States and its companies are among its biggest suppliers
of food and health-related products. In 2014, US exports to Cuba totaled
nearly $ 300 million in agricultural products, medical supplies and
humanitarian goods.

One of the advantages of our new policy is that it will be harder for
the Cuban government to blame the United States for any humanitarian
difficulties which might befall the Cuban people. The United States will
do its part, according to its laws, to enhance the success of the
self-employed, to improve access to the internet and to increase
economic ties between the two peoples, with the objective of benefitting
ordinary Cubans. As the Secretary Kerry said, the embargo has always
been a two-way street; both sides have to remove the restrictions that
prevent Cubans from taking full advantage of these changes.

Ruiz. After December 17, the arbitrary arrests, intimidation and
beatings of peaceful activists have continued and the regime refuses to
respect fundamental freedoms. How will the US put into practice its
commitment to support the defenders of human rights in Cuba?

Malinowski. First of all, we condemn the harassment instigated by the
Cuban government, and the use of violence or arbitrary arrests of
citizens exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful
assembly. And we have addressed these points directly to the Government.

When we announced our new policy in December of last year, we said we
did not expect that the behavior of the Cuban government would change
overnight as a result of the restoration of diplomatic
relations. However, we start with the idea that we will be more
effective in promoting human rights if we have diplomatic relations and
an embassy in Havana, because now the international attention will be
focused on the policies of the Cuban government instead of instead of
limiting itself to criticizing the embargo.

We have not stopped denouncing human rights violations and we will
continue our dialogue with the Cuban Government on these matters,
emphasizing the need for it to keep its promise to allow access to
international observers.

Source: "We Will Be More Effective In Promoting Human Rights," Says
Kerry's Assistant / 14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz | Translating Cuba -

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