Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Cuban Dissidents - Obamas Castro Deal Has Made It Worse

Cuban Dissidents: Obamas Castro Deal Has Made It Worse

This article first appeared on the Council on Foreign Relations site.

This past week marked the anniversary of President Obamas new Cuba policy.

That policy is failing to produce any human rights improvements in Cuba.
So 126 Cuban former political prisoners who together have served 1,945
years in Castro's prisons wrote a letter to Mr. Obama about his policy.

It was delivered to the White House by Ernesto Diaz Rodriguez, a former
political prisoner and poet who spent more than 22 years in Cuba's prisons.

These former political prisoners call the Obama policy a regrettable
mistake that will prolong the life of the dictatorship, is worsening the
human rights situation there, marginalizing the democratic opposition
and compromising U.S. national security.

It's a powerful message that the people who have suffered most from
Castro's vicious dictatorship find no benefit in the new U.S. policy and
indeed feel abandoned by it.

The full text follows.

Mr. President:

Based on our history and experience as political prisoners under
Castro's totalitarian regime, the new Cuba policy established by your
Administration has been a regrettable mistake. This will prolong the
life of the dictatorship, is worsening the human rights situation there,
marginalizing the democratic opposition and compromising U.S. national

The normalization of relations is creating false expectations and
granting benefits to the tyrannical regime in Cuba; it is also allowing
the Paris Club to forgive billions in debt providing the regime hard
currency which it funnels into its most repressive institutions: the
military and intelligence services giving new life to what were dying

Human rights violations in Cuba have a terrible history, but the current
policy has taken a bad situation and made it worse. Violent beatings
against activists peacefully assembling have escalated and worsened over

Politically motivated arbitrary detentions in Cuba as of the end of
November 2015 are a documented total of 7,686 and are on track to break
the previous record set in 2014 with 8,899 arrests. Over the course of
this year the number of detentions have escalated: 178 in January; 492
in February; 610 in March; 338 in April; 641 in May; 563 in June; 674 in
July; 768 in August; 882 in September; 1,093 in October; and 1,447 in
November. Political prisoners continue to be a reality in Cuba.

Despite the claim that there would be continued support for improved
human rights and democratic reforms in Cuba the past year has
demonstrated otherwise. Inviting the Castro regime to the VII Summit of
the Americas in Panama in April of 2015, violated the democratic ideals
of the summit.

The dictatorship's anti-democratic and violent nature was made evident
during the Summit with Cuban nationals and U.S. citizens beaten up by
state security and requiring hospitalization and summit events
interrupted by acts of repudiation organized by the Castro regime. The
U.S. government responses were low level pro-forma protests while
President Obama met with Raul Castro as an equal.

The Administration's new Cuba policy over the past year has compromised
U.S. national security. First, commuting Gerardo Hernandez's two life
sentences; he was convicted for among other things conspiracy to murder
three U.S. citizens and one resident of the U.S., and returning him to
Cuba where he received a hero's welcome in what was an immense
propaganda victory for the Castro regime, sending a dangerous signal to
those who would harm Americans.

Secondly, removing Cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism list on May
29, 2015 despite: 1) the Castro regime being caught smuggling heavy
weapons and ammunition through Colombia on February 28, 2015. 2) Being
linked to international drug trafficking along with its client state
Venezuela as reported on January 27, 2015. 3) Being in violation of UN
international sanctions to North Korea on July 15, 2013 when caught
smuggling tons of weapons and ammunition including ballistic missile
technology. Ignoring this will get more Americans killed and undermine
U.S. interests.

Finally, having the US Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro
Mayorkas meet with the Castro regime's Interior Minister Major General
Carlos Fernandez Gondin in what was officially described as a visit of
collaboration and engagement sends worrisome signals that should concern
those who care about national security.

Gondin has a history of engaging in the mistreatment of opposition
activists and has an agenda to undermine U.S. interests, legitimizing
him with an official visit sends a terrible message.

We the undersigned are political prisoners who collectively have served
1,945 years in prison for resisting the Castro dictatorship and fighting
for democracy in our homeland of Cuba. We are writing this letter out of
a deep conviction that this new U.S. Cuba policy will not only harm
Cuban aspirations for a free and democratic Cuba while worsening human
rights there but also endanger American lives.

The letter is followed by the 126 names, and after each comes a number:
the number of years they served in Castro's gulag.

Elliott Abrams is senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the
Council on Foreign Relations.

Source: Cuban Dissidents: Obamas Castro Deal Has Made It Worse -

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