Groups criticize U.S. relations with Cuba
Two Miami organizations send letter to President Barack Obama
Nearly 100 former Cuban political prisoners send their own letter as well
BY BRENDA MEDINA
Two Cuban exile organizations in Miami have published an open letter to
President Barack Obama, complaining about the "negative consequences"
that his decision to warm U.S. relations with Cuba one year ago has had
on human rights on the island.
The new Obama policy toward Cuba "has amounted to little more than a
string of unilateral concessions to a totalitarian dictatorship that has
tirelessly repressed the Cuban people for the past 56 years," said the
letter by the Cuban Resistance Assembly and the Democratic Directorate.
The three-page letter was made public during a news conference on
Thursday at the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban
American Studies (ICCAS). Also participating were Bertha Antúnez, sister
of Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez," and Míriam and Mario de la Peña,
parents of Mario Manuel de la Peña, one of four Brothers to the Rescue
members killed by Cuban MiGs in 1996.
"This has been a year of repression and jailings in Cuba," Bertha
Antúnez said. "The repression has increased in Cuba because the
government believes that it can repress anytime and nothing happens. On
the contrary, they [the U.S. government] have recognized us as a
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation
reported 1,447 politically-motivated arrests in November, another 1,093
in October and 882 in September, when authorities rounded up hundreds of
opposition activists to keep them away from Pope Francis during his
visit to the island. The November total was the highest monthly figure
since May 2014, when 1,120 arrests were reported.
Also at the news conference were Orlando Gutiérrez-Boronat, secretary of
the Democratic Directorate; John Suárez, international secretary of the
Directorate; and ICCAS Senior Research Associate Jose Azel, who
criticized the economic aspects of the new Obama policies on Cuba.
"We have to remember that when people talk about investments, we have to
call things by their real names," Azel said. "We are not talking about
investing IN Cuba. We are talking about investing WITH Cuba."
Since Cuba's totalitarian government controls the overwhelming majority
of the economy, he added, "the U.S. companies that invest [in Cuba] must
become minority partners of the dictatorship and the Cuban militias."
Nearly 100 former Cuban political prisoners — whose sentences add up to
about 1,945 years — sent another letter to Obama last week urging him to
reconsider his Cuba policies.
The new approach to Cuba "has been a lamentable mistake," the letter
said, because "it will keep the dictatorship in power, worsen the human
rights situation on the island, marginalize the democratic opposition
and put the national security of the United States at risk."
At the same time, Ric Herrero, executive director of #CubaNow, an
independent organization that advocates lifting the U.S. embargo on
Cuba, praised what he described as a year of progress in bilateral
"Only the Cuban people can build a better future for themselves, and for
the first time in decades the United States is playing a constructive
role and having a big impact in that process," Herrera said in a
statement. Negotiators on both sides "have achieved notable results in
cooperation between law enforcement and environmental agencies, civil
aviation, mail service and property claims."
"We hope that human rights, labor rights and migration policies will be
added to the list soon," Herrera added.
El Nuevo Herald staff writer Nora Gamez Torres contributed to this report
Source: Groups criticize U.S. relations with Cuba | Miami Herald -