Thursday, July 28, 2016

Castro mediates Colombian peace deal — but won’t talk to Cuban dissidents

Castro mediates Colombian peace deal — but won't talk to Cuban dissidents

Cuban President Gen. Raúl Castro has been applauded by world leaders for
his mediation in Colombia's peace talks
But Castro refuses to talk with his own country's peaceful opposition
It's time to demand that Cuba's dictatorship abide by the international
treaties it has signed, and allow basic freedoms

What irony! Cuban President Gen. Raúl Castro has been applauded by world
leaders for his mediation in Colombia's peace talks, but he steadfastly
continues refusing to hold peace talks with his own country's internal

The irony of Castro's mediation in Colombia's peace talks with the FARC
guerrillas was brought to my attention this week by Guillermo Fariñas,
the well-known Cuban dissident who started a hunger strike in his
hometown of Santa Clara, Cuba, on July 20. He wants to call world
attention to the plight of Cuba's peaceful dissidents, and wants the
Castro regime to start a dialogue with them.

More than 12 other dissidents have joined Fariñas' indefinite hunger
strike, and the National Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) dissident
group has announced that an additional 200 of its members would hold a
12-hour fast in a symbolic gesture of support for the hunger strikers.

It sounds absurd, but even now — a year after Cuba and the United States
resumed diplomatic relations and U.S. cruise liners with American
tourists are descending on the island — Cuba's military regime refuses
to talk with any of Cuba's peaceful opponents under the ridiculous claim
that all of them are U.S. "mercenaries."

Since 1959, Cuba's unelected regime, which Raúl Castro has inherited
from his older brother Fidel, has not allowed government critics to vote
in free elections, form political parties, speak on the island's
television broadcasts, write in independent newspapers or exercise their
United Nations-sanctioned universal right to freedom of assembly.

And while President Barack Obama visited Cuba in March and has
dismantled much of the U.S. trade sanctions on the island, allowing
American Airlines, Sheraton, Netflix and dozens of other U.S. companies
to resume operations in Cuba, the Cuban government continues to use the
fairy tale of "U.S. aggression" as an excuse to deny basic freedoms to
its people.

"It is hypocritical for the Cuban government to act as the mediator in
Colombia's talks with that country's violent guerrillas, and at the same
time be incapable of being tolerant with its own country's peaceful
opposition," Fariñas told me in a telephone interview.

Fariñas, who has held hunger strikes before, said he is starting this
one to demand that Cuba stop the beatings and political detentions of
opponents. He wants Castro to appoint one of his vice presidents to sit
down with 12 representatives of Cuba's peaceful opposition.

Police beatings and detentions of peaceful dissidents and detentions
have risen significantly, Fariñas told me. As I reported recently, the
non-government Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National
Reconciliation says there were 6,075 political detentions during the
first six months this year, which — if the current rate continues during
the next six months — would be a significant increase over last year's
8,616 detentions.

Fariñas was arrested and beaten by police on July 19, when he went to a
police unit to ask about a fellow dissident.

"Two members of the anti-riot police started punching me repeatedly," he
told me. "After that, I was questioned for five hours."

What should the United States and other democracies do? At the very
least, he responded, "they should freeze any kind of negotiations with
the Cuban government until there is a commitment by the government to
stop the beatings."

My opinion: It's time for the Obama administration, Europe and Latin
American democracies to ask Cuba's military dictatorship to comply with
the international treaties it has signed, including the 1993 United
Nations Declaration of Vienna, and the 1996 Ibero-American Summit's
Declaration of Viña del Mar.

The latter one commits all signatory countries, including Cuba, to
support "freedom of expression, association and assembly" and "free
elections." If treaties like these are forgotten, and countries that
routinely violate them are not even reminded about them by their fellow
signatories, how can governments ask us to take them seriously?

Pretty soon, when Colombia's peace talks are finalized and formalized,
Pope Francis, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, President Obama and
most other democratic leaders will hail the peace accords, and Gen.
Castro will be at center stage as the big peacemaker. It will be high
time to demand that he allow peace talks in Cuba, too.

Source: After Colombian peace talks, Cuba should hold its own peace
talks | In Cuba Today -

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