Friday, July 22, 2016

Revenue for the regime, a crackdown on society, and the repression of dissidents

Revenue for the regime, a crackdown on society, and the repression of
DDC | La Habana | 21 de Julio de 2016 - 14:10 CEST.

Antonio Rodiles, Coordinator of the Forum for Rights and Freedoms (ForoDyL):

A year ago relations were restored but, if one counts the 18 months of
the confidential political process leading up to that achievement, it
has been some 3 years of rapprochement between Washington and Havana.
During this period what has been most evident is an increase in
repression and violence on the Island.

This is a trend that has affected not only the opposition and human
rights activists, but also the population at large, ordinary Cubans who
do not get involved in politics because they are afraid to; the
self-employed, for example, with fines, controls, and the whole issue of
abusive and excessive taxes.

What we are seeing is a regime that, though it has opened up in the
international sphere, at home is doubling down on its repressive
policies. A sign of this is the relentless flight of Cubans abroad we
have been recently been witnessing.

The Obama Administration had stated that this was best way to bring
about positive change in Cuba, but I think it is high time that it at
least begin to publicly recognize that things are not going as they
expected, because what we are experiencing is a process curtailing all
the freedoms and rights of Cubans.

From the outset the Forum for Rights and Freedoms identified the need
for a real political process in which the regime also had to take steps.
This is not what has happened. The people behind this agenda of
continuing to grant concessions, without requiring anything from the
regime in return, are proving to be somewhat obstinate.

It is very worrisome that in recent weeks we have seen a wave of
imprisonments, not only temporary arrests, while Washington remains
utterly silent about the situation. Moreover, the famous empowerment
that the self-employed were going to enjoy has yet to materialize.

The regime's response to the Obama Administration's measures has been
its traditional backwardness, and it is surprising that there have been
no statements released, by any institution, including human rights
groups, with respect to the current situation.

Laritza Diversent, Director of Cubalex

The rapprochement between the two governments has been positive,
although we have not seen any steps forward by the Cuban Government in
terms of greater respect for human rights on the Island.

It is up to Cuban civil society to expand strategies to achieve the
recognition of its rights.

The repression against dissidents is getting even harsher, but I think
this is more due the regime's fear than its privileged position.

Eduardo Cardet, National Coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement

For the people of Cuba this has been a very tough, difficult year,
characterized by a worsening economic and social crisis, and an alarming
increase in the exodus of Cubans who are heading abroad, by any means
possible, especially to the United States, as almost the only
opportunity to improve their lives.

The political regime has exhibited no changes of the kind we have been
striving for, as dissidents. The repressive control has only increased,
and we're not the only ones saying it. There is a palpable level of
violence being perpetrated against the Ladies in White, and against all
opponents of the regime in general, and any manifestation of independent

Unfortunately, there has been no democratic opening-up, at all. At the
public relations level, however, the Government of Cuba has managed to
project a fraudulent mirage of change. Many democratic countries around
the world, such as in the European Union, have sought to rethink their
relationships with the Government of Cuba, as if almost everything was

We remain without any opportunities, and participation in our country's
political life is still an impossibility. The economic changes have been
minimal; only a small group of citizens can participate in a very
controlled manner in economic activities, and every day things are more
and more difficult. There is also a campaign against Cuba's small
farmers, with a series of measures that are counterproductive and, in
general, to the detriment of all those who are self-employed. No real
mechanisms for participation in the economic life of the country have
been established, and the results are all too evident.

The Government is the entity that has benefited, because this exchange
with United States has been primarily between Government
representatives. The main agreements have been reached between them.

There is nothing that has really had a positive impact on the lives of
our people. There was some level of anticipation, which quickly
dissipated as events unfolded and, of course, Raúl Castro and his
toadies erased any hope for real change in our country.

In the negotiations everything has been handled with great secrecy,
making it difficult to have a clear idea of ​​what is going on. This was
only to be expected by the Cuban Government, but not by the US.

Berta Soler, Leader of the Ladies in White

One year after the Interests Section gave way to an Embassy, the change
has been very great, not only in terms of the name, but how the Embassy
of the United States is behaving.

Right now I can say that many human rights activists who had computer
time there, to communicate with the outside, and be able to report on
their work and the situation on the Island, have been affected.

Civil society's access to the computers is not facilitated in any way. I
cannot say that attention by or contact with US officials has ceased to
exist, but we have seen everything change.

The computers to which we had access are now being used for English
courses for young people. We are not against this, but these are young
people affiliated with the Communist Party. They are not representatives
of civil society, and they are not opponents of the Government. They are
persons hand-picked by the Cuban Government.

These relations between the US government and the Cuban regime have not
benefited the people of Cuba at all. What we see is that the only thing
President Barack Obama is interested in is business: doing business with
the military because here it is the Revolutionary Armed Forces that run
Gaviota, and the TRD.

These are businesses transactions that will not benefit the people of
Cuba or bring about change. After Obama's visit, we have seen how police
and State Security Department repression against people who want to
exercise their freedom of expression and peaceful demonstration, has
only gotten worse.

For example: the Ladies in White. We have been harassed for 62 Sundays
in a row. And the US government has not spoken up to demand that the
Cuban regime cease its actions.

Manuel Cuesta Morúa, leader of the Partido Arco Progresista (party)

It has been a very important first year for those of us who maintained
that the best option was a change in US policy towards Cuba. Like any
political process, it is gradual, and not all goals are achieved

What is important is the normalization of relations with Cuba. I think
this has been one of the keys: pushing Cuba towards normalization,
inside and outside the country.

Over the course this year, in general, we Cubans, as a country, have
faced our weaknesses and taken on new challenges. What has become clear
is not just the Cuban Government's stagnation, but its strategic failure
and incapacity to provide any vision for the country's future, or to
meet the challenges it is facing.

Cuba's citizens need to reinvent their lives. We are all moving in that
direction. And for civil society, the challenge is to figure out what we
can do and how we can work on democratization, strictly in political
terms, and not just heroic ones.

Ángel Moya, former political prisoner, in the "Group of 75":

When the Cuban regime and the US government resumed relations, we
insisted and warned the international community that it would not
benefit the Cuban people at all, and that the regime would simply be
fortified, as politically it would receive recognition by the Government
of the United States, and that, moreover, this would create a situation
of rapprochement with the rest of the world.

We have always asserted that any relationship with the Cuban regime must
be contingent upon respect for human rights and the freedom of political
prisoners, among other points.

One year after relations with the Cuban regime were normalized, in
supporting the activities of the #TodosMarchamos campaign for the
release of political prisoners, we have been brutally repressed by
Government security forces, even when President Barack Obama visited the

In reality, nothing has changed. The regime continues to strengthen
itself, equipping and shoring up its repressive mechanisms.

The world is just watching this happen. Thousands of Cubans are leaving
the country, fleeing the dictatorship. Doctors, engineers, lawyers and
even military personnel are selling their property to escape and reach
the United States. This is the state of things one year after diplomatic
relations were re-established.

We have always maintained that the Cuban government cannot be treated
with kid gloves. Rather, tough conditions must be placed. We know that
Cuba's freedom depends on the Cuban people, but we call upon the
international community to stand in solidarity with them, and to refrain
from provisioning the Cuban Government with resources that never benefit
the people, and are used to repress them.

Martha Beatriz Roque, former prisoner of the "Group of 75"

The high hopes sparked by the resumption of relations with the US
government have been largely dashed. We have endured a year full of
hardships, and the next one will be even harder.

People thought that an improvement in relations could mean an
improvement for the people. This was what President Obama said at all
times, that civil society was going to notice the improvements, but so
far this has not been the case. The only thing it has experienced to
date has been the regime's kicks and punches.

The regime, on the other hand, has benefitted from the easing of
restrictions enacted by the Obama Administration, while the people
continue to languish, with the same old problems, now aggravated by the
deficient transport, power outages, and water shortages.

What the Obama administration has done is to funnel money into the
pockets of the Castro brothers, not into those of the average Cuban. And
the Washington-Havana relations have served to buoy the regime

Cuban Human Rights Observatory

The American government sought, through the restoration of relations
with Havana, a political rapprochement that would help the regime to
adopt more moderate policies favoring the people's welfare.

The American president also turned a spotlight on independent civil
society at events such as the Summit of the Americas and his meeting
with dissidents in Havana during his visit.

And he increased the remittances being sent to the Island. But he
created expectations of change in the international community that are
not realistic, as change seems an unlikely prospect, and the state of
affairs in the country's inland areas has been sorely overlooked.

The Cuban government has taken advantage of this situation to generate
an appearance of change abroad. It has been the main beneficiary, not
the Cuban people, who are still in the same situation.

The Cuban government has intensified repression within the country. One
only has to look at the numbers. It has not addressed the structural
changes it promised, or the constitutional changes necessary to
regenerate politics and improve Cubans' living conditions.

The Cuban Government has demonstrated a lack of interest in reforming
the system and democratizing the country. It has not made a single
gesture to implement the conventions of the International Labour
Organization (ILO) or the United Nations pacts.

Therefore, we believe that the Government, once again, has exploited
good intentions, aimed at improving the welfare of the Cuban people, to
obtain revenue and greater international prestige, in exchange for a set
of broken promises, without giving anything substantial in return.

The OCDH is carrying out a survey within the country, to be published in
a few days. One of the central questions it poses is whether Cubans'
lives have improved after rapprochement between the two countries.

Erik Jennische, director of Civil Rights Defenders' Latin America Program:

The restoration of relations with the US and the European Union (EU) are

For years a new policy towards Cuba had been discussed at the EU. In
fact, it began negotiations before it even knew about the United States'
diplomatic efforts.

The two processes have created a race between international agents who
want to be part of, or to lead, the change in Cuba. Governments,
companies, NGOs, media, etc. are participating in this race. However,
the only change they have produced is, precisely, these new
international relations. And the only thing the Cuban Government has
offered in exchange for these new relationships is "dialogue about human
rights." But dialogue will be pointless if the Cuban government is not
really committed to respecting and defending those rights.

The other problem is that the rapprochement with the Government will
lead to a rift between international agents and independent civil
society in Cuba. The Cuban Government refuses to tolerate international
agents interacting with it while also pursuing relationships with
independent civil society.

The most encouraging aspect of this new scenario is that Latin American
governments no longer have an excuse to ignore the situation in Cuba.
The process opens the door to democratic governments in the region
placing pressure on the Cuban government to respect human rights. For
this to happen, however, extensive relationships between Cuban and Latin
American civil society will be necessary, and these do not yet exist.

Source: Revenue for the regime, a crackdown on society, and the
repression of dissidents | Diario de Cuba -

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