AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA ON THE FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE NEW CUBA POLICY
Coral Gables, Florida. December 17th, 2015- Assembly of the Cuban Resistance. Today two key organizations of the Cuban American community, the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance and the Cuban Democratic Directorate, issued an Open letter to President Barack Obama on the first anniversary of the announcement of the new Cuba policy. In both video and written formats, the letter presents to President Obama a powerful evaluation of the negative repercussions for the human rights movement in Cuba as a result of an engagement policy consisting of unilateral concessions to the Castro regime.
The written version of the letter is attached, while the video format can be
found at: WWW.DIRECTORIO.ORG
AN OPEN LETTER TO BARACK OBAMA ON THE FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE NEW CUBA POLICY
THE CUBAN DEMOCRATIC DIRECTORATE (DIRECTORIO)
17 December 2015
A year ago today you announced a new policy towards Cuba. This policy has resulted in little more than one unilateral concession after another to a totalitarian dictatorship that has continuously oppressed the Cuban people for the past 56 years.
The first of these concessions was the return to Cuba of Castro agents, one of whom was directly involved in the murder, on February 24, 1996, of four young men, three of them US citizens and one a U.S. resident, who were Brothers to the Rescue volunteers piloting unarmed civilian aircraft over international waters while on a humanitarian mission. This first immoral act, together with all that followed, has emboldened the continued repression against the Cuban people.
Emboldened by acts such as these, the Castro Regime’s repression on the growing civic resistance movement in the island has grown ever more brazen. It is our goal in this letter to provide information on the events that have taken place on the ground, in Cuba, over the past year, and have had a direct effect on Cubans.
Below we take these points from your December 17, 2014 speech announcing the new Cuba policy and contrast them with what has taken place in Cuba since that date.
President Obama quote: “[W]e welcome Cuba’s decision to release a substantial number of prisoners whose cases were directly raised with the Cuban government by my team.”
Mr. President: This December 10, 2015 – International Human Rights Day – more than 300 activists were arrested in Cuba. This continues a pattern of over 8,000 politically-motivated arbitrary detentions this year. Political prisoners continue to be unjustly jailed in Cuba. Some have responded to this injustice by declaring themselves on hunger strike leading to additional punishments by prison officials. Among these political prisoners, we are deeply concerned by the current plight of seven: Geovanys Izaguirre Hernandez and Laudelino Mendoza who have been imprisoned since November 6, 2015 for writing a sign that read, “We want change, and no more hunger;” Hugo Damian Prieto Blanco, who was detained on October 25, 2015 accused of charges of public disorder; Vladimir Morera Bacallao arrested and sentenced to four years in prison for writing on the wall of his home, “I vote for my freedom and not in elections where I cannot elect my president,” he has been on hunger strike since October 9th demanding his freedom; also, on hunger strikes since December 1, 2015, Felipe Martínez Companioni and Alexander Palacios Reyes, jailed for handing out human rights fliers; andJavier Jouz Varona since December 14, 2015 when he was imprisoned for carrying out opposition activities in the streets. I fear for their lives, Mr. President.
President Obama quote: “The United States believes that no Cubans should face harassment or arrest or beatings simply because they’re exercising a universal right to have their voices heard, and we will continue to support civil society there.”
President Obama: There is a clear linkage between U.S. rapprochement with the Castro Regime and escalating violence against Cuban activists. Earlier this year on May 24, 2015, a mother of two was machete attacked on the orders of State Security, losing her left hand, suffering deep and crippling cuts on her knees, and the machete cut through the bone of her right arm leaving it dangling. Her offense? As a regional delegate of the Peoples Power who tried to keep a neighborhood school open, when official channels ignored her requests, she went to the international press. Removed from her government position, she joined the democratic opposition and petitioned for improved human rights and freedoms. This case is emblematic of the heightened violence against activists in Cuba since December 17, 2014.
President Obama quote: This April, we are prepared to have Cuba join the other nations of the hemisphere at the Summit of the Americas. But we will insist that civil society join us so that citizens, not just leaders, are shaping our future.
Mr. President: Inviting the Castro Regime to the Summit of the Americas in Panama in April of 2015, violated the democratic ideals of the summit. The cost of ignoring the dictatorship’s anti-democratic and violent nature was made evident during the Summit when events were interrupted by acts of repudiation organized by the Castro Regime. On the eve of the Summit, a group of activists from Cuba and the United States that went to lay flowers at a statue of Jose Marti were viciously attacked by Cuban State Security. Several required hospitalization and needed to undergo extensive surgery for the injuries sustained. In spite of this, you met with Raul Castro and treated him as an equal, sending a dangerous signal to the Castro dictatorship, but also to hostile regimes everywhere, that the safety of Americans is not a priority.
President Obama quote: My fellow Americans, the city of Miami is only 200 miles or so from Havana. Countless thousands of Cubans have come to Miami -- on planes and makeshift rafts; some with little but the shirt on their back and hope in their hearts.
Mr. President: The current U.S. policy that has abandoned the goal of regime change and is embracing a 56-year-old dictatorship has been received by millions of Cubans, who were initially hopeful, with profound despair as things have gotten worse. This, combined with a perception by the Castro Regime that the current administration is weak, has given a green light to another immigration crisis in the region. Tens of thousands have already sought to flee the prospects of a dynastic succession within a continuing Castro dictatorship.
President Obama quote: “I believe in the free flow of information. Unfortunately, our sanctions on Cuba have denied Cubans access to technology that has empowered individuals around the globe. So I’ve authorized increased telecommunications connections between the United States and Cuba. Businesses will be able to sell goods that enable Cubans to communicate with the United States and other countries.”
Mr. President: The United States cannot be blamed for the lack of access of Cubans to technology. To start with, a 1,600 kilometer (994-mile) fiber-optic cable between Venezuela and Cuba, estimated to cost $70 million, was actually completed in February 2011 and was due to come into operation in July 2011. The Castro Regime’s officials have never explained why this cable remains unused. The obvious reason, as stated by the prestigious NGO Reporters without Borders, is the political will of the Castro Regime to keep the Cuban people from freely accessing the Internet. The Castro Regime tightly controls the distribution and use of computers in Cuba, and access to Internet cafes comes at a cost that most Cubans cannot afford. Radio and TV signals from outside Cuba are routinely jammed, and low tech equipment from short wave radios to laptops have routinely been confiscated by the dictatorship. The Castro Regime limits access to technology for the same reason that it controls all media and imprisons independent journalists: so as to maintain the Cuban people uninformed and defenseless. What’s more, over the past five years, despite your efforts in 2010 and again in 2014 of loosening sanctions, the Castro Regime has gone backwards, not forward in technology rankings. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies and is a respected reference source for international rankings. The ICT Development Index (IDI) is a composite index combining eleven indicators into one benchmark measure that can be used to monitor and compare developments in information and communication technology (ICT) between countries and over time. According to ITU between 2010 and 2015 Cuba has dropped in rank from 119th to 129th in the world in IDI overall rankings, falling behind countries such as Lesotho, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Honduras and Syria.
President Obama quote: Cubans have a saying about daily life: “No es facil” –- it’s not easy. Today, the United States wants to be a partner in making the lives of ordinary Cubans a little bit easier, more free, more prosperous.
No, Mr. President, it hasn’t been easy for the Cuban Resistance to see the President of the world’s most powerful democracy shaking the hand of a dictator that has yet to pay for the crimes that he has committed against humanity. Over the past year, life for the civic resistance movement of the Cuban people has become even more difficult, as well as for the Cuban people in general. Emboldened by unilateral concessions, the Regime has increased repression and retrenched itself in power. The thousands of monthly political arrests and the current mass exodus of Cubans are a result of this. Now is not the time to unilaterally lift sanctions on the Castro Regime. There is still time for the United States to lead an international coalition calling for the release of political prisoners, an end to repression and genuine free elections. The Agreement for Democracy, signed on to by the vast majority of the Cuban opposition, shows a road map towards true change in Cuba. Only with this true change can the life of ordinary Cubans be easier, with freedom, justice and prosperity.
Dr. Orlando Gutierrez Boronat,
Cuban Democratic Directorate (Directorio)
Obama quotes: Taken from https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/12/17/statement-president-cuba-policy-changes
ITU data for tech quote. http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Pages/publications/mis2015.aspx