Directorio democratico cubano -est. 1990- The cuban democratic directorate

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  • 05 Jan 2016 11:22 AM | Silvia G. (Administrator)


    THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO GO TO CUBA, MR. PRESIDENT

    January 05, 2016 05:00 PM

    Updated January 09, 2016 10:47 AM


    ARTICLE LINK

  • 24 Dec 2015 11:11 AM | Silvia G. (Administrator)


    Obama’s Cuba policy makes life worse for Cubans

     By Jeff Jacoby GLOBE COLUMNIST  DECEMBER 24, 2015

    WHEN PRESIDENT OBAMA declared 12 months ago that he intended to normalize relations with Cuba, he claimed that rapprochement with the Castro regime would uphold America’s “commitment to liberty and democracy.” Liberalizing US policy, the president predicted, would succeed “in making the lives of ordinary Cubans a little bit easier, more free, more prosperous.”

    He affirmed that message seven months later, as he announced the reopening of the US embassy in Havana. Life on the island might not be “transformed overnight,” Obama conceded, but he had no doubt that more engagement was the best way to advance democracy and human rights for Cuba’s people. “This,” said the president, “is what change looks like.”

    Reality-check time.

    The Obama administration’s year-long outreach to Cuba has certainly been frenetic. The American flag was raised over the US embassy in August, and in Washington the Cuban embassy was reopened. President Obama held a face-to-face meeting with Raul Castro during the Summit of the Americas in Panama. The State Department removed Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. Restrictions were eased on travel to Cuba by Americans, resulting in a 54 percent increase in trips this year. Three Cabinet members — the secretaries of state, agriculture, and commerce — were dispatched on separate missions to Cuba. And plans have been announced to resume direct mail service and commercial air travel between the two countries.

    The Castro brothers snapped up all these treats. They will gladly pocket more of them. But there has been no hint of the expanded freedom and democratic reforms that Obama’s engagement was supposed to unlock.

    Cuba remains the only dictatorship in the Americas, as repressive and hostile to human rights as ever. More repressive, in fact: Over the past 12 months, the government’s harassment of dissidents and democracy activists has ballooned. In November, according to Amnesty International, there were nearly 1,500 political arrests or arbitrary detentions of peaceful human-rights protesters. That was the highest monthly tally in years, more than double the average of 700 political detentions per month recorded in 2014.

    On Dec. 10 — International Human Rights Day — Cuban security police arrested between 150 and 200 dissidents, in many cases beating the prisoners they seized. As is usually the case, those attacked by the regime’s goons included members of the respected Ladies in White, an organization of wives, mothers, and sisters of jailed dissidents. The women, dressed in white, attend Mass each week, then walk silently through the streets to protest the government’s lawlessness and brutality. Even the United Nations, which frequently turns a blind eye to the depredations of its member-states, condemned the Cuban government’s “extraordinary disdain” for civil norms, and deplored the “many hundreds” of warrantless arrests in recent weeks.

    But from the Obama administration there has been no such condemnation. One might have thought that the White House would make it a priority to give moral support and heightened recognition to the Cubans who most embody the “commitment to liberty and democracy” that the president has invoked. But concern for Cuba’s courageous democrats has plainly not  been a priority. Particularly disgraceful was Secretary of State John Kerry’s refusal to invite any dissidents or human-rights advocates to the flag-raising ceremony at the US embassy in August. To exclude them, as The Washington Post observed, was a dishonorable gesture of appeasement to the hemisphere’s nastiest regime — “a sorry tip of the tat to what the Castros so vividly stand for: diktat, statism, control, and rule by fear.”

    For all the president’s talk about using engagement and trade to promote the cause of liberty and civil rights in Cuba, his policy of détente has been wholly one-sided. In an interview with Yahoo! News this month, he was asked what concessions Havana has made over the past year. He couldn’t think of any.

    “Look,” he said with an exasperated sigh, “our original theory on this was not that we were going to see immediate changes or loosening of control of the Castro regime, but rather that, over time, you’d lay the predicates for substantial transformation.”

    Cubans aren’t holding their breath. Tens of thousands of them, realizing that normalization will do nothing to loosen the Castros’ grip, have fled the country. More than 45,000 Cubans arrived at US border checkpoints in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30; thousands more are trying to reach the United States by traveling through Central America or taking to the sea. It is the largest wave of Cuban migrants in decades. The American president may believe in “predicates for substantial transformation” and other such amulets and charms. Cuba’s people know better.

    We should know better too.

    As a candidate for president, Obama promised a Cuba policy that would “be guided by one word:Libertad.” If the regime in Havana wanted the benefits of normalization, he vowed, it would first have to accept democratic reforms. But Obama’s foreign policy toward Cuba, like his policies toward Iran and Russia and Syria, turned out to be far more about accommodating despots, far less about upholding Western norms. His years in office have coincided with a worldwide retreat of democratic freedoms; why would Cuba be an exception?

    It is clear now that the only change Obama craved in Cuba was a change in America’s go-it-alone stance. Normalization was desirable for its own sake, not as a means to leverage freedom for Cuba’s people.

    Last week, 126 former Cuban dissidents wrote a letter pleading with Obama to reconsider his approach. Showering the Castro regime with so many benefits, they warned, will “prolong the life of the dictatorship,” even as it “marginaliz[es] the democratic opposition.” Alas, that doesn’t trouble the president nearly as much as it troubles them. He’s on his way out, and no longer has to pretend to care about the fate of beleaguered democrats.


    ARTICLE LINK

  • 22 Dec 2015 11:17 AM | Silvia G. (Administrator)


    We are not “fellow” Cuban exiles

    It is with great interest that I read the Dec. 20 full-page ad, An open letter to our fellow Cuban-Americans, which was paid for by Miguel “Mike” Fernandez and Carlos Gutierrez. In it, 10 members of the Miami community share personal experiences stemming from their recent visits to Cuba in order to, in their own words, “confront the myths that can only persist in the absence of first-hand knowledge.”

    With all due respect, where have they been these past 56 years? If they are part of our community, they must have felt the pain of thousands of Cubans who were victims of arbitrary human rights’ violations by a regime intent on maintaining its grip on power via repression and terror.

    If they’re part of our community, they must have heard about the extrajudicial killings of freedom-loving Cuban pro-democracy activists by the Castro regime.

    If they’re part of our community, they must have witnessed men, women and children desperately trying to escape the island and risking their lives in order to provide a better future for their children.

    If they’re part of our community, they must have had the opportunity to talk with former Cuban political prisoners who experienced the brunt of totalitarianism and live within our midst and to hear the suffering of Cuban families. They must have seen the images of Castro’s thugs beating defenseless women of the Ladies in White who march every Sunday to call for the liberation of Cuban political prisoners.

    These are not myths. These are not things of the past, but of the present. While they travel for a brief time to allegedly see with their own eyes what they want to see, they conveniently turn a blind eye to the suffering of Cubans who live there and possess first-hand knowledge.

    These gentlemen are not my fellow Cuban Americans.

    SYLVIA G. IRIONDO, PRESIDENT, MOTHERS & WOMEN AGAINST REPRESSION, MIAMI

    ARTICLE LINK

  • 17 Dec 2015 10:07 AM | Silvia G. (Administrator)


    One year after rapprochement, Cuba is no freer

    By Charles Lane

    Opinion writer

    December 17, 2015

    Much has changed in Cuba since President Obama and the island’s dictator, Raúl Castro, announced their rapprochement a year ago.

    Hundreds of millions of dollars have flowed into Cuban government coffers, due to more U.S. tourism and remittances. Havana has negotiated a generous U.S.-tolerated debt restructuring with Western creditors. You can’t walk down the street in Havana, it seems, without bumping into a would-be U.S. investor. And, of course, the stars and stripes wave over a reopened U.S. E mbassy in Havana.

    When it comes to the elementary freedoms that the Castro regime has denied its people since 1959, though, results are scant.

    “This year has been a bad year for us,” democratic activist Antonio G. Rodiles told Post editors Tuesday. Rodiles cited a “huge increase in arbitrary arrests,” as well as his own savage beating by regime thugs in July .

    “Ra úl Castro has been legitimized and recognized by the majority of the governments of the planet, and played a leading part in a Summit of the Americas, amid flashing cameras and meetings with Barack Obama,” writes independent blogger Yoani S ánchez. “Inside the country, he has not wanted to give even the slightest recognition to his critics, against whom he has continued arrests, mob actions and painful character assassination.”

    As for freer telecommunications, there are a few new open-air WiFi hotspots, exorbitantly priced and officially monitored, S ánchez notes. Meanwhile, Washington trumpets a deal to restore snail-mail service between the United States and Cuba — on a date to be announced.

    This is what happens when a magical-thinking president runs up against a communist octogenarian who inherited Cuba from his brother Fidel — and aspires to pass it on to his son, the current intelligence chief, and son-in-law, the tourism industry boss.

    “Our central premise,” Obama explained to Yahoo News this week, “has always been for a small country 90 miles off the shores of Miami, that if they are suddenly exposed to the world and America and opened up to our information and our culture and our visitors and our businesses, invariably they are going to change.”

    If Obama can figure that out, so can Castro; the dictator has every incentive to limit U.S.-Cuban interactions to those he can contain and control, which is what he has done so far. (By the way, Havana is 229 miles from Miami.) When Yahoo News asked Obama to list “concessions” Castro had made, the president couldn’t name one.

    Obama wants Congress to lift the rest of the embargo, in part to eliminate one of Castro’s last propaganda excuses. Anticipating that, Castro has declared that, even if the embargo ends, “normalization” as he defines it would hinge on more U.S. concessions, including a handover of the naval base at Guatanamo Bay.

    U.S. engagement probably won’t “work” in Cuba any more than isolation did; and Cuba is not analogous to China, to which it’s often compared.

    There was no real alternative to trade and engagement with a geopolitical giant such as China, human rights notwithstanding. Tiny, impoverished Cuba offers no strategic compensation for legitimizing its dictatorship through business as usual — not even the agreement to protect whitetip sharks and other marine life Washington and Havana so excitedly unveiled.

    We could have let the regime stew in its repressive juices, or presented it a “road map” linking changes in U.S. policy to irreversible democratic reforms in Cuba. Let Havana explain why denying free elections for 57 years — 57! — matters more than trade.

    Belatedly, Obama is injecting a note of conditionality, telling Yahoo News that he won’t visit the island in 2016 unless he’s free to meet dissidents.

    That would be a welcome contrast to Pope Francis’s itinerary, which included a sit-down with the ancient Fidel Castro, but not with dissidents — some of whom were arrested in front of the pontiff.

    We’ll see how hard a bargain Obama drives. Would he demand a meeting with Rodiles, who’s among the activists Ra úl Castro dislikes most — yet who says U.S. diplomats have snubbed him since the embassy reopened?

    Would Obama insist on a live TV speech, as former president Jimmy Carter did in 2002? Or would he settle for a closed-door sit-down with two activists, like the one he held at the Summit of the Americas — and that he cited to Yahoo News as a “precedent.”

    Meanwhile, 45,000 Cubans fled the island for the United States this year, partly due to rumors of more restrictive U.S. immigration policies, partly because of what Sá nchez calls the “conditioned reflex to escape a hopeless existence.”

    “Our original theory on this was not that we were going to see immediate changes or loosening of the control of the Castro regime, but rather that, over time, you’d lay the predicates for substantial transformation,” Obama told Yahoo News.

    He has all the time in the world to try his theory — before leaving office a year from now. Cubans are tired of waiting


    ARTICLE LINK

  • 08 Nov 2015 10:00 AM | Silvia G. (Administrator)

    By Jackson Diehl

    Deputy Editorial Page Editor

    November 8, 2015

    At the heart of President Obama’s foreign policy is a long bet: that American engagement with previously shunned regimes will, over time, lead to their liberalization, without the need for either a messy domestic revolution or a bloody U.S. use of force. By definition, it will be years before we know whether the policy works.

    It nevertheless is becoming clear that the regimes on which Obama has lavished attention have greeted his overtures with a counter-strategy. It’s possible, they calculate, to use the economic benefits of better relations to entrench their authoritarian systems for the long term, while screening out any liberalizing influence. Rather than being subverted by U.S. dollars, they would be saved by them.

    So far, the dictators’ bet is paying off. The latest evidence of that came Sunday in Burma, when the generals who still rule the country staged an election carefully structured to preserve their power. The constitution under which it was held bans opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president and reserves a quarter of parliamentary seats for the military.

    Obama might claim that the lifting of U.S. sanctions and the two trips he made to the country helped prompt this limited democratic opening. The generals see it another way: The restricted system, and the inflow of U.S. and European investment it enables, makes their political supremacy sustainable for the long term. As proof, they can point to the fact that they rebuffed U.S. appeals for constitutional reforms before the election with no consequence for the new economic relationship.

    That Iran’s supreme leader is pursuing a similar course became clear in recent days as the arrests  of two businessmen with U.S. citizenship or residency came to light. Having allowed reformist president Hassan Rouhani to negotiate the nuclear deal with Obama, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard intend to pocket the $100 billion or so in proceeds while forcibly preventing what they call the “penetration” of Western influence that Obama hopes for.

    Hence the taking of more U.S. hostages. To the imprisonment of The Post’s Jason Rezaian and two other Iranian Americans, add Nizar Zakka, a U.S.-based Internet specialist, and Siamak Namazi, an Iranian American who has publicly advocated for better relations between the countries. The lack of any U.S. response means that the open season on Americans will continue in Tehran.

    Khamenei, however, doesn’t get the prize for the best jujitsu on Obama. That goes to Raú l Castro, the 84-year-old ruler of weak and impoverished Cuba, who has managed to transform the resumption of U.S.-Cuban relations into an almost entirely one-sided transaction.

    Since announcing the end of the 50-year freeze between the countries 11 months ago, Obama has twice loosened restrictions on U.S. travel and investment in Cuba. Thanks to that, tourism arrivals are up 18 percent this year, and billions in fresh hard currency are flowing into the regime’s nearly empty treasury. The White House has dispatched a stream of senior officials to Havana, including Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. The deputy secretary of homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas, last month paid court to the general who heads Castro’s repressive internal security apparatus.

    In response to this, Castro has done virtually nothing, other than reopen the Cuban Embassy in Washington and allow a cellphone roaming agreement . His answer to repeated pleadings from U.S. officials for gestures on human rights has been to step up repression of the opposition. According to the independent Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, there were at least 1,093 political detentions in October, the highest number in 16 months.

    Castro has meanwhile shunned offers from U.S. businesses and dramatically cut U.S. imports. Pritzker did not sign a single deal during her high-profile visit last month. Instead, Cuban officials are using the prospect of increased U.S. trade and investment as “chum” to strike bargains with other countries, according to a report by the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. While imports of U.S. food are down 44 percent this year, imports from China are up 76 percent.

    Remarkably, the administration appears happy to accept this. The latest high-level envoy, State Department senior adviser David Thorne, told Reuters in Havana last week: “The pace is really going to be set by the Cubans, and we are satisfied with how they want to do this.” What about the lack of progress on human rights? “As in other parts of the world,” Thorne grandly replied, “we are really trying to also say: Let’s find out how we can work together and not always say that human rights are the first things we have to fix before anything else.”

    So the message is: It’s okay to capture U.S. dollars while excluding U.S. business and cracking down on anyone favoring liberalization. No wonder the dictators are winning.

    ARTICLE LINK

  • 19 Oct 2015 9:55 AM | Silvia G. (Administrator)

    Louise Tillotson is a Cuba researcher at Amnesty International.

    Opinion:
    The Unlikely Chance of a Serious Human Rights Debate in Cuba

    MEXICO CITY, Oct 19 2015 (IPS) - Nearly a month since Pope Francis ended his historic visit to Cuba, any hope that authorities would loosen control on free expression in the country is fading as fast as the chants that welcomed him.

    At the start of his tour, Pope Francis said Cuba had an opportunity to “open itself to the world.” He urged young people in the country to have open minds and hearts, and to be willing to engage in a dialogue with those who “think differently.”

    Cubans listened, but the government didn’t.

    Instead, the Cuban authorities continued to prevent human rights activists from expressing their dissenting views.

    According to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, an independent organization, in 2014 there was an average of 741 arbitrary detentions each month.

    Last month, during the Pope´s visit, the number increased even further, with 882 arbitrary detentions registered.

    Activists Zaqueo Baez Guerrero, Ismael Bonet Rene and María Josefa Acón Sardinas, members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unión Patriótica de Cuba, UNPACU), a dissident group, are three of the activists detained. They were arrested on 20 September after they crossed a security line in Havana as they attempted to talk to the Pope and have been held in prison since then.

    They are believed to be charged with contempt (“desacato”), resistance (“resistencia”), violence or intimidation against a state official (“atentado”) and public disorder (“disorden publico”). If convicted, they face prison sentences of between three and eight years.

    The crackdown seems to have escalated since the Pope left the country.

    On Sunday, 11 October, hundreds of human rights activists and dissidents, including members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba and of the group Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) were arbitrarily arrested and detained on their way to peaceful protests organized across the country calling for the release of the activists and prisoners of conscience. The Patriotic Union of Cuba is one of the organizations reporting the highest number of detentions.

    One activist recently told me how a bus carrying him and 29 other people was stopped on the way to the city of Santiago de Cuba by 40 police officers.

    “They took us off the bus one by one and threatened us with blows and imprisonment. I was taken in a jeep and left somewhere remote and had to walk for various miles to get home,” he said.

    According to José Daniel Ferrer, General Secretary of UNPACU, four homes of social leaders were recently robbed or vandalized.

    Another activist said he was hit after being arrested: “An official told us we all had to shut up or the police could take out our teeth if it was necessary,” he said. He said the police only stopped hitting him when they saw lots of blood.

    Also on Sunday, in Havana, 60 Ladies in White were arrested. Some said they had been beaten, and detained for hours after a peaceful march that lasted less than 10 minutes. “The march started at 1.30pm and was stopped at 1.40pm,” Berta Solar, leader of the group told me.

    The mother and grandmother of prisoner of conscience Danilo Maldonado Machado, a graffiti artist known as “El Sexto,” also joined the Ladies in White. Danilo´s mother said: “There were lots of police, who picked up the Ladies in White in buses. They picked them up so no one would see them protest.It left me traumatized to see how they dragged the women.”

    For many, Pope Francis´ visit to Cuba was a sign of hope for freedom of expression in the country. But the recent crackdown on those who think differently shows that the same old tactics of repression are still being used to stifle dissent.

    Cuba is undoubtedly at a crossroads when it comes to the protection of human rights. The Cuban government has long said it promotes the rights to education, healthcare and that it has made some advancements for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.

    But it is impossible to comprehensively assess the wider human rights situation in Cuba when the fundamental right to peacefully express a view is tightly controlled and independent monitors are unable to enter.

    As long as Cubans are only allowed to disagree in spaces controlled by the government, but not on the streets, and while the right to protest is severely restricted, a wider discussion on human rights remains an unlikely reality.

    (End)

     ARTICLE LINK


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