Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights’

Cuba digs in heels on concessions as part of better US ties

| January 26th, 2015 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

By MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN and ANNE-MARIE GARCIA

HAVANA (AP) – The start of talks on repairing 50 years of broken relations appears to have left President Raul Castro’s government focused on winning additional concessions without giving in to U.S. demands for greater freedoms, despite the seeming benefits that warmer ties could have for the country’s struggling economy.

Following the highest-level open talks in three decades between the two nations, Cuban officials remained firm in rejecting significant reforms pushed by the United States as part of President Barack Obama’s surprise move to re-establish ties and rebuild economic relations with the Communist-led country.

“One can’t think that in order to improve and normalize relations with the U.S., Cuba has to give up the principles it believes in,” Cuba’s top diplomat for U.S. affairs, Josefina Vidal, told The Associated Press after the end of the talks. “Changes in Cuba aren’t negotiable.”

... Read More

Remarks of Ambassador Roger F. Noriega on “Promoting Human Rights and Democratic Reforms in Cuba”

| January 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »
By Roger Noriega

Remarks of Ambassador Roger F. Noriega

Visiting Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

Forum on “Promoting Human Rights and Democratic Reforms in Cuba”

At the Heritage Foundation, Friday, January 23, 2015

Those of us who are critics of President Obama’s new initiatives on Cuba do not oppose them because we hope he’s wrong, but because we know he’s wrong.

We know that the single biggest obstacle to economic and political freedom in Cuba for 55 years has been and still is the Castro regime. We know that a courageous, quiet, Christian, Oswaldo Payá, who sought a plebiscite under the rules of Castro’s own constitution, was killed when police ran his car off the road in southeastern Cuba in July 2012.

We know that an American aid worker, Alan Gross, who tried simply to offer Cuba’s small Jewish community Internet access on the island was held hostage for five years for his efforts. We know that while the Obama ... Read More

Senator Menendez Raises Serious Concerns Regarding Cuba in Letter to Secretary of State John Kerry

| January 21st, 2015 | No Comments »
US Senate Washington, D.C. – Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent the following letter to Secretary John Kerry regarding Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson’s visit to Havana, raising serious concerns that need to be addressed during this trip, including: political prisoners, normalization of diplomatic relations and the harboring of U.S. fugitives in Cuba.   In the letter, Senator Menendez said that “…after five decades of authoritarian, one-party rule, we must recognize that the Castros will never relax their iron-fisted control over Cuba unless compelled to do so.  As the Administration pursues further engagement with Cuba, I urge you to link the pace of changes in U.S. policy to reciprocal action from the Castro regime.  The Cuban people, in their continued struggle for democracy and fundamental freedoms, deserve nothing less than our unwavering support.” The letter appears below.   The Honorable John F. Kerry Secretary of State U.S. Department of State 2201 C Street NW Washington, D.C. ... Read More

Obama should help Cubans, not Castro

| January 16th, 2015 | No Comments »
AEI

Touted as a historic shift in US-Cuba relations, ironically, the Obama administration’s latest initiatives serve to reinforce the status quo — legitimizing and benefiting a regime that has a 55-year track record of opposing change.

President Obama’s new Cuba policy is taking shape this week as his administration announced high-level talks on diplomatic recognition of the Castro regime and released new regulations to liberalize travel to and transactions with the island. Touted as a historic shift in US-Cuba relations, ironically, all of these initiatives serve to reinforce the status quo — legitimizing and benefiting a regime that has a 55-year track record of opposing change. Accepting that this is not what the president intended, he must get serious about engaging the 11 million people of Cuba rather than placating the regime that torments them.

The State Department has announced that Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson will travel ... Read More

Cuban dissident ‘titan’ slams normalization while in Tampa

| January 14th, 2015 | No Comments »
The Tampa Tribune

By Paul Guzzo

TAMPA — There was more at stake than a photo op when Mayor Bob Buckhorn met Cuban opposition leader Jorge Luis García Pérez in Tampa on Tuesday.

To hear the man who arranged the meeting, it was meant to help preserve the safety of this leader known in Cuba as Antúnez.

 If the Cuban government knows the 50-year-old Antúnez, who continues to live on the island nation, has friends in high places in the United States, it may be less likely to punish him for what he says, said Ralph Fernandez, a Tampa lawyer long active in the movement to overthrow the Castro regime.

 “This is a protective measure,” Fernandez said. “And it might not be enough.”

Antúnez’s visit comes as the U.S. moves toward normalizing relations with Cuba, with the announcement last month by President Barack Obama that he will reopen an embassy in ... Read More

Cuban Dissidents’ Choices

| January 12th, 2015 | No Comments »
National Review

By Mike Gonzalez

There are many different shades of shame in President Obama’s decision to recognize Cuba’s unelected military dictatorship, starting of course in the Oval Office, where the plan was hatched. But certainly one of the most disgraceful things happening is the treatment being meted out to the long-suffering dissidents of that poor island by what passes for polite society in Washington, D.C.

Observe as Exhibit One what is taking place at the Brookings Institution (certainly there’s nothing more highbrow than that creature of the establishment, right?). This is what one of its senior fellows, Richard Feinberg, had to say to the New York Times recently about Cuba’s dissidents: “The hard-liners here will have to either engage, or perish. . . . Obama had a conversation with Raúl Castro. Then why can’t they?”

Perish? Is this really what our academics think should happen to those who won’t kowtow to dictators? And does Mr. Feinberg ... Read More

Three weeks after Cuba accord, why haven’t more political prisoners been freed

| January 9th, 2015 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

IN ANNOUNCING the normalization of relations with Cuba last month,President Obama violated two pledges he had made: to link such a liberalization to “significant steps toward democracy,” including the freeing of all political prisoners; and to consult with Cuban civil society, including pro-democracy activists, on the change. In what looked at the time like a partial recompense, the White House announced that the Castro regime had agreed to free 53 detainees — or about half the number of political prisoners identified by Cuban human rights activists.

Now it’s becoming clear that Mr. Obama chose not to make even that half-step a condition for the broad relaxation of travel and economic restrictions he is granting to Havana along with the normalization of relations. As of Wednesday, three weeks after the U.S.-Cuba accord, Cuban human rights activists had reported only five released prisoners. On Thursday, Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez tweeted that the number had risen to 26. Meanwhile, however, ... Read More

Obama’s Cuba Policy Lifts Dictatorship, Not Citizens

| January 8th, 2015 | No Comments »
World Affairs

The trade of Cuban spies for American aid worker Alan Gross and a Cuban intelligence agent working for the US was a trade worth making, but the rest of the deal announced on December 17th showed that President Obama is more interested in changing US policy than changing Cuba.

Havana has taken no steps toward elections or political freedoms for the country’s 11 million people. Even the White House claim that 53 political prisoners will be released is murky; Cuban human rights activists believe the number of actual political prisoners could be more than 100. Some have expressed bitter disappointment that the US would make such changes without getting concessions from the Castro regime, or consulting with Cuba’s democracy and human rights activists.

The White House has expressed concern about arrests and detentions that have taken place in the days after the president’s announcement, but apparently, in the president’s view, now it’s up to American tourists and businesses ... Read More

Obama says he’ll press Cuba on human rights

| January 7th, 2015 | No Comments »
McClatchy

BY LESLEY CLARK

The U.S. will enter into talks with Cuba even if it hasn’t released all of the 53 political prisoners it pledged it would when President Barack Obama announced plans to normalize relations with the island.

The White House said Tuesday that Cuba has released “some” of the prisoners, but White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said he couldn’t discuss specific numbers.

“We’ve been careful about talking about the number of prisoners and who they are because we don’t want to put an even bigger target on their back as political dissidents,” Earnest said, noting that the White House hopes to see all the prisoners released “in the near future.”

He said the Cuban government made the pledge not only to the U.S., but to the Vatican, which played a role in brokering talks between the U.S. and Cuba after more than 50 years of icy relations.

“The expectation right now is that ... Read More

US to impose sanctions on Venezuela officials

| December 11th, 2014 | No Comments »
Financial Times

By Andres Schipani

The US Congress on Wednesday voted to restrict travel and freeze assets on some Venezuelan government officials it accuses of human rights abuses during a crackdown on protests against socialist President Nicolás Maduro earlier this year.

More than 40 people have died during a wave of protests by students and members of the Venezuelan opposition against curbs on democratic liberties, rampant crime and a deteriorating economy in the embattled Caribbean nation.

The US Senate approved the measure earlier this week. Now the House of Representatives has passed it, it will be sent to President Barack Obama to sign it into law.

In late July, after peace talks between the government and opposition came to nothing, the US state department imposed a travel ban on some Venezuelan officials.

On Tuesday Mr Maduro lashed out on national television and radio at the possibility of an “insolent imperialist” move, warning that “if ... Read More

EU must act against ‘ever increasing authoritarian practices’ in Venezuela

| December 11th, 2014 | No Comments »
Parliament Magazine

By Dita Charanzová

In a desperate move to preserve the Chavista regime, president of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro has been resorting to extreme and desperate measures to prevent his government from collapsing. Maduro’s struggle to preserve his power is alarming, and the situation is quickly deteriorating.

As a result of the ever increasing authoritarian practices being employed, Venezuelans are suffering further restrictions on their freedom of expression, greater censorship over the media, police brutality – especially against protestors – and the arrest and detention of the political opposition.

The recent arrest of opposition leader and former national assembly deputy Maria Corina Machado on 3 December for allegedly plotting to assassinate president Maduro signalled the continuation of the government’s desperation to silence and punish opposition.

This is why I, together with my colleague Fernando Maura Barandiarán, have initiated a resolution on behalf of ALDE for the European parliament to address the persecution of democratic opposition in Venezuela ... Read More

U.S. House Passes Bill Sanctioning Venezuelan Officials

| December 11th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

By JOSÉ DE CÓRDOBA

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill Wednesday sanctioning Venezuelan officials who had allegedly committed human rights abuses earlier this year.

The bill requires the U.S. to lift the visas of the Venezuelan officials and calls for the government to freeze any assets such officials might have in the U.S.

The bill, which passed the Senate on Tuesday by voice vote, is expected to be signed into law by President Barack Obama .

Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), a sponsor of the bill, called on other governments to deny Venezuelan officials involved in human rights violations “entry into their countries and access to their financial systems.”

On Tuesday in Caracas, Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, blasted the bill when it passed the Senate. “We don’t accept insolent, imperialist sanctions,” Mr. Maduro said in a nationally broadcast speech to military personnel. He angrily accused U.S. officials of “interfering” in Venezuelan affairs.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.), who ... Read More

U.S. Moves to Penalize Venezuelan Officials

| December 10th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

BY JOSÉ DE CÓRDOBA

The U.S. government moved closer to hardening sanctions on Venezuelan officials for alleged human rights abuses after Senate lawmakers passed a bill that now heads to the lower house, which has backed a similar proposal, for a vote this week.

The Senate voted late Monday to freeze the bank accounts and assets and decline visas to Venezuelan officials allegedly involved in a violent crackdown this year on Venezuelan protesters in which 43 people were killed. In May, the House overwhelmingly approved, by voice vote, a similar sanctions bill.

Florida congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said the Senate legislation would be brought to a vote this week in the House, saying it was important to “not allow the actions of President Nicolás Maduro] to go unpunished.”

In Caracas, Venezuelan Mr. Maduro reacted angrily to the bill. “Outrage and condemnation is what we feel towards the White House,” Mr. Maduro said in a televised speech ... Read More

Chairman Menendez Applauds Passage of Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act

| December 8th, 2014 | No Comments »
US Senate

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and author of the bipartisan Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act, issued this statement following the bill’s passage in the U.S. Senate.

“Today, the United States Senate sent a clear and unequivocal message to the Government of Venezuela.  For too long, Venezuelans have faced state-sponsored violence at the hands of government security forces and watched their country’s judiciary become a tool of political repression.  Venezuelan leaders like Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado have become the target of vicious government-led campaigns that seek to silence them for speaking out in defense of democracy and the rule of law. We in the United States have an obligation to shine a bright spotlight on Venezuela’s abuses and must object to the severe human rights violations committed by ... Read More

Cuba hasn’t earned embargo’s end

| October 27th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

In October of 1960, the United States imposed an embargo on exports to Cuba covering all commodities except medical supplies and certain food products. That was the beginning of a trade embargo that still endures and still inspires heated debate.

The anniversary of the embargo, plus this week’s upcoming vote in the United Nations condemning it — which the United States will lose, as usual — have prompted calls for a reassessment. Dropping the embargo altogether would require action by Congress. Meanwhile, anti-embargo advocates say, there’s a lot the president can do to soften or minimize its effects and open the door to restoring full ties with Cuba.

We disagree. Such a move would be premature and utterly lacking in justification at this time.

Granted, Raúl Castro has loosened the reins on the tightly controlled economy to permit more individual businesses. Some citizens can own property, and new rules are designed to encourage ... Read More

Cuba should not be rewarded for denying freedom to its people

| October 21st, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

By the Editorial Board

THE OTHER day, Fidel Castro wrote an opinion column for Cuba’s state-run newspaper, Granma, as he has done periodically from retirement. He lavished praise on an editorial in the New York Times that called for an end to the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba. But Mr. Castro had one complaint: The Times mentioned the harassment of dissidents and the still-unexplained death of a leading exponent of democracy, Oswaldo Payá, and a younger activist, Harold Cepero, in a car wreck two years ago.

The assertion that Cuba’s authoritarian government had yet to explain the deaths was “slanderous and [a] cheap accusation,” Mr. Castro sputtered.

So why has Cuba done nothing to dispel the fog of suspicion that still lingers over the deaths? If the charge is slanderous, then it is long past time for Mr. Castro to order a thorough investigation of what happened on an isolated Cuban road ... Read More

UN Human Rights Chief Calls on Venezuela to Free Lopez & Protestors

| October 20th, 2014 | No Comments »
Latin American Herald Tribune

GENEVA — The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, expressed serious concern on Monday at the continued detention of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López, as well as more than 69 other people who were arrested in the context of public protests that took place across Venezuela over several months starting in February this year.

“The prolonged and arbitrary detention of political opponents and protestors in Venezuela is causing more and more concern internationally,” High Commissioner Zeid said. “It is only exacerbating the tensions in the country.”

According to information received by the UN Human Rights Office, over 3,300 people, including minors, were detained for brief periods between February and June, and more than 150 cases of ill-treatment, many of them torture, were reported. At least 43 people were killed during the protests, including one public prosecutor and nine members of the security forces. Journalists and human rights defenders ... Read More

Venezuela’s Election to UN Security Council Can’t Hide Its Weakness

| October 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
Commentary

By Ben Cohen

The good news is that Turkey didn’t manage to get itself elected to the UN Security Council. The bad news is that Venezuela did, as was expected. So come January, the chavista regime will have an unprecedented say in world affairs for a two-year term as one of the Security Council’s non-permanent members.

This marks the fifth time in the UN’s brief history that Venezuela will serve on the Council. The last occasion was in 1992-93, when its representative was Ambassador Diego Arria, who distinguished himself by highlighting the genocide then raging in Bosnia, and by speaking out on behalf of human rights more generally. Two decades later, the situation has flipped entirely–the current crop of genocidaires, rogue states, and terrorists, particularly in the Middle East, will discover to their satisfaction that there are few friends more loyal than Venezuela’s present rulers.

As Arria himself pointed out in a recent ... Read More

Venezuela Joins U.N. Security Council for Two-Year Term

| October 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

By Ezequiel Minya

CARACAS—The United Nations on Thursday voted Venezuela on to its Security Council, granting the South American country a long-coveted trophy of international standing and placing a persistent thorn in the side of the U.S. on the U.N.’s most influential committee.

“This is a moment of great pride for all of Venezuela,” said President Nicolás Maduro from the presidential palace in Caracas. “The world has given us support. We should feel happiness in our hearts that we are a country that is admired and loved.”

Not everybody was celebrating the victory. Though the Obama administration resisted calls from Venezuela’s critics to mount a campaign to derail its entry into the Security Council, U.S. officials on Thursday criticized Venezuela’s record at the U.N.

“Unfortunately, Venezuela’s conduct at the U.N. has run counter to the spirit of the U.N. Charter and its violations of ... Read More

5 Dead in Venezuela After Tense Police Standoff

| October 9th, 2014 | No Comments »
ABC News

By FABIOLA SANCHEZ and JORGE RUEDA

President Nicolas Maduro called Wednesday for an investigation into a confusing shootout with police that left a well-connected government supporter and four others dead.

Police before dawn Tuesday raided a high-rise building occupied by presumed members of armed pro-government groups known as “collectives,” leading to a tense, eight-hour standoff that created panic and blocked traffic across several downtown blocks.

Among those killed was former policeman Jose Odreman, the outspoken leader of the 5th of March collective, one of a myriad of sometimes armed groups that provide social services and rally support for the government in poor neighborhoods.

Barely 90 minutes before he was killed, during a brief recess in shooting, Odreman spoke to Venezuelan media and blamed Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres for the bloodshed and held him personally accountable for any attempt on his life.

Fighting resumed when three police officers were taken hostage by individuals holed up ... Read More

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