Posts Tagged ‘Raul Castro’

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

U.S., Cuba find ‘profound differences’ in first round of talks

| January 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

By Karen DeYoung

HAVANA — The Cuban and American delegations sat at parallel tables, eight wary diplomats on each side, facing each other across a distance of about six feet and a gulf filled with more than a half-century of grievances.

In separate news conferences afterward, at the end of their first round of talks Thursday, both sides pronounced it “productive,” respectful and positive.

But both acknowledged that “profound differences” remain.

“What you have to recognize,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson said after the initial session, “is that we have . . . to overcome more than 50 years of a relationship that was not based on confidence or trust.”

Josefina Vidal, Jacobson’s counterpart at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry, stressed the importance of approaching each other on the basis of “equal sovereignty” and “avoiding any interference in [each other’s] internal affairs.”

Like Jacobson, Vidal stressed that reopening embassies that were closed in 1961 was just the first step in ... Read More

Cuba wants off U.S. terrorism list before restoring normal ties

| January 21st, 2015 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters


(Reuters) - Cuba will tell the United States in face-to-face talks this week it wants to be removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism before restoring diplomatic relations, a senior foreign ministry official said on Tuesday.

The two adversaries will meet in Havana on Wednesday and Thursday in an attempt to restore ties that the United States severed in 1961.

They are the first talks since U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced on Dec. 17 they would resume diplomatic ties and swap prisoners in a historic shift after five decades of hostilities.

The Cuban official said it was “unfair” to put Cuba on the U.S. State Department’s list, which also includes Iran, Syria and Sudan.

While saying removal from the list was not necessarily a condition for restoring ties, the official said the Cubans would press the issue with the U.S. delegation.

“We cannot conceive of re-establishing diplomatic relations while Cuba continues to be included on ... Read More

US Delegation Meets With Cuban Officials, Not Castro

| January 20th, 2015 | No Comments »
ABC News


Cuba’s foreign minister told a group of U.S. senators and congressmen Monday that his country is open to greater diplomatic and trade ties but the congressional delegation did not meet President Raul Castro, the man who will make many of the key decisions about the new U.S.-Cuban relationship.

The U.S. delegation was led by Sen. Patrick Leahy, who played a key role in the release of American contractor Alan Gross as part of a prisoner exchange that paved the way for the move toward full diplomatic relations. Leahy met with Castro on past trips to Cuba but did not do so again on Monday, two days before Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson arrives in Havana to negotiate the reopening of the U.S. Embassy.

The delegation met for several hours with Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, who told the legislators that Cuba welcomed President Barack Obama’s loosening of the U.S. trade embargo, ... Read More

Official: Cuba terror listing won’t affect US push for embassy, diplomatic ties

| January 20th, 2015 | No Comments »

The Obama administration plans to proceed on forging diplomatic ties with Cuba – and potentially opening an embassy — regardless of whether the country stays on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

A senior State Department official made clear Monday that the status of the terror listing will have no impact on the diplomatic push. In a conference call with reporters, the official said the issues are proceeding on separate tracks – on one, Secretary of State John Kerry has launched a six-month review of Cuba’s terror sponsor designation; on the other, U.S. officials head to Havana this week to start talks on normalizing ties.

The distinction underscores that little stands in the way of a U.S.-Cuba détente, after Cuba released 53 political prisoners as part of the deal – though Havana sparked renewed concerns after re-arresting, and then releasing, some of them.

The ... Read More

Obama should help Cubans, not Castro

| January 16th, 2015 | No Comments »

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

Administration details eased travel, trade restrictions on Cuba

| January 15th, 2015 | No Comments »
The Hill

By Justin Sink

The Obama administration on Thursday announced the details of sweeping new regulations that will ease travel and trade restrictions with Cuba as part of President Obama’s bid to normalize relations with the communist nation for the first time in a half century.

The rules, announced by the Treasury and Commerce departments, will take effect on Friday.

Under the new policies, travelers who qualify under a dozen broad categories of authorized travel will be able to visit the country without applying for a license. Travelers visiting Cuba won’t be limited in how much money they can spend while on the island, and they’ll be allowed to use their U.S. credit and debit cards.

Travelers can also bring back up to $400 worth of goods, including $100 in alcohol and tobacco products. And travel agents and airlines will be allowed to provide service to the island without the need of ... 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

Reconstruyendo Venezuela

| January 12th, 2015 | 1 Comment »
Maria Corina Machado

[Traducción por IASW]

Venezuela está colapsando. El viaje de Nicolás Maduro a China, donde pidió fondos para sobrevivir, fue un fracaso humillante; filas de casi un kilometro para conseguir alimentos se pueden apreciar en las calles de Caracas y otras ciudades; cubanos que manipulaban el gobierno de Maduro están abandonando un barco que ayudaron a hundir; y los militares están considerando el reto de suprimir a manifestantes enojados y desesperados para regalarle tiempo a un régimen incompetente e impopular.

Maduro está luchando con el descontento popular, la escasez de alimentos, una tasa de inflación real del 90 por ciento, apagones, una infraestructura en ruinas y otros desafíos domésticos. Políticas desastrosas implementadas por el fallecido Hugo Chávez intencionalmente estrangularon al sector privado, que es parte de la fórmula de Cuba para que los venezolanos tengan que depender del estado a tal grado que no puedan resistir su voluntad.

La caída del 40% en los ... Read More

Rebuilding Venezuela

| January 12th, 2015 | No Comments »
Real Clear World-01

Venezuela is collapsing. President Nicolas Maduro’s dash-for-cash to Beijing last week was a humiliating failure. Half-mile food lines wind through the streets of Caracas and other cities. Maduro’s Cuban handlers are abandoning a ship they helped sink, while Venezuelan military officers are pondering the challenge of how to suppress angry, desperate protesters to buy time for an unpopular, incompetent regime.

Maduro is wrestling with popular unrest, food shortages, a real inflation rate of 90 percent, blackouts, crumbling infrastructure, and other domestic challenges. Ruinous policies ushered in by the late Hugo Chavez intentionally strangled the private sector — part of the Cuban formula to make Venezuelans too dependent on the state to resist its will.

The 40 percent drop in global oil prices has hit Venezuela hard, because Caracas relies on petrodollars to provide 96 percent of its export earnings and 45 percent of Venezuelan government revenues. The productivity of Venezuela’s state-run oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, ... 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

Kerry aides deny White House cut him out of loop on Cuba shift

| January 9th, 2015 | No Comments »

By James Rosen

Aides to Secretary of State John Kerry rejected speculation that America’s top diplomat had been cut out of the loop when the Obama administration negotiated last month’s historic policy shift on Cuba.

“This was a process the secretary was comfortable with,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters at a briefing on Thursday.

Psaki said the White House kept Kerry informed at every stage of the secret negotiations that were held over the course of a year-and-a-half between Cuban emissaries and key officials on the National Security Council. The talks climaxed in coordinated statements by the Castro regime and President Obama last month, announcing prisoner swaps and plans for each country to reopen embassies on the other’s soil, following normalization talks set to commence later this month in Havana.

Speculation that Kerry had been sidelined by back-channel diplomacy conducted directly by the White House ... 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

Cuba: More Political Prisoners, But the New U.S. Policy Marches Onward

| January 8th, 2015 | No Comments »
Council on Foreign Relations

By Elliott Abrams 

There are more Cuban political prisoners  today than on the day President Obama announced his deal with the Castro brothers, December 17.

Part of that deal was supposed to see 53 Cuban political prisoners released, but now it’s three weeks later and they have not been released. Nor have they even been identified. As the Washington Post put it in a headline, “Mystery surrounds 53 Cuban political prisoners supposed to be set free.” Instead of releasing them, the Cuban regime has in fact arrested more dissidents, two weeks after the Obama speech and just before New Year’s.

How are we to know if the regime is ever going to meet its commitment to the Obama White House? How can we track the liberation of these prisoners?

We can’t. Nor will Cuban refusal to release them slow down the Obama policy. The next step is for our ... Read More

Obama says he’ll press Cuba on human rights

| January 7th, 2015 | No Comments »


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

Don’t expect rapid change

| January 7th, 2015 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald


Curb your enthusiasm. That’s my advice, inspired by the HBO series of the same name, for wishful thinkers across the globe who have manifested unbridled euphoria ever since President Obama announced the normalization of diplomatic ties with Cuba.

It is just a matter of time now before the embargo will be lifted in its entirety, they conjecture. Not likely.

Within hours of the president’s announcement, Raúl Castro asserted that the country will continue to adhere to its socialist economic model and political system. The other slap in the face to President Obama came just before the new year when Cuba arrested and detained activists who planned to take up a microphone and individually share their thoughts and concerns about Cuba’s future.

Recognizably, embargoes make a strong moral statement, but economically they do not work. They are porous. Only blockades work.

However, the notion that normalizing diplomatic relations with an authoritarian nation and removing trade and travel embargoes will hasten the fall of Castro’s communist ... Read More

Cuban Human Rights Group Says Short Detentions on the Rise

| January 6th, 2015 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press


The Cuban government carried out a record number of detentions of dissidents and political activists last year, an independent Cuban human rights group said Monday.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation recorded 8,899 short-term detentions of dissidents and activists in 2014. That was about 2,000 more than the previous year and four times as many as in 2010, said the group’s head, Elizardo Sanchez.

The detentions can last for a few hours or a few days, but do not lead to prison time. Some people have been detained several times in a month, so the total number of people detained is lower.

Sanchez said his group counts about 90 people held in prison for political reasons ? less than half the figure five years ago.

The report also said dissidents inside Cuba did not know who was on the list of 53 whom the U.S. asked Cuba to release as ... Read More

Obama Will Ask Mexico to Pressure Cuba for Democracy

| January 6th, 2015 | No Comments »

By Angela Greiling Keane

U.S. President Barack Obama is counting on Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to pressure Cuba to make democratic reforms, now that the White House has moved toward normalizing relations with the island nation, a White House official said.

Cuba will be one of the main topics on the agenda when Obama and Pena Nieto meet Tuesday at the White House.

Improving relations with Cuba removes a point of friction in U.S. relations with Mexico and other Latin American countries that have normal diplomatic and commercial ties with Cuba, according to the official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity to preview the talks.

The U.S. plans to discuss Cuba with other allies as well, the official said, without giving details.

Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson, plans to travel this month to Havana for talks on U.S.-Cuba migration and to begin talks about ... Read More

Where Are Cuba’s Political Prisoners?

| January 5th, 2015 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

Fifty-three of those jailed by the Castros were supposed to have been freed in the Obama deal.


Who and where are the 53 Cuban political prisoners that President Obama promised would be freed by Havana as part of a deal to liberate three convicted Cuban spies serving lengthy sentences in the U.S.?

I asked the State Department this last week. State referred me to the White House. White House officials declined to provide the list of names citing “concern that publicizing it would make it more difficult to ensure that Cuba follows through, and continues with further steps in the future.”

Bottom line: The U.S. government cannot confirm that they have been released and is not certain they’re going to be released, even though the three Cuban spies have already been returned.

A government official told me that keeping the names of the 53 quiet will give ... Read More

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