News and Facts about Cuba

U.S. diplomats in Cuba would do well to focus on human rights

U.S. diplomats in Cuba would do well to focus on
By Editorial board July 20 at 8:31 PM

OBAMA’S opening to Cuba is based on the hope that, after more
than a half-century of hostility from the United States, a surge of
commerce, information and will somehow erode the rigid
authoritarian state built by and now presided over by his
brother, Raúl. The assumption is questionable: The opening, including
Monday’s reestablishment of embassies, could well enhance rather than
undermine the regime. The United States has diplomatic relations with
many authoritarian governments that flout human rights, including ,
Saudi Arabia and Russia. What will matter with Cuba is not the raising
of flags in Washington and Havana but how the United States applies its
influence.

Negotiations that led to this point included “a pretty robust
conversation” about the abysmal human rights situation in Cuba, a senior
administration official told reporters last week. Cuba has released some
political prisoners. But frequent reports from the island make it plain
that routine harassment continues of dissidents and those who speak out.
Short-term detentions and beatings are common, especially when the
courageous Ladies in White, a group of wives and female relatives of
jailed dissidents, take to the streets after Sunday Mass.

The opening of embassies upgraded the status of U.S. officials in
Havana, who will now be full-fledged diplomats, with to move
around Cuba. Perhaps they should skip a diplomatic reception or two and
use this newfound access to examine one of the most unsettling chapters
in the history of the Castro dictatorship.

Three years ago Wednesday, on July 22, 2012, the Cuban Oswaldo
Payá was riding in a car with an associate, Harold Cepero, and two
foreign visitors, from and Sweden. The Spaniard, Ángel Carromero,
a leader of the youth wing of Spain’s ruling party, was driving the blue
rental car down a remote country road on the way to visit activists in
Mr. Payá’s Christian Liberation Movement. The car crashed, killing Mr.
Payá and Mr.Cepero.

Mr. Carromero was accused of vehicular homicide and jailed after a show
trial in Havana where he was pressured into saying that the car had
crashed because of his reckless driving. Mr. Carromero was later
released to Spain, and has since declared, in an interview with us and
in a book, that the car was forced off the road by another vehicle
bearing Cuban government license plates. His statements suggest that Mr.
Castro’s goons caused the crash that killed Mr. Payá and Mr. Cepero.

Unfortunately, no government or international institution has carried
out a credible investigation of Mr. Payá’s death. On Wednesday the Human
Rights Foundation of New York will publish a report highlighting many
legal and factual questions that linger. Then there is the political
legacy: More than a decade ago, Mr. Payá’s Project received
thousands of signatures for a petition calling for a referendum on legal
reforms that would liberalize Cuba’s political system. Now that he’s
gone, others are carrying on the fight inside Cuba, and suffering for
it. They, rather than the Castro regime, should be the focus of U.S.
diplomacy.

Source: U.S. diplomats in Cuba would do well to focus on human rights –
The Washington Post –
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/us-diplomats-in-cuba-would-do-well-to-focus-on-human-rights/2015/07/20/ad4c0f3e-aba4-455d-883d-74fc96b4c1fb_story.html?wprss=rss_opinions

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