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Cuba’s human rights abuses worse despite U.S. ties

Cuba’s abuses worse despite U.S. ties

One year after Cuba reopened its embassy in Washington on July 20, 2015,
Cuba’s human rights situation is much worse. It’s time for Latin America
and the U.S. to stop clapping, and demand that Cuba’s dictatorship start
allowing fundamental freedoms.
BY ANDRÉS OPPENHEIMER
aoppenheimer@miamiherald.com

On the first anniversary since Cuba reopened its embassy in Washington,
D.C., one thing is clear: The reestablishment of U.S.-Cuban diplomatic
ties — which I have cautiously supported in this column — has not helped
improve by one iota Cuba’s human rights situation. On the contrary,
human rights abuses have worsened.

This is not a conclusion based on random anecdotes from the island, but
the result of a well-documented report just released by the Havana-based
Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, the
island’s oldest and most respected non-government, human-rights
monitoring group.

According to the commission, short-term political detentions have gone
way up so far this year, from a monthly average of 718 last year to a
monthly average of 1,095 during the first six months of this year. The
number of political detentions skyrocketed during the months before and
after Barack Obama’s visit to the island in March, the monthly
figures show.

During the first six months of this year, there have been 6,573
short-term political detentions in Cuba, which — if they continue at
their six-month rate — would be a significant increase over last year’s
figure. There were 8,616 documented short-term political detentions last
year, 6,424 in 2013, and 2,074 in 2010, says the commission.

In addition to the rise in short-term detentions, the number of peaceful
opponents who have been sentenced to longer terms in or labor
camps over the past year has risen from about 70 to more than 100, the
commission says.

“The civil and political rights situation has worsened over the past
year, no doubt about it,” commission founder Elizardo Sánchez told me in
a telephone interview. “In terms of [Cuba’s] domestic politics, the
reestablishment of ties hasn’t had any positive impact.”

Sánchez added that “after Obama’s speech in Havana, which was very good,
the government started a campaign to discredit the U.S. president, which
was started by himself. They hope to erase the memory of
Obama’s speech from Cubans’ memory, and to continue improving ties with
the outside world, while maintaining an iron fist at home.”

José Miguel Vivanco, head of the Americas department of the Human Rights
Watch monitoring group, agrees that there has been no improvement in
Cuba’s human rights scene since Cuba reopened the embassy on July 20,
2015. But Vivanco, who like Sánchez supports the reestablishment of
U.S.-Cuban relations and the lifting of the U.S. trade on Cuba,
said it would be a mistake to expect that the normalization of bilateral
ties will lead to less political repression on the island.

“Neither the opening of embassies nor the eventual total dismantling of
the U.S. embargo will change the nature of the regime or bring about
democratic and human rights improvements in Cuba,” Vivanco said. “Only
effective and strong pressure from democratic leaders in the region and
outside the region will achieve that.”

My opinion: I fully agree. It’s time for the Obama administration and
Latin America’s democracies to cut the celebrations over the
reestablishment of U.S. diplomatic ties and the end of the Cold War in
our region. That’s old news by now.

Instead of extending the fiesta indefinitely, it’s time for Latin
American democracies to denounce the region’s oldest military
dictatorship. (It’s not mentioned in most articles on Cuba, but the
island’s president, Gen. Raúl Castro, is a military who
alongside his brother Fidel Castro has overseen thousands of political
executions and has not allowed a free election, political parties or
independent media in almost six decades.)

Enough is enough! There is no excuse for Cuba to increase political
repression at a time when Obama is dismantling what’s left of the U.S.
embargo on the island, allowing U.S. cruise liners and commercial planes
to ultimately carry tens of thousands of Americans to Cuba — their
numbers rose by 84 percent over the first six months this year — and the
first Sheraton to open its doors in Havana.

It’s time for Latin America and the world to stop the clapping, and
publicly demand that Cuba free political prisoners, stop the beatings of
peaceful political opponents, and start allowing ,
of assembly and free elections. It’s time for Cuba’s
octogenarian military dinosaurs to go.

Source: Oppenheimer: Cuba’s human rights abuses worse despite U.S. ties
| In Cuba Today – www.incubatoday.com/news/article90586582.html

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