Congressional Oversight Needed on Cuban Political Prisoners
(Washington, D.C.) – While the White House and the government of Cuba announced a deal last month that called for the release of 53 Cuban political prisoners, no action appears to have been taken by Cuba to identify those prisoners or release them. Both U.S.-based activists advocating liberty in Cuba and repressed dissidents on the island have not been given information about the particulars of the agreement. The White House acknowledged yesterday that not all of these political prisoners have yet been released, and that the releases are not a precondition for liberalizing relations between the two countries. According to press reports, Cuba has cracked down on dissent since the announcement of an agreement with the U.S., and imprisoned even more political opponents.
Jorge Lima, Policy Director of The LIBRE Initiative, released the following statement:
“The United States has long led the world in pressing repressive and authoritarian governments to respect individual rights and civil liberties. That must continue to be our goal with regard to Cuba, even as the president dramatically changes the status of the relationship.
While Cuba may eventually release more than 50 prisoners, the real issue is that the Castro regime stands to receive all its key priorities from the U.S. with little from their end. The president says this new initiative is supposed to help the people of Cuba move closer to a free democracy. But today, the Cuban people are no closer to that reality as the Castro dictatorship continues to rule with oppression and secrecy. Washington should not move on expanded trade and travel – and others concessions – until the people of Cuba are permitted to exercise basic human rights without fear of backlash or imprisonment from the Castros and their partners. The new leadership in Congress should work with the White House to ensure any U.S. concessions are met with real reforms on the island.”