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Why do the members of Congress rushing to befriend the Castros ignore the island's pro-democracy movement?

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Why do the members of Congress rushing to befriend the Castros ignore the island's pro-democracy movement?

Mensaje por freedom of expression el Jue Abr 09, 2009 11:53 pm

Coddling Cuba
Why do the members of Congress rushing to befriend the Castros ignore the island's pro-democracy movement?

Washington Post

Thursday, April 9, 2009; A16

HALF A DOZEN members of the Congressional Black Caucus spent hours
huddling with Fidel and Ral Castro in Havana this week as part of a
swelling campaign to normalize relations with Cuba. "It is time to open
dialogue and discussion," Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) told a news
conference in Washington after their return. "Cubans do want dialogue.
They do want talks." Funny, then, that in five days on the island the
Congress members found no time for dialogue with Afro-Cuban dissident
Jorge Luis Garca Prez.

Mr. Garca, better known as "Antnez," is a renowned advocate of human
rights who has often been singled out for harsh treatment because of
his color. "The authorities in my country," he has said, "have never
tolerated that a black person [could dare to] oppose the regime." His
wife, Iris, is a founder of the Rosa Parks Women's Civil Rights
Movement, named after an American hero whom Afro-Cubans try to emulate.
The couple have been on a hunger strike since Feb. 17, to demand
justice for an imprisoned family member. They are part of a substantial
and steadily growing civil movement advocating democratic change in
Cuba -- one that U.S. advocates of detente with the Castros appear
determined to ignore.

In addition to the Black Caucus, the congressional campaign is led by
longtime advocates for the Latin American left such as Sen. Christopher
J. Dodd (D-Conn.), by farm state representatives eager to increase the
$400 million in food the United States already exports annually to
Cuba, and by Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), the senior Republican on
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Mr. Lugar dispatched staff
members to Cuba this year to report on the prospects for improved
relations; they also didn't meet with anyone from the democratic
opposition. They did propose lifting all restrictions on travel to Cuba
by Americans -- something that could give Cuba's state-run tourism
industry a $1 billion annual boost -- and Mr. Lugar is now
co-sponsoring legislation that would do just that.

The congressional pressure, and that by leftist Latin American
presidents who have been streaming to Cuba in recent months, is very
likely to undermine President Obama, who has promised that "liberty"
would be at the center of his Cuba policy. Mr. Obama is expected to
announce a relaxation on travel and gifts to family members by Cuban
Americans before next week's Summit of the Americas, and he has said he
is open to dialogue with the regime. But he has also said that the
lifting of what remains of the U.S. trade embargo should be linked to
steps by Cuba toward democratic change.

That is a sensible and forward-looking strategy, especially given the
age and failing health of the Castros. But, for the moment, the
brothers show no sign of offering such change -- in fact they have
recently moved to foreclose the possibility, by purging two younger and
relatively liberal-minded ministers. Fifty-four of the 75 leading
democracy and human rights activists jailed six years ago last month
are still imprisoned, along with hundreds of other political detainees.
As long as Congress is moving to unilaterally dismantle U.S. leverage
-- and shunning Cuba's democratic opposition -- the regime will have no
incentive to compromise.

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