Most human rights NGOs welcome change in US policy on Cuba but some diehards hold out

December 18, 2014

President Obama’s announcement to normalize relations with Cuba has led to a range of reactions. Most of the world (the UN General Assembly has called for an end to the US embargo for years – in October 2014, 188 of the 192 member countries voted for a resolution condemning the policy) and certainly most of the human rights movement, including in the US itself, has welcomed the long-overdue move:

E.g. Human Rights Watch and RFK Human Rights have come with positive comments:

“It’s been clear for years that US efforts to promote change in Cuba through bans on trade and travel have been a costly and misguided failure. Rather than isolating Cuba, the embargo has isolated the United States, alienating governments that might otherwise speak out about the human rights situation on the island.” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director of HRW on 18 December. [the statement of HRW added: Nevertheless, the Cuban government continues to repress individuals and groups who criticize the government or call for basic human rights. Arbitrary arrests and short-term detention have increased dramatically in recent years and routinely prevent human rights defenders, independent journalists, and others from gathering or moving about freely. Detention is often used pre-emptively to prevent people from participating in peaceful marches or meetings to discuss politics. Detainees are often beaten, threatened, and held incommunicado for hours or days.] The embargo has imposed indiscriminate hardship on Cubans, but done nothing to end abuses,” Vivanco said. “The Obama administration should make human rights a focus of its Cuba policy but look for more effective ways – including working with other democracies in the region – to press the Cuban government to respect fundamental rights.

On 17 December, Kerry Kennedy and Santiago A. Canton, on behalf of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, welcomed the announcement saying that the change in policy will lead to an opening of dialogue at all levels between the United States and Cuba, including on the issue of protecting and advancing human rights.

Still, some chose to disagree:

The Washington Times reports that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was one of many Republicans to criticize President Obama’s move on Wednesday to open up diplomatic relations with Cuba, saying the move undermines the “quest for a free and democratic Cuba“…..Mr. Bush, who announced Tuesday he was actively exploring a bid for the presidency in 2016, said he’s “delighted” that American Alan Gross was freed after five years in prison, but said it was “unfortunate” that the United States chose to released three convicted spies as part of the deal. …Earlier this month, Mr. Bush said the U.S. should consider strengthening its embargo against Cuba at the annual luncheon of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC as he pledged support for the group, a strong defender of the policy.

In the Hudson Reporter (Hudson County is home to thousands of Cuban emigrants and refugees) Congressman Albio Sires stated: “What should be a joyous moment to celebrate the overdue homecoming of Alan Gross today has been marred by the actions undertaken by the administration to secure his release”.. “The president’s announcement today detailing plans for a loosening of sanctions and initiating discussions to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba is naïve and disrespectful to the millions of Cubans that have lived under the Castros’ repressive regime; and the thousands of human rights defenders that have fought tirelessly and at times with their lives to bring about democratic change to Cuba.  Moreover, “while I may welcome the release of over 50 political prisoners, little has been said for the countless others that remain inside a Cuban prison or the fact that the same 50 plus prisoners freed today could very well be imprisoned again tomorrow for exercising the same human rights of free speech that unjustly placed them inside prison the first time.”

US/Cuba: Obama’s New Approach to Cuba | Human Rights Watch.

http://rfkcenter.org/robert-f-kennedy-human-rights-welcomes-president-obamas-announcement-of-a-change-in-united-states-policy-towards-cuba 

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/dec/17/jeb-bush-obamas-cuba-move-latest-foreign-policy-mi/

http://www.hudsonreporter.com/view/full_story/26253357/article-Mixed-reactions-to-news-of-Pres–Obama-s-change-of-policy-on-Cuba?instance=top_story

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