- Obama's Efforts Have Fallen Flat
- Mitt Romney on Death of Laura Pollan
- State Department on Death of Laura Pollan
- "Ladies in White" Will March On
Posted: 16 Oct 2011 07:40 AM PDT
From The Miami Herald's Editorial Board:
Cuba’s escape valve
OUR OPINION: Havana shows it has no intention of respecting human rights, improving relations with the U.S.
As Cuba continues its crack down on dissidents and young Cubans complain of no future, the number of Cubans caught at sea or pleading “dry foot” here or at crossings on the U.S.-Mexican border have doubled from last year.
The Castro brothers’ escape valve is operational again. That’s because pressure from within is mounting for change.
The island’s disastrous economy (despite Venezuela’s oil giveaways) is a strong factor, say opposition leaders on the island and Cuban Americans who have been in contact with the new arrivals.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration’s attempts to free U.S. Agency for International Development worker Alan Gross (for a “crime” that most everywhere else would have been handled with a fine and a return trip home) have fallen flat.
No surprise there, as Washington has not yet fully understood that Havana has no interest in negotiating better relations with the United States. Its intent remains turning Uncle Sam into the Boogey Man, to take the heat off the regime’s own failings.
Bill Richardson, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, went to Cuba on an “unofficial” trip looking to bring back Mr. Gross, who’s serving an outrageous 15-year prison sentence. Cuba accuses Mr. Gross, 62 and ill, of being a spy for bringing communications equipment to Jewish groups in Havana.
Predictably, Mr. Richardson returned without him. Just more mind games from a 52-year-old dictatorship worried about the ramifications of the Arab Spring and fearing what technology in the hands of a new generation of Cubans might bring.
Cell phone cameras from Santiago to Havana are capturing growing discontent for the world to see. Brave young women and men are standing on street corners, even on the Capitol steps, to denounce abuses and call for democracy. The protests are gaining in number and in support from average Cubans on the street.
Mr. Richardson maintains human rights are improving in Cuba. It’s a shame he didn’t take a few hours out of his dead-end trip to talk with the Ladies in White, who have been beaten and detained, or to speak with the island’s bloggers like Yoani Sánchez.
In Lima last week, a report issued by the InterAmerican Press Associationpresented a grim picture regarding the harassment of journalists and bloggers in Cuba and women like 34-year-old independent journalist Sonia Garro. She is among a new generation criticizing the Cuban government’s treatment of Afro-Cubans.
Had Mr. Richardson met Ms. Garro and others who have been beaten, he wouldn’t have expressed surprise that he wasn’t allowed to see Mr. Gross or meet with Raúl Castro.
According to a recent New York Times report, Mr. Richardson was prepared to press the Obama administration to drop Cuba from the State Department’s list of nations that sponsor terror, as a goodwill gesture in exchange for Mr. Gross.
But Cuba wants the Cuban Five spies returned for Mr. Gross. One already is out on three years’ probation after serving a 13-year sentence.
To compare Mr. Gross’ work to help Cubans connect to the outside world to that of Cuban spies who were nosing around military bases like Homestead’s, looking for U.S. secrets, and responsible for the shootdown of the Brothers to the Rescue planes is ludicrous. To talk of removing Cuba from the well-documented list of state sponsors of terror, even more so.
Posted: 15 Oct 2011 07:51 PM PDT
From Governor Mitt Romney:
I was saddened to learn of the passing of Cuban freedom fighter Laura Pollan. Ms. Pollan's strength and tenacity was admired in Cuba and respected throughout the world. I wish to convey my condolences to Laura's family and to the heroic "Ladies in White." Her legacy will forever live in the countless lives she touched and inspired.
Posted: 15 Oct 2011 03:31 PM PDT
From the U.S. Department of State:
We are deeply saddened by the death of the founder of the Damas de Blanco, Laura Pollan. She was a courageous human rights defender who fought valiantly on behalf of political prisoners in Cuba. Cuba has lost one of its most important voices of conscience. We offer our sincere condolences to her family, which has lost a loyal wife and mother. Mrs. Pollan will be remembered with gratitude by scores of former political prisoners who are now free thanks to her and the Damas. Through them, and all who work for a democratic future in Cuba, her legacy will endure.
Through Mrs. Pollan's and the Damas' brave actions, the world bears witness to the plight of those who remain unjustly held in Cuba's prisons and to Cuba's dismal human rights record.
Since the beginning of the Obama Administration, the United States has engaged the Cuban people in support of their desire to freely determine their future and Cuba's future.
Posted: 15 Oct 2011 12:37 PM PDT
Late "Ladies in White" leader Laura Pollan was remembered on Saturday with a simple altar in her home in the crumbling Central Havana neighborhood and vows that the dissident group she founded would go on.
The Ladies in White, saying Cuba still has political prisoners, have continued their marches and will do so again this Sunday and into the future, said Berta Soler, Pollan's longtime co-leader of the group.
"We're going to continue our peaceful fight for the liberation of all political prisoners. We'll also continue defending the human rights of the Cuban people," vowed Soler, speaking in the hushed, grief-stricken ambience of Pollan's wake.
"We plan to march tomorrow on Fifth Avenue like we do every Sunday. It will be a special march for Laura," she said.
Pollan's husband, Hector Maseda, told the women they must not stop, despite the loss of his wife.
"You have to keep going as you have until now, with intelligence, not accepting provocations. You have become a dagger in the middle of the heart of the government," he said.