HAVANA TIMES (dpa) — A group of Cuban dissidents said Thursday at the US Congress that they felt betrayed by the agreement reached in December by Washington and Havana to restore diplomatic relations and urged Congress not to lift the embargo on the island.
Three Cuban dissidents, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez”, Berta Soler Fernandez and Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo testified before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Human Rights on the third day of hearings on Capitol Hill devoted to analyzing the new White House policy towards the island and its consequences.
“These agreements, considered by an important part of the Cuban resistance as a betrayal of the libertarian aspirations of a people, are unacceptable, because the principles and freedom of a country are not owned by any government no matter how powerful or influential,” said Antunez during the hearing in the House.
However, not all dissidents are against the rapprochement. Human rights activist Miriam Leiva and Manuel Cuesta Morua, the spokesman for Arco Progresista, support the thaw between Havana and Washington, as made clear Tuesday in another hearing in the Senate.
Antunez reported that “there is an international effort, expressed by the Obama-Castro agreements to promote an alleged evolution within the Castro regime.” He warned that it is “an illusion manipulated by the dictatorship, quite simply to remain in power.”
“The Castro dictatorship is a system beyond reform, based on the rejection of democratic society and all that it represents. It is a tyranny that seeks not only to control the Cuban people, but also export this repression to other countries, such as Venezuela,” added Antunez, who during the hearing showed the congress members photos of political prisoners still held in Cuba.
Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, said that the demands of the opposition to the Castro dictatorship are very specific: “freedom for all political prisoners, recognition of civil society, removing all legal provisions that criminalize freedom of expression and association, and the right of the people of Cuba to choose their future through free and multiparty elections.”
Sara Marta Fonseca, of the Cuban opposition in exile also participated. She urged Congress not to lift the embargo.
“Why deal with a dictatorship without regard to the people and their existence? What about all those years of suffering, the beatings by the political police of the opposition and people demanding freedom and democracy? Are we to forget the political prisoners, the murdered and the disappeared? What is giving Raúl Castro in return? “asked Fonseca Quevedo.
This segment of the opposition believes that before Congress lifts the economic and commercial embargo on the island certain conditions should be met.
“Only after the release of all political prisoners, only when all political parties and independent trade unions are legalized, only when multi-party democratic elections are held, only when human rights are respected, only then, should the embargo be lifted,” said Sara Fonseca.
Meanwhile, Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen congratulated the dissidents for their “courageous witness” in the lower house.
Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban-American, opposes any concession to the Castro brothers. She called Berta Soler, Sara Fonseca and Antunez “champions of freedom for the island” and “the face of a future democratic Cuba.”
“It’s easy for the President (Obama) to change his policy sitting in his ivory towers, but these are the faces that suffer now under the Castro regime, revitalized by the policies and injections of money from President Obama,” said the congresswoman from Florida, where the majority of the Cuban exiles living in the United States reside.