Cuban dissidents freed in rapprochement back in custody


President Obama may go to Cuba this year if its government bolsters its human rights record and opens its doors more fully to American business in the coming weeks, a senior advisor to the president said Saturday, The Los Angeles Times reports (HT: FPI).

Five dissidents freed as Havana launched a high-profile diplomatic rapprochement with the United States are back in custody in Cuba, AFP reports:

The five were among 53 political prisoners released in 2014 and early 2015 as the Washington and Havana moved to restore ties after a half-century break.

The Cuban Commission on Human Rights, an officially outlawed but tolerated group, said the five “were confined in high-security prisons in the second half of 2015.”

They include Vladimir Morera [above], who had been hospitalized since launching a hunger strike on October 9. The United States last week called on the government to release him….The others back in custody are Wilfredo Parada Milian, Jorge Ramirez Calderon, Carlos Manuel Figueroa and Aracelio Ribeaux Noa, according to the rights group.

The European Union’s proposed trade deal with Havana requires a human rights clause in the final agreement, says Rosa María Payá, the daughter of the late dissident leader Oswaldo Payá. If Europe comes to the coherent conclusion that it is Cuba that needs Europe, and not the other way around, it will have the leverage to support democracy and, through that, true peace, progress and stability in Cuba and the region, she writes for Politico:

There is a non-partisan citizens’ initiative, Cuba Decide (Cuba Decides), for a binding referendum that will allow Cuban citizens to vote on the changes needed to start a transition to democracy. No matter how many cosmetic reforms the government puts in place, a true transition cannot start until Cubans participate fully. The human rights issue must permeate each and every point of any EU agreement with Cuba, and cannot be treated independently of the others. Conditions established by the EU must be measurable and verifiable.

“Neither the EU nor the Barack Obama administration are responsible for fixing Cuba’s problems,” she adds. “But they do have a historical responsibility to take specific steps of effective solidarity with a real transition to democracy.”

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