The U.S. says it is pressuring Cuba to end human rights violations such as harassment of opponents of Cuba’s one party system. It also wants Havana to stop supporting socialist Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Reuters reports.
“While there are no plans to break off diplomatic ties at this time, one thing that has clearly reached a low point is the Castro regime’s abuses of its own people,” a State Department official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “In addition, the regime is spreading its totalitarian repression to other countries in the region.”
The appointment of Miguel Diaz-Canel as president in April 2018 and the announcement of a constitutional referendum held earlier this year prompted some hopes of reform, which rights groups say have largely been dashed, Al Jazeera adds.
“It was the first time in many decades that the country had a president born after the 1959 Revolution. There was some hope that change could be possible […] However, 18 months later, nothing has changed,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, which is barred by Havana from doing work on the island. Several other independent rights organisations are also banned.
“We have documented the continued detention, harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders, political activists and independent journalists. Those who peacefully protest or express even subtle criticism of the government’s political or economic model are frequently targeted,” Guevara-Rosas told Al Jazeera. “For many Cubans, significant structural change to the human rights situation in Cuba is inconceivable any time soon.”
A bipartisan U.S. Senate resolution calling for the immediate release of Cuban democracy and human rights activist Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia (right) and recognizing his commitment to promoting greater political pluralism and respect for fundamental freedoms has been referred to the Foreign Relations Committee.
The resolution notes that Ferrer joined the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), a peaceful political movement led by late Cuban activist Oswaldo Paya, and helped lead the Varela Project, an initiative to collect the signatures of citizens to petition the Government of Cuba for democratic reforms and protections for freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly. It also records his March 2003 detention as part of a series of sweeping arrests of 75 democracy activists for his work on the Varela Project prior to being sentenced to 25 years in prison.