US hails Cuba releases, but rights still ‘poor’
US hails Cuba releases, but rights still 'poor'
WASHINGTON — The United States said Friday that human rights conditions
under Cuba's communist regime remain "poor" despite Havana's recent
release of the last members of a group of dissidents detained eight
"We welcome the release of the last of the 75 peaceful Cuban activists
who were unjustly arrested for exercising their universal rights and
fundamental freedoms during the 2003 'Black Spring' crackdown," Mark
Toner, a State Department spokesman, said in a statement.
The release marked "a step in the right direction," he said.
"However, human rights conditions in Cuba remain poor. The Cuban
government continues to limit fundamental freedoms, including freedom of
speech, the press, and peaceful assembly," said Toner, adding that
Washington urges Havana to "release all remaining political prisoners."
He also pressed Cuba to allow the United Nations and Red Cross access to
the country's jails, "so that a fuller accounting of remaining political
prisoners can be possible."
On Wednesday the government released Felix Navarro and Jose Ferrer, the
last from the 2003 group.
But Cuba's opposition movement stresses that the prisons are not empty
of dissidents, with one activist noting on Wednesday that there are some
60 people currently held on political charges.
Last July, the Catholic Church struck a deal with the state to have the
2003 group's remaining 52 imprisoned dissidents freed and allowed to go
into exile in Spain, in the biggest prisoner release since President
Raul Castro formally took power in 2008.
But only 40 agreed to leave Cuba, and the remaining dozen insisted on
staying, leading in some cases to months-long delays in their release.
Toner said US President Barack Obama has focused "on increased
engagement with the Cuban people in an effort to promote democratic
ideals and improve human rights conditions on the island."
On Monday in a speech in Chile, Obama urged Cuban authorities to "take
meaningful actions" to improve the rights of Cubans.
Ties between Washington and Havana, which have had no formal relations
for more than 50 years, thawed slightly when Obama took office.
But Washington was incensed when in December 2009 Cuba arrested an
American contractor, Alan Gross, for delivering communications equipment
on the island.
On March 12 he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for "acts against the
independence or territorial integrity" of Cuba.
Tag: human rights