Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Talk to Cuba’s democracy advocates

    Talk to Cuba’s democracy advocates
    BY FRANK CALZON FRANK.CALZON@CUBACENTER.ORG
    01/19/2015 5:06 PM 01/19/2015 5:06 PM

    This week, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs
    Roberta Jacobson will travel to Havana to continue negotiations with the
    Cuban authorities.

    We wish her Godspeed, and hope that besides talking with her Cuban
    counterparts, Ms. Jacobson will meet with Cubans whom President Obama
    wants to empower — human-rights activists, pro-democracy leaders — to
    help them build Cuba’s civil society grounded on human rights and the
    rule of law.

    The beginning of Obama’s new Cuba policy has not been promising: It took
    Raúl Castro more than two weeks after the Cuban spies were home and
    development aid worker Alan Gross had arrived in America, and
    considerable attention by media and Capitol Hill, for the promised
    release of political prisoners to take place.

    That was not all.

    Of the 53 on the State Department’s list, several were close to
    completing their sentences, others had been released months ago and some
    of the original 53 were rearrested. A group of Cubans who wanted to meet
    peacefully at Havana’s Revolutionary Square were harassed, mistreated
    and detained.

    Perhaps more important for the future of U.S.-Cuba relations is how
    Cubans perceive the new agreement.

    To this day, they remember how ordinary Cubans were kept out of the
    negotiations between the United States and Spain at the end of Cuba’s
    War of Independence. The negotiations were held in secret, and the
    Cubans who fought colonial rule for more than 30 years were not at the
    negotiating table.

    More than a century later, an American administration negotiates another
    secret agreement affecting the lives of millions of Cubans without
    informing them or obtaining their consent. This time with a Cuban dictator.

    Imagine the president of the United States holding secret discussions
    with another government on matters of great importance to the American
    people without telling Congress, and you will understand the sense of
    betrayal and despair that the Obama-Castro negotiations have generated.
    Now with the negotiations resuming between Washington and Havana,
    perhaps it is not too late for Jacobson to attempt to remedy the
    situation, to meet with leaders of the pro-democracy movement in Havana.

    Other important issues that have an impact on U.S. national security
    interests should be part of the agenda:

    ? The presence in Venezuela of thousands of Cuban security officers who
    repress Venezuelan demonstrators and train Venezuela’s secret police.

    ? Cuba’s close alliance with North Korea. Havana attempted to smuggle
    two warplanes and missiles under tons of sugar in a North Korean cargo
    ship caught at the Panama Canal two years ago. More recently, Havana led
    a coalition that attempted to block a U.N. resolution sending North
    Korea’s tyrant to the International Criminal Court.

    ? While the Obama-Castro negotiations took place, an American court
    sentenced a Cuban American who had committed Medicare fraud for $300
    million that were deposited in Cuba’s National Bank. Has the
    administration asked Castro to return those funds?

    ? The president apparently wants to remove Cuba from the list of
    countries supporting international terrorism without giving due
    consideration to American fugitives enjoying Castro’s hospitality.
    According to the FBI, one of them escaped from a U.S. prison in 1979
    after being sentenced for killing a New Jersey state trooper.

    Amnesty International objected recently to the dangerousness “law” used
    by the Cuban government to send dissidents to prison if the government
    believes that, even without any evidence, the person could commit a
    crime in the future.

    Amnesty said after the president’s statement that if there were no
    changes in Castro’s arbitrary decrees, the prisoners’ release would be
    little more than a smokescreen covering abuse and repression on the island.

    Shouldn’t absurd laws like this also be on the U.S. agenda?

    FRANK CALZON IS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR A FREE CUBA.

    Source: Talk to Cuba’s democracy advocates | The Miami Herald –
    http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article7588817.html