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HRW Calls on Obama to Press Cuba on Repression

  • VOA News

FILE - Berta Soler, leader of The Ladies in White, an opposition group, is detained by Cuban security personnel after a weekly anti-government protest march, in Havana, Cuba, Sept. 13, 2015.

FILE - Berta Soler, leader of The Ladies in White, an opposition group, is detained by Cuban security personnel after a weekly anti-government protest march, in Havana, Cuba, Sept. 13, 2015.

Human Rights Watch is urging President Barack Obama to call for "concrete measures" to end what it considers systematic repression in Cuba, during his historic visit next week to the island nation.

"His message on human rights needs to be forceful and specific," said HRW Americas director John Vivanco. "Otherwise the trip may be remembered by Cubans who have suffered half a century of repression as little more than bonding time.”

Obama, who heads to Cuba on Sunday, will become the first sitting U.S. president to visit the country in nearly 90 years.

The White House has said Obama will raise with Cuban officials the detention and harassment of those wanting to express their basic rights.

During the trip, the U.S. leader is expected to hold bilateral talks with Cuban President Raul Castro, as well as meet with Cuban dissidents and civil society members.

FILE - An opposition activist is detained by Cuban security officers ahead of a march marking International Human Rights Day in Havana, Cuba, Dec. 10, 2014.

FILE - An opposition activist is detained by Cuban security officers ahead of a march marking International Human Rights Day in Havana, Cuba, Dec. 10, 2014.


HRW says the human rights situation in Cuba has remained largely unchanged since December 2014, when Obama and Castro announced the normalization of diplomatic relations.

"Important progress in a few areas has been made in recent years, such as increased freedom to travel and broader internet access, but the country's repressive system remains firmly in place," said Vivanco.

Cuba and the United States have endured 50 years of hostile relations, after revolutionary Fidel Castro overthrew the U.S.-supported dictator Fulgencio Batista.

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