News / USA

    US, Not Cuba, Will Determine Meetings With Dissidents

    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, Sept. 13, 2015.
    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, Sept. 13, 2015.
    Pamela Dockins

    U.S. officials said Friday that Cuba’s human rights issues would be a focal point when President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry visit the island later this month.

    “The president is interested in lifting up the importance of universal human rights and the importance of the government not just respecting but actually taking steps to protect the expression of human rights,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

    The White House and the State Department said Friday that Kerry planned to accompany Obama on his March 21–22 visit to Cuba.

    Last month, Kerry told Senate lawmakers that he was considering an earlier trip to Havana to “have a human rights dialogue.”

    On Friday, the State Department and White House pushed back against news reports that said Kerry canceled plans for an earlier visit because of haggling with Cuba over which dissidents Obama would be allowed to meet. The State Department said Kerry’s tentative trip was scrubbed because of  “logistical concerns.”

    Earnest said the president did intend to meet with Cuban dissidents of his choosing.

    “The guest list for that meeting will be determined solely by the White House,” he said.

    Arrests, detentions

    There have been ongoing concerns about Cuba’s human rights record as the U.S. and Cuba move forward with efforts to normalize ties.

    U.S. Representative Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, raised the issue with Kerry when he testified before a House panel last month.

    Ros-Lehtinen asked Kerry whether he was aware that more than 8,000 allegedly arbitrary arrests and detentions had taken place in Cuba since Obama’s December 2014 announcement of plans to normalize ties.

    Kerry told lawmakers the U.S. was now engaged more directly with Cuba on human rights issues because of its additional U.S. diplomatic presence in Havana.

    A crew attends to chores at the Latinoamericano Stadium baseball park in Havana, Cuba, March 4, 2016. President Barack Obama plans to attend the Tampa Bay Rays' exhibition game there on March 22 during his visit.
    A crew attends to chores at the Latinoamericano Stadium baseball park in Havana, Cuba, March 4, 2016. President Barack Obama plans to attend the Tampa Bay Rays' exhibition game there on March 22 during his visit.

    State Department spokesman John Kirby acknowledged that despite improved relations between the U.S. and Cuba, there are still issues on which the two countries do not see “eye to eye.”

    “It is the way in which political dissent is not tolerated and the speed with which and the groundless nature with which people are arrested and detained in Cuba,” said Kirby, citing examples of human rights disagreements.

    The U.S. needs to continue to press Cuba on issues such as freedom of speech and freedom of association, said Marc Hanson, president of the Washington Office on Latin America.

    However, he said, the U.S.-Cuba normalization process will benefit this effort.

    "It is abundantly clear that a policy of isolation did not work on moving the needle on human rights or democracy in Cuba," he said.

    Obama will be the first sitting president to visit Cuba since 1929. Kerry will be making his second trip as secretary of state, after attending an August ceremony to mark the reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

     VOA's Mary Alice Salinas contributed to this report.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    March 06, 2016 10:08 AM
    Congress, not the president controls the embargo and they are not going to repeal it until the communist regime is gone. About the only asset Cuba has to offer Americans is tourism but there are countless other places in the Caribbean with beautiful beaches, hotels, and fun in the sun. Because the US market is so large they pretty much all speak English and know how to provide the kind of service and amusements Americans like and expect. Personally I will never go to Cuba. You never know if you go there when you might do or say something the tyrants who run the place don't like and get thrown in prison.

    by: Kurt J from: USA
    March 05, 2016 11:52 PM
    President Obama and Mr. Kerry should also concern themselves with Human Rights abuses in Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey is they want to be respected in regards to Cuba.

    by: Franko K. from: Western PA
    March 05, 2016 9:50 PM
    Will the jerk socialist check out the political prisoners? The three greats Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan would roll over in their graves if either the avowed socialist Sanders or the other hidden one Hillary won.

    "Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy. It's inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery." -- Winston Churchill.
    "Socialism is like a dream. Sooner or later you wake up to reality." Winston Churchill

    In a TV interview for Thames TV This Weekon Feb. 5, 1976, Prime Minister Thatcher said, "...and Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They [socialists] always run out of other people's money. It's quite a characteristic of them.

    “Socialism only works in two places: Heaven where they don't need it and hell where they already have it.” ― Ronald Reagan
    “Socialists ignore the side of man that is the spirit. They can provide you shelter, fill your belly with bacon and beans, treat you when you're ill, all the things guaranteed to a prisoner or a slave. They don't understand that we also dream.” ― Ronald Reagan

    And of course we have Lenin:
    "If Socialism can only be realized when the intellectual development of all the people permits it, then we shall not see Socialism for at least five hundred years." - Vladimir Lenin

    It will be even more than 500 years until the rotten evil ones on both the right and left are defeated by the good. Check out the great experiments in Venezuela, Cuba and Greece. Franko K


    by: Cubaverdad from: Europe
    March 05, 2016 9:44 AM
    the "White House" are idiots. If Castro wants he throws all dissidents in jail during the visit or just blocks them from accessing Obama.
    The Castros won't release control to Obama. How stupid is that man?
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    March 05, 2016 4:43 PM
    Hey Cubaverdad _ It's just more Obama news media propaganda for the American public, because no matter what, it'll be the Castro government that will have the final say on who the US interviews and when and where it will happen? .. We have a lot of Cuban-Americans that must be appeased by a show of toughness from this administration?

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