The Trump administration is demanding answers from Cuba about eight detainees it says are political prisoners held by the communist government.
In an open letter to Cuba's foreign minister released on Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Cuba had refused to respond to multiple U.S. queries about the eight, who he said were illustrative of more than 100 political prisoners in Cuba. The list includes members of dissident groups and a journalist.
Pompeo accused Cuba of reneging on promises to release them and other prisoners of conscience that date to the Obama administration and ignoring requests to even discuss them. He recalled that in October, Cuban delegates disrupted an event at the United Nations when U.S. representatives sought to raise the issue of political prisoners, an incident for which Pompeo has sought a U.N. investigation into alleged property damage.
"I am now asking you to provide a substantive explanation of the detention of the political prisoners on the attached list," Pompeo wrote to Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, calling for a detailed description of the charges they faced and evidence against them.
He said the U.S. respects the rights of nations to imprison those convicted of crimes but not when they are arrested only for exercising fundamental human rights such as freedom of speech and association.
The eight detainees on the list are Yosvany Sanchez Valenciano, Melkis Faure Echevarria, and Yanier Suarez Tamayo of the Cuban Patriotic Union; Eduardo Cardet Concepcion of the Christian Liberation Movement; journalist Yoeni de Jesus Guerra Garcia; Martha Sanchez of the Ladies in White; and Jose Rolando Casares Soto and Yamilka Abascal Sanchez of the Cuban Youth Dialogue.
Pompeo sent the letter last week but the State Department made it public after Cuba rejected it in a statement released Monday. Cuba's foreign ministry called the letter "propaganda" and said the U.S. has no standing to raise such matters.
"The government of the United States is acting dishonestly when it expresses concern about human rights in Cuba or any other place," said Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, director-general of the Cuban Foreign Ministry's U.S. affairs section. "The supposed letter from the Secretary of State and its public handling are just acts of propaganda."