Dissidents in Cuba
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Amidst imminent Cuba policy announcement, dissidents express support for some change

Amidst imminent Cuba policy announcement, dissidents express support for
some change
BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com

President Donald Trump’s anticipated announcement on Cuba policy changes
has unleashed an unexpected unity on the island: Cuban dissidents of
various political stripes agree that the United States must make changes
to apply pressure to the Raúl Castro regime.

The leader of Cuba’s largest opposition organization, the Patriotic
Union of Cuba (UNPACU), called on Trump to impose sanctions against
Castro’s government, just days before the president is expected to make
his announcement in Miami on Friday.

“We believe that this is the moment for a maximum reversal of some
policies that only benefit the Castro regime and does very little or
nothing for the oppressed people. It is time to impose strong sanctions
on the regime of Raúl Castro…,” José Daniel Ferrer wrote in a letter
to President Trump last week.

Ferrer, who supported the policy of engagement initiated by former
President Barack Obama, cited as justifications for a more restrictive
policy change toward the island’s government, “the criminal behavior
that Castroism is committed to maintain against the Cuban people; its
support for the repression against the Venezuelan people; their close
relations with other regimes that trample on the rights of their
citizens — such as Syria, North Korea and Iran —; their hostile
discourse against the U.S. and their lack of cooperation on issues such
as the extradition of fugitives from the American justice system.”

Another group of Cuban government opponents launched a petition on the
change.org platform to ask Trump to support CubaDecide, a citizen
initiative for a plebiscite seeking democratic changes in Cuba.

Obama’s Cuba policy strategy — favoring dialogue and betting on changes
promoted by the private sector and not necessarily by dissidents —
clearly divided the Cuban opposition. But many now support a policy
change that emphasizes human rights and reduces the flow of foreign
currency at a critical time for the Cuban government.

The White House has said that President Trump’s policy will focus on
human rights. Among the measures under consideration are possible
restrictions on authorized travel of Americans to Cuba, as well as the
imposition of restrictions on business deals between U.S. companies and
GAESA, the largest military conglomerate on the island.

This last measure “goes directly to the jugular of the regime, to the
economic power of the military,” opposition leader Guillermo Fariñas
told el Nuevo Herald.

Writer and activist Miriam Celaya agreed that the time is ripe for
applying pressure.

“Yes it is good to put a brake on the dictatorship and a brake on its
access to foreign currency,” when the government is preparing a “partial
transfer of power” in 2018.

Castro has said he will step down in February as head of the Councils of
State and Ministers, although he will probably remain at the influential
post as First Secretary of the Communist Party.

Dissident leader Antonio Rodiles has previously asked Trump to treat
Castro’s government “as a dictatorship,” a phrase echoed by Cuban
American lawmakers, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Senator Marco Rubio, both
of whom have been involved in the lengthy review process that will serve
as the basis for Trump’s Cuba policy expected to be unveiled Friday.

FOLLOW NORA GAMEZ TORRES IN TWITTER: @NGAMEZTORRES

Source: Cuban dissidents express support for changes in U.S. policy
toward Cuba | Miami Herald –
www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article156004279.html

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