Wednesday, October 26, 2016

US Abstains on UN Vote on Cuba Embargo

Remarks by Ambassador Samantha Power: U.S. Abstains on UN Vote on Cuba Embargo Resolution

Friends –


Please see below the remarks delivered this morning by Ambassador Samantha Power on today's General Assembly Vote on the Cuba Embargo Resolution. Historically, the United States has always voted against this UN resolution calling for an end on the U.S. embargo on Cuba. Today, for the first time, the United States abstained their vote in yet another important step towards normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations.





Remarks at a UN General Assembly Meeting on the Cuba Embargo


Ambassador Samantha Power

U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations

U.S. Mission to the United Nations

New York City

October 26, 2016




For more than 50 years, the United States had a policy aimed at isolating the government of Cuba. For roughly half of those years, UN Member States have voted overwhelmingly for a General Assembly resolution that condemns the U.S. embargo and calls for it to be ended. The United States has always voted against this resolution. Today the United States will abstain.


Thank you. Let me explain why. In December 2014, President Obama made clear his opposition to the embargo and called on our Congress to take action to lift it. Yet while the Obama Administration agrees that the U.S. embargo on Cuba should be lifted, I have to be clear, we don't support the shift for the reason stated in this resolution. All actions of the United States with regard to Cuba have been and are fully in conformity with the UN Charter and international law, including applicable trade law and the customary law of the sea. We categorically reject the statements in the resolution that suggest otherwise.


But the resolution voted on today is a perfect example of why the U.S. policy of isolation toward Cuba was not working – or worse, how it was actually undermining the very goals it set out to achieve. Instead of isolating Cuba, as President Obama has repeatedly said, our policy isolated the United States. Including right here at the United Nations.


Under President Obama, we have adopted a new approach: rather than try to close off Cuba from the rest of the world, we want the world of opportunities and ideas open to the people of Cuba. After 50-plus years of pursuing the path of isolation, we have chosen to take the path of engagement. Because, as President Obama said in Havana, we recognize that the future of the island lies in the hands of the Cuban people, of course.


In the nearly two years since President Obama announced the shift in our approach, we have amended the regulations implementing the embargo six times – most recently on October 14 – finding ways to increase engagement between our governments and our people. We have re-established diplomatic relations with the Government of Cuba; re-opened embassies in our respective capitals; resumed regularly scheduled commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba; facilitated people-to-people travel; eased restrictions on American businesses and entrepreneurs who want to do business in Cuba; and stopped limiting how often Cuban Americans can visit their families on the island. President Obama memorably became the first sitting U.S. President to visit Cuba since 1928; and, in a much more modest journey here in New York, I made the first visit by a U.S. Ambassador to the UN to Cuba's mission to the United Nations since the Cuban revolution. Today, we add to that list the first-ever U.S. abstention on the UN General Assembly resolution calling for the embargo to be ended.


Abstaining on this resolution does not mean that the United States agrees with all of the policies and practices of the Cuban government. We do not. We are profoundly concerned by the serious human rights violations that the Cuban government continues to commit with impunity against its own people – including arbitrarily detaining those who criticize the government; threatening, intimidating, and, at times, physically assaulting citizens who take part in peaceful marches and meetings; and severely restricting the access that people on the island have to outside information.


As President Obama made clear when he traveled to Havana, we believe that the Cuban people – like all people – are entitled to basic human rights, such as the right to speak their minds without fear, and the right to assemble, organize, and protest peacefully. Not because these reflect a U.S.-centric conception of rights, but rather because they are universal human rights – enshrined in the UN Charter and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – which all of our 193 Member States are supposed to respect and defend. Rights that are essential for the dignity of men, women, and children regardless of where they live or what kind of government they have.


Let me be among the first to acknowledge – as our Cuban counterparts often point out – that the United States has work to do in fulfilling these rights for our own citizens. And we know that at times in our history, U.S. leaders and citizens used the pretext of promoting democracy and human rights in the region to justify actions that have left a deep legacy of mistrust. We recognize that our history, in which there is so much that makes us proud, also gives us ample reason to be humble.


We also recognize the areas in which the Cuban government has made significant progress in advancing the welfare of its people, from significantly reducing its child mortality rate, to ensuring that girls have the same access to primary and secondary school as boys.


But none of this should mean that we stay silent when the rights of Cuban people are violated, as Member States here at the United Nations have too often done. That is why the United States raised these concerns directly with the Cuban government during our historic dialogue on human rights in Havana on October 14, which shows that, while our governments continue to disagree on fundamental questions of human rights, we have found a way to discuss these issues in a respectful and reciprocal manner. We urge other Member States to speak up about these issues as well.


The United States believes that there is a great deal we can do together with Cuba to tackle global challenges. That includes here at the United Nations, where the decades-long enmity between our nations has at best been a distraction – and at worst, an obstacle – to carrying out some of the most important work of this institution and helping the world's most vulnerable people.


Let me close by giving just one example – a very moving example. In 2014, we were confronted with the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in our planet's history. The most dire projections estimated that more than a million people could be infected within a few months. Yet while experts made clear that the only way to stop the epidemic was to confront it at its source, the international community was slow to step up. Many were paralyzed.


It was in that context that President Obama decided to deploy more than 3,000 U.S. personnel to the epicenter of the outbreak, where they joined hundreds of Americans working for non-governmental organizations and humanitarian agencies in the hardest hit areas. President Obama also set about rallying other Member States to do their part. One of the very first countries to step forward was Cuba, which sent more than 200 health professionals to the region – an awe-inspiring contribution for a country of just 11 million people.


One of them was a 43-year-old Cuban doctor named Felix Sarria Baez, who was dispatched to an Ebola Treatment Unit in Sierra Leone. In the course of treating those infected, Dr. Baez came down with the symptoms of the virus – and he quickly went from being the doctor to being a patient. As his condition deteriorated, he was airlifted to Geneva, where, for two days, he drifted in and out of consciousness. He nearly died, yet miraculously he pulled through, and eventually returned to Havana, where he says he regained his strength by cradling his two-year-old son.

I'd like you to think, just for one moment, about what it took to save the life of Dr. Baez – a man who risked his life to save people from a country on the other side of the world. He was initially treated in the clinic where he worked, which had been built with the help of a U.S.-based NGO. From there, he was transported to a clinic run by doctors from the British ministry of defense. Then he was airlifted to Switzerland aboard a medical transport plane operated by an American charter service. Upon arriving at the hospital in Geneva, he was treated by Swiss doctors with a Canadian-developed experimental treatment.


Look at all the nations that played a part in saving the life of that brave doctor – a doctor who, after recuperating in Havana, actually chose to return to Sierra Leone, so that he could rejoin his colleagues in the field, saving the lives of Sierra Leoneans. Dr. Baez and all his colleagues belonged to Cuba's Henry Reeve Contingent – which responds to international disasters and epidemics – and takes its name from a young American born in Brooklyn, who at the age of 19 traveled to the Cuba to join the country's struggle for independence, and gave his life in 1876 fighting alongside Cubans for their freedom.


When Dr. Baez returned to Sierra Leone, he was asked why he had come back after all he had been through. He said, simply, "I needed to come back. Ebola is a challenge that I must fight to the finish here, to keep it from spreading to the rest of the world."


That – what I've just described – is what the United Nations looks like, when it works. And noble efforts like these are precisely why the United States and Cuba must continue to find ways to engage, even as our differences persist. Today, we will take another small step to be able to do that. May there be many, many more – including, we hope, finally ending the U.S. embargo once and for all.


I thank you.






Rumana A. Ahmed

Senior Advisor to the Deputy National Security Advisor

Global Engagement/Press

The White House



Monday, May 23, 2016

#LASA2016 - NYC - LGBTIQ Activism in Today's #Cuba

523 // GEN - Panel - Saturday, 2:30pm - 4:00pm, Liberty 2
Comunidad LGBTIQ. Un acercamiento al activismo en Cuba 

Session Organizer: Norges Carlos R. Rodríguez Almiñan
Chair: Yaima Pardo La Red, AHS-UNEAC-ACAV

1. "Más allá de La Habana: El activismo LGBTIQ y sus expresiones en el Archipiélago Cubano" - Taylor E. Torres Escalona
2. "Los 'colores' políticos del activismo LGBTIQ en Cuba" - Norges Carlos R. Rodríguez Almiñan
3. "Un paneo nacional a las comunidades LGBTIQ desde el audiovisual participativo" - Yaima Pardo La Red, AHS-UNEAC-ACAV

Discussant: Taylor E. Torres Escalona

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Asedian a activistas LGBT anticapitalistas

En estos momentos agentes de la Seguridad del Estado asedia a los activistas LGBTI Jimmy Roque y Yasmín Machado, quienes asisten a la Jornada contra la Homofobia con un gran cartel que dice: "No más violencia policial contra nosotr@s".

Ambxs activistas forman parte del Proyecto Arcoiris Anticapitalista r Independiente, y del Observatorio Crítico cubano.

El cartel hace referencia a las recientes redadas policiales contra personas LGBT en Cárdenas.

Denunciamos esta represión y recabamos solidaridad.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

ASCE Student Paper Prize for 2016

ASCE Student Paper Prize for 2016


PO Box 28267
Washington, DC


The Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE) is a nonpolitical, professional international association dedicated to the study of the Cuban economy in its broader political, social, and cultural context.

The Jorge Pérez-López Student Award Competition
ASCE Student Award Committee is accepting nominations for the 2016 Jorge Pérez-López Student Award Competition.

A panel of scholars will judge all submissions on the basis of relevance, originality, quality, contribution, and clarity of presentation. Papers should not be co-authored with an instructor or teaching assistant. At a minimum, all papers must outline a thesis statement, present evidence or data supporting it, not exceed 5,000 words double-spaced length, and follow one of the standard academic writing and citations styles. The 5,000-word limit will be STRICTLY ENFORCED.

Self-nominations are welcomed. All correspondence must be accompanied by a letter stating the name, university affiliation, mailing address, phone number, and email address of the nominee, as well as a brief statement describing the merits of the nomination.

A condition of submission is that the paper will be considered for publication in Cuba in Transition at the discretion of the committee if it wins any prizes and whether or not the author is able to present it at ASCE's meetings. However, authors are free to submit revised copies of their papers elsewhere.

All submissions are expected to conform to ethical and publication guidelines published by the professional association of the author/s field of study.

Graduate Awards
• First prize $600 & up to $600 for domestic travel or $800 for overseas travel.
• Second prize $150 & up to $600 travel.

Undergraduate Awards
• First prize $400 & up to $600 domestic travel or $800 for overseas travel.
• Second prize $100 & up to $400 travel.

All participants receive a one year complimentary ASCE membership and may attend the annual meeting in Miami including the luncheon for free. First and second prize winners will also receive an additional two years of complimentary ASCE membership.

Deadline: May 30, 2016

Submission and Information
Send MS Word or PDF via email to:
Dr. Enrique S. Pumar,
Chair Student Award Committee
Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy &

* * *

2016 Concurso Estudiantil
Jorge Pérez-López

La Asociación para el Estudio de la Economía Cubana (ASCE) es una organización sin fines de lucro ni afiliación política alguna, radicada en el Estado de Maryland, Estados Unidos. ASCE ha tenido como su objetivo fundamental el promover el estudio de los problemas económicos de Cuba en su más amplio sentido social, político y cultural.

El Concurso Anual para el Premio "Jorge Pérez-López"
El Comité de ASCE del Concurso Estudiantil Jorge Pérez-López está aceptando nominaciones para el concurso del año 2016. Un panel de expertos juzgará a los trabajos sometidos basado en su relevancia, originalidad, calidad, contribución y la claridad de su presentación. Los trabajos no deben tener como coautor a un instructor, profesor o asistente. Como mínimo, todos los trabajos deben incluir una tesis, evidencia o datos que la apoyen, y seguir uno de los estilos académicos. Un límite de 5.000 palabras será ESTRICTAMENTE APLICADO.

Las auto-nominaciones son bienvenidas. Toda la correspondencia debe ir acompañada de una carta indicando el nombre, afiliación, dirección postal, número de teléfono y correo electrónico del candidato, así como una breve descripción de los méritos de la candidatura. Se entiende que cualquier trabajo sometido será considerado para ser publicado en Cuba in Transition, a discreción de ASCE si gana algún premio y si el autor lo presenta en las reuniones de la ASCE. Sin embargo, los autores pueden enviar copias revisadas de sus trabajos a otras publicaciones. Se espera que los trabajos sometidos se ajusten a las normas éticas y de publicación de la asociación profesional del campo del estudio.

Premio de postgrado
• Primer premio: $600 y hasta $600 para gastos de viajes o $800 gastos de viaje internacional.
• Segundo Premio: $150 & $600 para gastos de viaje.

Premios de pregrado
• Primer Premio: $400 y hasta $600 para gastos de viajes o $800 en gastos de viaje internacional.
• Segundo Premio: $100 & $400 en gastos de viaje.

Todos los participantes recibirán una membrecía en ASCE por un año y podrán asistir a la reunión anual en Miami y el almuerzo de la conferencia de gratis. Los ganadores del primer y segundo premio también recibirán dos años adicionales de membrecía en ASCE.

Fecha límite: 30 de mayo de 2016

Bases para la selección de premios
Un grupo de académicos juzgará los ensayos sobre la base de la pertinencia, la originalidad, la calidad, la contribución y la claridad de la presentación.

Presentación e información
Adjunte el ensayo en formato MS Word o PDF y la carta de nominación a:
Dr. Enrique S. Pumar
Presidente del Comité del Premio Estudiantil
Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy y

Monday, April 25, 2016

UPDATE: POSTPONED - Internet and Economy: Perspectives and Opportunities for Cuba Today and Tomorrow (May 25-26, 2016) Hilton Midtown Hotel – New York City

Regretfully, we have decided to postpone for a future date our previously announced symposium "Internet and Economy: Perspectives and Opportunities for Cuba Today and Tomorrow," originally scheduled to take place on May 25-26, 2016 in New York City just prior to the LASA conference.

The logistical and financial challenges of organizing such an ambitious event with so little time have proven impossible to overcome for the time being. We regret this change of plans but do hope to hold this event in the near future. 


Ted, Taylor, and Norges
Click here for preliminary program
Want to meet some of the creative Cubans behind the tech start-ups that President Barack Obama will be learning about during his historic trip to Havana this week? 

Join us in NYC on May 25-26 for the following event!

* * *

Internet and Economy:
Perspectives and Opportunities for Cuba Today and Tomorrow

May 25-26, 2016
Hilton Midtown Hotel – New York City

With the support of Baruch College, CUNY, the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE), and the Latin American Studies Association (LASA), we are pleased to announce: “Internet and Economy: Perspectives and Opportunities for Cuba Today and Tomorrow,” a two-day seminar that will take place on May 25-26, 2016 at the Hilton Midtown Hotel in New York City.

Building on the success of the previous event, “Internet y Economía: Perspectivas y Oportunidades para el futuro de Cuba,” that took place at Havana’s Royal Norwegian Embassy on October 1-2, 2015, the New York event aims to take advantage of the synergies generated by the attendance of leading academics, policy makers, and practitioners in the world of Cuban Information and Communication Technologies (ITC) at the annual Latin American Studies Association International Congress (LASA) on May 27-30, 2016.

The main objective of the seminar is to bring before a broader industry, policymaking, and academic audience the current state of and debate over ICT in Cuba, focusing on public access, competing models and uses of the Internet, and the development of a digital economy on the island in order to promote greater connectivity and prosperity for the Cuban people.

Seminar speakers will include Cubans who have developed some of the island’s most popular mobile apps, Cuban and American academics, Cuban journalists, leading independent media organizations, representatives of international NGOs, and U.S. government officials. Invited guests also include representatives from leading U.S. tech companies, tech journalists, and representatives from Cuba’s permanent mission to the United Nations.

Seminar topics will include:
• Digital economy and tech startups
• Public policies for ICT development
• News media and digital technology
• U.S. engagement with Cuban ICT

Preliminary Program

The development of ICT has transformed societies in recent decades. The falling cost of technological equipment and increasing levels of broadband access have facilitated this development. So great has been this transformation that we commonly refer to it as the “Digital Revolution,” one that will rival the industrial revolution in its impact on society. This revolution cuts across all sectors of society, transforming economies, politics, international relations, and the media.

However, due to Cuba’s low rate of Internet access and weak telecommunications infrastructure, it has not been able to fully benefit from the dynamic effect ICTs are having on the global economy. Still, Cuba remains a leader in the skill and competence of the population in ICT use, a fact especially noteworthy among Cuba’s many often underemployed computer science graduates.

Some Cubans have creatively overcome the barriers imposed by low connectivity by developing offline mobile apps and coming up with ingenious ways to use flash drives to distribute digital data across the island without the Internet. Others have used alternative modes of data transmission to build an independent media-sphere that successfully competes with the state media monopoly. All this has generated new social dynamics and significant commercial activity that, paradoxically, remain beyond the reach of the country’s antiquated legal framework.

Thus, Cuba faces a scenario where access to digital technology will be crucial for economic development both in the short and long term. Despite this, there is no clearly defined public policy toward ICT. Recently, the Cuban government announced its intention of achieving “massive” public access to the Internet so that by 2020, 50% of households would enjoy broadband connectivity. In fact, during 2016 Cuba will roll out its first-ever pilot program for household Internet access.

The recent rapprochement between the U.S. and Cuban governments provides an important opportunity for the development of Cuban ICT given that the twin issues of Internet access and entrepreneurial expansion are among the top issues in bilateral negotiations. This situation is especially important given that one of the reasons for Cuba’s low connectivity has been the lack of access to modern technology and telecom services provided by U.S. companies.

Nevertheless, this situation has changed in recent months given the Obama administration’s relaxation of previous restrictions on telecom companies doing business in Cuba and the roll out on the island of Cuba’s first-ever Wi-Fi hotspots.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Cuba-U.S. Entrepreneurial Forum with @POTUS in #Havana - March 21, 2016 [Video]

Below is the full video feed from MinRex (Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Relations) of the Cuba-U.S. Entrepreneurial Forum that I was honored to attend at the invitation of the White House last month in Habana Vieja.

If your time is limited, I suggest you skip to 32:20 when Obama took the stage.


His most interesting initial comments came between 34:30-35:30, when he referred to the past exploitation of Cuban labor (before the revolution) and the fact that for the last 50 years it's been virtually impossible for Cubans to operate their own business on the island (because of the revolution). But that, "in recent years, that's begun to change..."


Google's Brett Perlmutter, Cuba Emprende's
Jorge Mandilego, and the Cuba Emprende
Foundation's John McIntire.
Then between 36:04-37:00, Obama gave a shout out the the good work done my my friends at Cuba Emprende training thousands of Cuban entrepreneurs over the past three years. He also mentioned the fact that there are now half-a-million licensed self-employed who - together with the other parts of the non-state sector - now make up one-third of the Cuban workforce.

One of Obama's best lines came here when he struggled through Spanish words like "cuentapropistas," "casas particulares," and "paladares," finishing up with the self-deprecating line:
"My family and I ate in one [paladar] last night, and the food is really good even if my Spanish is not that great!" 

A third notable moment came (at 39:14-40:03) when he indirectly noted the obstacles that continue to hobble the expansion of Cuban entrepreneurship, saying "We also know that entrepreneurship flourishes when the environment encourages success." He then ticked off a laundry list of the key internal obstacles in this area including:

  • a ban on most private professions
  • little access to small business loans or wholesale sources of inputs
  • the inability of the private sector to import supplies
  • a dual currency
  • infrastructural bottlenecks, and 
  • the need to include women and Afro-Cubans.

With deft diplomacy and an offer of an olive branch, he shifted from these critical comments to a hopeful note saying, "All are areas where the United States hopes to be a partner as Cuba moves forward."


The next section between 46:20-1:25:30 is a fascinating back and forth between Obama and a series of (mostly) young Cuban entrepreneurs moderated by Afro-Cuban-Irish-American (!) Soledad O'Brien.


The final - and in my mind most important - part of the event came at 1:28:03 when, after advising Cuba to "steal ideas from where ever they see them working," Obama added the rejoinder:
"Don't steal ideas from places where it's not working, and there's some economic models that just don't work. That's not an ideological opinion, but just an objective reality."
Perhaps to soften this blow, he quickly added that these changes will be internal to Cuba, "that's not gonna be determined by the United States, that's gonna be determined by the government and people of Cuba." He also reassured his mostly Cuban audience that the U.S. is not interested in Cuba failing (which is arguably the basis of the embargo) but instead, "we're interested in Cuba succeeding."

However, of the entire interaction my favorite quote came as Obama signed off (1:30:09) and drew a telling (and somewhat humorous) parallel between the necessary changes still needed in U.S. policy toward Cuba (Congress ending the embargo) and the necessary changes still sorely needed in Cuba itself.
"When I initiated the change in policy, one of my arguments was that if something is not working for 50 years you should stop doing it and try something new, and... [big applause] that applies to what the United States is doing, that also applies to what Cuba is doing."

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A note from Barack following his trip to #Cuba

It's been nearly 90 years since a U.S. President visited Cuba. And for the past half century, the sight of an American president in Havana would have been unimaginable.

But this week, because we're working to normalize our relations with Cuba, I was able to cross the Florida Straits and meet with and listen to the Cuban people. They told me about their hopes and their struggles, and we talked about what we can do together to help Cubans improve their lives.

What I saw and heard this week will stay with me forever.

I'll remember the beauty of Cuba and the pride Cubans take in their culture. On our first night, Michelle, Malia and Sasha and I walked around Old Havana, where every building, path, and plaza seems filled with the spirit and storied history of the Cuban people. We had a wonderful dinner at one of Havana's paladares, the often family-run restaurants where Americans and Cubans can meet and talk over some tostones.

I'll remember the innovative spirit of Cuba's entrepreneurs, especially the cuentapropistas who are running their own small businesses like bed and breakfasts, beauty parlors, barber shops and taxi services. These men and women, many of them young, are the face of Cuba's small but growing private sector, and I was proud to announce new partnerships to help them start and grow their businesses. That includes helping more Cubans connect to the Internet and the global economy.

I'll remember the courage of the Cuban human rights advocates I met, many of whom have been harassed, detained or imprisoned simply for standing up for the equal rights and dignity of every Cuban. They told me about their work to advance freedom of speech, assembly, the press and religion, and I promised them that the United States will continue to stand up for universal human rights in Cuba as we do around the world.

I'll remember the passion of the Cuban people, especially when it comes to our shared love of baseball—la pelota. At Havana's ballpark, President Castro and I watched as the Tampa Bay Rays took on the Cuban national team, the first professional baseball game between our countries in 17 years. Let me just say that tens of thousands of Cuban fans cheering for their team is...intense. But when we all stood for our national anthems, it was an unforgettable moment that reminded us of the friendship and mutual respect between the American people and the Cuban people.

Perhaps most of all, I'll remember the Cubans who lined the streets, mile after mile, to greet us. They were men, women and children, smiling, waving, snapping pictures. Some were even waving American flags—another sight that not long ago would have been unimaginable. In the faces of these Cubans I saw hope for a brighter future.

The Cuban people are ready for a new relationship between our two countries. The majority of Americans—including many Cuban Americans—support our new approach as well. It won't be easy. The long road ahead will see progress and setbacks. But the Cubans I met this week reaffirmed my hope that we can succeed, together.

I believe in the Cuban people - creo en el pueblo Cubano.

Barack (via Facebook)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Obama's Home Run in Havana

I took this photo as I made my way down a recently repaved back street leading to the Estadio Latinoamericano to attend the juego de pelota between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban National Team
March 22, 2016 - Ted Henken 

Wifi hotspot, corner of 23 & L, Havana, Cuba - With a rousing, historic speech in Havana's Alicia Alonso Grand Theater to a packed, expectant, and very appreciative crowd President Barack Obama launched a new era in US-Cuban relations today.

Peppered with multiple words and phrases spoken in a fluent Cuban Spanish and filled with frequent allusions to the two countries' shared history of conflict and collaboration, Obama's speech was met with frequent, and sustained applause from the Cuban audience especially following his many references to and quotes of the Cuban "apostle," poet and independence leader José Martí.

Indeed, after noting his resolve to continue to fight international terrorism following the attacks in Brussels today, Obama began his speech with the Spanish words: "Cultivo una rosa blanca," a line from a favorite Martí poem about friendship. Obama noted that the fraternal spirit of Martí is a great model to employ in the ongoing reconciliation between Cuba and the US in that Martí offered his white rose of friendship and peace to his friends and enemies alike.

While the speech was a model of diplomatic courtesy and respect given that Obama began by directly thanking Raul Castro and the Cuban government for the gracious welcome they had extended to him and his family, the US president did not shy away from clearly expressing his belief in what he called universal human rights and democratic ideals. Quoting Martí's words: "Freedom is the right of every man to be honest and think and speak without hypocrisy," Obama laid out his vision of a future where every Cuban would be equal under the law, children could count on quality education and health care, and access to food and housing. But he also emphasized the need to respect the right to speak without fear, to recognize the legitimacy of dissent and the ability to openly criticize the government, an end to arbitrary detentions, and the value of free and democratic elections.

Obama openly recognized the many flaws in US society but argued that democracy was the civil and open debate that societies need to confront and find solutions to such problems. He referenced the popular mobilizations of the 1960s civil rights movement as an example for Cuba where people came together to organize, protest, and challenge the system non-violently creating a path forward for positive change.

In what was perhaps his best line, Obama referenced the current, chaotic US presidential election. But instead of using it to highlight the flaws of American-style democracy, he pointed out that only in America could two Cuban-American children of immigrants, run against the record of a sitting African-American president, while a woman challenged a democratic socialist!

The speech was also notable in that it was addressed directly to and celebrated the ingenuity and sacrifice of the people of Cuba, both those on the island and those in the extensive Cuban diaspora abroad. Obama made clear that "el futuro de Cuba está en las manos del pueblo cubano," and highlighted the accomplishments of a new generation of Cuban entrepreneurs, celebrating some by name. He also inclusively honored the sometimes violent pain of the Cuban exile community in the US but noted with pride that if you want to know what Cubans are capable of you need to look no further than the booming city of Miami.

While Obama noted that some had encouraged him to make a "tear down this wall" declaration similar to what President Ronald Reagan had done in East Germany in the late 1980s, he instead declared that he would leave Cuba convinced and hopeful that the Cuban people - and especially its youth - had already begun "lift something up and build something new," including bridges to a shared and prosperous future.

He also celebrated the state-to-state collaboration between the two nations that had produced successful outcomes in combating Ebola in West Africa, peace in Colombia, and a shared honor of the life of Nelson Mandela in South Africa, repeating a rousing line from his December 17, 2014 speech: "Todos somos Americanos"

He stated that his administration had worked quickly to remove obstacles to such progress and collaboration, calling once again on the U.S. Congress to repeal the outdated embargo. However, he also noted that even absent the external embargo, not much would change on the island if the Cuban government did not also begin to remove the many internal restrictions and controls to greater freedom and prosperity for its citizens.

Finally, while he made clear that the U.S. does not seek to impose its economic or governmental system on Cuba and thus that Cuba need not fear the United States, he also spoke directly to President Raúl Castro telling him that given his "commitment to Cuba's sovereignty and self-determination," he need not "fear the different voices of the Cuban people - and their capacity to speak, and assemble, and vote for their leaders."

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Hope, Skepticism for @POTUS Visit to# Cuba


 Hope, Skepticism for President Obama's Visit to Cuba

Washington  -  March 18, 2016 —   In advance of President Obama's two-day visit to Cuba, the first visit by a U.S. president in nearly 70 years, Freedom House issued the following statement:

"President Obama should make this an opportunity to voice strong support for human rights and genuine freedom, for the people of Cuba" said Carlos Ponce, director for Latin America programs. "He should make clear that in exchange for closer political and economic ties, the United States expects genuine reform – including the release of political prisoners, ending spurious 'preventive' detentions, genuinely free elections, and guarantees for freedom of association."

Cuba is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2016, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2015,  and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2015

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.
Join us on Facebook and Twitter (freedomhousedc). Stay up to date with Freedom House's latest news and events by signing up for our newsletter

@POTUS' Schedule in #Cuba

A Rich, Varied & Valiant Agenda Engaging the Cuban People: Here's What President Obama Will Be Doing in Cuba

In just a few days, President Obama will head to Havana, Cuba, becoming the first sitting president to do so in nearly 90 years. It's an historic trip — one that gives the President and First Lady a chance to meet with the Cuban government and hear directly from the Cuban people.

President Obama will be in Cuba from March 20 to March 22, a short window to meet with Cubans from different walks of life who have different perspectives on how we can move forward in rebuilding a productive relationship between the United States and Cuba — one that is good for both our countries, and that improves the lives of the Cuban people.
Here's a first look at some of the key stops the President will make while in Havana, and why they are significant to both the Cuban and American people:

Sunday, March 20
Old Havana Walking Tour

On the day he touches down in Cuba, President Obama and his family will visit Old Havana. When the First Family visits the Havana Cathedral during their walk, they will be met by Cardinal Ortega, the Latin Rite Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Havana and a Cardinal of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church played an integral role in supporting the opening between the U.S. and Cuban governments. As Pope Francis arrived in Havana last year on his own historic visit to both Cuba and the United States, he said:

"For some months now, we have witnessed an event which fills us with hope: the process of normalizing relations between two peoples following years of estrangement."

Havana is a source of great pride to the Cuban people. The President will walk past a few places that illustrate the history, cultural significance, and beauty of this historic city, including Havana Cathedral, Plaza de Armas, Museo de la Ciudad, Plaza Vieja, and Plaza de San Francisco.

Monday, March 21
José Martí Memorial

The following day, the President will lay a wreath and sign a guestbook in a ceremony at the José Martí Memorial. José Martí, known as "the Apostle of Cuban Independence," was an influential poet, journalist, and political theorist who became a symbol for the Cuban people's bid for independence. The concepts of freedom, liberty, and self-determination feature prominently in his work. As Martí said: "Liberty is the right of every man to be honest, to think, and to speak without hypocrisy."

Discussion on Entrepreneurship and Opportunity

Our Cuba policy is focused on helping the Cuban people improve their lives. Since charting a new Cuba policy, the United States has made regulatory changes to open up commercial ties between our countries at a time when a growing number of Cubans are self-employed. In Havana, the President will meet with Cuban entrepreneurs, or cuentapropistas, to hear their experiences. The event will include American entrepreneurs who will share their own experiences with their Cuban counterparts and look for opportunities to build long-term relationships.

Bilateral Meetings and State Dinner at the Revolutionary Palace

During the day, President Obama will hold a bilateral meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro at the Revolutionary Palace to discuss a full host of bilateral and regional issues. The two leaders will discuss the progress that has been made on normalizing relations, review areas where we can use the President's visit to accelerate those efforts, and have a candid exchange about areas where we differ. Later that evening, the President and First Lady will return for a State Dinner.

Tuesday, March 22
Meeting with Civil Society Members

Just as he will meet with the government, the President will meet with a group of Cuban civil society, including human rights activists. A critical focus of the President's Cuba policy is our continued support for universal values and human rights — including respect for the right to free speech and assembly. We continue to have strong disagreements with the Cuban government on these issues, and believe that engagement puts the United States in a better position to raise those differences directly with the government, while also hearing directly from civil society.

Remarks to the Cuban People

When the President announced a new policy toward Cuba more than a year ago, he said, "America extends a hand of friendship". President Obama will again have the opportunity to speak directly to the Cuban people with remarks at the Alicia Alonso Grand Theater, formerly known as the Gran Teatro de la Habana. His remarks in Havana will underscore that continued spirit of friendship, and lay out his vision for the future relationship between our two countries, and the extraordinary potential of the Cuban people. President Coolidge delivered remarks at the same theatre the last time a sitting president was in Cuba in 1928.

Major League Baseball Game

Baseball is a great example of the cultural ties between the United States and Cuba and a powerful reminder of the shared experience between people that transcends our difficult history. The Tampa Bay Rays are traveling to Cuba to represent Major League Baseball in an exhibition game against the Cuban National Team at Estadio Latinamericano, which first hosted Jackie Robinson's Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. The President is looking forward to the ballgame.
It's a lot to fit into two days in Havana, and charting a new course with Cuba does not begin and end with the President and First Lady's visit. We have confidence that interactions like this — and between all Americans and Cubans — will lead to a better future for both countries.
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