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Posted April 28, 2005 by publisher in US Embargo

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By Rafael Lorente | Washington Bureau | Sun Sentinel

Even as activists from across the country gathered in the Capital on Wednesday to protest U.S. sanctions against Cuba, pro-embargo members of Congress announced the formation of a new group that will work to further isolate Fidel Castro’s government.

The new group, the Congressional Cuba Democracy Caucus, aims to focus attention on human rights violations in Cuba and on the fledgling dissident movement that is attempting to challenge Castro’s rule.

“The members of this caucus will show the people of Cuba our continued commitment to democracy and human rights,” said Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla.

The caucus also wants to fight continued attempts to loosen current sanctions on travel and commerce.

“We are very cognizant that unrestricted U.S. tourism to Cuba would provide billions of dollars to the dictatorship,” said Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Miami.

Among those joining Martinez and Diaz-Balart at Wednesday’s press conference were Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., as well as Republican representatives Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami, and Connie Mack of Fort Myers. Among the Democrats were Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Weston and Bob Menendez of New Jersey.

But just four blocks away in a ballroom of the Hyatt Regency hotel, more than 700 activists gathered to hear other members of Congress talk about legislation that would repeal travel restrictions to the island. One of those members said that those who support sanctions against Cuba are organizing because they are worried about losing ground in the fight.

“It’s in response to this,” said Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., as he left the Hyatt ballroom. “They look at a group like this and they say, `Hey, this issue is slipping away from us.’”

The battle over U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba has intensified in recent years as agricultural interests have fought, mostly successfully, to be allowed to sell their products to Cuba. At the same time, other activists have organized previously scattered efforts to open travel and commerce with Cuba.

They have met fierce resistance from many of South Florida’s Cuban-Americans who want to continue isolating Cuba in the hopes of damaging Castro’s ability to govern. The Bush administration has been a strong supporter of sanctions, and last year tightened rules relating to travel.

Currently, only Cuban-Americans with families on the island and certain groups of other Americans, including journalists, are legally permitted to visit Cuba. As a result of tough new regulations imposed last year by the Bush administration, Cuban-Americans are allowed to visit the island only once every three years, instead of once a year.

U.S. law also restricts most commerce with Cuba with the exception of sales of food and medicine.

Among the 700 activists at the Hyatt were people from South Florida to Alaska who are angry about the travel restrictions and other sanctions.

“I came here as an American, as an American who demands that my rights as a citizen be respected,” said Isidro Borja, of Miami. “I left Cuba because those rights were not being respected.”

Rafael Lorente can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 202-824-8225 in Washington.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on April 28, 2005 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    1. Yawn.

    Does anyone (other than President Bush and old Cuban exiles) really care about what Diaz-Balart says anymore?

    I guess they feel that by restricting the freedoms of Americans that somehow Cuba will be free.

    2. Martinez said - The committee will “promote discussion and pro-active policy-making to hasten Cuba’ transition to a free and democratic society”.

    Discussion. Discussion? Really? The last thing they want is discussion. That would bring out too many rational thoughts.

    Cuba consulting services

  2. Follow up post #2 added on April 28, 2005 by I-taoist with 213 total posts

    Dear Rafael,

    In your recent article “Congressional Cuba Democracy Caucus” you mention the rationale of the hard-liners in the Cuba debate, but I see no mention of the many valid arguments against our present policies as outlined by its opponents.  Of particular relevance to me is the scapegoat argument; we are allowing Castro to use our “blockade” to skirt the communist’ direct responsibility for the chronic suffering on the island.  Also, have you looked up the history of the unconstitutional travel ban?  You would see that the right to unfettered travel was confirmed by the Eisenhower Supreme Court on this very issue.  It was congressional slight-of-hand that insulted this ruling, cunningly and cleverly using currency restrictions to have the same effect.  A thin veil indeed.  Finally, how is it that so many “experts” on Cuba in the U.S. have never set foot on the island?  And why is this never pointed out in reports on the debate?  Most who have actually been to Cuba, including myself, see the issues in very different terms, human terms. How can anyone without direct experience of Cuba know very much of the reality of life there and the true forces at work that continue to empower Castro and the communists?

    Sincerely,  John Bomar

  3. Follow up post #3 added on April 29, 2005 by Dana Garrett with 252 total posts

    >>“The members of this caucus will show the people of Cuba our continued commitment to democracy and human rights,” said Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla.<<

    Really?  How does the USA “show” democracy to the Cuban people by:

    a) restricting the rights of its citizens to travel where they wish? 

    b) restricting the right of American businesses to do business with whom they wish? 

    And how does the USA “show” a respect for the “human rights” of the Cuban people when its illegal extraterritorial embargo helps to impoverish them?

    The only thing Sen. Martinez and his ilk are “showing” the Cuban people is a preview of the daily hypocrisies they would endure if their nation ever became a USA dependency.

  4. Follow up post #4 added on January 24, 2010 by Michael R Maribona

    U.S. Department of State
    2201 C Street NW
    Washington, DC 20520

    Att:  Hillary R. Clinton, Madam Secretary
          Michael H. Posner, Asst. Secretary

    RE:  Uncensored Access to the Internet,
          Google Dispute with China

    Dear Madam Secretary,

        I would like to bring to your attention Google Earth’s routine and flagrant censorship of content on their Panoramio geolocation-oriented photo sharing website.  Panoramio was started in the summer of 2005 by Joaquín Cuenca Abela and Eduardo Manchón Aguilar, two Spanish entrepreneurs.  On May 30, 2007, Google announced plans to acquire the website, and Panoramio was acquired by Google on July 2007.

        It seems that Panoramio itself is flagrantly biased in their selection and censorship of web content.  For the past year or so, I had been geopositioning photos in Matanzas, Cuba and also commenting on existing photographs in Havana as well under the pseudonym Yucayo.  This is a very common practice by most account users to safeguard their identity however; the account was in my proper name of course. 

        All was well until I started to point out the obvious facts in some of the pictures that had been posted.  Well, the moment I started to tell the truth about El Che and Fidel that’s when they canceled the account.  No prior warning or explanation was given for this action nor was I given a reply either when I tried to contact them.  Google can squawk all they want about internet hacking in China but, they themselves are one of the biggest violators of the first amendment rights.  They allow uninformed and biased users to post and comment glowingly about how wonderful El Che was but, when I tried to set the record straight, I got shot down.  What hypocrisy…this is nothing more than having a very biased double standard, where’s the freedom of speech?  What makes this even more personal is that they also took out all the other nonpolitical comments and descriptions of buildings and places that I had posted for the past year.  If this is not censorship, I don’t know what is…Google’s Panoramio should take a good look at itself first before casting any hypocritical stones. 

        I feel very strong that my account should be restored back with all the comments and descriptions of buildings and places in Cuba.  I trust you will take this matter up with Google and intervene on my personal behalf and bring this first amendment rights matter to their attention.  Thank you very much.

    Sincerely Yours,

    Michael R. Maribona

  5. Follow up post #5 added on January 25, 2010 by paul

    The credit blockade is staying put. Keep on dreaming that it’s going away, but we won’t let that happen. Buy tissues and cry about it.

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