Yoani Sanchez: “We want to be at the negotiation table too”

Regarding the latest developments in relations between the USA and Cuba, the Czech NGO People in Need would like to express its hope that these changes will have a positive impact on the ongoing human rights abuses that take place on the island far too often.

We trust that the measures proposed by the Obama Administration such as  “Initiating new efforts to increase Cubans’ access to communications and their ability to communicate freely” will lead to an improved situation for human rights defenders in terms of their being able to share information both locally and internationally about the human rights situation in Cuba. Building communications infrastructure and expanding access to the internet should ease the flow of information. In regard to the issue of short term detentions, if victims – or those close to them – are able to communicate and alert the press, international institutions, and NGOs, then public awareness can be raised faster, which will in turn put the Cuban authorities under more scrutiny and make them more accountable for their deeds.

Having stressed the importance of “improved human right conditions” in Cuba, the Obama Administration has put this issue back into the spotlight. Let us hope that this will benefit the recent victims of human rights violations, such as the approximately 250 individuals who had to endure the short term arbitrary detentions that were carried out on December 10th, International Human Rights Day, throughout Cuba.

Despite the welcome news about the release of Sonia Garro, a member of ‘the Ladies in White” movement, and of Alan Gross, the imprisoned American development professional, People in Need feels it is still necessary to reiterate that some political dissidents still remain behind bars. For example, Ángel Yunier Remón Arzuaga, the Cuban rapper known under the name El Critico, was condemned to six years in prison this October after having already been jailed without a trial for two years.

Our project, the human rights monitoring tool www.eyeoncuba.org, documents human rights abuse cases in Cuba and we have continued to receive information and reports about numerous cases. We hope that this improvement in the relationship between the USA and Cuba will result, among other things, in firmly establishing a respect for all fundamental human rights and an immediate end to the use of arbitrary detentions in Cuba. People in Need agrees with the Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, who happened to be in Prague last week to participate in a conference at the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who shared her opinion on the matter by expressing her wish that Cuban dissidents be officially recognized and invited to the negotiation table.

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Miranda Fuertes is human rights defender focused on Cuba and based in Prague, Czech Republic