Biden: U.S. can talk human rights in Cuba 'without pushback'
By SUSAN CRABTREE (@SUSANCRABTREE) • 9/7/16 7:14 PM
Vice President Joe Biden touted the Obama administration's ability to
talk to Cuba and other Latin-American countries about human rights
"without pushback," on the same day a Senate critic of the diplomatic
thaw said the Castro regime's brutal treatment of dissidents is growing
Biden's comments also came amid reports that the government is now
blocking text messages containing words such as "democracy" and "human
Biden told a conference of Central and South American bankers and
diplomats Wednesday that President Obama decided early on in his tenure
that "we weren't going to be bound by the mistakes of the past or shaped
by an outdated ideology" toward the country.
One of the reasons the administration chose to change the Cuban policy
and lift some restrictions on travel and commerce, Biden said, was to
get rid of an "ineffective stumbling block to our bilateral relations
with other nations in the hemisphere."
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That, in turn, he said, "made it easier to talk to our neighbors without
pushback on human rights — everyone in the hemisphere should be talking
about human rights — whether it's in Cuba or Venezuela where they are
Earlier in the day, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., urged Obama to personally
call a Cuban dissident leader who is in the middle of his 49th week of a
hunger strike over the Castro regime's efforts to crackdown on
In a letter to Obama, Rubio called on the president to speak to
Guillermo "Coco" Farinas, to express his support for his "courageous
acts." Farinas is a winner of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought,
an award from the European Parliament recognizing individuals and groups
who have dedicated their lives to the defense of human rights.
"I urge you to hear firsthand his account of the deepening repression in
Cuba since you changed longstanding U.S. policy toward the regime,"
Rubio said, noting that Obama has met with Farinas in the past. "I urge
you to listen to his demands that the Castro government cease the
violence against peaceful members of Cuba's independent civil society,
and that you discuss with him how your administration can adjust its
policies toward Cuba to bring about measurable gains regarding human
rights on the island."
Rubio spoke with Farinas on Aug. 29 to show his solidarity with his
efforts to bring democratic reforms to Cuba. Farinas been hospitalized
four times during his hunger strike.
"I sincerely pray that you do not let Guiellermo "Coco' Farinas
courageous stand continue without clear support from you," Rubio wrote
Obama. "If he dies without your clear support in both words and policy
actions, this chapter of U.S.-Cuba history will be marred by America's
failure to demonstrate moral leadership at a critical moment."
Rubio citied statistics gathered by the Havana-based Cuban Commission
for Human Rights, noting that the group says the Cuban government
arrested 845 peaceful dissidents in the month of July alone, nearly
twice as many as the month before when the government detained 498 people.
In addition, Reuters and other media outlets earlier this week confirmed
that the Cuba's communist government is now blocking text messages
containing words such as "democracy," "human rights," and "hunger
strike," citing an investigation from local dissidents which Reuters
In a report published last week, a prominent investigative blogger Yoani
Sanchez and journalist Reinaldo Escobar discovered that the Castro
regime is filtering 30 keywords and blocking the transmission of any
texts containing them.
Source: Biden: U.S. can talk human rights in Cuba 'without pushback' |
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