tv Politics Public Policy Today CSPAN February 5, 2015 5:00pm-7:01pm EST
confusion over your statement and to reaffirm our shared passion for protecting hurmts of all people. lgbt rights are human rights and they are entitled to live rights free from violence intimidation, discrimination and harm. thank you mr. chairman and yield back. >> thank you mr. cicilline. i would again say we do have a fundamental difference. i don't support homosexual marriage. i know you do and i certainly support your views. i want to also point it ie universally recognize human rights for all. and again i'm glad we were able to work together. why don't you go. >> there mr. chairman. and i do appreciate your mention of that i know with your long
record that you would never be okay with the egregious human rights violations taking place around the world in the lgbt community. and there is a fundamental difference between marriage, which many people have a difference around. but i know that there is no difference around lgbt rights and the violence -- and opposing the violence against lgbt people. so thank you for that. today's hearing on human rights in cuba in the context of president obama's recent announcement. i said yesterday in our faern foreign affairs committee that sometimes in talking about cuba it is difficult because my colleagues, and two of my colleagues that are on the other side of the aisle right now in this hearing have family history and personal situations that make it very difficult if one does have a difference of opinion. i want to one, respect and
acknowledge what my colleagues have been through and what their families have been through. and with no disrespect or disregard for those histories want to take a few minutes and propose a different viewpoint. the president's policy of opening up relations with cuba i actually think is a very good thing. especially for people who are concerned about human rights. during the five decades that we have not had relations with the cuba government and the cuban people the cuban government did experience multiple economic stops. which kid produce hardships were the people but none of it produced the popular up rises or internal resistance that might have led to a change in government. i also think the embargo prohibited economic engagement between the u.s. and cuba.
and i think that many times is the ways in which societies become more open and accountable and democratic. and trade and cultural exchange becomes mutually beneficial. i think the embargo has impeded u.s. relations throughout the western hemisphere. as many latin american nations viewed the embargo itself a human rights violation against the cuban people. as a u.s. citizen i definitely consider it my human right to be able to travel to any nation on the earth and i resented the fact that it has been difficult. americans can go to cuba and i have been to cuba but it is very difficult to go there. and i don't believe -- and i might be wrong. but i don't believe we have that restriction against any other nation in the world. including iran north korea and saudi arabia all of which have troubling human rights records. such travel restrictions as well as those of trade also violate
the freedom of the u.s. citizens in recent polling in the news and the washington post reveals a majority of americans are supportive of moving away in the policy of disengagement and towards reestablishing ties with cuba. i also think that engagement would be good for the cuban people, as people to people exchanges and the cuban american family travel would increase cultural engagement. assist in family reunification. and this opening of space will provide improved access to cuba for non governmental organizations that are focused on governance and human rights as well as facilitating technical assistance to cuban civil society groups concerned with improved standards of economic and personal freedoms. i do have to say, mr. chair you mentioned about visiting prisons in cuba. when i did go, i did visit allen gross. and i visited him in prison. and i think that it was
important that during the time that mr. gross was incarcerated that a number of members of congress went over and visited him and pushed for his release. and i think that that was a contributing factor. again, i just feel that you really can't change people and governments whom you refuse to engage with. and so increased engagement to me seems like it would be a contributing factor to improving the human rights situation on the island of cuba. and i look forward to the testimony from our witnesses today. thank you. >> i'd like to now yield to the chairwoman emeritus for the full committee on the foreign affairs affairs. congresswoman ros lehtinen. >> thank you very much. if by visiting mr. gross you believe that you have been to a cuban jail, maybe this dissident dissidents here could tell you what a cuban jail is really
like. but we're thankful he is home. or we ask someone like mr. gusman who's in the audience today, he served 22 years in cuban prison. i want to submit for the record a letter from the international committee a foreign cuban prisoners documenting a list of the many prisoners still languishing in mr. castro's gu log. i want to thank you for convening this important hearing for your unyielding and passionate commitment to human rights, to freedom. not just for the oppressed people of cuba but for all people people. who who continue to seek even the
most basic human rights. everywhere you find a political prisoner there you will find mr. smith. so thank you for that. and want to thank you all, champions of freedom on the island and the falgs of what the democratic democratic faces of cuba will look like. these are brave pro democracy activists who have seen fist hand the brutality of the regime by the constant arrests and beats they have had to endure. the isolation that they have had to endure while in jail. they did not have food prepared especially for them. they were starved. and after this hearing they will be going back to cuba. amazingly enough as you pointed out mr. smith to continue the fight for freedom and democracy.
ber that will be marching this very sunday. and there were 13 detentions of the ladies in white just last sunday. if you think everything is all wonderful just as ask these dissidents what life is for them. our witnesses are just three of the kounsless faces of cuba who went represent the people who the administration has shut out. and rarely are they invited to meet with dignitaries. rarely do they invite dissident who is disagree with this administration. these are the people who have to suffer the consequences of the administration's decisions. it is easy for the president to
change this policy in his ivory tower. these are the faces who must now suffer under a castro regime reenergized. the regime is reenergized by the obama policies and the injections of cash. the september announcement serves to embolden the regime stating it can continue its regime with impunity. raul castro said we will not change. and looks the other way. it undercuts the brave fighters in cuba who rightfully believe that the u.s. has turned its back on them. don't confuse the u.s. people with the administration. just like we don't confuse the castro regime with the people of cuba.
who owns the hotels? the castro regime. what runs them? the castro military. the truth is it is a regime that severely punishes dissidents. even to this day. a yong rapper sentenced to prison just last week for a year. did he commit a crime? no his charge was dangerousness which could lead to a crime. the precogs of that movie. they predict you are going to commit a crime so they arrest you beforehand. this regime forbids reform and will do anything. forbids cubans from listening to independent private or foreign broadcasts and even sensors the signals of its own ally's televised propaganda. it is important we understand
the kind of the murderous regime we're dealing and that president obama wants to normalize relations with. on november 4, 199 the house committee convened congressional hearing entitled the cuban program, torture of american prisoners by cubage agents. a at that hearing you remember mr. chairman we heard testimonies from american prisoners of war who were tortured at the prison camp in north vietnam known as the zoo during the period of the august '67-68. nineteen of those courageous servicemen well-being psychology psychologically tortured by cuban agents. and the administration states this. the following abuses continued.
selective prosecution. denial of free trial. this is from the state department. our state department. they are still negotiates with castro while this is going on. authorities interfered with privacy, engaging in pervasive monitoring of the private conversations. the government did not respect freedom of speech and press. severely restricted internet access and maintain monopoly on media access circumstance subscribed economic freedom and -- ability of religious groups to meet and worship. our own state department. the government refused to recognize human rights group or permit them to function legally. they can tell you about that. in addition the government continued to prevent workers from forming independent uniance. where are those voices so much for independent unions here in the united states. but not for so you. you're not good enough.
i'm sorry. no human rights for you. impunity for the perpetrateors remain wide spread end quote. if this administration doesn't defend democracy right here we cannot call for reform throughout the world if we abandon them 90 miles from our shores. thank you mr. chairman welcome to our panel. >> chairman ros lehtinen. thank you for that powerful statement and your consistent support again not only of the cuban people but people who are dealing with ing withing with tyrannies all over the world. >> i mope you get your visa. don't hold your breath. >> and mr. cicilline. >> thank you mr. chairman. i particularly want to thank the witnesses here today and thank
you in advance for sharing your insight and your experiences. and i know that some of you are brafly joining us to share very personal story of very difficult and painful experiences. and we are really indebted to you for your willingness do that as we discussed yesterday i continue to have the deep concerns about how the cuban government treats its zens. but it's clear the united states policy with cuba has not worked either. and i hopeful that president obama's efforts to engage in really substantive negotiations to more honest ties will ultimately benefit the united states and cuban people. i hope the cuban government will come to the table to -- and it's very important for us to pay close attention to the congoing
negotiations to make hur any changes are implemented in a way that maintain ours commitment of basic valleyues and human rights. with that i yield back mr. chairman. >> now yield to my good friend and colleague. who's been a very powerful voice. mario diaz ballard and thank him for joining us. he's a member of the appropriations committee and does us the honor of being here. >> thank you for the opportunity to sit in for a few minutes. i will not be able to stay for the entirety pause i do have other meetings to go. but i could not let this moment pass without first thanking you sir for your just steadfast leadership and your consistent leadership. whether it's been fighting for freedom and supporting the opposition in vietnam and communist china and north korea. wherever there has been
oppression mr. chairman, you have always been consistent just like chairman emeritus ileana ros-lehtinen. and i want to make a couple months. and the ranking member who was very kind this his introduction mentioned how some of us might have family history. the issue of human rights has nothing do with family history. because i for one am opposed to oppression in communist china in north korea, in vietnam. and i don't know. i was a very young man when we had sanctions against south africa. and i supported the sanctions in south africa. i'm assuming that the ranking member was also opposed to sanctions in south africa. because i'm assuming obviously that she is also as consistent as the chairman is on these issues. i supported as a young man those
sanctions against south africa. because doing business with the apartheid regime was not to help the struggling -- folks who were strucking for freedom in south africa. all it did was help prop up that regime in south africa. so mr. chairman i couldn't let this time to slide by. >> may i ask the gentlemen to lead for a second. >> of course with all pleasure. >> i was really only trying to acknowledge people who had personal situations. ismsn't trying to says that the only reason you are concerned with cube cuba. i just wanted to respect what i knew you and ileana's family has been there. that was all. >> and i thank you for your kind statements. i took it as a kind statement. i want to make sure of that. but i'm just saying that the issue of human rights and the consistency on that is important. when we look at the folks that
are here today -- i mentioned south africa. in front of us today are the mend mandelas, the hobbles. the future leaders of the free and democratic cuba. when folks talk about cuba they sometimes confuse the regime with cuba. no. this is cube in front of us today. those who have spent years in prison. ask him about the conditions by the way of the prince. ask them about how well the cuban people are treated. ask ms. fonseca. go to the youtube and look at her videos.
ask berta soler about what happens when you just walk peacefully with a flower in your hand going to church and asking for freedom of their relatives. ask her how the cuban people are treated. so at a time when during the state of the union our president spoke about cuba -- and by the way for the first time in my recollection did i see a president speak in the state of the union about cuba and not even mention -- not even mention human rights. not even mention democracy. not even mention. not even give lip service to elections in cuba. i am grateful to you mr. chairman for bringing these heros, the future leaders. them and others the future leaders of cuba to this the united states congress to
testify. because again, at a time when the president, when our prosecute has president has decided to ignore the repression the arrests heck, even sending of arms to north korea from the castro regime, this house as it always has will continue to stand with you with the future leaders of cuba. with the people of cuba and not with the regime. i am grateful for the opportunity mr. chairman to be able to sit in here for a few minutes. thank you sir. i yield back. >> thank you very much for your powerful statement and which has been consistent through the the world. i'd like to recognize now mr. emmer, from minnesota. >> thank you mr. chair. and it is difficult to follow that from a new colleague. so won't. i won't try to follow that. all i will do is say thank you for this hearing mr. chairman. especially in light of the
president's decision to somehow restart diplomacy with the regime currently in charge in cuba. they talk -- and there are still concerns for some of us about why the president would have used the process he used, side sidestepping the state department, having over a year of secret meetings that didn't involve normal process. but that part aside it really is all about human rights and the cuban people. which is why it's so interesting to me. the discussion about normalization of the relationship is really what we're here about today. and i appreciate that you and the ranking member have decided that we're going to bring in some people to talk about some basic freedoms, the situation, exercise the over sight that was the jurisdiction of this committee. because thankfully the president has acknowledged that he does not have the authority to dismantle, as he suggested, the
embargo and start to normalize relationships with cuba. that is up to congress. and hopefully it starts here today. and we can talk about how people can have basic and fundamental rights to assemble with people they want. to speak freely on their own behalf. and god forbid even against their government. and that people can actually practice their faith in public and be proud of it. i'm looking forward to being part of the process and i thank you again for holding this hearing. and for the witnesses i look forward to your testimony today and i yield back. >> thank you very much mr. emmer. i'd like to yield to mr. -- >> thank you mr. chairman. >> a leader especially in this congress and human rights. >> thank you mr. chairman. forgive me being late. but i want to pay tremendous respect to those who come to testify today. each of us are still searching on the merits of why the
president would make the unilateral decision that he made to provide diplomatic relationship with cuba against the wisdom of a dozen previous presidents. what he has done is elevate a terrorist state. along with cuba is syria, sudan iran that are terror states. and now he's declared to the world that this state is acceptable to the united states. as the very sad day. i work -- have worked for the last 30 years with missionaries in cuba. they tell me the plight of the religious inequities and the challenges they face and people trying to live out their faith. so i am deeply concerned over the impact of what will happen.
the elevation we've given to the marxist doctrine that will be encouraged throughout the world. we have dealt with cuba on an ongoing basis in the united nations. they have sought to engage those to oppose the united states and those of our closest allies, including israel. so i'm here to pay respect to you and thank you for your commitment and to clearly say to you that we stand with you fully engaged on behalf of the wonderful people of cuba. thank you and god bless you. >> thank you very much mr. pittenger. it is now an honor to welcome our witnesses. they are doing here today in washington which they would not be able to do in cuba. especially before that rogue congress where there is really
no election no free and fair elections. first mr.a man whose a leader in the democratic movement. rejecting the communication indringsin indoctrination he was receiving in skools. he is a leader of the non violent movements. arrested in 1990 for peacefully protesting the castro brothers regime. and endured the next 17 years in jail. torture, solitary con finite and denial of medical care that almost cost him his life. since his release in 2007 he has continued to advance the cause of freedom and human rights in cuba. he also knows first hand the discrimination suffered by afro
cubans on a daily basis. an underfocused upon aggressive racism employed by the regime. then mr. berta soler. the ladies in white is a movement of wives and female relatives the cuban political prisoners now evolved into the potent group open to all cuban women. mrs. soler and four others in white received the sock rov award in 2006 but the castro brothers barred them from attending the ceremonies. i would also note that the ladies in white have been nominated by ms. ros lehtinen and i and others for a nobel
peace prize committee. and along with another medical doctor who's been tortured as well. he testified here as you know by way of a phone hookup and told us do not -- do not end the embargo embargo. get the conditions first. get human rights and durable human rights at that before that embargo is lifted. and he said it even though there is great risk to himself in articulating. he pointed out as many others have pointed out that europeans have been trading with cuba for decades. with no a --. then we'll hear from ms. fonseca who grew up in a household that opposed the administration based oen the principles and religious
belief. due to her family's faith she was denied the opportunity to complete our studies. 2004 became that member of the pro human rights party. and joined the parks movement in havana. that same year she also participated with the ladies in white as the lady of support. she and her family have experienced numerous state organized monoattack edd mob attacks. as a result she's sought refugee status in the united states. then mr. jeffthale. along with a focus on specific countries and themes, he led the team that authored 14 new ties. recommendations for new directions in u.s. policy towards latin america.
she is studied cuba since the mid 90s and traveled to cuba more than a dozen times. including organizations --. he kortds -- like to now yield the floor to antone ss. >> translator: honorable christopher smith. and members. my name --. i am the a former political prisoner who spent 17 continues years of political imprisonment. for the sole supposed crime of
calling out in a public square in my hometown of placetas for the implementation of reforms of those taking place back then in communist europe. within the prisons i remained steadfast in my condition as the political prisoner. and due to my constant struggle to denounce human rights violations from within prison walls, i was subjected to the most refined forms of torture and cruel punishment. for example, on the morning of 14, october 1994, high ranking
officers of the political police, in spite of the fact my hands for handcuffed behind my back, sicked dogs on me. because i did not accept the regime's indoctrination program within prison walls. i was sent to the most inhospitable and rigorous prisons. later, together with very courageous brothers from the prison we founded the political organization. which in spite of repression managed to unify hundreds of the political prisoners to carry out things within the prison walls. after i was released in 2007 i have continued with the struggle inside cuba where i think it is
most important. i am currently active in the orlando sopatatomayo front. this is a national organization which carries out protest in the defense of human rights throughout cuba. today i'm here in the name of my brothers and most especially those in prison for their ideas which are dozens over. they have remained in prison in spite of the unconvincing
process of release agreed upon by president barack obama and dictator raul castro. among my imprisoned brothers i want to mention these men. these men are part of a long list of heros whose only crime has been first of all to oppose the dictatorship and second of all to continue resisting within prison walls. a few days ago we learned that the president of this great and
hospitable nation had greed with dictator raul castro to reestablish diplomatic relations. as well as steps leading to the elimination of the embargo. and as if this were not enough three confessed spyies who participated in the murder of four u.s. citizens were exchanged for innocent contractor allen gross. these agreements which are considered by an important part of the cuban resistance as a betrayal of the hopes of freedom for the cuban people are unacceptable.
because the principles and the freedom of a country do not belong to any government no matter how powerful or influential this government may be. there is under way an international effort expressed by the obama castro accords to promote a supposed evolution within the castro regime. this is the fraudulent change promoted by the castro regime in order to perpetuate itself in power. this is illusion is manipulated by the dictatorship in order to perpetuate itself in power. the castro dictatorship cannot be reformed.
the castro dictatorship is based on the negation of democratic society and everything this represents. the castro dictatorship not only seeks to control the cuban people. it also seeks to export this repression. it seeks to export this repression to other countries such as venezuela. what does real change in cuba mean? it means the restitution of all civil rights. it means a general amnesty for all political prisoners. it means the right to organize political parties and independent labor unions.
real change in cuba means free, real elections. internationally supervised edd elections. it means the separation of power from the castro brothers. this is recognized in current u.s. law towards cuba and it should remain so. because it constitutes the best possible support for the cuban resistance. a majority of the cuban resistance has signed onto the agreement for democracy in cuba. this is a road map of 10 elemental points towards democracy in cuba. we ask recognition from the congress of the united states for this document and for what
it represents as a clear path towards democracy in cuba. i ask the american people and this freely elected congress that it maintains its firm support for the right of the cuban people to be free. we may be close to true change in cuba. the drop in the international price of oil. the instability of the regime which has been the main support of the cast stroe regime. the specific resistance which is wide spread throughout the island and how this resistance is increasingly coordinating itself.
this is the moment to demand real concessions from the castro regime. only this can mean norm relation relations between the united states and cuba. cubans can be as successful in the island as they have been abroad abroad. what we need is freedom. the cuban resistance struggles for this freedom. we need your understanding and your support. thank you. >> antones thank you very much for that very powerful testimony. we do have a series of votes on the house floor. we have to take a short recess. and so ms. soler, if you wouldn't mind. we'll just break and then come
back for questions. and i do hope that members of the press and our audience will stay. because we have very powerful testimony awaiting. so we stand in short recess. the subcommittee will resume. i want to apologize. we did have a series of votes on the house floor. but looking forward to your testimony. we'll begin with our second witness, ms. soler, if you could proceed.
>> honorable congressman smith distinguished members of the subcommittee subcommittee. above all i want to thank you for listening to me. and also to thank you, thank all of the people and organizations who have made it possible for me to testify on the human rights situation in my country, cuba. we are presently living through a particularly defining moment for the future of our country. in the wake of the recent
announced reestablishment of the diplomatic relations between cuba and the united states. i am appearing here as the leader in the ladies in white. a group of woman activists who support change towards democracy in our country through non violent means. inspired by the example of women such as rosa parks and coretta king among others. who with courage and determination blazed path for full enjoyment of civil rights in this great nation.
before you. that is civil society that is particularly repressed by the intolerance of a government who's system of power -- human rights of people. just before i left cuba to be here last january 28th the day we celebrate the birth of our founding father jose martin. dozens of activists were arrested in havana and other provinces for attempting to place offers of flowers at
statues of jose martin. in its totalitarian vision the dictatorship seeks monopoly in use of force through all independent activists. the most respected international human rights organizations have documented violations of human rights in cuba. on october 28 2013 the inter-american commission on human rights issued an injunction on behalf of the
members of the laids in white to afford protection in the face of the systemic oppression by cube authorities. to afford protection in the face of systemic oppression by cuban authorities. i submit the official precautionary measure issued by the commission for these purposes. as well as a report by cubalex which issued the report before the commission. i request that these reports be made part of the record of this hearing as documentary evidence for our testimony.
as proof we are exposing of it in our testimony today. these documents demonstrate that the subject of political prisoners continues to be one of the most sensitive issues in cuba today. reaching far beyond vocational or periodic release of some of them. resolving this matter requires the unconditional freeing of everyone who has been jailed for
political reasons on the island. and the elimination of all legal restrictions used to oppress those who think differently from the regime. cuba continues to be a country with a one-party government. where fundamental freedoms that an absolute right in north american society are crimes against what they regard as state security.
separation of powers does not exist in cuba. freedom of expression and association continue to be repressed and the constitution establishes that the communist party as the driving force for society. the right to strike is regarded as a crime with workers on and off the island. subject to conditions of labor slavery, which have been denounced by international organizations. at the international level. while these conditions prevail it is not possible to speak of a willingness to change on part of
the stroecastro regime. >> that same january 28th during his appearance in san jose the dictator castro stated that cuba will not give up one millimeter. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: for us this signals the continuation of beatings and jailings against children in school. [ speaking in a foreign language ]
>> translator: in all mat earns of intimidation and abuse that we suffer daily from wants to see a democratic and inclusive see a democratic and inclusive cuba. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> our aspirations are legitimate because they are under write under underwrited. and the civil rights that have not been ratified by the dictatorship. frem for prisoners, recognition
for civil society. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: the elimination of all criminal dispositions that penalize freedom of expression and association. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: and the right of the cuban people to choose their future for free, plural elections. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: we believe these demands are just and valid. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: even more importantly, for us they represent the most concrete exercise of politics. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: a step in the direction of democratic
co-existence. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: cuba will change when the laws that enable and protect the criminal behavior of the forces of oppression and the corrupt elements that sustain the regime change. in the name of those that have been executed. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: in the name of cuban political prisoners. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: in the name of the pilots from the humanitarian organization brothers to the rescue murdered on the orders of fidel castro. in the name of the victims from the march 13th tug boat. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: in the name of the victim of cuba's communist
regime. cuba yes, castro no. >> thank you very much for that very powerful testimony and for providing very specific bench marks that the cuban dictatorship is to follow if cuba is to be free. thank you so much. i would like to now yield the floor to mrs. conseca. >> translator: good morning my name is -- [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: i was born in 1970 into a cuban family that since 1959 had been branded as a distant of the state.
[ speaking in a foreign language ] >> we were classified as contra-revolutionaries because we were opposed to the castro regime. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: for other half a sen tur which i, they have violated and violate human rights. >> translator: from the beginning there have been crimes murders political prisoners and people discriminated. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: all those that speak out against the regime are oppressed or murdered. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: in spite of
having been raised in communism, they never convinced us that is the right way to live. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: has a human rights activist, i mar tis pated in actions in havana. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: among them a historic demonstration in 2011 in the old capital building in the center of havana. >> on that day, four women in spite of oppression flew a banner talking about the release of all prisoners. hundreds of cubans witnessed this protest. [ speaking in a foreign
language ] >> translator: we inspired many cubans that began to shout along with us for freedom. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: others carried out their own protests. at all times, we felt the support of the people. [ speaking in a foreign language ] this protest was well the oppression that we later suffered. i have been repeatedly arrested. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: they have beaten me senselessly in police stations to the point they thought they had killed me. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: on one occasion, three female police officers dragged me by my hair from one
cell to another. while they dragged me by my hair, they kick me in my back and in my head. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: once while i was still handcuffed, a mall police officer kicked me with ul all his strength in my head. [ speaking in a foreign language ] p [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: as a result of this i suffered serm innocent dam to my kidney and i have spinal problems. i still suffer from dizzy spells. >> it is with this brutality, and much worse that the castro regime controls the cuban
people. they do this to show the people what the cost of rebellion is. iment to emphasize that this type of repression continues today right now in cuba. cubans cannot elect their leaders. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: children are indoctrinated in schools, and those that do not follow the brainwashing cannot finish their studies studies. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: the people have been condemned to sparsity hunger, and misery by the regime. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: a people without
freedom of expression all of the media controlled by the government, and hungry are easy to manipulate. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: people think only about how to feed their family and although they do not like the way they're living they only think of survival. the cuban people are tired of imposition and dictatorship. in order to escape they venture out to sea on make-shift rafts. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: it is for these reasons that we do not agree with the negotiations between the mt. of the united states
barack obama, and castro. >> why negotiate with a dictatorship without considering the people and their resistance? [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: what about all of the years of suffering and beatings and the opposition to the people when they demanded freedom and democracy. [ speaking in a foreign language ] what about the political prisoners, the murder that disappeared [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: what has castro given in exchange. only when all political prisoners are released. only when all independent political parties and labor
unions are legalized. only when free multi-party democratic elections are carried out. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: only when human rights are respected, only then should the embargo be lifted. i thank god for being raised by a family that taught me truth. for saying what was on my mind, for stating what was on my mind i was not able to finish my study and neither were my sons. my family and i have been repressed, beaten, thrown into cells. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: my house was destroyed by those using sticks,
stones. [ speaking in a foreign language ] who hurled paints, tar, waste -- excrement, chemical liquids. this attack against my house was carried out by military thugs. to lift the embargo means to legitimatize dictatorship. >> to provise them with oxygen so they stay in power while oppressing oppressing, jailing, and murderings murdering. the cuban people will not benefit from lifting the embargo, only the regime will benefit. the castro dictatorship owns
every company that exists in cuba. no cuban can own their own business. the castro family owns cuba. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: we have faith in the future of cuba because we have faith in the struggle of the cubanresistance. there is only one resistance inside and outside of cuba. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: the agreement for democracy, a historic document lays out a clear road map towards democracy. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: we want freedom justice, and democracy for cuba now. god bless cuba and the united states. thank you.
thank you so very much. and thank you for reminding us that these atrocities continue to this day again under scoring the appalling lack of respect for mind mental human rights by the dictatorship. mr. fail please continue. >> i want to thank chairman smith for these rights in cuba. we're a nongovernmental organization. i followed latin american human rights issues and i developed the program since 1995. i travel there regularly and i try to meet with a wide range of cubans. government officials and
government critics. i have met with theactivists and continue to. i have had the pleasure of visiting people who were speaking on a panel in the senate the other day. the question before us today is has the united states squandered an opportunity to promote human rights in cuba? i think our basic position is farl from far from squandering, we will open new paths to improve conditions. it will provide opportunities to advance u.s. values and interests. opening new avenues of engagement for churches overall it will enhance the prospects for freedom of expression and
reform of the ie lapd. i want to very briefly comment on three issues. one is the human rights situation in the country. the second, what i see is the failures of a policy of isolation, and the third, quickly, the opportunities for the ways in which engagement can advance the human rights situation. on the first question, there is very little doubt and we have talked about the serious human rights problems in cuba. no one is unrealistic about that or has a rosy view. i think it is clear that the cuban economy is overall fairly stagnant. many people, especially young people are yearning for real opportunity and don't feel they have it. and the modest economic growth in cuba in the last few years led to increases in inequality and one group in particular that has not benefitted from modest
economic growth. at the same time i want to be clear that the picture in cuba is not uniformly grim. life expectancy in cuba is similar to the united states because of hub lick health measures. literacy levels are high. cuba just passed legislation to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation. very serious problems, but cubans probably don't face the kind of issues that citizens face in areas like saudi arabia. the question is not whether or not there is a human rights issue. the question is what can the united states do to improve that situation. for the last 55 years we pursued a policy of isolation. i think it is fairly clear if
you hear what the testimony is for the other panelists they have failed to do anything. it created hardships for nor man citizens. in many ways it offered a government a rational to crack down on deacceptability. so the policy has not succeeded in bringing change in the cuban government. at the same time it relegated the united states both u.s. government and society to the sidelines itself. so the policy of isolation is failed, and i think it pretty clearly has, the question is what about a policy of engage m engagement engagement. no one thinks it is a manic solution to the human rights problem in cuba but periods of engagement is when we have seen relaxation and the release
priszersprisz prisoners. in the 2012 talks. all three saw significant prisoner releases, and just this last month, 53 political prisoners were released completing completing. so the government of spain, the government of canada the government of norway a number of international groups have seen specific bentefits they have made. i think beyond the dialogue of cuban officials, it will help reformers inside the cuban system. it will provide for space and opportunity. it will benefit people to people
travelers, religious interaction. telecommunications is going to offer new opportunities for internet access and information on the island. so joefr all i think it is clear that the policy of engagement is likely to expand families, assist a small but growing private sector, and help cubans connect to the outside oralworld. that is the past we ought to pursue if we want to help. we should not be nieve. >> thank you for your testimony. we're joined by the gentleman from florida i yield his time
for his opening statement. >> thank you, thank you for coming today. i want to say for the record i think if foreign investment would get these e guys to turn around we would be in a different situation. i am worried that we're just casting a lifeline to folks to murderous folks who are really about to go under. for senor garcia. senora grk ars-- garcia. [ speaking in a foreign language ]
country, but for my countrymen as well. and anything that i can do to help you in this sacred fight, i am willing and enthusiastic to do so. i'm so sad, sometimes broken hearted for your suffering and your injuries. and i can't imagine what it would be like. so i want to tell you wholeheartedly how much i support what you're doing. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> thank you, if you would like to respond but one member has a plane to catch and asked if she
could take time. >> i sit on the board of the national endowment for democracy, and there is about 27 organizations that are funded to help with activists in cuba. some of them are funded in cuba, and some are funded in miami. i just wondered one, if you thought that the funding was helpful, and also the three of you are here today, how were you able to come how were you able to get out of cuba? do you travel back and forth? those are the questions i would like to ask the three of you and then i would like to direct a question to the other witness.
[ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: all aide received is very important. i can tell you thanks to the aide we have received in cuba we have been able to safe one life. and i will give you an example. [ speaking in a foreign language ] when you have a cell phone in your hand, you have a weapon with which to defend yourself. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: without the aide we get from abroad we could not pay for that cell phone.
[ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: on many occasions we have been about to transmit from one corner of the island to the other about an activist that was arrested or disappeared which otherwise there would be no report about. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> thanks to that kind of communication, we are able to go on to the streets and command freedom for those arrested. >> i'm relatively new on the board, i was just learned about the funding but given that we don't even that mail exchange i was surprised you were able to even get any aide from the united states.
>> translator: yes, it is very clear that you can receive aide from one family member to another. that is why the cuban exile community is so important. >> and with your travel are you able to go back and forth between the united states and cuba. are you able to go back and forth? >> in my case, i'm a refugee in the united states. >> okay but you guys are going back? [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: at this moment in time, some activists are able to leave cuba and come back thanks
to the aide that we receive from some ngos. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: this doesn't mean that we're free, there is my activists impeded by the regime in cuba. >> i understand, but the fact that you're able -- they know what you're doing right? [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: i want to give you an example, there is four political prisoners. there are at least four prisoners part of a larger group of 75 that were released from
prisz under house arrest and they can't leave cuba. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: and one of the ladies in white was released on 9 december and when she requested her passport, it was denied to her. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: i consider it a petty reform there is no freedom to travel. >> finally because i promised the chair i would be quick. i wanted to ask me falay if you could talk about some of the -- in the president's proposals it
will allow more economic exchange between our two countries, and i'm wondering what impact you think that might have, especially on the freedom or lack there of of people to open up their own businesses. i understand there are some businesses like people with restaurants in their homes and things like that. i don't know to what extent there is extentativesive free enterprise. >> cuba about ten years ago worked for the state or state businesses. today it is probably down to 70%. the number of people that work for themselves have gone up from about 150,000 to about 500,000 now. there has been a substantial increase. some of those businesses are quite successful, and have a
dozen or 15 employees. many of them are small vendors and small restaurants. i think that the owning thatpening we offered to the private sector will take awhile to get through, but it will create a sprawl private business sector. i think we will see change in that time. >> thank you first of all, let me introduce mr. guzman who was a prisoner for 20 years and was treated horrendously. i would also like to introduce a guest who is the wife of -- and a leader in her own right she
founded the rosa parks civil rights movement and spoke out bravely along with her husband. thank you for joining us today as well. i would like to ask a few opening questions. first, if you could, if you would not mind specking toaking to the mistreatment of afro-cubans. i have been working cuban rights issues and i have learned, i have been in congress 25 years, working cuban issues 35 years, i think there is a lack of attention given to the additional mistreatment given by afro-cubans. the full weight of tierney comes down upon them, but there seems to be a differentiation, and a focus and prejudice against
afro-cubans, if you could speak to that. >> the appreciate your concern and interest today. and i appreciate that concern even from those who are in agreement with barack obama's policy. >> before i answer your question directly, i would like to reflect on something. and with all due respect for one of the panelists, i felt great pain a few months ago. i felt ill-at ease.
to lin to the cuba situation being called bad but not that bad. >> translator: the situation in cuba is bad but not that bad. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: i really don't understand what you mean by saying the situation is bad but not all that bad. [ speaking in a foreign language ] and when you talk about cuban mothers, who go to sleep crying because they have no food for their kids the next day. i think of those young women that had to become prostitutes so they can feed their families. i think of the fact that cubans can barely afford to live i
think about the gross inequality between the regime and the people. i think about the moral, spiritual, and economic poverty of the people of cuba. there may be some educational achievement in cuba but when we're talking about a sch of us that consistents on endoctrine nation nation -- endoctrineation. i think that invalidates your argument. it is true that cuba is a
medical power. but they're not a medical power for [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: cuba has many sophisticated hospitals and clinics. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: but those clinics are only for people that can pay with dollars. they're only for tourists for or the elite. >> i also heard you say that the human rights treatment is not that pad. is it not that baa to be in prison for displaying a sign
calling for freedom? is it not that bad to be in prison like mr. jorges and i want to emphasize this case. mr. barack obama released three confessed spies from the u.s. who were conspireing against the stability and security of this country. however, this young man was sentenced to 30 years in prison. and he spent 18 years in prison because he passed on information to the u.s. about 26 spies. the situation in cuba is extremely bad. and if you will allow me i want
to comment upon your reflection. and i want to address directly what you asked. i want to ask why can't you travel to cuba? because if you are allowed to go to a cuban prison all you will see is black people hundreds of black men. you will see men that would rather jump from a rooftop and commit suicide or men being bitten by dogs. you will see the beatings and the persecution. you will see these very far flung sentences very high sentences. you will see dozens and dozens of political prisoners not even mentioned in these negotiations.
if you want to go to cuba, tell them you're not going to visit prisons. i think this addresses what you asked about discrimination in cuba. >> thank you very much "the washington post" has done many editorials very critical of president obama's moving towards opening up diplomatic relations and they made a point that i would like to under score here. we're repeating mistakes that have been made in the past. when bill clinton went to vietnam and opened relations with vietnam that followed very quickly with the bilateral trade agreement, many of us said it
was a mistake not to get human rights reforms, durable reforms first, and then move to the diplomatic relationship. the post points out that it is the way mr. obama has gone about this that has s ais a mistake. not reform first but moving in to provide a lifeline as one of the editorials pointed out at a time when venezuela is provided less funding. a very opportune time, and we blew it when it came to vietnam. the vietnam human rights act, harry, the majority leader, now minority leader, harry reid would not put it up for a vote, but three times bipartisan
legislation with benchmarked to vietnam. cuba is already there and we're moving having not learned a single lesson from those failed openings openings. i firmly disagree about your comment about isolation. we're talking about financially enabling a lifeline. and they talked about president obama's betrayal of cuban democrats. some that were rearrested that were let out. just under 200 that we know of that were arrested in the several weeks alone. but it is always hanging over this dictatorship.
i have one question, if i could, and then i will yield. i have been working, and a leader in the area of combatting human trafficking. i'm the prime author of the trafficking victims protection act. the state department has a office, created by law, and they put an annual lists of countries using what we contain in the law using minimum standards. the worst designation is tier 3. cuba is a tier 3 country. an egregious violator of trafficking with the castro brothers and the rest of that government making money hand over fist by forcible prostitution and child prostitution. i was in 2004, working the human
rights commission in geneva, there was evidence of this dictatorship with child prostitution and child exploitation. he was knocked out cold. hit in the face by cuban so called diplomats, thugs. the freedom house came to his defense and made a very strong statement against it because he was bearing witness to that ugly truth of child prostitution, and the state department chronicles this. they have been subject to forced prostitution outside of cuba as well, and child prostitution and child sex tourism continues. in the hotels renting children. that is the reality of what this barbaric regime is all about. they make money on child sex
tourism. it is not an open society. i would love for investigators to go there and love to bring charges against those. a tier three country. i would like to ask any of our witnesses if they would like to speak to the disespicable record of cuba when it comes to modern day slave trade. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: is itmportant to know that the government
promotes child prostitution in cuba. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: the cuban government knows there are many youths that don't go to school but are on the streets looking for ways to make money to feed their families. it is shameful to say, but i must say -- [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: just last week there was a group of young women saying they were preparing themselves for when american tourists arrive so they could sell themselves to american tourists. >> if we call for the hundreds of youth to have empowerment if
we call cubans who were going to try to steal and take from their places of work to feed their families, if we call this empowerment -- [ speaking in a foreign language ] if we call empowerment for the women in white if we call this empowerment -- [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> they fill schools with teachers who are poorly trained. the children of human rights activists are failing their
tests and they're damaged or harmed in their studies because their parents have involved in human rightstivity activity. this is not what we want for cuba. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: the cuban government is trying to build a chinese model in cuba. the cuban government is looking for -- they need oxygen they need air. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> the cuban government wants a capitalist tick economic system, and a communist political system. we can't tolerate this over half a century. [ speaking in a foreign language ] human rights first, economy second.
[ speaking in a foreign language ] >> the cuban people are suffering hungry not because of the american government. [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: the cuban people are hungry because the communist system doesn't work. [ we don't want a suckcession in cuba. we don't want a dynasty in power, we want free elections. >> the resources that are for the people of cuba. >> translator: the resources meant for the human people, castro will take to strengthen
their apparatus. thank you, mr. smith, thank you for calling this important hearing. thank you to our witnesses who are victims of the castro regime for being here today. i'm humbled to be in your presence. some of you live in cuba, others are here now but have family in cuba. i know you're very brave for being here today. this is sort of an insurance policy that you have offered them mr. smith because by being here today perhaps they will have a degree of protection that other figures as brave as you are won't have. i know you were ri about them, thank you for holding up their photos. thank you for describing the current dismal human rights
situation in my native homeland of cuba. and i wanted to just give this statement and then ask you some questions. how has the regime's treatment of it's critics changed since december 17th? do you think this announcement will force changes? i will ask you to respond in a minute. how does the regime manipulate the press here in the united states and elsewhere and visitors and tourists on the high land that island that may come back here with a distorted picture of what is going on. this morning i did a radio interview and the reporter says "i know cuba, i was there for a week." and you have heard today that castro's cuba is a picture of
equality, and they have the rights of afro cubans, thank you for pointing out the type of apartheid government that exists there, especially the medical and prison apartheid. thank you for points out the mistreatment of the afro-cuban americans. you testified that the picture in cuba is not a uniformly bad one. the fact that you say it could be worse. i suppose so, it could be always worse. it is disgusting and it is an affront to the panelists that sit beside you and the countless number of people that have been jailed for expressing their god given and fundamental rights. so thousands who have died trying desperately to flee cuba.
it is such a workers paradise where the situation is not that bad, that i see people in my district that wash ashore trying to flee castro's cuba even no as all of these negotiations have taken place 40% increase in the number of cubans fleeing the situation that is "not that bad." people who live in constant fear because the regime is watching them closely, or the millions more who managed to flee over the years. you are repeating the castro problem propaganda about good public health care. you should come to miami and meet with my constituents and have them tell you about this great medical care, i have seen it in the michael moore
documentary "sicko." i know if you're a tourist you certainly will be treated well. the real truth is that the good medical care is just a show for the castro regime, reserved only for the regime or officials and the tourists. i know because i represent that community. my district is overwhelmingly cuban coup coup cuban-americans. they are the folks that voted for me, and marco rubio and others but we know the medical system in cuba, the vast majority of cubans have no
access to the system. please interview people as they get off the planes. thrown in jail for exposing the truth about abortions being committed and the poor hospital conditions. and mr. smith brought that out time and time again. life expectancy rates and others you're doing a survey in cuba? they're manipulated by the regime. it's unbelievable that we swallow this. willing to swallow the regime propaganda. their utter falsehoods and repeat it over and over again to the detriment of the truth, the public, and especially the cuban people. it is such a great system the public education system. as these witnesses have pointed out, it is a public endoctrine nation program.
have you seen the textbooks? meant to halt free will. i have met with lbgt activists that have dismissed the claims of progress. they condemn the lack of human rights for everyone. they will protect human rights if you agree with the castro regime. they will protect anyone that agrees with the castro regime. but being lbgt in community and speak out against the regime, see how far that gets you. my first question is can you honestly look at your copanelists in the eye and tell them in a the picture in cuba is not a particularly grim one? it's not that bad, and the torture, beatings, imprisonment
and apartmentharassment they had to endure is not particularly grim. your 17 years in prison not particularly grim. not that bad. the beatings including 13 who were detained on sunday but the press does not cover that anymore. and you talk about how the engagement lead to the release of political prisoners. you point to the false list. but what happens the next day when we're not looking. when the press has done near stand -- their stand ups they don't want to lose that bureau, how many more are detained? how many of the 53 were released prior to the agreement or are you under the fallacy that the
list is not authentic. what about the other ones. why 53? there was 9,000 imprisoned last year according to repoerts. how about those individuals that were held up what happened to them? the goal toll do a bait and speech. release some out of expediency. and rearrest those people or find new ones to throw in jail now they don't have to wait until the press attention is out. just on monday a young rapper was put in jail for a year for dangerousness that could lead to a crime. how can you justify that? how can you say we liberated these 53 and it's not that bad. i want to ask our panelists
here, has it not been that bad for you? when you were in jail? not that bad? not that grim? [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> i think with the situation of the human rights violation in cuba, it is worse than we can describe it. it has been written about in some documentaries have been made but none of them capture the full reality. they can't capture the brutal reality of imprisonment in cuba.
maybe those who don't have a very good idea, or don't have all of the information about what a cuban prison is like -- [ speaking in a foreign language ] >> translator: could come to think that a prisoner in come to think that a prisoner in cuba is merely deprived of their freedom. they could -- they could ignore -- they could ignore the cuban prisoners -- they're being injected with some kind of sedative. and there have been cells throughout the prisons and them beatings and murders have been taking place. there have been clinically induced suicides that have taken place in cuban prisons. i will never forget -- i will never forget will simpson gonzalez. when he was manipulated by the
prisoner authorities to jump off a third story rooftop. i will never forgot the use of a device for torture in cuba. i don't want to consume too much of your time telling you about the horrors of the prisons. because i have so many examples of fortune. i won't have enough for me to go over all of them. and you asked me how i could describe political imprisonment in cuba. i would ask you to ask dante. and find it in his great work. you can't talk about process of engagement of dialogue of understanding if you ignore
something as important as crucial as essential as political prisoners. we often talk about the embargo. and we hear it mentioned in different forms. eloquent voices speak out against the embargo. however, one of the members of congress who is not present right now blames the em bar gee for not being able to go to cuba. but it should be mentioned that the only real -- the only real embargo, the only real blockade that the cubans face is the cruel, criminal castro dictatorship. that does not limit itself and
on a weekly basis beats women on the streets. a regime who murdered in the hospital a courageous woman. or who murdered a man who did not allow him to drink water for 18 days. yeah, there will be changes. there will be improvements. but not for the people. it will be for that regime that has imprisoned so many cubans, that has repressed cubans and that is frankly carrying the lead in these negotiations -- or taking the lead in these negotiations. those of us who are sitting here are not extremists. we're not backward looking people.
we're not against policies of engagement and understanding. and we think that the best way to solve a conflict is by approachment. but what we can accept but what we can't accept is you confuse cuba with the regime that oppresses cuba. what we will not accept and we have no reason to accept is that the cuban opposition be ignored in these negotiations. the castro regime has found in barack obama's engagement policy
part of the incentives it needs in order to continue repressing and to maintain itself in power as well as legitimize itself internationally. the cuban resistance is not recognized -- these accords. and we do not come from moral authority or secular authority. no matter how powerful you may be. we are appreciative of international solidarity and we accept it. we respect those who think that president obama's policies will benefit cuba. but all that we ask, please that you recognize us and you take us into account.
>> it is very important for you to know the cuban government -- it is very important for you to know -- it is very important for you to know that the could been government uses state terrorism against the defenseless women. the cuban government is not a sovereign government. the cuban government has not been elected. therefore -- therefore, we cubans are the sovereignty of cuba. we have the right to express our opinion. it is very important that you know we have no problem -- we have no problem with the governments of the united states.
because they have always tried to support the people of cuba. what we are against is the way in which these negotiations are being conducted. because we are the sovereignty of the people of cuba. the secrecy surrounding those political prisoners who are going to be released was another deceit of the cuban government. 14 prisoners had already been released. but these 14 were not free men like those three spies that president obama unconditionally
handed over to the castro regime. these political prisoners released by the castro regime have been released on patrol. you must take this into account. we can help in how the u.s. government deals with the cuban government. you can't do business with criminals and if you do, you must have conditions. you can see how the role -- how castro himself is already setting conditions, but which are the conditions that we're demanding from the cuban government?
how can it be possible that the police take us to far away parts of the city and that they fracture our wrists with their pistol butts? it is a suffering people. it is a -- it is a people that needs fro come. -- freedom. freedom depends on us cubans. but we need to support -- we need the material and spiritual support of other governments. i want to go further back. in 1980, 100,000 cubans left cuba. teachers engineers, physicians and castro