Congressional Democrats Visit Cuban Dissidents in Havana

EspañolOn Sunday, January 18, a coalition of 15 Cuban dissidents met in Havana with a delegation of US representatives led by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The group gathered to discuss the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba announced by Barack Obama in December.

The meeting was led by Cuba’s top opposition figures, such as Yoani Sánchez, editor-in-chief of the independent outlet 14ymedio; Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White; and José Daniel Ferrer, representing the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), among others.

Elizardo Sánchez, spokesman for the Human Rights and National Reconciliation Cuban Commission, told reporters there was no unanimous sentiment among the opposition, since “some disagree with the dialogue between both governments” while others “see a positive side to it, and believe [both countries] should resolve their differences through talks and negotiations.”

Berta Soler explained the Ladies in White’s opposition to the US diplomatic turn to news agency EFE. “[The deal] favors the Cuban government with resources it will receive, and it will use them to enhance its repression machinery. Nothing will change.”

After the meeting, Sánchez announced she gave Leahy a list containing the names of 24 political prisoners that have spent over 10 and 20 years in Cuban jails. The activist said she asked the US senator to place their “release for humanitarian reasons” on the agenda for bilateral talks.

The delegation, made up entirely of Democratic Party legislators, will end their visit on Monday, after speaking with Cuban state officials, employees of the United States Interests Section Office in Havana, and ambassadors from Spain, Norway, Mexico, and Colombia.

Two more meetings are expected to take place in Havana next week, when government representatives from both countries will further discuss a new era of diplomatic relations in greater detail.

Sources: 14ymedio, BBC Mundo, El Nuevo Herald.

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