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    Sister of Cuban activist 'Antúnez' to deliver letter to Congress

    Posted on Wednesday, 05.06.09
    Sister of Cuban activist 'Antúnez' to deliver letter to Congress
    BY LESLEY CLARK
    lclark@MiamiHerald.com

    WASHINGTON — With efforts to open Cuba to and trade heating up
    on Capitol Hill, the sister of a prominent Cuban democracy activist
    plans Wednesday to deliver a letter from her brother decrying three
    members of the Congressional Black Caucus for meeting with Fidel and
    Raúl Castro — but no dissidents.

    Berta Antúnez is also asking to meet with California Democrats Barbara
    Lee and Laura Richardson and Illinois Democrat Bobby Rush to tell them
    her brother was ''outraged that these members of Congress would not take
    the time while in Cuba to meet with any of the island's and
    pro-democracy activists.'' The delegation spent five days in April in
    Cuba, talking with government officials and said on their return that
    Havana is interested in talking to the .

    But Jorge Luis ''Antúnez'' Garcia Perez questions the trip in the
    letter, charging that while the lawmakers met with the Castros, “our
    home and the five protesters who remain within it were subject to a
    brutal siege by the combined forces of the national and political .

    ''When one is fighting for liberty and human rights within a
    totalitarian society like the one that exists in Cuba, it is hurtful and
    offensive that citizens of a free society who have access to uncensored
    information visit our island and lack the courage to inquire about the
    unjustly imprisoned political prisoners,'' wrote ''Antúnez,'' who began
    a hunger strike on Feb. 17 to protest the Cuban government's treatment
    of political prisoners.

    ''There are brave men and women within Cuba that need to be heard,''
    Berta Antúnez said in a news release. “I hope that these members that
    traveled to Cuba to meet for hours with Castro will take a few minutes
    to listen to the pleas of the victims of Castro's .''

    The visit comes as advocates for increased trade and travel to Cuba amp
    up a campaign to relax restrictions, saying current U.S.-Cuba policy is
    a Cold War relic that has failed to work. U.S. Chamber of Commerce
    President Thomas Donohue joined lawmakers at a Capitol Hill press
    conference Tuesday to push for access to Cuba's markets. A bill to lift
    all travel to the island has been introduced in the House and one of its
    sponsors predicted Tuesday he'll have the votes to see it passed. An
    influential senator is expected to soon introduce legislation that would
    relax restrictions on trade.

    ''Lifting the will remove Cuba's excuse for economic failure,
    promote a transition to democracy and offer significant economic
    opportunities to American farmers, businesses and workers,'' Donohue
    said, noting “there's so much opportunity there and it's being taken by
    our trading partners.

    '' people will tell you today that they know it's eventually going
    to open, but they need years to get down there and figure out how
    they're going to take on the foreign hotel guys that are eating up all
    the good spots,'' Donohue said.

    Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley criticized the effort in a
    conference call with reporters, saying Cuba's political situation needs
    to improve before the United States relaxes sanctions against the regime.

    ''The present political situation has deprived the Cuban people of any
    standard of living,'' Grassley said. “Every other country in the world
    has had open trading with Cuba and in 40 years it hasn't changed
    Castro's mind either. . . . I think we ought to keep the pressure on."

    Sister of Cuban activist 'Antúnez' to deliver letter to Congress –
    Breaking News – MiamiHerald.com (6 May 2009)

    http://www.miamiherald.com/news/breaking-news/story/1034631.html

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