Hunger strike in Cuba
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    Castro mediates Colombian peace deal — but won’t talk to Cuban dissidents

    Castro mediates Colombian peace deal — but won’t talk to Cuban dissidents

    Cuban President Gen. Raúl Castro has been applauded by world leaders for
    his mediation in Colombia’s peace talks
    But Castro refuses to talk with his own country’s peaceful opposition
    It’s time to demand that Cuba’s dictatorship abide by the international
    treaties it has signed, and allow basic freedoms

    What irony! Cuban President Gen. Raúl Castro has been applauded by world
    leaders for his mediation in Colombia’s peace talks, but he steadfastly
    continues refusing to hold peace talks with his own country’s internal

    The irony of Castro’s mediation in Colombia’s peace talks with the FARC
    guerrillas was brought to my attention this week by Guillermo Fariñas,
    the well-known Cuban dissident who started a hunger strike in his
    hometown of Santa Clara, Cuba, on July 20. He wants to call world
    attention to the plight of Cuba’s peaceful dissidents, and wants the
    Castro regime to start a dialogue with them.

    More than 12 other dissidents have joined Fariñas’ indefinite hunger
    strike, and the National Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) dissident
    group has announced that an additional 200 of its members would hold a
    12-hour fast in a symbolic gesture of support for the hunger strikers.

    It sounds absurd, but even now — a year after Cuba and the United States
    resumed diplomatic relations and U.S. cruise liners with American
    tourists are descending on the island — Cuba’s military regime refuses
    to talk with any of Cuba’s peaceful opponents under the ridiculous claim
    that all of them are U.S. “mercenaries.”

    Since 1959, Cuba’s unelected regime, which Raúl Castro has inherited
    from his older brother Fidel, has not allowed government critics to vote
    in free elections, form political parties, speak on the island’s
    television broadcasts, write in independent newspapers or exercise their
    United Nations-sanctioned universal right to freedom of assembly.

    And while President Barack Obama visited Cuba in March and has
    dismantled much of the U.S. trade sanctions on the island, allowing
    American Airlines, Sheraton, Netflix and dozens of other U.S. companies
    to resume operations in Cuba, the Cuban government continues to use the
    fairy tale of “U.S. aggression” as an excuse to deny basic freedoms to
    its people.

    “It is hypocritical for the Cuban government to act as the mediator in
    Colombia’s talks with that country’s violent guerrillas, and at the same
    time be incapable of being tolerant with its own country’s peaceful
    opposition,” Fariñas told me in a telephone interview.

    Fariñas, who has held hunger strikes before, said he is starting this
    one to demand that Cuba stop the beatings and political detentions of
    opponents. He wants Castro to appoint one of his vice presidents to sit
    down with 12 representatives of Cuba’s peaceful opposition.

    Police beatings and detentions of peaceful dissidents and detentions
    have risen significantly, Fariñas told me. As I reported recently, the
    non-government Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National
    Reconciliation says there were 6,075 political detentions during the
    first six months this year, which — if the current rate continues during
    the next six months — would be a significant increase over last year’s
    8,616 detentions.

    Fariñas was arrested and beaten by police on July 19, when he went to a
    police unit to ask about a fellow dissident.

    “Two members of the anti-riot police started punching me repeatedly,” he
    told me. “After that, I was questioned for five hours.”

    What should the United States and other democracies do? At the very
    least, he responded, “they should freeze any kind of negotiations with
    the Cuban government until there is a commitment by the government to
    stop the beatings.”

    My opinion: It’s time for the Obama administration, Europe and Latin
    American democracies to ask Cuba’s military dictatorship to comply with
    the international treaties it has signed, including the 1993 United
    Nations Declaration of Vienna, and the 1996 Ibero-American Summit’s
    Declaration of Viña del Mar.

    The latter one commits all signatory countries, including Cuba, to
    support “freedom of expression, association and assembly” and “free
    elections.” If treaties like these are forgotten, and countries that
    routinely violate them are not even reminded about them by their fellow
    signatories, how can governments ask us to take them seriously?

    Pretty soon, when Colombia’s peace talks are finalized and formalized,
    Pope Francis, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, President Obama and
    most other democratic leaders will hail the peace accords, and Gen.
    Castro will be at center stage as the big peacemaker. It will be high
    time to demand that he allow peace talks in Cuba, too.

    Source: After Colombian peace talks, Cuba should hold its own peace
    talks | In Cuba Today –

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