Smith Disappointed that Obama Admin. Offers Unilateral Actions Regarding Cuba
U.S. Should Hinge lifting sanctions to improvements on human rights
Congressman Smith voiced strong concerns about the Obama Administration’s decision to unilaterally abolish almost all restrictions on U.S. travel to visit family members in Cuba and on remittances to family members living in Cuba.
Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-4th) today voiced strong concerns about the Obama Administration’s controversial decision to unilaterally abolish almost all restrictions on U.S. travel to visit family members in Cuba and on remittances to family members living in Cuba, a totalitarian state which has one of the worst human rights records in the world.
“I am disappointed the Obama Administration did not make freeing all political prisoners a precondition before taking this step,” said Smith, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and its Western Hemisphere Subcommittee. “The Cuban government hasn’t changed its policy of denying visits to political prisoners, let alone releasing them. This is a unilateral move taken by the United States with no indications that visas will be granted to Cuban Americans who want to visit their family members held as political prisoners. There’s no reciprocity. No one from Cuba can come to the United States to visit their family living here. We should have insisted on the release of all political prisoners as a precondition. It remains that the Cuban government can decide who gets a visa. They decide who comes in.”
Obama’s policy reverses travel restrictions for Cuban Americans and most restrictions on Cuban-Americans’ financial remittances to relatives in Cuba. It has also called on Cuba to reduce the excessive charges it levies on these remittances, so that the relatives can get more of the money. It has not addressed the trade embargo or travel restrictions on other Americans.
On April 9, Smith and Frank Wolf (VA-10th), both leading human rights advocates in Congress, held a press conference with former Cuban prisoners, Cuban refugees and Cuban human rights advocates regarding a Congressional Delegation’s trip to Cuba last week and its meeting with Fidel Castro, and his brother Raul, who is currently ruling Cuba. Human rights issues went largely unaddressed by the American delegation, even as Cuba pushes for normalized relations with the United States in order to exploit the American tourism market and commercial interests.
In February, Smith and Wolf were denied entry into Cuba to meet with political prisoners. By contrast, last week seven Democrat Members of the House were permitted to enter the country. The Democrat delegation met with both Raul Castro and Fidel Castro, and lavished praise upon the two dictators while human rights and democracy-advocates remained in jail.
“I’ve been denied a visa twice and Congressman Wolf and I are still trying to go a third time,” Smith said. “Let’s see if the Cuban government lets me visit now.”