WASHINGTON, DC—U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the Committee’s Ranking Member, have sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry requesting he publicly release the names and current status of the 53 Cuban political prisoners Havana committed to releasing during talks to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba.
After sending the letter, Chairman Royce said: “The Castro regime's continuing crackdown on political dissidents makes basic transparency about these 53 individuals critical. Who are they? When will they be released? For those released, are they being surveilled and intimidated by the regime? To truly advance the human rights agenda; these are basic questions that should be publicly answered. Why the secrecy?”
After sending the letter, Ranking Member Engel said: “Normalizing relations with Cuba cannot be a one-way street. We need to see real changes from the Castro regime, and human rights need to be at the center of those reforms. More transparency about the release of these prisoners would provide assurances that Havana is living up to its end of the bargain.”
The text of the letter follows:
January 8, 2015
The Honorable John F. Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Mr. Secretary:
We are writing to request that you publicly release the names and current status of the 53 Cuban political prisoners Havana committed to releasing during talks to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba. We believe this would allow the American and Cuban people to gauge the Castro regime’s commitment to universal human rights standards.
As you know, Cuba has long used politically motivated arrest, imprisonment, and intimidation to restrict political activity and free speech. Despite Cuba’s announced commitment to release these individuals, their status remains shrouded in secrecy. Adding to our concerns, it appears that politically motivated arrests have continued, with as many as 50 arrests made since President Obama’s December 17th announcement of his intention to normalize relations with Cuba. As recently as December 30th, Cuba detained several free speech activists before a planned rally in Havana.
Given this ongoing crackdown, it is our concern the Castro regime will either continue to detain individuals it agreed to release or will re-arrest those it has released. Publicly releasing these names would allow Congress, as well as the American and Cuban people, an important means of evaluating Cuba’s commitment to human rights. We think you will agree that the United States-Cuba relationship cannot near its considerable potential until the fundamental human rights of the Cuban people are respected by their government.
EDWARD R. ROYCE
ELIOT L. ENGEL
Read the letter Rep. Engel sent to Secretary Kerry here