14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 23 January 2015 – Friday morning the US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roberta Jacobson, met with a broad representation of Cuban activists. The meeting had the character of a working breakfast and the main objective was to hear from dissidents and opponents with regards to the negotiations for the reestablishment of relations between the United States and Cuba.
The meeting was held at the residence of the Chief of Mission of the US Interests Section and, on the Cuban side, attended by members of various civil society groups such as the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), and the opposition group Estado de Sats (State of Sats).
José Daniel Ferrer, UNPACU leader, said, “The meeting was very fraternal, frank and positive.” According to the activist, the American side was very receptive and “reaffirmed their interest in maintaining a commitment to the demand to respect human rights, the current point of greatest concern among Cuban civil society.” The majority of those present, according to Ferrer, “focused on detailing their concerns about the future of Cuba,” and also on the concern “that the decision about the future of Cuba must rest with the Cuban people.”
Some activist expressed their concerns that the government of the United States had already made too many concessions in the process of negotiations, while the Cuban government had only released 53 prisoners.
Elizardo Sanchez, president of the Cuba Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, said that “the meeting was marked by cordiality and human closeness. With this invitation and with the reception to be held tonight, the US delegation wanted to give a clear message of appreciation to the peaceful efforts of civil society.”
One of those absent from the meeting was the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, who explained to EFE today that she decided not to participate because she considered that the guest list was not balanced. Soler, who has expressed her opposition to US diplomatic approach towards Cuba and to the measures easing the embargo announced last week in Washington, expressed her dissatisfaction, saying “the selection” did not take into account “the diversity” of positions and opinions that exist in the internal dissent on this issue.
In a press conference after the meeting, Jacobson said the purpose of the change of policy toward Havana is to promote a “greater openness” in Cuba, with more rights and freedoms and “to empower the Cuban people.” According to the US diplomat, the issue of human rights and democracy is “crucial” for the United States, although she recognized that there remain “profound differences” with the Cuban government on this question.
Several activists have called a press conference at the headquarters of the CCDHRN to summarize the meeting and present their views on the process of restoring relations between the two countries. The conference will be held at 1:00 PM, at 3014 21st Street between 30th and 34th streets, in the Playa neighborhood.