Obama’s Hopes Focused On Meeting “With Cuban Civil Society” / 14ymedio

Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, during El Sexto’s art exhibition in Miami, Florida. (14ymedio)
Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, during El Sexto’s art exhibition in Miami, Florida. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Havana, 13 March 2016 — The Ladies in White Movement has made public this Sunday the letter sent to them by Barack Obama through his advisor Ben Rhodes, during a meeting with representatives from civil society and the exile that took place on Friday in Miami. In the letter, the president emphasized that “the United States will always stand for human rights,” and said that he is looking forward to his meeting “with civil society” during his stay in Cuba.

The president thanked the Human Rights organization for “taking the time” to write. In a previous letter, signed by the movement’s leader Berta Soler, the women expressed their concern for “38 consecutive Sundays” on which they have been “repressed by the Department of State Security,” at the end of their peregrinations along 5th Avenue in Havana.

Obama said his administration takes “seriously the concerns you have raised about human rights in Cuba” and said he plans “to raise these issues directly with President Castro.”

“After 50 years of trying an isolation approach that simply did not work, I believe we can do more to support the Cuban people,” the president reiterated. The United States believes that “no one, in Cuba or anywhere else, should face harassment, arrests, or physical assault simply because they are exercising the universal right to have their voices heard.”

The US President also said that the Ladies in White “are an inspiration to human rights movements around the world.”

This Saturday, Soler told that press that she was concerned “because President Obama said he would only come to Cuba if he saw progress on human rights, something that has not happened.” The activist also wished the president to meet with opponents to learn about the repression firsthand.

The president’s visit has deepened the differences among the internal Cuban dissidence, divided between those activists seeking to leverage the new context with the United States to promote changes, and others who see any dialogue with the Cuban government as a way of giving legitimacy to the regime.