Washington, DC– Please find below the text of a letter sent by U.S. Congressmen, Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Kendrick Meek (D-FL), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Robert Andrews (D-NJ), and Frank Pallone (D-NJ), on March 24, 2009, to President Barack Obama regarding U.S. policy toward the Cuban dictatorship. The Congressmen are members of the Congressional Cuba Democracy Caucus:
March 24, 2009
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
As Members of the Congressional Cuba Democracy Caucus, who represent the overwhelming majority of Cuban Americans in the United States, we would like to briefly share with you some thoughts concerning U.S. Cuba policy.
Just 90 miles from our shores, extraordinary men and women are struggling daily against a brutal 50 year-old dictatorship and look to this great nation for solidarity. Your presidency comes at a decisive moment for Cuba. You will have an extraordinary opportunity to assist the Cuban people in finally achieving their freedom.
Cuba Measures in the FY 2009 Omnibus Appropriation Act
We agree with the interpretation of the general license for agricultural travel and the definition of cash-in-advance requiring payment before shipment from U.S. ports, as outlined in Secretary Timothy Geithner’s March 9, 2009 letters to U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Bob Menendez.
However, in regard to Cuban American travel, we are troubled by the explanation in the “Guidance on Implementation of Cuba Travel and Trade-Related Provisions of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009” that the general license grants “unlimited” lengths of stay in Cuba. We believe that this will serve to channel U.S. taxpayer dollars directly to the regime because retirees and Supplemental Security Income recipients could remain on the island indefinitely while collecting U.S. taxpayer-provided benefits.
The goal of freedom for the Cuban people has long been a U.S. policy of state, supported by Administrations and Congresses of both political parties. This U.S. policy of state becomes more important each day with the serious illness of Fidel Castro, the ultimate power in the very personalized totalitarian Cuban dyarchy. In a bipartisan fashion, Administrations and Congresses have insisted that before the U.S. makes any concessions to the Cuban regime, all political prisoners must be freed, all political parties, the free press and labor unions legalized, and internationally supervised elections scheduled. Any easing of sanctions, without demanding any concessions lessening the oppression of the people by the regime, will serve to strengthen the dictatorship and demoralize the Cuban people.
Aid to the Pro-Democracy Movement
As you will recall, Congress, by strong bi-partisan majorities, recently appropriated a significant increase in U.S. aid to the pro-democracy movement in Cuba. Congress has also consistently supported funding for Radio and T.V. Marti, which provide the Cuban people with uncensored information that the regime attempts to block, and which also provide pro-democracy activists a vehicle to share their messages throughout the island.
Congress was very clear in its intent that the United States should increase aid to the pro-democracy movement inside Cuba. We look forward to working with you to make certain that U.S. assistance reaches the pro-democracy movement in an efficient and expeditious manner. We also look forward to working with you to make certain that Radio and T.V. Marti continue to be funded and improved to better serve the U.S. national interest in a democratic transition for the people of Cuba.
The International Community
Too many in the international community are seeking to assist the Cuban dyarchy in its goal of obtaining unilateral concessions from the United States and succeed in its attempt at absolutist succession once Fidel Castro dies. It is critically important for the international community to receive a clear message that the Obama Administration stands firmly and clearly on behalf of a genuine democratic transition in Cuba, and will not grant the Cuban dictatorship any unilateral concessions. All our friends in the international community should be urged by your Administration to join the U.S. in demanding free, multi-party elections for Cuba.
Cuba’s Political Prisoners
The Cuban dictatorship will attempt to use political prisoners as a bargaining tool with your Administration. Please recall how the regime has used political prisoners in the past in this manner, only to detain hundreds more once its immediate goals were reached.
We will continue to do all we can to bring to light the inhuman conditions suffered by Cuba’s political prisoners and to call for their unconditional release. Your solidarity and advocacy on their behalf is critical, and it can serve as inspiration, not only for the hundreds of thousands of patriots who have been incarcerated for their beliefs, but for the entire Cuban nation.
We would look forward to joining you in a strong demonstration of support for Cuba’s freedom.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz