The United States remains committed to helping Cuba find a path to freedom, said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson.
The United States is committed to supporting the Cuban people’s desire to freely determine their own future. Recently, the United States has eased travel restrictions to the island nation and permitted Cuban Americans to send remittances to Cuba. This is part of a strategy to enhance the free flow of information to, from, and within the island, support civil society, and provide Cubans with resources to take advantage of opportunities for self-employment and private property, reduce their dependence on the Cuban state, and fuel the emergence of a market economy that we hope will eventually challenge the dominance of Cuba’s current ineffective, state-run economic model.
The United States also recognizes the importance of engaging with the pro-democracy and human rights activists who have been working for years to expand the political and civil rights of all Cubans. U.S. foreign assistance programs in Cuba provide humanitarian assistance to political prisoners and their families, support the documentation of human rights abuses, and promote the free flow of information.
In 2010 and 2011, the Cuban government released dozens of political prisoners. Unfortunately, their release did not bring about a fundamental change in the Cuban government’s poor record on human rights. The Cuban government has continued to punish political dissent, increasingly using repeated, short-term, arbitrary detentions to prevent citizens from assembling peacefully and expressing their opinions. It continues to limit freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and access to information. And it has continued to harass peaceful human rights defenders, including the courageous “Ladies in White.” The U.S. also continues to seek the release of U.S. citizen Alan Gross, an aid worker, who has been unjustly imprisoned in Cuba since 2009.
The U.S. has taken steps to support religious groups in Cuba by authorizing U.S. religious organizations to sponsor religious travel, and by allowing unlimited remittances, the people of the United States are directly supporting the empowerment of Cubans to engage in religious activities on the island.
The message to Cuba and other governments across the hemisphere is clear said Assistant Secretary Jacobson: “Exercise of free speech is not criminal behavior. To the contrary, free speech is a right that must be defended. ... We will be the first to cheer when a democratically chosen government in Cuba resumes its full participation in the Inter-American system.”