This morning CNN aired a report about a letter sent by the Cuban dissident group Damas de Blanco to Barack Obama, which CNN mischaracterized as an endorsement of the Senator's proposal to lift the travel and remittances restrictions imposed in 2004 and to hold direct talks with Raul Castro in order to secure the release of over 200 political prisoners held in Cuban jails. While the report mischaracterized the letter sent on May 22, 2008 to Senator Obama by the Damas de Blanco (download the letter here), what was most troubling was U.S Congressman Albio Sires' dismissal of the Damas de Blanco as "just one group" in the commentary that followed. In joining the opinions of the Bush Administration and his South Florida colleagues in Congress, Representative Sires defended a policy that, in addition to separating Cuban families, ignores the pleas of not just the Damas de Blanco, but of the overwhelming majority of Cuban dissidents, including: Marta Beatriz Roque, Elizardo Sanchez, Vladimiro Roca, Miriam Leiva, Oscar Espinosa Chepe, Gisela Delgado, Hector Palacios and many others.

Are we to believe that Congressman Sires knows better than Cuba's political dissidents who are suffering first-hand under the repressive Castro regime about how to best bring democracy to the island? Instead of dismissing the claims of the Damas de Blanco, Congressman Sires and others should join with them in solidarity and do what is best for the people of Cuba and not for the narrow special interest groups. It is not surprising that Rep. Sires has received at least $20,000 from the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC since 2006, according to reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission. The U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC is a special interest group dedicated to making financial contributions to Members of Congress who oppose any change to current U.S. policies toward Cuba. What is disappointing however, is that a Cuban-American like Rep. Sires would not only support policies that divide Cuban families but that he would dismiss the relevance of such an important group like the Damas de Blanco, a group of incredibly outspoken and courageous women who risk life and limb to highlight the regime's unjust imprisonment of peaceful dissidents and secure their release.

It is time that our representatives in Congress and the Administration made good on their commitment to support Cuba's internal dissidents and political prisoners by listening to their pleas and acting without delay to adopt any and all measures they believe will help their internal struggle, even if this means taking unilateral measures to change U.S. policy.

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Date Title
5/28/08 Current Record