President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President,
We write regarding your recent historic visit to Cuba on March 20-22, the first time a U.S. president has visited the island since the Cuban revolution of 1959. Our organizations work to promote and defend the human rights of the people of Cuba. We are concerned your visit may have conferred unwarranted legitimacy on the rule of the Communist Party and the leadership of Raúl Castro and Fidel Castro, who continue to maintain a single-party dictatorship on the island.

We thank you for mentioning the principle that Cuban people should be able to decide their own future and we thank you for saying that the Cuban people should have the right to peacefully protest. More than 30,000 Cuban people have signed a petition to the National Assembly calling for a national referendum (specifically, a binding plebiscite) to decide which system the Cuban people wish to have: single-party dictatorship or democratic government. We urge you to publically support citizen participation in the democratic process, the only thing that will guarantee the beginning of a democratic transition process in Cuba.

In Cuba today there continues to be no freedom of speech, no religious liberty, no respect for human rights, and no due process of law for those targeted by Cuban government officials. We appreciate your gesture of meeting privately with leading dissidents and democratic leaders during your trip. However, we hope that you would now publicly call on the Cuban government to honor the basic human rights of these individuals and the thousands more like them who wish to put forward criticism of the Castro regime and propose plans for reform of Cuba’s government and to solve problems in their society.

Without strong public and diplomatic support from the United States at this critical moment, your visit could serve the unintended purpose of providing legitimacy to the Communist Party’s rule and could sweep the pro-democracy movement further into the shadows for years to come.

It is significant to note that Raúl Castro has made no political or economic reform. Indeed, he has made it very clear that Cuba will not abandon its “revolutionary ideology”—a system that provides political cover for the government’s corrupt practices and brutal repression of the Cuban people. We are particularly troubled by the uptick in political arrests and arbitrary detentions in the 14 months since you announced your plan to open diplomatic relations with the Cuban government. In 2015 alone, over 8,000 Cubans were detained for political reasons. And in March of this year, 1,416 people were detained for political reasons, including nearly 500 peaceful dissidents arrested during your brief visit. In this environment, it is not surprising that the number of Cuban citizens attempting to escape to the United States has drastically increased in the last year.

We all want a Cuba that is free, prosperous, and at peace with the American people. We know that this future cannot come while Cuba is a single-party dictatorship. We also believe that future reform must include accountability for the thousands of innocent people killed by the Cuban government for political reasons during the past five decades of communist rule. Those responsible for these abuses have until now enjoyed impunity. A brighter future for Cuba cannot be based on lies about past crimes.

If the government of the United States will not champion the principles of liberty and give voice to the Cuban people’s desire for freedom at this historic moment, what other power will?  Mr. President, we respectfully request that you call on the Cuban government to immediately release all prisoners of conscience in Cuba and to end the thousands of arbitrary detentions and systematic harassments of dissidents, journalists, artists, religious leaders, pro-democracy activists, and average citizens who simply criticize the Cuban government and support the right of Cubans to decide their future.
Please do not abandon the Cuban people in their moment of hope.


Marion Smith, Executive Director of Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation
Rosa María Payá, Cuba Decide Campaign
Frank Calzon, Center for a Free Cuba
Mauricio Claver-Carone, Executive Director of Cuba Democracy Advocates
Rey Anthony, Free Cuba Foundation
Carlos Alberto Montaner, journalist and author
Sebastian A. Arcos, political prisoner and dissident, Associate Director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University
Rev. Mario Felix Lleonart, Iglesia Bautista – Cuba
Mary Curtis Horowitz, Center for a Free Cuba
Javier M. Corbalán, Fundación Hispano Cubana
Ambassador Everett E. Briggs
Dr. Carlos Eire, Professor of History and Religious Studies, Yale University
Edward Gonzalez, Professor Emeritus, UCLA
Dr. Nestor Carbonell Cortina

Taken from Dissident