U.S. demands Cuba release political prisoners

Cuba calls latest war of words ‘propaganda'

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the press after briefing members of the Senate on the current relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States on Capitol Hill on Nov. 28, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)

HAVANA – The U.S. is once again demanding Cuba release political prisoners, while the Cuban government calls the demands propaganda and says the U.S. has no moral authority to make demands. 

It is the latest back-and-forth in the war of words between the two countries, that for two years saw a thaw in their relationship but since the election of Donald Trump the relationship has once again become icy. 

In a three-page letter, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said for decades the U.S. has had profound concern over Cuban political prisoners, often charged with “pre-criminal ‘dangerousness.’”

Pompeo made reference to March 2016 when then President Barack Obama and former Cuban President Raul Castro held a joint press conference and Castro was asked about political prisoners. 

Seemingly annoyed, Castro denied having any political prisoners and asked to see a list, then vowing to release any if true. 

The list has been provided several times, but the United States has not received a response to a request of promised explanations. 

“Over 100 political prisoners remain in jail,” Pompeo added, who included a list of eight cases.

In a tweet, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel criticized the letter adding the U.S. has no moral authority to talk about human rights and that it was being hypocritical and dishonest. 

Carlos Fernandez de Cossío, who heads the U.S. Section at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry, said Pompeo’s letter was propaganda and the U.S. lacked willingness to sit down with Cuban and talk human rights. 

“Cuba is a country where human rights are respected,” Fernandez de Cossío said. 

The high ranking government official said among those rights are the rights of Cuban citizens to have a dignified life, free of exploitation and violence and one with access to health and education services. 

“The United States recognizes the sovereign right of every state to try and to convict individuals for violating criminal laws, provided they are afforded fair trial guarantees by an independent and impartial tribunal,” Pompeo wrote at the end of his three-page letter. “That principle, however, does not justify the imprisonment of Cuban individuals for simply exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of religion, expression, assembly, or association.”

Pompeo provided names, he alleged, remains in jail as political prisoners. 

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