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Occurrences in the Congressional Record

Entry Title Date
Human Rights In Cuba: A Squandered Opportunity February 27, 2015
Christopher Smith, R-NJ
"Mr. Speaker, earlier this month I held a hearing to examine the state of human rights in Cuba, which is a very timely topic indeed, given the Obama administration’s sea change in policy toward Cuba announced at the end of last year. I have repeatedly asked whether in undertaking this change in policy, the Obama administration used the considerable leverage that it wields to seek to better the condition of the Cuban people, or whether, as I fear, an opportunity was squandered in its haste to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough and create a legacy for the President. The hearing was not only about Castro regime accountability, but also Obama administration accountability, with Congress exercising its role of both oversight and as a bully pulpit for reminding the world that Cuba remains a Communist dictatorship which continues to arrest political dissidents—over 200 so far in 2015—and one whose caudillo, Raul Castro, has declared would not change, even in response to the Obama administration’s concessions. This Castro regime continues to harbor fugitives from justice such as Joanne Chesimard, who was convicted in the 1973 murder of a state trooper in my home state of New Jersey, Officer Werner Foerster. Indeed, earlier this month, we had the Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Roberta Jacobson appear before the full Foreign Affairs Committee. I asked her what the response of the Cuban Government was when she raised the issue of the return of Joanne Chesimard to justice. She replied that the Cuban Government stated that it was “not interested in discussing her return.” This is unacceptable. I received a statement from Christopher J. Burgos, the President of the State Troopers Fraternal Organization of New Jersey, wherein he states on behalf of our Jersey State Troopers that “We are shocked and very disappointed that returning a convicted killer of a State Trooper was not already demanded and accomplished in the context of the steps announced by the White House regarding this despotic dictatorship.” We had with us three very brave and uniquely qualified witnesses to the brutality of the Cuban dictatorship, three human rights activists who at great personal cost to themselves and their families stood up for human dignity. We heard about the deplorable state of human rights in Cuba, how Afro-Cubans in particular face discrimination on a day-to-day basis, and the brutality with which human rights activists, including women, are treated. We heard of murders sanctioned by the government, of beatings, of arrests and re-arrests. And I would also like to point out that after testifying here, in public, two of our witnesses returned to Cuba. They know that one day the regime will exact a price against them for their temerity. Yet they insisted on appearing, so that they can share the truth of what is happening in their beloved isle. What bravery! I therefore would like to dedicate the hearing I held to the Cuban people, who have suffered for so many decades under the brutal regime of the Castro brothers, and to thank our witnesses for testifying. I also would like to thank in particular my dear friend and colleague, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, for her leadership day-in-and-day-out, in good weather and in bad, on behalf of the people of not only Cuba, but in countries such as Venezuela, China, and Vietnam, where the people continue to suffer under oppressive rulers. Thank you, Ileana, for your leadership and moral clarity. It is thus my belief that there should be no easing of the pressure until Cuba has met definitive and concrete human rights and democratic milestones. Among these milestones are the release of all political prisoners, the end of harassment and a policy of releasing and then re-jailing, the ending of restrictions on freedom of speech and the press, and on the rights of Assembly. Moreover, the Church must be allowed to conduct its affairs fully and freely without government interference. And, finally, the Castro regime must be held to account for their harboring of some seventy fugitives from justice, including Joanne Chesimard, who is on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list. To that end, I would like to state that I intend to introduce legislation that will complement our existing legislation on Cuba, in particular Helms-Burton, making sure that important human rights milestones are met before our government makes concessions that are effectively unilateral, squandering leverage."
Personal Explanation February 27, 2015
Robert Hurt, R-VA
"I was not present for Roll Call vote #97, a recorded vote on the Castro of Texas Part B Amendment No. 6 to H.R. 5. Had I been present, I would have voted “no.”"
Brothers To The Rescue February 24, 2015
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-FL
"Nineteen years ago today, the Castro brothers ordered the shoot-down of the civilian Brothers to the Rescue plane and blew them out of the sky over international air space during an unarmed, humanitarian mission."
Congressional Authority Versus Presidential Authority February 11, 2015
David Jolly, R-FL
"We know this President has attempted to negotiate with the Castro regime to normalize relations in Cuba."
West Virginia’S Second District Priorities February 2, 2015
Alex Mooney, R-WV
"My mother was born and raised in Cuba where, at age 21, she was thrown in jail for 7 weeks as a political prisoner by the communist regime of Fidel Castro. After her release, she fled here to the United States where she was welcomed with open arms to restart her life in freedom."

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