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Occurrences in the Congressional Record

Entry Title Date
The Castro Regime’S Ongoing Violations Of Civil And Political Rights July 18, 2016
Christopher Smith, R-NJ
"Mr. Speaker, it has been one year and eight months since President Obama announced a major change in our country’s policy towards Cuba. It has been eleven months since Secretary Kerry visited Havana and reopened our embassy. And it has been nearly four months since our President visited Cuba. Clearly, a lot has changed in just over a year and a half. But for the people of Cuba, what has changed? At a hearing I convened last week, we examined the sorry state of civil and political rights in the Castro brothers’ Cuba, and how, despite all the promises by this administration that an opening to Cuba will lead to a greater opening domestically for the Cuban people we still see political repression—including, it must be noted, repression directed at the Afro-Cuban population. This is not the first time this subcommittee has expressed concern about the lack of openness to democracy and dissent in Cuba. In fact, one of our witnesses, the courageous Dr. Oscar Biscet, offered dramatic testimony before this subcommittee in February of 2012, when he testified via telephone from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana after evading the Cuban police to get there. Likewise, on February 5, 2015 we held a hearing entitled “Human Rights in Cuba: An opportunity squandered,” wherein we asked whether the Obama administration had used the considerable leverage that it wields to seek to better the condition of the Cuban people, or whether it was squandering the opportunity. Since then, our fear that the administration has not been pushing sufficiently for the release of political prisoners and other human rights concerns has only grown, with the focus on Obama’s “legacy” instead of the Cuban people. For example, when President Obama made his visit to Cuba, he and Raul Castro appeared in a photo op press conference. CNN’s Jim Acosta, much to his credit, asked the hard question about Cuba’s political prisoners. Raul Castro, much to his discredit, denied that there were ANY political prisoners in Cuba. “Give me a list of the political prisoners and I will release them immediately,” Castro taunted. “Just mention the list.” And President Obama just stood there. Well, Mr. President, I have a list, of more than fifty political prisoners compiled by my good friend and colleague Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. This is a list that President Obama should have had in breast pocket, ready to pull out when Raul Castro dared him to call his bluff. When I came to Congress in 1981, with Ronald Reagan, in the days of the old Soviet Union, one of the first issues I worked on was the plight of Soviet Jews and refusniks who were either imprisoned or not allowed to leave the Soviet Union. I recall George Shultz, when he was Secretary of State, saying that whenever he met with his Soviet counterpart, and from him down to the lowest State Department officer, he would bring with him a list of imprisoned dissidents and human rights advocates. Front and center of any discussion, whether about nuclear arms or tensions in the Middle East, Secretary Shultz would bring up dissidents, naming them by name. It was this constant focus on human rights that helped move the Soviet government to allow Jews and others to leave the Soviet Union, people such as the great Natan Sharansky. And I have another list of names, that of six members of the Cuban National Front of Civic Resistance who have applied for visas to come to the United States but for some reason, inexplicably, our State Department has refused to allow to visit the United States. These are: Orlando Gomez Echavarria Jose Alberto Alvarez Bravo Yaite Diasnell Cruz Sosa Yoel Bravo Lopez Lazaro Ricardo Fiallo Lopez Ciro Aleixis Casanova Perez I call upon Secretary Kerry to allow these brave people entry to the United States, so that they can meet with me and my colleagues and enlighten us further as to the current state of affairs in Cuba. Finally, I note that the administration has failed to secure the release of fugitives from justice such as Joanne Chesimard, who is on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list, convicted of killing New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster. The administration must insist upon the unconditional return of Chesimard and all other fugitives from justice, as well as demand that the Castro regime respect the civil and political rights of the Cuban people, before making any further concessions. And to underscore the point, unconditional means unconditional—there should be no “swap” whereby we exchange convicted Cuban spies Ana Montes or Kendall Meyers for these fugitives as a concession to the Castro regime. The effect of that would be to trade Americans who have committed crimes in the United States for other Americans who have committed crimes in the United States, demoralizing our intelligence community further in the process. With that, I want to turn to our witnesses, noting as I do that last week, on July 13, it was the anniversary of the tugboat massacre of 1994, when 37 victims, including 11 children, were killed by the regime. How little has changed for the Cuban people."
Recognizing The Life And Legacy Of Abner J. Mikva July 8, 2016
Jan Schakowsky, D-IL
"In November of 2014, I was proud to witness President Obama, someone Ab Mikva supported and promoted from the day he met him, award Ab with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan came to an intimate celebration afterward and spoke fondly about the days she served as Abner’s law clerk. His 90th birthday party last February showcased Abner Mikva’s enduring wit, intelligence and humanity."
Transportation, Housing And Urban Development, And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016—Conference Report June 28, 2016
Barbara Mikulski, D-MD
"The Republican conference report also doesn’t treat Zika like the emergency it is. The World Health Organization declared the Zika virus a public health emergency on February 1. And Zika meets the Budget Act criteria for emergency spending: It is urgent, unforeseen, and temporary. Yet Republicans insisted that we cut $750 million to pay for the response to Zika, including $543 million from the Affordable Care Act, $100 million from the Department of Health and Human Services, HHS, nonrecurring expense fund, and $107 million from Ebola response funds."
Transportation, Housing And Urban Development, And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016—Conference Report—Continued June 28, 2016
Robert Menendez, D-NJ
"Needless to say, this bombardment was of great concern to the people of Vieques, but for decades it continued unabated. It wasn’t until tragedy struck that people actually began to take notice of the plight of the island and to demand change. In February of 1999, 2 AV-8 Harrier aircraft fired 263 depleted uranium rounds onto the island, in violation of the memorandum of understanding under which the base operated. Not only are the depleted uranium rounds slightly radioactive, but they contain toxic heavy metals."
The “Merci Train” In Vermont June 27, 2016
Patrick Leahy, D-VT
"The Merci Train was France’s response, a year later, thanking Americans for their support. Filled with trinkets from French citizens, crafts made by school aged children, and other items, cars from the Merci Train traveled to each State. One arrived in Vermont on February 10, 1949. Its arrival was heralded by the playing of our national anthem, as well as the French revolutionary hymn “La Marseillaise” by the Montpelier High School Band. Its contents, sincere expressions of appreciation from French families, were unpacked and distributed to Vermonters."

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