In Cuba, the importance of listening
By Mark P. Lagon
In his December 2014 announcement of the normalization of U.S. relations with Cuba, President Obama asserted that a new approach would “create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people.” The best way for the administration to determine whether normalization actually expands political, social, and economic freedoms for Cubans is to monitor the role and voices of civil society.
Some of the most recognizable advocates of democracy and human rights, including Berta Soler, Antonio Rodiles, and Guillermo Farinas, proposed a “Hoja de Ruta” or “Roadmap” of recommendations for greater protection of human rights on January 15. While their voices may not be representative of the entire population, their approach shows that many Cubans consider the United States to be a reliable interlocutor, which can pressure the Cuban government for improvements in civil and political rights.
The roadmap emphasizes the need for three main changes: an overhaul of a repressive penal code that creates a never-ending, institutionalized system of political prisoners; creation of a genuinely independent judiciary with prosecutors and judges who can make transparent decisions; and greater attention to universal human rights like freedom of information and assembly.
Human rights advocates also emphasize that the changes need to come from within society and involve the entire population. The growing interest and attention to Cuba, which is likely to accelerate as the Summit of the Americas approaches, provide an opportunity for civil society to participate in discussions from which they have previously been excluded. Read more of "In Cuba, the importance of listening" by visiting The Hill website.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.