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Friday, January 12, 2018

One year ago today the Obama Administration closed the door to Cuban trafficking victims

Setting the record straight

Closing the door on Cuban victims of human trafficking.
 Florida Keys News reported on December 22, 2017 that "[f]or the second time in three months, Cuban migrants made landfall in the Florida Keys this week." This blog also documented Cubans trying to reach the United States in May of 2017. According to Elena Toledo writing in the PanAm Post 15,135 Cubans were declared “inadmissible” in the United States in 2017 and 14,037 Cubans were rejected from entering through Laredo, Texas alone. According to the Miami Herald, 15,410 Cubans entered the United States in fiscal year 2017.

These draconian measures are the result of an order issued by the Obama Administration one year ago today. The Office of the Press Secretary at The White House on January 12, 2017 released a "Statement by the President on Cuban Immigration Policy" that did two concrete things: further restricted the Cuban Adjustment Act and ended the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program.

President Obama ended programs protecting Cubans to placate Castro
The Obama administration secretly negotiated with the Castro regime, and did not consult with Congress, in restricting the Cuban Adjustment Act which is US law. This is the second time that it has happened. From 1966 until 1995 The Cuban Adjustment meant that if a Cuban touched US territorial waters the Coast Guard would pick them up and take them to shore and they would obtain residency. Bill Clinton in 1995 reinterpreted the law to mean that Cubans had to touch land (dry feet) or be deported if caught in the water (wet feet). Now Obama has re-interpreted the law a step further saying that he will deport all Cubans who arrive in the US without a visa. This is a narrower interpretation of the law by the Executive branch without consulting with Congress.




President Barack Obama on January 12, 2017 also shut the door on Cuban medical doctors, in third countries, victims of trafficking. Months earlier the Obama Administration  politicized the Trafficking in Persons Report of the State Department, undermining its credibility. This was done by the White House to placate long standing demands of the Castro regime and to whitewash the dictatorship's terrible record on human trafficking. Consider the following:

In 2006 the case of Cuban workers forced to work 112 hours a week for 3 cents an hour in Curaçao made the news. Workers had been unpaid; their compensation was deducted from Cuba’s debt to the Curaçao Drydock Company.

In 2008 The Miami Herald reported that "more than 31,000 Cuban health workers -- most of them doctors -- who toil in 71 countries brought in $2.3 billion last year, ..., more than any other industry, including tourism."

Medical doctors trafficked for the profit of the Castro regime.
The Obama State Department's last TIP report (2016) despite trying to minimize the Cuban governments involvement in human trafficking affirmed that "Cuba is a source and destination country for adults and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Child sex trafficking and child sex tourism occur within Cuba." Furthermore reported on how the Castro regime "uses some high school students in rural areas to harvest crops and does not pay them for their work but claims this work is not coerced."

Not mentioned in either the 2015 or 2016 TIP reports are the killings of fleeing refugees in December of 2014 and April of 2015. On December 16, 2014 the Cuban coastguard ram and sank a boat with 32 refugees, one of them, Diosbel Díaz Bioto, was killed. Yuriniesky Martínez Reina (age 28) was shot in the back and killed by state security chief Miguel Angel Río Seco Rodríguez in the Martí municipality of Matanzas, Cuba on April 9, 2015 for peacefully trying to leave Cuba. A group of young men were building a boat near Menéndez beach to flee the island, when they were spotted trying to leave and were shot at.

Yuriniesky Martínez Reina shot and killed on April 9, 2015
Kimberly A. McCabe in her book "The Trafficking of Persons: National and International Responses" wrote the following on Cuba and human trafficking:

"Cuba is a source country for women and children trafficked for sexual exploitation and forced child labor and has been identified as a destination for sex tourism. Cuban adults and children are also trafficked for forced labor in commercial agriculture, such as tobacco farming. There are also reported cases of Cubans being trafficked to the United States for debt bondage. Cuba's thriving sex trade caters to thousands of tourists every year from Europe, Latin America, and North America and involves not only the young boys and girls who are victims of abuse but also the state-run hotel workers, cab drivers, and police officers who may identify the commercial sex areas for those interested in participating in sexual exploitation. 

Months after the door was closed to Cuban doctors in third countries, to placate the Castro regime, The New York Times in a September 29, 2017 article titled "Cuban Doctors Revolt: ‘You Get Tired of Being a Slave’" exposed the Castro regime's trafficking in medical professionals.

"In a rare act of collective defiance, scores of Cuban doctors working overseas to make money for their families and their country are suing to break ranks with the Cuban government, demanding to be released from what one judge called a “form of slave labor.” Thousands of Cuban doctors work abroad under contracts with the Cuban authorities. Countries like Brazil pay the island’s Communist government millions of dollars every month to provide the medical services, effectively making the doctors Cuba’s most valuable export."
Closing the door on thousands of Cuban medical doctors and dooming them to be exploited by a military dictatorship so that regime elites can cash in on billions of dollars was a decision taken by the outgoing Obama Administration on January 12, 2017. It is important to remember and observe this lamentable statement by President Obama on Cuban migration one year later.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Free Cuba Foundation in solidarity with Russian human rights defender Oyub Titiev calls for his freedom

Free Oyub Titiev

Human rights defender Oyub Titiev wrongfully jailed

We learned today that Oyub Titiev, the head of the Russian human rights group Memorial in Grozny (Chechnya), was detained on fabricated charges.  Human Rights Watch provided the following background information on this wrongfully detained human rights activist.

This morning, Chechen authorities arrested activist Oyub Titiev, who works as the Chechnya office director at a leading Russian rights group, Memorial Human Rights Center.

Titiev, born 1957, took over for Memorial in Chechnya after the kidnapping and murder of his colleague, Natalia Estemirova in 2009. In recent years, he received many threats aimed at making him quit human rights work. Now, his life and safety are in jeopardy. Seven hours after his arrest, Chechnya’s interior ministry confirmed they took him into custody, allegedly on suspicion of a drug-related crime.

At about 10:30 a.m. a witness saw five to six police officials stop and search Titiev’s car by the Khumyk river bridge, not far from the town of Kurchaloi. The officials then took Titiev to the Kurchaloi district police department. When a lawyer from Memorial arrived at the police department that afternoon, an officer refused to let him in, claiming Titiev wasn’t on the premises. Another police officer, however, admitted off the record that they had Titiev in custody. At about 5 p.m., Chechnya’s deputy interior minister informed Russia’s federal ombudsperson, in response to her inquiry, that Kurchaoi police had detained Titiev. Around that time, Titiev’s lawyer was admitted to the station, and local police told him his client was being charged with unlawful drug possession.

Framing people for drug crimes has become an increasingly frequent tactic used by Chechnya’s authorities to punish and discredit their critics in the eyes of conservative Chechen society. In summer 2014, a court in Chechnya sentenced local activist Ruslan Kutaev to four years in jail on fabricated, politically motivated drug charges after he criticized and disobeyed an order by Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov. In fall 2016, another Chechen court sentenced journalist Zhalaudi Geriev to three years in prison on similarly fraudulent drug charges. Geriev worked for the Caucasian Knot, a Russian media portal which was critical of Chechnya’s leadership and had covered Kutaev’s case. Both men were tortured in police custody. Kutaev was released on parole at the end of 2017. Geriev remains behind bars.
The Free Cuba Foundation owes a debt to Russian human rights groups who back on September 22, 1997 demonstrated their solidarity with Cuban political prisoners. Xavier Utset, president of the Free Cuba Foundation, traveled to Russia and successfully obtained support from Russian organizations and political leaders for Cuban prisoners of conscience.

Members of Russian civil society addressed letters to the Cuban Minister of the Interior requesting that "any charges brought in connection with attempts to peacefully exercise their right to freedom of expression and travel be dropped, and that they be released immediately." This letter is signed by Anatoly Shabad, Deputy of the 5th State Duma Russian Federation. A. Smirnov, Director, of the Moscow Research Center for Human Rights requested that "proper medical attention be given." I.L. Ponomarev, Co-chairman of the movement "Democratic Russia" stated that "access to a lawyer of their choice be granted. "The support of Memorial and the Radical party (principally), has been crucial for the massive expansion in Russia of interest for Cuban political prisoners."

The Memorial Human Rights Foundation has a long track record of defending human rights in an increasingly dangerous environment.  The authorities in Chechnya have a pattern of politically motivated prosecutions, using criminal charges as a cover to lock up human rights defenders. Based on the above facts, we demand that Oyub Titiev be immediately freed.