Center for a Free Cuba petitions Trump to dismantle Obama Cuba policies

Frank Calzon of the Center for a Free Cuba, during a press conference at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies, asks President Donald Trump to start dismantling former President Barack Obama’s executive orders on Cuba. Roberto Koltun

The Miami Herald, June 14, 2017

By Mimi

The Center for a Free Cuba sent a letter of gratitude to President Donald Trump Wednesday for his decision to come to Miami and said it was pleased that he would soon begin the “dismantling of Barack Obama’s concessions to the Castro regime.”

The president is scheduled to announce his new Cuba policy in Miami on Friday. The exact direction that policy will take is unclear but it is expected to roll back some Obama-era executive orders that made it easier to travel to the island and do business with Cuba.

“We welcome the visit of the president to Miami because we know this is a first step,” Frank Calzon, the center’s executive director, said during a news conference in the courtyard of the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies. In response to reports that the president may not announce a complete reversal of Obama policies, Calzon said, “Nothing is done in a day.”

Members of the media outnumbered the audience at the event, but more than 100 Cuban Americans — including a number of former political prisoners, human rights activists, former diplomats and others signed the letter.

During the president’s time in Miami, the signatories urged him to meet with the family of Mario de la Peña. who was aboard one of two Brothers to the Rescue planes shot down on Feb. 24, 1996 by the Cuban Air Force as the plane approached the island. The pilots volunteered their time to search for Cuban rafters.

“It would be a beautiful gesture on the part of the president to embrace that family and show support,” said Eduardo Zayas Bazan, a veteran of the Bay of Pigs invasion and a professor emeritus at East Tennessee State University.

The message that the center, an organization that works for a democratic transition and defends human rights in Cuba, wants to get across is that “Cuba is a lot more than a tourism destination,” said Calzon. “Cuba is 11 million souls 90 miles from the United States who are denied the most basic and elemental human rights.”

Calzon said current policy is the result of executive orders issued by Obama and secret negotiations with the Cuban government instead of strict adherence to the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 and the 1996 Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (also known as Helms-Burton).

The pieces of legislation prevent the Castro government from benefiting financially from economic activity with the United States and set conditions, including a democratic transition in Cuba, before the embargo can be lifted.

“American policy should be based on laws,” said Calzon.

Among the signatories to the letter was Cuban dissident leader Antonio Rodiles, who arrived from Cuba on Tuesday. He said the United States needs a new Cuba policy that keeps in mind the Cuban people.

Cuban dissident Antonio Rodiles during a press conference asking President Donald Trump to start dismantling former President Barack Obama’s executive orders on Cuba. Roberto Koltun

“We need a new policy to pressure the regime so it will change,” Rodiles said. Pro-engagement groups in the United States, however, say that increasing pressure at this time when Cuban leader Raúl Castro says he plans to relinquish the presidency to a successor in 2018 could encourage Cuban hardliners and further crackdowns.

Asked if he thought the majority of Cubans on the island supported the embargo, Rodiles responded: “Most of the Cuban people want freedom. I know that people want pressure over the regime.” But he said some Cubans may not understand the embargo is a tool to apply that pressure.


A petition to President Donald J. Trump

Miami, Florida June 2017

Dear President Trump,

We are delighted that you will be traveling to meet with the Cuban American community in Miami and pleased that according to reports you will begin soon the dismantling of Barack Obama’s concessions to the Castro dynasty. During the campaign you visited with veterans of the 2506 Brigade that were left without the promised air cover by an American President in 1961.

Now as President, we know that you have little time to spare but we are writing to ask you to meet Mario and Miriam de la Peña during your Florida journey. They are the parents of Mario de la Peña, a young pilot murdered by Cuban war planes in international airspace while he and Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre Jr., and Pablo Morales searched for refugees in the Florida Straits. After their murders General Raul Castro gave medals to the Cuban air force pilots who shot them down. Mr. Obama released a man, a Cuban spy, serving a life sentence for his participation in the Cuban government conspiracy to murder them.

It is too late for you to reverse that outrage, but you could embrace those families and remind the world that General Raul Castro, while gracious attending a baseball game with Mr. Obama, is a murderer.

We would be remiss if we do not ask you to take additional steps to help the Venezuelan people in their present crisis by advising Americans to refrain from providing resources to the Cuban military as long as General Raul Castro maintains thousands of Cuban agents repressing peaceful Venezuelan protesters in Caracas.

May God Bless you and the American people.

Ambassador James C. Cason, former Chief of U.S. Mission, Havana, Cuba.

Frank Calzon, Center for a Free Cuba, (202)427-3875,

Ambassador Everett E. Briggs, former U.S. Ambassador to Portugal, Panama, Honduras

Ambassador Jose Sorzano, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

Ambassador Armando Valladares, Former US Representative to UNHRC, former political prisoner

Ambassador Otto J. Reich, former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela

Guillermo Marmol, business entrepreneur, civic leader

Dr. Joaquin P. Pujol, international public servant

Jose Pujals Mederos, former Cuban political prisoner

Rosa Maria Cutillas, civic leader and philanthropist

Basilio Guzman, former Cuban political prisoner

Sirley Avila Leon, human rights activist

Robert A. O’Brien, business entrepreneur, civic leader

Jorge A. Cutillas

Beatriz Casals, business entrepreneur, civic leader

Nestor Carbonell, author, business executive, civic leader

Eddy Sardinias, corporate leader

Mary E. Curtis, Horowitz Foundation 

Victor J. Pujals, civic leader

Raul Marmol, business entrepreneur, civic leader

Félix Yuniel Llerena Lopez, student leader, human rights activist

Professor Aurelio de la Vega, emeritus, California State University

Professor Carlos Eire, Yale University

Professor Jaime Suchlicki, University of Miami

Professor Eduardo Zayas Bazan, emeritus, East Tennessee State University

Professor Alex Guerrero, Rutgers University

Sebastian Arcos, Florida International University

Pedro Roig, Institute of Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami

Charles Donate, Florida International University

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, writer, human rights activist

Reverend Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, civic leader

Yoaxis Bárbara Macheco Suarez, missionary

Raudel García Bringas, Instituto Patmos

Javier Alberto Calderín, Semper Fi

Arturo M. Sosa, former Cuban political prisoner

Pablo Prieto Castilla, former Cuban political prisoner

Carlos Casanova, former Cuban political prisoner

Leonel Morejon Almagro, former Cuban political prisoner, human rights activist

Elsa Ibarra, former Cuban political prisoner

Felipe Alonso, former Cuban political prisoner

Blanca Santamaría, former Cuban political prisoner

Pedro Arguelles Morán, former Cuban political prisoner

Jose A. Gutierrez Solanas, former Cuban political prisoner

Lazaro Garcia Cernuda, human rights activist

Augusto Monge, Free Cuba Foundation

John Suarez, human rights activist

Juan Manuel Cao, writer, journalist

Mr. Ricardo Pao Llosa, poet, writer

Carlos Alberto Montaner, writer, syndicated columnist

Manuel E. Iglesias, Esq.

Rudy Mayor, Esq.

Jorge L. Sosa, Esq.

Nicolas Gutierrez, Esq.

Marta Valladares, human rights activist

Maria C. Cruz, retired teacher

Beatriz Sears, educator

Yolanda Huerga, human rights activist

Miriam Franco

Colena Corley

Cristina Mendoza

Virginia O. de Varona

Liliane Ruiz

María de la Milera

Ana Irene Martínez

Alicia Conill

Ani Carrillo Depasse

Nelda Peruyero Fonticella

Haydee Siru

Maria A. Hernandez-Pistorino

Anarene Martinez

Carolina Puig de Wickenb

Aida Mijares

Anne Marie Ketchum

Carolina Albrizzio-Lopez

Ingrid Grau

Maria Morales Prieto

Alicia Perez, MD

Josefina Mestre

Maria Messina, human rights activist

Maria J. Cazabon

Adolfo Franco

Alex Castellanos

Henry and Ana Maria Barrique Crossfield

Raul Masvidal

Fernando J. Milanés, MD, Professor and Vice-Chairman retired University of Miami.

Andy Comptis Ramirez

Daniel D. Fernández

Ruben Vicente

Eduard de Varona

Guido Conill

J. Martori

Carlos E. Obregon

Mike Porcell

Redy A. Vargas

Armando Siru

Ernesto Rodriguez-Cayro

Sergio Masvidal

Jose M. Hernandez

Jesus Castro

Paul Echaniz

Urbano Alberto Calderín

Carlos Naya

Abel A. Mestre

Carlos Arias

Emilio Cruz-Ledon

Mario Elgarresta

Robert A. Solera

Juan Jose Lopez Diaz, Esq.

Sergio Ramos Suarez, Esq.

Yuri Manuel Lopez Gonzalez, Esq.

Janisset Rivero, human rights activist

Joseph and Aida Noda

Fausto Diaz-Oliver

Andres F. Garcia, Vietnam combat veteran, Cuban American Veterans Association

David Hall, journalist

Alexander Boucourt

Yiorvis Amado Bravo Denis

Antonio J. Rodiles, Foro por los Derechos y Libertades

Ailer González Mena, Foro por los Derechos y Libertades

Claudio Fuentes Madan, Foro por los Derechos y Libertades

Modesto Arocha

Charles R. Yribarren

Rey Anthony Lastre, Student leader

Michael A. Recchia, Esq.