Press Advisory: International Appeal to establish an emergency humanitarian corridor for Cubans

Press Advisory

International Appeal to establish an emergency humanitarian corridor for Cubans

August 15, 2022

Contact: John Suarez  612-367-6845

Center for a Free Cuba. Washington DC. August 15, 2022. Twenty one human rights advocates, religious leaders, writers, artists, intellectuals, journalists, businessmen, former diplomats and academicians appeal to the world’s democracies to call on the UN Security Council to respond to the humanitarian crisis by sending a delegation to Cuba, and by establishing a humanitarian corridor for direct emergency assistance to needy Cubans, without regime participation. They are also calling on the Cuban dictatorship to:

  • Eliminate restrictions on the distribution of humanitarian aid from international organizations and from Cubans in the diaspora to Cubans in need on the island;

  • Permit visits of the International Committee of the Red Cross to Cuba’s prisons.

Among the signatories are Hillel C. Neuer, executive director, United Nations Watch; Regis Iglesias Ramirez, spokesman, of the Christian Liberation Movement, a prisoner of conscience who spent seven years in a Cuban prison; Sirley Ávila León, human rights activist and victim of regime orchestrated machete attack in 2015; Carlos Eire, Professor of History and Religious Studies, Yale University; Ambassador Otto J. Reich, former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela and currently president of the Center for a Free Cuba; and Karl Altau, Executive Director, Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC)

Also, among those signing, are: Rosa María Payá, founder and director, CubaDecide and Fundación para la Democracia Panamericana; Dmytro Potekhin, Ukrainian civic activist and blogger; Ileana Fuentes, author, translator, feminist, human rights and democracy advocate; Reverend Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, presbyter, founder and coordinator, Patmos Institute; and Janisset Rivero, writer and human rights activist.

This appeal was sent to human rights organizations and international figures including:

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro,

Heads of Amnesty International

Heads of Human Rights Watch,

Senator Bernie Sanders,

Senator Patrick Leahy,

Prime Minister of Lithuania Ingrida Šimonytė

David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament,

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission,

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,

Senator Leo Housakos

Pierre Poilievre, Member of Parliament

Robert Mardini, Director-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC),

Nestor Forster Jr., Brazilian Ambassador to the United States,

President of Uruguay Luis Lacalle Pou,

His Holiness Pope Francis,

Šimon Pánek – CEO People in Need

BACKGROUND INFORMATION – FULL STATEMENT AND SIGNERS

Petition for emergency humanitarian corridor for Cubans

The dictatorship in Cuba has erected an internal blockade that prevents Cubans from producing food, and selling goods and services to each other. It has also blocked the Cuban diaspora from engaging in humanitarian efforts to directly provide assistance to Cubans in need. Significant percentages of monies sent in to Cuba are absorbed by military entities, and do not benefit every day Cubans.

On July 15, 2021 President Joe Biden gave the following description of Cuba that some disputed at the time.

“Cuba is unfortunately a failed state and repressing their citizens. There are a number of things that we would consider doing to help the people of Cuba, but it would require a different circumstance or a guarantee that they would not be taken advantage of by the government. For example, the ability to send remittances back to Cuba. We would not do that now because the fact is it’s highly likely the regime would confiscate those remittances or big chunks of it.”

Remittances were still entering Cuba in July 2021 through other digital platforms, shops in South Florida and “mules”, but not through Western Union, which had been partnered with Financiera Cimex (Fincimex). Fincimex is owned by Grupo de Administración Empresarial S.A. (GAESA), which is led by the Revolutionary Armed Forces. The exchange rate Western Union and Fincimex were applying was 24 Cuban pesos to one U.S. dollar. The black market rate was 80 pesos to the dollar. Western Union ended its service on November 24, 2020 due to regulations against U.S. firms partnering with the Cuban military.

This proposed Emergency Humanitarian Corridor is needed because, for example, over the years reports have appeared alleging that the Cuban regime had received humanitarian aid, and sold it in U.S. dollars through government run stores.

Another example: In the hopes of mitigating the impact of the crisis being suffered by Cubans in 2020 and 2021, aggravated by COVID-19, hundreds contributed to the donation drive Solidaridad Entre Hermanos / Solidarity Among Brothers, in Miami, Florida, where thousands of pounds of humanitarian aid were collected in May 2020. This effort was conducted with the intention to provide assistance to the most vulnerable families in the island in order to maintain appropriate hygiene, as well as feed themselves substantially, during the current crisis. At least 15,000 Cuban families managed to register to receive this assistance on the organizer’s website, despite having to bypass cyber-attacks by Cuban authorities.

The aid was arbitrarily withheld by the authorities of the Cuban regime on the Island, despite the serious crisis that Cuba has faced.

This initiative was not of a political nature, but it was a people-to-people humanitarian effort, which was not met with any obstacles from the U.S. State Department.

“The [Cuban] government would prefer to control all relief efforts, but they don’t have the capacity to,” Nodarse Venancio of WOLA said.

We call on the Cuban dictatorship to:

  • Eliminate restrictions on the distribution of humanitarian aid from international organizations and from Cubans in the diaspora to Cubans in need on the island;

  • Permit visits of the International Committee of the Red Cross to Cuba’s prisons.

In addition, we urge that world democracies call on the UN Security Council to respond to the situation by sending a delegation to Cuba, and by establishing a humanitarian corridor for direct emergency assistance to needy Cubans, without regime participation.

Signatories,

Guillermo Marmol, businessman and Chairman, Center for a Free Cuba

Regis Iglesias Ramirez, spokesman, Movimiento Cristiano Liberación.

Hillel C. Neuer, United Nations Watch, Geneva, Switzerland

Rosa María Payá, founder and director, CubaDecide and Fundación para la Democracia Panamericana

Ambassador Otto J. Reich, former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs, former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela; President, Center for a Free Cuba

Carlos Eire, Professor of History and Religious Studies, Yale University

Sirley Ávila León, human rights activist and victim of regime orchestrated machete attack in 2015.

Carlos Alberto Montaner, journalist and author

Dmytro Potekhin, Ukrainian civic activist and blogger

Victor J. Pujals, Professional Engineer

Reverend Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, presbyter, founder and coordinator, Patmos Institute

Karl Altau, Executive Director, Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC)

Sergio Diaz-Briquets, International Independent Consultant

Paul Echániz, engineer and businessman, retired

Maria C. Werlau, Executive Director, Free Society Project / Cuba Archive

Ileana Fuentes, author, translator, feminist, human rights and democracy advocate

Jorge Sanguinetty, economist, founder and Chairman of DevTech Systems, Inc.

Frank Calzon, former executive director Center for a Free Cuba, former Washington representative Freedom House

Raúl Masvidal, business, entrepreneur, civic leader

Erik Suarez, Venezuelan Freedom Activist

Janisset Rivero, writer and human rights activist

John Suarez, executive director, Center for a Free Cuba