Press release: “Cuba’s problem is not emigration; it is the dictatorship,” warns the Center for a Free Cuba in response to a new round of US-Cuba immigration talks.

Press release

“Cuba’s problem is not emigration; it is the dictatorship,” warns the Center for a Free Cuba in response to a new round of US-Cuba immigration talks.

Contact: John Suarez (612)-367-6845/ Janisset Rivero (786) 208-6056

Center for a Free Cuba. Washington, DC, April 12, 2023 Given the announcement of another round of immigration talks between Havana and Washington, the Center for a Free Cuba considers the following points essential:

1. Havana has used Cuban emigration as a political weapon to repeatedly leverage negotiations with Washington. All of Cuba’s migration crises have occurred during administrations seeking improved relations with Havana: Camarioca (1965), Mariel (1980), the Rafter Crisis (1994), the Central American exodus (2014-2016), and the current one.The Cuban dictatorship reasoned that immigration could be used as an asymmetric warfare tool to gain more concessions. And it has been correct on all these occasions, to the detriment of U.S. interests and the interests of the Cuban people.

On May 16, 2022 following the first round of migration talks between the Biden Administration and Havana in April 2022 a number of unilateral concessions were announced by the State Department. This included expanding authorized travel and  educational exchanges . The first benefits the Cuban military through its conglomerate, the Grupo de Administración Empresarial S.A. (GAESA), and its sub-entity Gaviota, that oversee and profit off of Cuban tourism. The second benefits the Cuban intelligence service that has used educational exchanges to recruit spies, insert  intelligence officials into academic conferences and compromise visitors to the island.

2. The first round of migration talks, and the concessions that followed, did not reduce the exodus of Cubans, or the underlying reasons for it, but may have made it worse with the timing of the concessions. A day earlier on May 15, 2022 the Cuban dictatorship had approved a new draconian penal code that Amnesty International described as chilling when it came into force on December 1, 2022.

3. Cubans flee Cuba due to increasing repression,  the Castro regime’s internal blockade, which prevents individual development and economic self-sufficiency because the military controls the economy, allowing for limited economic self-management based on political loyalty and generally suppressing independent activity. The fundamental problem in Cuba continues to be the confrontation between Cubans, that could be seen in its true dimension during the July 2021 protests, and the Castro dictatorship that has been repressing their fundamental freedoms for 64 years.

The second round of talks, if it leads to further unilateral concessions by the United States, will only encourage Havana to continue weaponizing migration to increase its leverage over the Biden administration.

The Center for a Free Cuba believes that Washington, in order to reduce massive immigration from Cuba, should demand: 1) the unconditional release of all political prisoners, respect for fundamental human rights, an end to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, 2) lifting of the internal blockade to which Cubans are subjected by the dictatorship.

“No immigration talks with the Cuban dictatorship, manipulated by Havana weaponizing migration as leverage, can succeed for the Cuban people or the interests of the United States, while an internal blockade is imposed on Cubans by the Castro regime and over a thousand Cubans imprisoned for exercising their right to express their desire for a free Cuba,” said John Suárez, Executive Director of the Center for a Free Cuba.

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