Subcommittee Hearing: Deplorable Human Rights Violations in Cuba and Venezuela

On November 6, 2015, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a Subcommittee Hearing titled: Deplorable Human Rights Violations in Cuba and Venezuela led by South Carolina Representative Jeff Duncan.

Testimony was heard from two panels, with Panel 1 containing witnesses on Cuba and Panel II made of witnesses on Venezuela.

Below is a summary of talking points from witnesses testifying on human rights violations in Cuba.

Remarks by Antonio Rodiles – Cuban Dissident

Mr. Rodiles is the Director of State de SATS, a forum created in 2010 by a group of young artists, intellectuals and professionals that aim to encourage debate about social, cultural and political issues in Cuba. He is also a coordinator of Forum of Rights and Freedoms in Cuba. Rodiles discussed the Castro regime and the ongoing alliance between Russia and Iran, which continues to protect “neo-castroism”. He explained that the communist regime will adapt to the international community in order to stay alive, even if they “must pretend to be free marketers.” Citing the increase in human trafficking in Cuba and other repressive actions by the Cuban government Mr. Rodiles concluded that President Obama’s policy has given legitimacy and additional resources to a regime that will continue to adapt.

Remarks by Sylvia G. Iriondo – President of Mothers and Women Against Repression (MAR por Cuba)

Ms. Iriondo spoke of the open communication between the Obama Administration and Castro Regime, with negotiations for normalization beginning more than two years ago in secret talks which led to the December 17th announcement. She cites multiple human rights violations that have continued despite the concessions Obama has made to the Castro government. Specifically, returning Cuban spies involved in violent crimes, taking Cuba off of the US list of Sponsors of Terrorism while many fugitives wanted by the FBI are welcomed in Cuba. She goes on to discuss the political and social repression that was violently unleashed by the Castro regime before and after the visit of Pope Francis, including the repeated beatings and harrassment of the Ladies in White, who peacefully demonstrate their desire for religious freedom. Ms. Iriondo also discusses the increase in arbitrary political detentions. She concludes that the Obama policy has only emboldedned and enabled the Castro regime.

Remarks by Presbyter Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso – Pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Villa Clara, Cuba

Reverend Barroso’s testimony focused on the violent actions taken by the Castro government in preventing the expression of religion throughout the island. Despite claims of “religious freedom” the Cuban regime continues to trample on the countries religious rights citing personal experiences that he and his family have been subjected to. Reverend Barroso has been blocked from traveling to urban communities, denied attempts to study Theology, arrested on numerous occasions for no legitimate reason, been placed under a “house arrest” and all attempts of travel outside of the country have been made incredibly difficult with the few occasions resulting in unnecessary search and seizure upon return. Members of his church have also been threatened, coerced, and blackmailed. The Cuban government continues to deny the church the required work permits to fix damages to the church facility. He also explains that his family has had numerous property items confiscated as well as being subjected to cell phone interference by the Castro regime.

For full testimony and further hearing information, please visit the following website.

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