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Center for a Free Cuba petitions Trump to dismantle Obama Cuba policies
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
mwhitefield@miamiherald.com

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 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 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, 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 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
can be lifted.

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

Among the signatories to the letter was Cuban 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.

“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 . 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.

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Source: Group supports potential dismantling of Obama-era Cuba policies
| Miami Herald –
www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article156160774.html

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