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“It is surprising that a president who has based all his policies on things that are very distant from human rights proposes … as a top priority the defense of human rights in Cuba,” he said.
Trump talks “about business interests, making America great again,” he told NBC News. “They have nothing to do with human rights. When it comes to Cuba, the massive and systematic harm to human rights comes from the blockade … and President Trump proposes to harden it.”
Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at conservative Washington think tank The Heritage Foundation, applauded Trump’s emphasis on human rights and democracy in Cuba, telling NBC News that the ongoing repression there was a “global outrage and a shame.”
He added that Trump’s decision “is about U.S. national interests but also about the interests of humanity — these poor people.”
International campaigner Human Rights Watch reported that the Cuban government has long repressed dissent and criticism — and it has gotten worse.
Arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders, independent journalists, and others have grown “dramatically” in recent years, it says. “Other repressive tactics employed by the government include public acts of shaming and the arbitrary termination of employment,” it
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation — an independent group that lacks authorization and is considered illegal by the government — received more than 7,900 reports of arbitrary detentions from January through August last year, according to Human Rights Watch. This is the highest monthly average of detentions in the past six years, it added.
Human Rights Watch warned, however, that ordinary Cubans — the people that Trump said his move sought to help — would suffer as a result of last week’s decision.
“The previous administration was right to reject a policy that hurt ordinary Cubans and did nothing to advance human rights,” Daniel Wilkinson, managing director for the Americas at the organization, said in a statement. “The fact that Obama’s approach hasn’t led to political reform in Cuba after just a few years isn’t reason to return to a policy that proved a costly failure over many decades.”
Others questioned why the White House was taking the high road when it came to Cuba, but not other countries.
“Why is Cuba the only country in the world Trump allegedly cares about human rights?” wrote Michael McFaul, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia and former Special Assistant to the President at National Security Council under Obama.
Rodriguez echoed this point saying that when Trump was recently in Saudi Arabia, “He said ‘We are not here to tell other people how to live.’ Last Friday he said quite the opposite. Sad.”