Frank Calzon of the Center for a Free Cuba, during a press conference at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies, asks President Donald Trump to start dismantling former President Barack Obama's executive orders on Cuba. Roberto Koltun email@example.com
The Miami Herald, June 14, 2017
By Mimi Whitefieldmwhitefield@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 travel 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 University 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, human rights 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 tourism 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 embargo can be lifted.
“American policy should be based on laws,” said Calzon.
Among the signatories to the letter was Cuban dissident 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.
Cuban dissident Antonio Rodiles during a press conference asking President Donald Trump to start dismantling former President Barack Obama's executive orders on Cuba. Roberto Koltun firstname.lastname@example.org
“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 freedom. 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.
A petition to President Donald J. Trump
Miami, Florida June 2017
Dear President Trump,
We are delighted that you will be traveling to meet with the Cuban American community in Miami and pleased that according to reports you will begin soon the dismantling of Barack Obama’s concessions to the Castro dynasty. During the campaign you visited with veterans of the 2506 Brigade that were left without the promised air cover by an American President in 1961.
Now as President, we know that you have little time to spare but we are writing to ask you to meet Mario and Miriam de la Peña during your Florida journey. They are the parents of Mario de la Peña, a young pilot murdered by Cuban war planes in international airspace while he and Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre Jr., and Pablo Morales searched for refugees in the Florida Straits. After their murders General Raul Castro gave medals to the Cuban air force pilots who shot them down. Mr. Obama released a man, a Cuban spy, serving a life sentence for his participation in the Cuban government conspiracy to murder them.
It is too late for you to reverse that outrage, but you could embrace those families and remind the world that General Raul Castro, while gracious attending a baseball game with Mr. Obama, is a murderer.
We would be remiss if we do not ask you to take additional steps to help the Venezuelan people in their present crisis by advising Americans to refrain from providing resources to the Cuban military as long as General Raul Castro maintains thousands of Cuban agents repressing peaceful Venezuelan protesters in Caracas.
May God Bless you and the American people.
Ambassador James C. Cason, former Chief of U.S. Mission, Havana, Cuba. email@example.com
Frank Calzon, Center for a Free Cuba, (202)427-3875, frank.calzon@Cubacenter.org
Ambassador Everett E. Briggs, former U.S. Ambassador to Portugal, Panama, Honduras
Ambassador Jose Sorzano, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
Ambassador Armando Valladares, Former US Representative to UNHRC, former political prisoner
Ambassador Otto J. Reich, former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela
Guillermo Marmol, business entrepreneur, civic leader
Dr. Joaquin P. Pujol, international public servant
Jose Pujals Mederos, former Cuban political prisoner
Rosa Maria Cutillas, civic leader and philanthropist
Basilio Guzman, former Cuban political prisoner
Sirley Avila Leon, human rights activist
Robert A. O’Brien, business entrepreneur, civic leader
Jorge A. Cutillas
Beatriz Casals, business entrepreneur, civic leader
Nestor Carbonell, author, business executive, civic leader
Eddy Sardinias, corporate leader
Mary E. Curtis, Horowitz Foundation
Victor J. Pujals, civic leader
Raul Marmol, business entrepreneur, civic leader
Félix Yuniel Llerena Lopez, student leader, human rights activist
Professor Aurelio de la Vega, emeritus, California State University
Professor Carlos Eire, Yale University
Professor Jaime Suchlicki, University of Miami
Professor Eduardo Zayas Bazan, emeritus, East Tennessee State University
Professor Alex Guerrero, Rutgers University
Sebastian Arcos, Florida International University
Pedro Roig, Institute of Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami
Charles Donate, Florida International University
Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, writer, human rights activist
Reverend Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, civic leader
Yoaxis Bárbara Macheco Suarez, missionary
Raudel García Bringas, Instituto Patmos
Javier Alberto Calderín, Semper Fi
Arturo M. Sosa, former Cuban political prisoner
Pablo Prieto Castilla, former Cuban political prisoner
Carlos Casanova, former Cuban political prisoner
Leonel Morejon Almagro, former Cuban political prisoner, human rights activist
Elsa Ibarra, former Cuban political prisoner
Felipe Alonso, former Cuban political prisoner
Blanca Santamaría, former Cuban political prisoner
Pedro Arguelles Morán, former Cuban political prisoner
Jose A. Gutierrez Solanas, former Cuban political prisoner
Lazaro Garcia Cernuda, human rights activist
Augusto Monge, Free Cuba Foundation
John Suarez, human rights activist
Juan Manuel Cao, writer, journalist
Mr. Ricardo Pao Llosa, poet, writer
Carlos Alberto Montaner, writer, syndicated columnist
Manuel E. Iglesias, Esq.
Rudy Mayor, Esq.
Jorge L. Sosa, Esq.
Nicolas Gutierrez, Esq.
Marta Valladares, human rights activist
Maria C. Cruz, retired teacher
Beatriz Sears, educator
Yolanda Huerga, human rights activist
Virginia O. de Varona
María de la Milera
Ana Irene Martínez
Ani Carrillo Depasse
Nelda Peruyero Fonticella
Maria A. Hernandez-Pistorino
Carolina Puig de Wickenb
Anne Marie Ketchum
Maria Morales Prieto
Alicia Perez, MD
Maria Messina, human rights activist
Maria J. Cazabon
Henry and Ana Maria Barrique Crossfield
Fernando J. Milanés, MD, Professor and Vice-Chairman retired University of Miami.
Andy Comptis Ramirez
Daniel D. Fernández
Eduard de Varona
Carlos E. Obregon
Redy A. Vargas
Jose M. Hernandez
Urbano Alberto Calderín
Abel A. Mestre
Robert A. Solera
Juan Jose Lopez Diaz, Esq.
Sergio Ramos Suarez, Esq.
Yuri Manuel Lopez Gonzalez, Esq.
Janisset Rivero, human rights activist
Joseph and Aida Noda
Andres F. Garcia, Vietnam combat veteran, Cuban American Veterans Association
David Hall, journalist
Yiorvis Amado Bravo Denis
Antonio J. Rodiles, Foro por los Derechos y Libertades
Ailer González Mena, Foro por los Derechos y Libertades
Claudio Fuentes Madan, Foro por los Derechos y Libertades
Charles R. Yribarren
Rey Anthony Lastre, Student leader
Michael A. Recchia, Esq.