By Mark C. Toner, US Acting Deputy Department Spokesman Office of Press Relations
We welcome the release of the last of the 75 peaceful Cuban activists who were unjustly arrested for exercising their universal rights and fundamental freedoms during the 2003 “Black Spring” crackdown.
The release of political prisoners is a step in the right direction. However, human rights conditions in Cuba remain poor. The Cuban government continues to limit fundamental freedoms, including freedom of speech, the press, and peaceful assembly.
We urge the Cuban government to release all remaining political prisoners and allow them to choose whether to remain in Cuba. Those who choose to leave Cuba should be free to return if they so desire. We also urge the Government of Cuba to allow access to the U.N. Special Rapporteur and the International Red Cross to its jails so that a fuller accounting of remaining political prisoners can be possible.
President Obama, through his policy framework announced in April 2009 and also through recent regulatory changes, has focused our policy toward Cuba on increased engagement with the Cuban people in an effort to promote democratic ideals and improve human rights conditions on the island. As he said in his recent speech in Chile, “Cuban authorities must take some meaningful actions to respect the basic rights of their own people – not because the United States insists upon it, but because the people of Cuba deserve it.”