Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Cuban Blogger Yoani Sanchez Meets with U.S. Lawmakers

Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez will meet with U.S. lawmakers in Washington today, presenting anti-Castro legislators with the awkward task of praising her activism while distancing themselves from Sanchez’s own criticism of the U.S. embargo on Cuba.

The Miami Herald reports that Sanchez will be received in Congress today after several days in New York City as part of her international speaking tour. The Washington visit, according to Sanchez, “will be one of the most important meetings of the tour.”

The Herald notes that she is scheduled to meet at 10:30 this morning with Representative Joe Garcia (D-FL), who first invited Sanchez, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), one of the most vocal anti-Casto representatives and an aggressive supporter of the 50-year-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba. Afterwards she will take part in a political reception, where she will be joined by other legislators who have worked on U.S.-Cuba relations. 

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen told the Herald that Sanchez’s visit is an opportunity to bring official attention to human rights abuses in Cuba, and praised the blogger for her work. “My colleagues in Congress are willing to listen to speakers who bring first-hand accounts on how the regime represses freedom of expression and disrespects human rights,” Ros-Lehtinen said.

Ironically, however, it seems that Ros-Lehtinen’s willingness to hear Sanchez out only goes so far. Sanchez is an outspoken critic of the embargo on Cuba, which she argues serves to strengthen the Cuban government’s narrative of U.S. oppression. She also joined 73 other Cuban dissidents in signing a June 2010 letter to Congress calling for an end to the U.S. travel ban on Cuba, which Ros-Lehtinen supports. 

 

News Briefs
  • As mentioned in yesterday’s post, today Guatemalan ex-dictator Efrain Rios Montt will become the first former head of state to be tried for genocide by his own country. Guatemala’s Plaza Publica has more on the historical significance of the trial.
  • The International Crisis Group has released a new report on Mexico and the security strategy of President Enrique Peña Nieto, entitled “Peña Nieto’s Challenge: Criminal Cartels and Rule of Law in Mexico.” This is the Brussels-based group’s first report on Mexico, and focuses on the power and expansion of drug cartels in the country, as well as the effect of the government’s military-heavy response. It concludes that in order for the rule of law to be effectively established throughout the country, the Peña Nieto government will need to work towards judicial reform, reel in the country’s military and address the needs of the victims of the violence.
  • El Pais reflects on Peña Nieto’s surprisingly anti-establishment presidency thus far, suggesting that it represents a “new” Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in Mexico. According to the Spanish paper, Peña Nieto’s PRI has “altered the political atmosphere in the country, breaking with the mass disillusionment during the last years of President Felipe Calderon.”
  • Mienio reports that Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has filed a report accusing former Security Minister Genaro Garcia Luna and 20 other officials of breaking the law in connection with the prosecution of French citizen Florence Cassez, who was arrested in 2005 on kidnapping charges and sentenced to 60 years in prison. The case against her was full of irregularities, including a televised police raid which was used as evidence against her. Cassez was released in January, and it was revealed that the raid, which had been billed as a live broadcast, was actually a police reenactment carried out for the benefit of the Mexican media. 
  • Brazil and Mexico have scrapped tourist visa requirements for each other’s citizens, El Universal reports. The agreement was apparently signed last January at the CELAC summit in Santiago, and will be implemented later this year.
  • Reuters looks at increasing crime and insecurity in Venezuela, a main talking point of opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, who began touring the country this week ahead of the April election. After registering in the presidential race last Monday, Interim President Nicolas Maduro vowed to lower crime if elected, saying he would implement a gang disarmament program in poor urban areas around the country.   
  • A new Datanalisis poll suggests that 49.2 percent of Venezuelans support Maduro, more than 14 points ahead of Capriles, with just 34.8 percent. The poll results show that Maduro gained only a limited “sympathy effect” after Chavez’s death, with the percentage of detractors remaining essentially unchanged.
  • The Los Angeles Times reports that economic shifts in Brazil are resulting in fewer women willing to work as maids for upper-class families, which has long been an exploitative job with little pay. Thanks to low unemployment and a rising standard of living, domestic workers have gained new rights and higher income, often to their employers’ chagrin.
  • The Associated Press reports on racism in Brazil. While the country bills itself as a “racial democracy,” lighter-skinned Brazilians dominate the upper rungs of society. According to the AP, in 2011 black or mixed-race workers earned 60 percent of what the average white worker made, on average. The wire service notes that the country “offers lessons to a United States now in transition to a ‘majority-minority’ nation: how racial integration in social life does not always translate to economic equality, and how centuries of racial mixing are no guaranteed route to a colorblind society.”
     
  • As the Uruguayan government continues to try to generate popular support for the legalization and regulation of marijuana sales, its National Drug Council has released a statement saying that police seized a record two tons of marijuana last year, Red21 reports.