The United States has denounced the reported detention and mistreatment of a prominent dissident by Cuban authorities after he testified by video conference before a U.S. Senate Committee about the situation in the Communist-ruled island nation.
"The United States is disturbed by reports that Cuban authorities arrested and physically assaulted Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, otherwise known as Antunez, on June 9th. This beating and detention follows his June 7th testimony via video conference before the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing entitled 'The Path to Freedom: Countering Repression and Supporting Civil Society in Cuba,'" State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a press briefing in Washington on Tuesday.
Noting that mistreatment of the detained dissident is contrary to respect for universally recognized human rights, Nuland urged his immediate release and called for an end to government-sponsored retaliatory harassment, violence, and arbitrary detention in Cuba.
"These actions once again highlight the repressive nature of the Cuban Government, particularly with regard to Cuban citizens peacefully expressing opposing views. We will continue to support the Cuban people in their desire to determine their own future," Nuland said.
"As our Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson recently stated before Congress: "Exercise of free speech is not criminal behavior. To the contrary, free speech is a right that must be defended," she added.
To date, Cuba under Castro brothers, Fidel and Raul, has survived more than four decades of U.S. sanctions. Fidel Castro ceded power to his brother Raul in February 2008, following an emergency stomach surgery in July 2006, and has made very few public appearances since then.
As part of efforts to reset ties with Cuba, U.S. President Barack Obama recently lifted some of the travel restrictions imposed on Cuban Americans for decades, allowing them to visit relatives in the U.S. and send money home.
Obama, however, retained the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba stating that it will not be lifted until the country takes notable steps towards democracy, including the release of political dissidents currently jailed in Cuba.
Relations between the two nations have strained further over the continued detention of U.S. contractor Alan Gross in Cuba despite appeals by Washington for his release. He was working in Cuba as a U.S. government contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) when he was arrested in 2009 on spying charges.
He was later given a 15 year prison sentence for handing out the satellite telecommunications equipment to Havana's Jewish community in defiance of laws on the Caribbean island. Washington has made it clear that there could be no improvement in ties between U.S. and Cuba until Gross is discharged from prison.
by RTT Staff Writer
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