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Dissident Would Thank Obama for ‘Improving Cubans’ Lives’

Would Thank Obama for ‘Improving Cubans’ Lives’
March 18, 2016 8:49 PM

Cuban dissident Miriam Leiva says that if she could meet
Barack Obama, she would tell him that she is thankful for his policies
toward the island nation that are “improving Cubans’ lives, Cubans’ way
of looking at the world.”

Leiva, a co-founder of Ladies in White, an opposition group, may get her
chance to meet with Obama. The U.S. Embassy in Cuba has invited her to
what she was told was a “very high-level meeting” at the embassy in Havana.

The invitation didn’t mention Obama, but the meeting will take place
during his visit Tuesday morning.

Leiva, who is also an , told VOA that if the
meeting is with Obama, she hopes to “listen directly to his views and
express mine.”

The 69-year-old widow said the thawing of ties between the U.S. and Cuba
had “eased the tension in which we have lived for 55 years.” But Leiva
is realistic, too. “Obama won’t change Cuba. But he’s giving Cubans, the
ones who should be in charge of the shift, the possibility to have ways,
means, ideas and contact so that we actually make those changes.”

The White House reiterated Friday that it would not negotiate with the
Cuban government on the people Obama chooses to meet with during his
trip to the communist-run nation.

“The list of people invited to meet with the president in Cuba is
non-negotiable,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters in a
daily press briefing.

“I would not be surprised if there are people on that list that the
Cuban government prefer we not meet with … but I can tell you the
president is going to move forward in those meetings and have a
conversation about ,” Earnest said.

Obama is set to leave for Cuba on Sunday, becoming the first sitting
U.S. president to visit the island nation in nearly 90 years. The White
House has said that meetings with Cuban pro-democracy activists are a
priority for Obama’s trip.

On Thursday, Cuba’s government took issue with Obama’s plans to use his
visit to lobby for change in Cuba.

Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said “various U.S. officials have
declared in recent hours that the objective of Obama’s measures is
empowering the Cuban people. The Cuban people empowered themselves
decades ago,” a reference to the country’s 1959 revolution.

Dissidents on the island told VOA on Friday that Obama’s visit and the
diplomatic restart didn’t mean the repression had decreased. The Cuban
Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation stated that in
2015, more than 8,000 Cubans were .

“To the government of Cuba [it] is easier to improve the relations with
his so-called archenemy than with the Cuban people. Let’s take advantage
of this opportunity and urge the Cuban government to fix his ties with
the Cubans,” said Gerardo Sánchez, secretary general of the Cuban
Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

President ’s administration has denied that any arbitrary
detentions take place in the country and has maintained that Cubans’
fundamental human rights are acknowledged.

Despite the differences between the United States and Cuba, both
countries have taken steps to increase economic ties ahead of Obama’s trip.

Earlier this week, the U.S. government said U.S. banks could process
financial transactions from Cuba, and it eased some restrictions
for Americans hoping to visit Cuba, allowing “people-to-people” visits
instead of just costly tour groups.

On Thursday, Cuba reciprocated by announcing it would cut the 10 percent
tax imposed on dollar transactions after assessing the impact of the
U.S. relief.

Cuba also said Thursday that it would air Obama’s speech in Cuba live on
national television. Rodriguez said Cubans would be able to draw their
own conclusions from Obama’s speech.

The United States and Cuba endured 55 years of hostilities, after
revolutionary overthrew the U.S.-supported
Fulgencio Batista.

Obama and Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother, renewed diplomatic relations in
late 2014, eased trade barriers in the months since then and reopened
embassies in Havana and Washington.

Later this year, American air carriers are set to resume regular flights
to the island nation in the Caribbean Sea that is 145 kilometers off the
southeastern U.S. coast.

.Alberto Pimienta and Megan Duzor in Washington contributed to this report.

Source: Dissident Would Thank Obama for ‘Improving Cubans’ Lives’ –

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