January 17, 2001
President Clinton's Title III Decision - January 2001
President Clinton has suspended for an additional six months, effective February 1, 2001, the provision of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act that allows U.S. nationals with claims to confiscated property in Cuba to file suit under Title III of the Act. In accordance with the Act, the President certified that a suspension is necessary to the national interest and will expedite a transition to democracy in Cuba. He has reported his determination to the appropriate Congressional committees. In reaching this decision, the President cited important continuing actions by our friends and allies to promote democracy in Cuba.
The President permitted Title III to enter into force on August 1, 1996, but suspended for six months the provision that would permit American nationals to bring suit against persons trafficking in confiscated properties in Cuba claimed by a U.S. national. He took this step in order to work with our friends and allies to develop a multilateral approach to advance democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cuba. The President tasked the Department of State to undertake a new effort to develop international support for democracy and human rights in Cuba. Senior State Department officials met with leaders throughout Europe and Latin America from all sectors - government, politics, private sector, labor, religion, and human rights - to forge this new multilateral movement. While there remains substantial disagreement about the best approach to bring democracy to Cuba, all recognize that Cuba must undertake democratic change and respect human rights.
In January 1997, the President cited significant progress in the development of the multilateral initiative and renewed the suspension for another six months in order to consolidate and further develop the multilateral approach. At that time, he said he would expect to continue to suspend the Title III lawsuit provision as long as our friends and allies continue their efforts to promote a transition to democracy in Cuba. In July 1997, January 1998, July 1998, January 1999, July 1999, January 2000, and July 2000 the President noted additional concrete steps to promote democracy and human rights when he announced additional six-month suspensions.
The President's initiative to gain international support for democracy in Cuba - the most ambitious since Castro seized power - is yielding tangible positive results. In the past six months, governments, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector have taken additional important steps to promote democracy in Cuba. Cuban officials at home and abroad continue to hear a concerted message in support of democratic change.
Progress in the International Effort to Promote Democracy in Cuba:
- Canada's relations with Cuba continued their deterioration. Responding to rumors that it planned to invite Cuba to the 2001 Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, Canada pointedly noted that the summit is for democracies only.
- Canadian businessmen are also showing less
interest in trade with or investments in Cuba due to problems getting
paid. This may lessen pressure on the Canadian government to seek to
renew closer relations with Cuba and increase opportunities for us to
work with Canada on Cuban issues.
- The Ibero-American Summit in Panama from November 17-18, 2000, led to friction between Spain and Cuba after Fidel Castro was the only head of state who refused to sign a statement condemning ETA terrorists in Spain. Spanish Prime Minister Aznar pointedly thanked "all the democratic states present"for supporting the statement and the Spanish Foreign Ministry noted that only Cuba, "the one non-democracy" present, refused to sign the statement.
- The Government of Spain announced a reassessment of its relations with Cuba, the extent of which has yet to be seen.
- Fidel Castro also alienated other leaders at the summit due to his grandstanding concerning an alleged plot to assassinate him at the summit.
- Panamanian President Moscoso and Salvadoran President Flores both publicly clashed with Castro over his handling of this issue.
- President Moscoso has assured USG officials
that the alleged plotters would not be extradited to Cuba, believing the
accused would be put to death there.
The European Union
- On December 4, 2000, the General Affairs Council of the European Union extended the EU's Common Position for an additional six months, despite pressure from some members to weaken it. The Council stated, "even though some contradictory signals have been noted since the latest evaluation last June, there has been no change in policy on the part of the Cuban government, neither toward meeting the objectives of the Common Position nor going the other way."
- The Council reaffirmed that its objective remains "the encouragement of a process of peaceful transition to pluralist democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as sustainable economic recovery and improvement in the living standards of the Cuban people."
- The Council stated the importance for the EU "to make additional efforts to induce the Cuban authorities to take part in a constructive and frank dialogue on a broad range of issues of common interest, that could really produce concrete results, including in the political and economic areas and concerning civil rights."
- The Council restated "the importance attached
by the EU to the acceptance by Cuba of the principles contained in
conventions regarding civil, political and social rights, most
particularly in respect of the death penalty."
- The Administration of new Mexican President Vicente Fox has indicated that it is considering a greater role in international affairs, including a sharper focus on human rights at home and abroad. This presents a developing opportunity to work with Mexico to encourage respect for human rights and political reforms in Cuba.
- Mexico also declined to join the Government of
Venezuela in providing oil to Cuba on concessionary terms.
- According to press reports, Brazilian President Cardoso rejected Cuba's application for associate membership in the South American Mercosur trade block.
- A delegation from CARICOM raised the issue of workers' rights in a December visit to Havana. The Cuban government expelled them.
- Sweden strongly protested in August after the Cuban government arrested a group of Swedish journalists for meeting with Cuban independent journalists. Other countries also protested after Cuba arrested and expelled a number of other foreign journalists in separate incidents during the second half of 2000.
- In October, the United Kingdom issued a sharp
public statement concerning the unexplained detention of six British
citizens in Cuba, after which the Government of Cuba finally granted
consular access to the detainees.
Support for Dissidents
- European officials visiting Cuba continued to meet with dissidents and press the Government of Cuba to undertake reforms and respect the basic human rights of Cuban citizens.
- European NGOs continue to monitor the human rights situation in Cuba and offer support for democratic and economic change.
- Groups of former east European dissidents continue to travel to Cuba to aid dissidents, despite the arrest of one group in November.
- Omar Meza, the Director General of Cenda, a
Venezuelan labor research institute, was deported from Cuba in September
while conducting a study of the status of workers for CLAT
(Confederation of Latin American Workers). He was arrested after
contacting the banned CLAT affiliate on the island.
Arrest and Release of the Dissidents Working Group .
- Governments, organizations, and individuals
throughout the world have continued to follow the events stemming from
the Cuban government's arrest and detention of the four leaders of the
Dissident Working Group - Martha Beatriz Roque, Vladimiro Roca, Félix
Bonne, and Rene Gómez Manzano
- The four first caught the world's attention when they were arrested in 1997 for publishing a document that criticized Cuba's one-party system and called for democratic change. On March 15, after a March 1 closed trial, the four dissident leaders were convicted of sedition and sentenced to prison terms of 3.5 to 5 years. The trial, conviction, and sentencing of these brave leaders brought widespread condemnation from throughout the world, which has created an ongoing interest in their situation.
- International pressure may have contributed to
the Cuban government's release of three of the four dissidents (except
Vladimiro Roca) in May 2000. The three released dissidents have boldly
continued their activities despite threats that their defiance of the
Cuban government could lead to renewed incarceration, bolstered in part
by their dedication to their cause and in part by international interest
in their welfare.
NGO's and Human Rights Organizations
- Non-Governmental organizations, human rights
organizations, political parties, and other independent groups outside
of Cuba continued to press for human rights and democratic change in
- Freedom House's annual report, released December 20, 2000, placed Cuba in its lowest category, along with Afghanistan, Burma, Equatorial Guinea, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Turkmenistan. Cuba was the only nation in the Americas to receive that rating. "Cuba has one of the highest per capita rates of imprisonment for political offenses of any country in the world," the report noted.
- Human Rights Watch produced an end-of-year
human rights report that listed Cuba as one of the world's worst human
rights violators, citing specific cases and a large rise in detentions
over the past year.
The European news media has
continued its stepped-up focus and commentary on Cuba's repressive human
rights measures. Many editorials in respected newspapers from the left,
center, and right have called for democracy and human rights in Cuba. Most
notably in Spain and the Netherlands, media coverage exhibited an
increasing focus on human rights abuses in Cuba and was more critical of
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