November 3, 2009
Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Office of the Speaker H-232, US Capitol
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Madam Speaker:
With Cuba being the subject of much media attention in recent days, we write to reaffirm the strong support within the House Democratic Caucus for maintaining current United States policy towards Cuba.
As you know, current US policy as codified under the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996, conditions the lifting of any trade, travel, and financing transactions with the Castro regime, on its unconditional release of political prisoners; recognitions and respect of the fundamental human, civil and political rights of the Cuban people; legalization of independent civil society groups, including journalists, political parties and labor unions; and democratic reforms leading to free and fair elections.
Under the Libertad Act of 1996, Congress also committed to empowering Cuba's courageous human rights and pro-democracy advocates in their struggle against oppression. With that commitment, Cuba's pro-democracy movement has grown exponentially and — in a country where the totalitarian regime controls all national media, writing "counter-revolutionary" articles for foreign websites can lead to a 20-year prison term, and Internet access is restricted to 1.3% of the population — has demonstrated tremendous resiliency.
For these reasons, reneging on our commitment would help to strengthen the Cuban regime's censors and do a grave injustice to those brave Cuban civil society leaders that challenge the regime's brutal repression on a daily basis. Any legislation that would seek to ease or lift sanctions, in disregard of these conditions in law, would send a devastating message to Cuba's opposition movement and legitimize an ailing dictatorship.
President Obama has honored his campaign promise to ease regulations on family travel and remittances, but has stated that he supports remaining sanctions. Specifically, the President said "My policy toward Cuba will be guided by one word: libertad'... the road to freedom for all Cubans must begin with justice for Cuba's political prisoners, the right of free speech, a free press, freedom of assembly, and it must lead to elections that are free and fair. That is my commitment."
President Obama has demonstrated his support for the remaining sanctions by word and deed. As evidenced by his signing an extension of the Trading with the Enemy Act towards Cuba, which authorizes restrictions on travel to Cuba.
Perhaps most importantly, the President has said he will maintain the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba until the Cuban government shows progress on human rights and democracy. We could not agree more.
A dictatorship and state sponsor of terrorism that has no regard for civil rights, religious freedom, open media, or any of the democratic ideals that we cherish, cannot be rewarded with legislation in Congress that would remove US sanctions and subsidize the Castro regime's human rights abuses.
We salute the President's vision for U.S. policy towards Cuba, and it is our strong belief that any effort to upend the President's agenda would undermine the goal that he shares with so many House Democrats — fostering respect for justice and freedom in Cuba.
Madam Speaker, thank you for your kind attention to this matter. We look forward to working with you to ensure that we honor the values that embolden our democracy, and that the Cuban government honors its obligations to its people.