The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Wende Gozan Brown at 212-633-4247;

Amnesty International Criticizes Extension of Cuba Sanctions; Calls on Congress to End a 'Misguided Embargo'


Amnesty International criticized
President Barack Obama's recent decision to extend U.S. sanctions against
Cuba under the Trading With the Enemy Act (TWEA), saying that he failed
to take a long overdue step toward dismantling an ineffective and detrimental

Amnesty International has consistently called
on President Obama not to extend the exercise of his authorities under
TWEA and for the United States to lift the embargo against the island.
In an August 12 letter, Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International
USA (AIUSA), strongly urged the president "to depart from a five-decade-old
policy that has proven detrimental to human rights in Cuba."

The Cuban government has repeatedly used
the embargo as justification for maintaining restrictions on freedom of
expression, association and peaceful assembly. In the June 2010 report,
Restrictions on Freedom of Expression in Cuba, Amnesty International
described how the embargo and political antagonism with the United States
continue to be a pretext for curbing dissent and criticism of the Cuban
government. As a result, independent journalists and political and human
rights activists are continuously harassed and intimidated. Many
face criminal prosecution.

Amnesty International's 2009 report, The
US embargo against Cuba: Its impact on economic and social rights
concluded that sanctions -- which the United States has imposed since 1962
-- are negatively affecting Cubans' access to medicines and medical technologies
and endangering the health of millions. United Nations agencies and programs
operating in Cuba, such as UNICEF, UNAIDS and UNFPA, have reported that
the U.S. embargo has undermined the implementation of programs aimed at
improving the living conditions of Cubans.

"Legislators should not feel hamstrung by
the president's short-sighted actions," noted Kathryn Striffolino,
Americas Advocacy Director for AIUSA. "It is the U.S. Congress
that has the ultimate authority to repeal a misguided embargo that hampers
U.S. business and has a devastating impact on the lives of everyday Cubans.
Passing HR 4645 and S 1089, effectively ending the travel ban, would
be a step in the right direction that could embolden members of Congress
to end the embargo outright."

President Obama does have the power to reverse
his recent decision at any time with a new presidential determination.
Amnesty International will continue to call for the reversal of the antiquated
stance, adopted during the Cold War, which proves detrimental to the enjoyment
of human rights both for Cubans and U.S. citizens.

Economic sanctions against Cuba were conceived
under the TWEA in 1963. Application of the TWEA in relation to Cuba would
have expired in mid-September, had President Obama not extended it until
September 2011. The embargo against Cuba is embedded in U.S. legislation
mainly through the Torricelli and the Helms-Burton Acts. The Helms-Burton
Act, adopted in 1996, states that sanctions can only be lifted if Cuba
starts a process of democratization.

Since assuming office, President Obama has
taken some positive steps to ease specific limitations, including by lifting
restrictions on Cuban Americans who wish to travel to the island or send
remittances to their relatives. However, President Obama renewed the application
of sanctions against Cuba under the TWEA both in September 2009 and, more
recently, on September 2, 2010.

Amnesty International is a global movement of millions of people demanding human rights for all people - no matter who they are or where they are. We are the world's largest grassroots human rights organization.

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