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Help Cuba Be Free

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Ros-Lehtinen) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Madam Speaker, last week the Cuban tyranny sunk to an all new low as the communist thugs brutally attacked a procession of mothers, daughters, and wives of Cuban political prisoners collectively known as the Ladies in White, Las Damas de Blanco.

Their crime? Walking. Walking to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the dictatorship's March 2003 crackdown against human rights and pro-democracy activists, a grim event known as the Black Spring.

Many of those imprisoned at the time continue to languish in squalid jail cells and endure unspeakable suffering at the hands of their oppressors.

The processions of the Ladies in White was led by Reyna Luisa Tamayo, whose son, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died only a few weeks ago at the hands of the Castro regime. Carrying flowers and wearing their white clothing as symbols of peace, they were suddenly and viciously confronted, beaten, and some temporarily detained by agents of the dictatorial regime.

Reyna described the confrontation, explaining, and I quote, ``They dragged me. I am all bruised. They beat me. They cannot be forgiven.''

Further reports indicate that nearly one-third of the Ladies in White marching that day had to seek hospital treatment for the attack. The cowardice of the regime's agents could not be more obvious in the wake of this attack.

Confronting the nonviolent actions of these women in such a vicious and hateful manner makes it clear: the dictatorship fears these women because the regime officials fear the truth.

The repression by the regime knows no boundaries. Now they are even attempting to deny the people of Cuba the right to mourn the loss of their loved ones.

For anyone who had doubt, these attacks make it clear: the regime has no conscience. There is no limit to its abuse and its indecency.

I was pleased, however, to see the European and the Chilean parliaments deliver strong statements of condemnation and reproach following the regime's actions last week. However, responsible nations must do more.

The newly inaugurated president of Chile understands this moral obligation. He recognized the suffering of the Cuban people, that it must come to an end, and that free nations must lead the charge. President Sebastian Pinera said, and I quote, ``The government of Chile will do everything it can so that in Cuba there is a process of peaceful recovery of democracy and a full restoration of respect for human rights and individual freedoms.''

But where is the rest of the world? Why are regional leaders silent on the regime's gross human rights violations in Cuba and the abuses of power? Where is the Organization of American States? On the wrong side of history.

It was almost 1 year ago when the OAS voted to reincorporate the Cuban tyranny into the Inter-American system. What a mistake. The United States made a mistake then by shepherding such an effort.

But it is not too late to do the right thing by the Cuban people and take up the cause of freedom for the island nation. The U.S. Ambassador to the OAS should immediately call for consideration of a resolution condemning the tyranny in Cuba for its attack on the Ladies in White and demanding that all political prisoners be immediately released.

The U.S. should call on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to immediately convene a meeting to hear testimony on the systematic violations of human rights and the universal freedoms by the Castro dictatorship.

The U.S. must request an investigation by the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression in our Western Hemisphere on the assaults of independent journalists.

It is time for the world to admit the full brutality of the butchers in Havana and to provide the people of Cuba the solidarity and the support that they deserve. It is time for the people of Cuba to have the rights and liberties they deserve and for which they fight every day.

Let this Congress pave the way, Madam Speaker. I ask my colleagues to support H. Con. Res. 252, a resolution I introduced to recognize the life of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, and calling for a renewed focus on the promotion of human rights and democracy in my native homeland of Cuba.

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