November 13, 2019

Menendez Raises Human Rights Concerns as King of Spain Visits Cuba

WASHINGTON –Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today sent a letter to King Felipe VI of Spain regarding the King’s ongoing visit to Cuba. In the letter, Senator Menendez expressed his continued concern for the Cuban government’s human rights record.

“Your visit to Cuba occurs at a moment when the Cuban regime has arbitrarily jailed and tortured leading democracy activist, Mr. Jose Daniel Ferrer, the head of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU). The cruel abuses committed against Mr. Ferrer only underscore the Cuban government’s intolerance towards freedom of expression and political pluralism.” Wrote Menendez. “It is my most sincere hope that you will take advantage of your presence in Cuba to advance our shared values and publicly call for Mr. Ferrer’s release, as well as accountability for the systematic abuse of human rights that have occurred in Cuba during the last six decades.” Concluded the letter.

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

Your Majesty,

I write on the occasion of your visit to the Republic of Cuba to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the founding of the City of Havana. While this momentous event is a testament to the enduring resilience of the Cuban people, this anniversary—and your visit—come at a time when Cuba’s citizens continue to struggle under an authoritarian government that denies them their most basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.

I understand that your official agenda in Cuba will include a visit to the City of Santiago de Cuba and the memorial at San Juan Hill to honor the legacy of the soldiers who lost their lives during the Spanish-American War—a truly tragic chapter in the history of friendship between our two countries.  During your visit, I hope that you will also consider commemorating the dozens of Spanish citizens that lost their lives at the hands of the Cuban dictatorship in January 1959 or in the ensuing decades.

Additionally, your visit to Cuba occurs at a moment when the Cuban regime has arbitrarily jailed and tortured leading democracy activist, Mr. Jose Daniel Ferrer, the head of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU). The cruel abuses committed against Mr. Ferrer only underscore the Cuban government’s intolerance towards freedom of expression and political pluralism.  I urge you to request a meeting with Mr. Ferrer, as it would send a clear signal of Spain’s support to courageous democracy and human rights activists across Cuba and around the world.

As you stated during travel to the United States in 2014, “Spain and the United States share the same values of democracy, liberty and fundamental freedoms.” It is my most sincere hope that you will take advantage of your presence in Cuba to advance our shared values and publicly call for Mr. Ferrer’s release, as well as accountability for the systematic abuse of human rights that have occurred in Cuba during the last six decades.

Sincerely,

Press Contact

Juan Pachon 202-224-4651