Washington, DC –U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement in support of USAID efforts to empower Cuban civil society:
"In an era in which societies around the globe are interconnected in unprecedented ways, sadly there are governments that still seek to sow distrust and disunion between their own citizens. In Cuba – as in North Korea, Iran and Belarus – the government has perpetuated its grip on power by breaking down the very fabric of society and isolating its people within the confines of a brutal police state."
"In this context, I stand in full support of the U.S. Agency for International Development and its efforts to empower Cuban civil society. Initiatives that facilitate community education and organizing are an important step towards addressing the social, political and economic challenges facing Cubans today, and who are denied access to an independent media and basic civic interaction. Moreover, I reaffirm that these programs are consistent with more than a half-century of effort by the United States Government to promote democracy, human rights and universal values around the world."
"The Cuban government thrives by making it a crime for its citizens to freely interact, assemble, express themselves, and advocate for their political and human rights. If democracy and fundamental freedoms are to ever return to Cuba, the most basic building blocks of society must be reestablished. I call on the international community to play its role in this process and come together to support the people of Cuba as they slowly emerge from the failed experiment of Cuban communism."
"Finally, I commend the young activists from across Latin America who traveled to Cuba to engage their peers in broad discussions about shaping their future and the future of the country. It is my sincere hope that Latin American governments will follow the examples set by these courageous activists and will stand in support of the Cuban people – both young and old."