Committee on International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives
Henry J. Hyde, Chairman

CONTACT: Sam Stratman, (202) 226-7875, April 15, 2003

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Castro’s Brutal Crackdown on Dissidents
Rep. Chris Smith Examines Latest Human Rights Abuses
at Wednesday Hearing; Dissidents Scheduled to Testify

BACKGROUND: Summary trials are now underway in Cuba for more than 80 people arrested, beaten and imprisoned last month during the most brutal crackdown of journalists, trade unionists and human rights and democracy activists by the Castro regime in more than a decade. Many of the activists are expected to receive lengthy prison terms ranging from life sentences to 15-30 years. The dissidents are accused of conspiring with U.S. diplomats in Cuba to undermine the regime, a charge vehemently denied by Cuban human rights and democracy groups and by the U.S. Department of State. “With eyes diverted on the war in Iraq, Castro is trying to silence dissent with violence, show trials, and incarceration,” said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), vice chairman of the committee, who will preside over Wednesday’s oversight hearing. “This hearing will let Castro and the world know that people are paying attention, and that he will be held accountable for his actions,” he added.

WHAT: Oversight hearing: Castro’s Brutal Crackdown on Dissidents

WHEN: 2 p.m., Wednesday, April 16, 2003

2172 Rayburn House Office Bldg.

WITNESSES: Panel I: Lorne W. Craner, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State; Kim R. Holmes, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Organization Affairs, U.S. Department of State; J. Curtis Struble, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of the Western Hemisphere Affairs, U.S. Department of State; Karen Harbert-Mitchell, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Latin America and the Caribbean Bureau, U.S. Agency for International Development; Panel II - Dissident Testimony: Ramon Antunez Gonzalez, leader of Christian Liberation Movement; Eudel Cepero Varela, Cuban dissident; Michael Royal, University of Virginia Law Student recently returned from meeting with dissident leaders later jailed; Panel III - Non-Governmental Organizations: Jose Miguel Vivanco, Executive Director, Americas Division, Human Rights Watch; Frank Calzon, Executive Director, Center for a Free Cuba; Carlos Lauria, America's Program Coordinator, Committee to Protect Journalists

Among the questions expected to be addressed by the hearing:


What is the extent of the political repression now underway in Cuba?


How is this crackdown comparable to previous assaults on human rights activists by the Castro government?


What impact will the repression have on indigenous efforts underway now in Cuba to introduce democracy and civil society?


What is the appropriate international response to the crackdown?


Should Cuba be removed from membership on the U.N. Human Rights Commission?