Latin America: Autocracy vs. Democracy

Testimony on Capitol Hill yesterday by Mauricio Claver-Carone (via Capitol Hill Cubans): of Mauricio Claver-Carone during today’s hearing before the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member and Members of the Committee.

It’s truly a privilege to join you here today to discuss this important and consequential issue regarding Latin America, which directly affects the national interests of the United States.

My name is Mauricio Claver-Carone and I’m the Executive Director of Cuba Democracy Advocates, a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Cuba.

My testimony can be summarized as follows:

The Cuban dictatorship is working systematically against democratic institutions in Latin America.

Autocracies, such as Cuba’s, work systematically using subterfuge, coercion, censorship and state-sponsored violence, including lethal force and terrorism.

Thus, the region’s democrats — led by the United States — must also work systematically to protect and promote its democratic institutions.

Democracies work systematically by holding human rights violators accountable; giving voice, legal assistance and protection to the victims; economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure; and by promoting successful evidence-based aid programs to break the cycle of poverty and instability.

Allow me to elaborate:

In the 1980s, it was commonly stated that: “The road to freedom in Havana runs through Managua,” alluding to a cause-effect from an end to the Cuban-backed Sandinista dictatorship of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.

In the last decade, this statement morphed into: “The road to freedom in Havana runs through Caracas,” referring to the Cuban-backed Bolivarian governments of the late Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.

Undoubtedly, both roads represent noble and important goals, albeit temporary, short-term solutions. The reason being that the Sandinista government of the 1980s and the Bolivarian governments of today are symptoms — not remedies — of a greater illness.

The fact remains that no nation in Latin America will enjoy the long-term benefits of freedom, democracy and security, so long as the dictatorship of the Castro brothers remains in power in Havana.

As such, a more accurate statement would be: “The road to long-term freedom, democracy and security in Latin America runs through Havana.”

The Castro regime remains as resolute today to subvert democratic institutions, direct and sponsor violent agitators and support autocrats throughout the region — and the world — as it did in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Granted, its tactics and scope have been diminished, mostly due to the economic realities stemming from the end of massive Soviet subsidies through 1991, but its antagonistic aims are unwavering.

No wishful thinking or accommodation policy — both interchangeable — will make this go away. Moreover, to underestimate the skill, diligence and effectiveness of Cuba’s intelligence and security forces is a grave mistake — the proportions of which we are witnessing today in Venezuela.

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