Primavera Negra

US senators condemn beating

Posted on Tue, May. 09, 2006

U.S. senators condemn beating
Several U.S. senators blasted the attack on Cuban dissident Martha
Beatriz Roque and demanded that Cuba allow its citizens to exercise
their rights.

Pushed by a hotel lobby of a different kind, several U.S. senators —
including two who are considering running for president — on Monday
condemned Cuba for the ”beating and intimidation” of well-known
dissident Martha Beatriz Roque in late April.

The effort began in Coral Gables’ Biltmore Hotel, where — in separate
visits — many of the senators got word of the attack on Roque from
activists including Ana Navarro, the former Nicaraguan ambassador to the
U.N. Human Rights Commission, whose boyfriend, Gene Prescott, is the
hotel’s proprietor.

”It was all a matter of coincidence and really talking to them with the
truth,” Navarro said. “When policy makers are faced with the truth,
they take action.”

U.S. senators Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Bill Nelson of Florida
led the charge to introduce a resolution Monday blasting the attack on
Roque and demanding that Cuba allow its citizens to exercise their
rights. Also listed as co-sponsors are potential presidential candidates
Democrat Joseph Biden and Republican John McCain.

”The Senate condemns the brutality of the regime of Fidel Castro toward
Martha Beatriz Roque, a 61-year-old woman in frail health,” the
resolution reads. It also says the Senate “calls on the regime of Cuba
to release the hundreds of political prisoners still held today and to
stop the intimidation of dissidents and their families.”

If approved, it would be a rare boost to an individual in Cuba’s
dissident movement, said Mauricio Claver-Clarone, director of the
anti-Castro U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC.

”Few people outside of Miami can name a leading Cuban dissident,” said
the Washington, D.C.-based Claver-Clarone. “The hope here is to
personalize it.”

The push for the resolution started with a quick hallway rendezvous at
the Biltmore.

Late last month, Nelson, who is up for reelection, was there for a
meeting, Navarro said, when she and several members of the U.S.-Cuba
Democracy PAC pulled him aside in a hallway and told him about Roque.
”He was immediately supportive and promised to do something,” Navarro
said. “He understood the need to express solidarity and was touched by
this woman’s story.”

A few days later, Lieberman met with members of the PAC at the Biltmore,
where they informed him about Roque, Navarro said. Lieberman, a
supporter of U.S. sanctions against Cuba, also sat next to Navarro on
his flight back to Washington, and got an earful about Roque, she said.
Last week, Biden was at the Biltmore, when Navarro brought up Roque, she

Roque was leaving her Havana home April 25 to meet with Michael Parmly,
head of the U.S. Interests Section, when a mob of Cuban government
supporters swarmed her, knocked her down, punched her and dragged her.

During a call to a Miami radio station after the incident, Roque made an
emotional plea for international support.

”They kicked me, a strong young man punched me in the eye with his
fist,” she said. “I thought my eye had popped out. They knocked me
down and dragged me . . . The world must know this. To my brothers and
sisters in Miami, please let the world know.”

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