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U.S. delegation meets with Cuban dissidents in Havana

The breakfast meting included a number of prominent Cuban dissidents.

By Ed Adamczyk
U.S. delegation meets with Cuban dissidents in Havana
Normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations could injure the dissident movement in Cuba, some fear.. A. demonstration against normalization occurred in Miami on Dec. 20, 2014. UPI / Gary I Rothstein | License Photo

HAVANA, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- U.S. diplomats meeting their Cuban counterparts in Havana hosted a private breakfast Friday for political dissidents as a message of support.

The U.S. group is on a two-day trip to Cuba to discuss restoration of diplomatic ties. Although the plan, announced in December by U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, to restore relations between the two countries received wide support, some legislators in the United States suggested it could hurt Cuba's political activists.

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The breakfast meeting was hosted by Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat to visit Cuba since the early 1960s, at the home of Jeffrey DeLaurentis, chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. Among those who attended were representatives of the "Ladies in White," a Cuban activist group of female relatives of jailed dissidents, and a number of Cubans who have been harassed and imprisoned by Cuba's State Security. The Washington Post reported Friday that most of those at the breakfast approved of the normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations, but sought information regarding Washington's future support of their movement.

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Elizardo Sanchez, Jose Daniel Ferrer, Miriam Leiva, Hector Maceda, Antonio Rodiles, Guillermo Farinas and Marta Beatriz Roque, all prominent activists in Cuba, were in attendance at the breakfast.

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The Cuban government is regarded as among the world's worst, stifling freedom of expression and jailing dissidents, the activist organization Human Rights Watch has noted.

The Friday breakfast came the day after Cuba was critical of the United States' human rights record. A statement by Cuban diplomats said they expressed "serious concerns" at Wednesday's meetings, citing U.S. detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and "police abuse" during racially-motivated incidents in Ferguson, Mo., and New York. The statement pointed to Cuban efforts to improve human rights around the world, and recommended "building up on the positive experience achieved in Cuba with regard to the enjoyment of human rights."

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