- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 15, 2011


The chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is leading a congressional campaign to nominate prominent Cuban dissidents for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen this week announced a core bipartisan group of eight senators and House members to promote Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet and Cuba’s Ladies in White, who represent the relatives of Cuban political prisoners, for the prestigious award.

“As the Castro regime escalates its violent attacks against the Cuban people, it is important to recognize the courageous work of Dr. Biscet and the Ladies in White to promote human rights and basic freedoms,” said the Cuban-born Florida Republican.

Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen also denounced the communist regime in Cuba for continued repression of political dissent.

“Just last week, we were reminded of the brutality that the Cuban people continue to endure, when the regime in Havana arrested more than 200 Cuban dissidents who were peacefully demonstrating in honor of Human Rights Day,” she said.

The Cuban government has arrested Dr. Biscet several times, most recently in 2002 when he was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Cuba released him in March after the United Nations and Freedom Now, a Washington-based humanitarian group, mounted an international push for his release.

The wives and female relatives of political prisoners formed Ladies in White in 2003 after Cuba arrested 75 dissidents, including 29 journalists. They hold weekly Sunday protests after church by silently marching through Havana and other cities. They wear white to symbolize peace.

“Their commitment for freedom is best expressed in the words of one of their founders, the late Laura Pollan, who said, ‘I started marching for my husband, then for the group, and now it’s for changes for the better of the country,’ ” Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen said.

Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen so far has recruited Sens. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, and Marco Rubio, Florida Republican; and Reps. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican; Eliot Engel, New York Democrat,;Albio Sires, New Jersey Democrat; Mario Diaz-Balart, Florida Republican; David Rivera, Florida Republican; and Robert Turner, New York Republican.


The new U.S. ambassador to South Korea expressed his frustrations in dealing with North Korean nuclear arms talks when he met reporters in Seoul on Thursday in his first talks with journalists since taking up the post last month.

Ambassador Sung Kim is Washington’s former envoy to the six-party talks aimed at finding a way to deal with the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons.

Asked about his experiences dealing with the North Koreans, Mr. Kim said, “I’ve really thought very hard [about] what could have been done differently, but I’m afraid I just can’t come up with a magic answer.”

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported that the ambassador conceded that North Korea holds the key to resuming the stalled talks.

“It’s really up to the North Koreans,” he said. “They need to demonstrate their serious commitment. They need to take the actions necessary to reopen the six-party talks.”

The negotiations include the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.


German Ambassador Peter Ammon praised the “outstanding bravery” of Army Staff Sgt. Peter Woken, when he presented the American soldier with one of Germany’s top awards for valor for saving the life of a German soldier in Afghanistan.

He bestowed the Medal of Honor for Gallantry in Action to recognize Sgt. Woken’s rescue of German Cpl. Tim Focken in October 2010. Sgt. Woken was part of a medevac crew that landed under heavy fire to save the German soldier.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

• James Morrison can be reached at jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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