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Page last updated at 01:08 GMT, Sunday, 25 May 2008 02:08 UK

Cuba dissidents back Obama pledge

By Michael Voss
BBC News, Havana

Barack Obama speaks in Miami on 23 May 2008
Mr Obama said he would lift restrictions on family travel and remittances

A group of Cuban dissidents has backed a call by the US presidential hopeful, Barack Obama, for direct talks with the new Cuban President, Raul Castro.

The organisation, Women in White, is made up of female relatives of Cuban political prisoners.

In an open letter to Mr Obama they wrote of their hope that his policies may help free their husbands and sons.

Mr Obama told Cuban exiles in Miami on Friday that America needed to talk to its enemies as well as its friends.

Mr Obama also said that - if elected in November - he would lift President George Bush's restrictions on family travel and remittances to Cuba but maintain the US trade embargo.

Applauded

The position of both Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican hopeful John McCain is that any change in policy would only benefit Cuba's communist leaders.

The founder of Women in White, Miriam Leiva, and her recently freed dissident husband, Oscar Chepe, also wrote an open letter to Mr Obama.

They applauded his offer to allow Cuban Americans to freely visit relatives here.

They also wrote that a more creative policy could help the transition towards democracy and that the current confrontation is used by the authorities in Havana to justify their repression.

The Cuban government denies that there are any political prisoners on the island, calling them all mercenaries in the pay of the United States.


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