VANESSA ARRINGTON | Associated Press
America’s top diplomat in Havana saluted Cuban activists pushing for change on the communist-run island, highlighting what he called their bravery and perseverance in a Human Rights Day event Saturday.
Michael Parmly, the chief of the U.S. Interests Section, at the same time accused the Cuban government of repressing its citizens in order to cling to power.
“Sadly, Cuba has been left behind in the global march toward democracy and greater respect for human rights,” Parmly told a crowd of about 100 at his residence. “The Cuban regime does not represent the people, nor does it have any interest in bettering their lives. Rather, the regime is obsessed with self-preservation.”
Government opponents at the gathering included the pro-democracy activist Oswaldo Paya, the former political prisoner Martha Beatriz Roque, and the “Ladies in White,” a group of Cuban women who have been holding a weekly silent march for two years to protest the government’s jailing of their activist husbands. Parmly praised them all for their leadership and vision.
Saturday’s event commemorated the United Nation’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Parmly pointed out that Cuba voted in favor of the declaration at the time, and said the island’s government would one day be held accountable for its abuses.
Parmly expressed particular disgust at the angry, sometimes violent rallies against dissidents by pro-government supporters that have occurred this year across the island.
One dissident at the event, Roberto de Miranda, told The Associated Press he suffered such protests four Sundays in a row last month outside his Havana home. Groups of Cubans shouting out insults blocked the door to his house, preventing his family from leaving, said de Miranda, whose wife and son are also government opponents.
Paya, an internationally recognized activist for his Varela Project democracy drive, said those gathered at Parmly’s residence appreciated “the solidarity of the United States.”
He added: “But we’re the ones who have to be the protagonists of change in Cuba.”