Cuba Politics

Havana slams UN censure on rights as Washington, dissidents celebrate

Posted April 21, 2004 by publisher in Cuba Politics.


HAVANA : Havana dismissed a mildly worded UN resolution on human rights in Cuba as a setback for the United States, as Washington and dissidents hailed it as a defeat for the island’s communist government.

“It is a ridiculous result that cannot be presented as a condemnation of Cuba,” Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said following the vote at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

By a vote of 22-21, with 10 abstentions, the commission censured Havana’s crackdown on dissidents and called on Cuba to cooperate with a UN envoy.

Washington had lobbied hard for the resolution, which was presented by Honduras, Peru and Australia.

“The resolution does not use the words ‘condemn Cuba,’ it does not use the word ‘scold,’ it does not use the word ‘reprimand,’” said Perez Roque.

“The United States has not been able to present a text that contains a condemnation,” he said, dismissing the resolution as “a whimper.”

He nonetheless insisted that “Cuba rejects the very existence of the resolution, not only for its contents but also for its existence,” and said Havana “will not cooperate with this resolution imposed by the might and the pressure of the United States government.”

The minister was particularly critical of Mexico, which voted yes in spite of having long opposed such resolutions. He pointed out that Mexico could have prevented passage of the resolution by voting against it.

“This obviously destroyed the small signs of interest in improving ties and puts ties between the two countries on a path of confrontation,” he said.

In Washington, the US government celebrated the resolution’s passage.

“This sends a strong message to courageous Cubans who struggle daily to defend their human rights, fundamental freedoms, as well as to the repressive Castro regime, that the international community is attentive to the deterioration to the human rights situation in Cuba,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

“Latin American democracy has once again demonstrated their global leadership on human rights issues.”

Opponents of Cuban President Fidel Castro—both in Havana and among Cuban exiles in the United States—also hailed the resolution.

About 20 members of the Party for Human Rights in Cuba, banned by the Havana government, gathered in a small apartment in the capital, where they staged what they said was a symbolic 12-hour fast to demonstrate their support for the resolution.

“The passage of this resolution represents a very positive way in which the international community (expressed itself) against Fidel Castro’s totalitarian system, which has jailed more than 300 people for political reasons,” said Rene Montes de Oca, who heads the group.

While welcoming the resolution, several dissidents in Cuba said they would have liked to see a more explicit condemnation of Castro’s government.

“We believe the text of the resolution is moderate and should have been stronger,” said Gisela Delgado, who heads the opposition Independent Libraries group and whose husband Hector Palacios is serving a 25-year jail sentence.

The Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation said the vote “represents a clear defeat for the regime of Fidel Castro.”

“More than anything, it is a victory for the Cuban people,” foundation chairman Jorge Mas Santos said. “Today, the international community said again that the Fidel Castro regime is an anachronism that has no place in the modern world.”

Meanwhile, another anti-Castro group claimed its leader was beaten up by a Cuban diplomat in Geneva after the resolution was passed.

The Center for a Free Cuba said executive director Frank Calzon was attacked by a member of the Cuban delegation.

A leader of the group said Calzon was beaten after the UN commission passed the resolution.

“He was hit several times in the head, knocked to the ground, and lost consciousness,” Felipe Sixto said, adding that Calzon was taken to a Geneva hospital.

US officials threatened to seek criminal charges against the Cuban diplomat involved, and Freedom House, the rights group for which Calzon worked for a decade, demanded UN action.

“This type of behavior is not just a breach of diplomatic protocol, but is itself a human rights violation,” Freedom House executive director Jennifer Windsor said.

“A brutal attack inside the very building where the Commission on Human Rights meets only underscores the deep crisis the commission finds itself in today.”

Calzon directed Cuba programs for Freedom House, which has been highly critical of the United Nations for allowing repressive regimes such as Cuba, China, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Sudan to sit on the rights commission.

Member Comments

On April 21, 2004, publisher wrote:

I have read that the US was pushing hard for a strong vote and tougher wording.

One vote the other way and many words would have to be eaten.