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    A Second Evaluation

    A Second Evaluation / Dimas Castellanos
    Posted on May 17, 2013

    On May 1 the government of Cuba was the subject for the second time of
    the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a tool of the Human Rights Council
    (HRC) of the United Nations responsible for reviewing the obligations
    and commitments made by the members States in this area.

    When this function was exercised by the former Commission on Human
    Rights, under the UN Economic and Social Council, the dispute between
    the governments of Cuba and the United States led to a growing
    politicization of the issue until if became a total bottleneck. Each
    year the same script is repeated: lobbying before and during the
    sessions, offensive debates, exchange of accusations, voting on a
    resolution and finally the Cuban government’s announcement of the defeat
    of imperialism. From that time until the next session nothing changed in
    Cuba, because when dealing with “false” and “gross” accusations of the
    enemy, there was nothing to change.

    For Cubans what happened in Geneva had no effect on their lives, because
    conflicts between states tend to the underhanded and therefore to
    demobilize conflicts within states, and much more so when the external
    contradiction is brought to the fore. This situation was used by the
    Cuban authorities to support ideological nationalism and to “prove” to
    the world that in Cuba there were no human rights violations, it was all
    lies told by enemies.

    For example, in 2002, in the month of January, Cuba’s Minister of
    Foreign Affairs accused the U.S. government of working with the foreign
    ministries of Latin American countries to present a resolution on
    “alleged” human rights violations. Thus the controversy moved from
    discussion of violations in Cuba to the conduct of the United States.
    Three months later, in response to the Mexican vote in Geneva against
    Cuba, the newspaper Juventud Rebelde launched a ruthless attack on
    Mexican president Vicente Fox, published in Mexico by La Jornada, in
    which it said that the President is “unable to defend the interests of
    Mexicans and is an embarrassment to Latin America.”

    Since human rights precede and transcend politics, to put things in
    their place politicizes of the issue and on that basis promotes a
    peaceful and constructive debate, aimed at improving the real state of
    human rights in the Greater Antilles. This was enough to answer
    questions as simple as the following:

    Can Cubans leave and enter the country without government permission?
    Can they associate independently of the state? Can they choose the type
    of education they want for their children? Can they participate as
    subjects in their nation’s economy? Can they disagree publicly with the
    government or the Communist Party without risk? Can they freely connect
    to the internet? Can they follow the ball in the major leagues on TV as
    is done with football? The answer was a single and simple: No. An answer
    sufficient to shed light on human rights within the country and turn the
    focus of attention on the allegations against Argentina, Mexico, the
    U.S. or any other state for “meddling” in the internal affairs and/or
    the lack of moral standing to condemn the Cuban government. Questions
    and responses that delimit the problem to discussing and drawing
    attention to the political will and the responsibility of the Cuban
    government to its people.

    The Question Now

    The UPR, unlike the former Human Rights Commission, is an
    intergovernmental body of the United Nations, composed of 47 member
    countries, which is led by a troika of rapporteurs and in the presence
    of the observer states, regularly reviews the status of human rights in
    UN member countries. The country examined presents a report to the group
    which starts a dialogue from which recommendations emerge. According to
    this procedure, Cuba received 88 recommendations in the first review in
    2009. And on the basis of that opinion the Greater Antilles has just
    been submitted again for evaluation.

    The Cuban Foreign Minister of the day, in the report, repeated the
    rhetoric against blockade imposed by the U.S., against the policy to
    impose “regime change” and enumerated the significant changes in the
    economy and society in the last two years. He asserted that “Cuba has
    continued to strengthen the democratic character of its institutions and
    freedoms of opinion, expression, information and news are recognized for
    all citizens,” without clarifying that these freedoms are
    constitutionally limited to defending the postulates of the ruling
    party, which explains that in Cuba the associations that can legally
    exist are created and subordinated to this end.

    During the evaluation the majority of countries participating in the UPR
    praised the Island for its “progress” in relation to the Millennium
    Development Goals, especially in regard to education and access to
    health services and changes in immigration policy and the right of
    Cubans to work for themselves in a set of limited activities. But at the
    same time they urged the Government, among other things, to end the
    short term detentions, harassment and other repressive measures against
    activists and independent journalists, to reduce government control of
    the internet, to allow representatives of the International Committee of
    the Red Cross (ICRC) to visit prisons without limitation, to ratify the
    Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and
    Cultural Rights, which Cuba signed since 2008.

    As a result of the evaluation, the HRC made 204 recommendations and
    suggestions more than in 2009, that is a total of 292. The comments
    correspond to the deplorable state of human rights in Cuba and
    correspond to the allegations made by the Cuban opposition inside and
    outside the country before and after the creation of the HRC,
    demonstrating conclusively that the absence of civil liberties and
    fundamental rights in Cuba have little to do with the dispute with or
    the “baloney” of the enemy. There is no denying that there have been
    some changes in human rights, but in a western country with a rich
    history in freedoms, the current state is deplorable and unsustainable,
    as these small measures implemented don’t even reach the level of
    respect for human rights that existed in Cuba since the second half of
    the nineteenth century.

    An important step would be to start by ratifying the covenants Cuba
    signed five years ago, which, if made binding, could be a real sign of

    However, we must recognize that the response of the island’s ambassador
    to the UN, arguing that of these recommendations “a large group” will be
    accepted and implemented “according to our possibilities and changing
    circumstances,” is at least some distance from those inflammatory
    speeches any time a remark is made about the Island.

    Translated from Diario de Cuba

    14 May 2013