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Press conference given by Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs Felipe Pérez Roque at the Foreign Ministry, to the national and international media, on the voting at the Commission on Human Rights on 18 April 2003
(Translation of the Council of State transcript)
José L. Ponce ( Presenter) - Good morning. Welcome, colleagues, to this press conference by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, arranged to explain the voting at the 59th session of the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva.
The Minister will make an introductory speech and explain the results. He will then take questions from the floor.
As always, please say who you are and use the microphones when you ask your question.
We have 76 journalists from 64 media representing 24 countries, plus our own press which is fully represented.
I will now hand over to the Minister.
Felipe Pérez - A good morning to all the foreign correspondents accredited in Cuba and to the members of the Cuban press corps.
As has been reported, yesterday the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva considered three documents which were voted on by its 53 member states.
The day before, discussion had started under Agenda Item 9 of a draft resolution submitted by Peru, Costa Rica and Uruguay, the debating of which was affected by amendments proposed by Cuba and last-minute amendments tabled by Costa Rica. The addition of flagrant violations of procedure by the U.S. and Costa Rican delegations and, especially, the confusion within the U.S. delegation and certain of its accomplices caused by the amendments submitted by Cuba, created a situation of chaos, confusion and disorder in the middle of the debate, leading to the decision to postpone it for 24 hours.
The debate reopened yesterday and, as mentioned, produced three voting rounds: the first was on the Costa Rican amendment, which is really a U.S. amendment; in other words, it reflects their interests and was drafted by the U.S. delegation and handed to the Costa Ricans for them to present it.
This text was overwhelmingly rejected by the Commission, with 31 votes against, 15 in favor and seven abstentions.
The text in question tried to take advantage of the manipulation and major media campaign surrounding the legitimate judgments that were handed down in Cuba to punish mercenary operations or violent acts of terrorism against vessels, with the objective of getting the Commission to censure Cuba. That was the U.S.'s aim.
Then came the Costa Rican amendment, which included text denouncing Cuba, albeit less directly; but it did say, “Calls upon the government of Cuba to ensure full respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular for the freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial, and expressing its deep concern about the recent detention, summary prosecution and harsh sentencing of numerous members of the political opposition, urges the government of Cuba to release immediately all those persons.” In other words, it does not express denunciation, but the text obviously implies this perception.
The Commission rejected this text, with twice as many votes against as in favor: 31 nations voted against including the text, 15 were in favor and seven abstained.
The 15 countries that agreed that this text be included were the 10 nations of the Western group, which includes the United States and several EU countries; Costa Rica, number 11; South Korea, number 12; Poland, number 13; Japan, number 14; and Croatia, number 15. That is, the 10 countries of the Western group, the United States, its European allies, plus Canada and Australia, 10; plus two Eastern European countries, formerly socialist, Poland and Croatia which formed part of Yugoslavia, 12; Costa Rica, 13, and two close allies of the United States, Japan and South Korea. These were the 15 countries.
For the rest, of the 53 nations making up the Commission, the 31 that voted against and the seven that abstained did not agree with including this text.
The text submitted by Peru, Costa Rica and Uruguay was also put to the vote. Costa Rica had initially withdrawn as a sponsor, in order to put forward the amendment, but when the amendment was rejected, it hurriedly asked for the floor so as to reassume its role as sponsor of the draft resolution entitled "Human rights situation in Cuba".
That text -- about which we said in advance in an editorial in the Granma newspaper that we knew the United States was well placed to get it through, based on the pressures it exerted and the composition of the Commission -- was approved with 24 votes in favor, 20 against and nine abstentions.
Cuba stood by its amendment, submitted the previous day, calling for the lifting of the U.S. blockade on Cuba, in the knowledge that various countries that are against the blockade would not support it; but above all, to highlight the double standard, the weakness of a group of U.S. allies eager to condemn Cuba, but which lack the courage to recognize the blockade against Cuba as a violation of human rights.
The Cuban amendment on the blockade, as mentioned, was approved by 17 countries, with 26 against and 10 abstentions. It met our objective of showing the hypocrisy of some of those who readily denounce Cuba but lack the courage to vote, there in Geneva, proclaiming the blockade as a violation of the Cuban people’s human rights.
Now, what conclusions do we want to draw about these events? In the first place, Cuba sees Washington's attempt to get Cuba condemned at the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva as an abject failure.
Second, Cuba regards the clear rejection, by a wide margin, of the U.S. proposal submitted by Costa Rica , but which is basically in the interests and at the declared intention of the United States - as we'll see later - the overwhelming rejection of this proposal is a clear sign that the Commission on Human Rights, with the exception of a handful of nations, recognizes Cuba's right to apply its laws; recognizes as legal the measures adopted by Cuba in defense of its sovereignty, punishing, in accordance with the law and applying all the safeguards, a group of people operating in the service of and paid by a foreign power that attacks our country, and applying regrettable but inevitable sanctions against the hijackers of a Cuban vessel who used violent methods, endangering the lives of Cuban and foreign citizens, including women and children, in the course of an action characterized by international instruments as terrorism. We thus regard this crushing rejection - which genuinely surprised the U.S. delegation, with 31 votes against, 15 in favor - as a resounding Cuban victory, a sign of the international community's recognition of our rights and motives. I am very pleased at this outcome.
Third, I think it right to stress that the text was finally approved as a Resolution by a narrow margin, in the midst of a current international situation in which the United States is terrorizing the world with an imperialist policy, with open threats, virtually at the end of the war in Iraq, exactly under these conditions and despite the pressures exerted at the highest level and without the least scruple against the Commission's member states; despite all this, the text approved as a final Resolution, which was the original text submitted there by Peru, Costa Rica and Uruguay on behalf of the United States, is not a condemnation of Cuba.
So I reject the idea that the Commission on Human Rights has condemned Cuba. The United States failed in its objective; the paragraph that included explicit censure was overwhelmingly defeated and the final approved text - as we'll see later - cannot in any way be seen as a condemnation, since that was not possible. The United States cannot get Cuba censured. Cuba's motives, the justice that underlies Cuba's right and the support of the international community prevent the United States and its accomplices from achieving another denunciation of Cuba.
Fourth, we want to clarify that this does not mean, nevertheless, that we accept the Resolution that was finally adopted. We reject it because, even though it does not express condemnation, it is without justification. There is not the least justification for the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva even to consider the situation of Cuba. The proposal against Cuba submitted there, which is as far as the U.S. administration could go under present circumstances, is unfounded, has no legal basis, and is achieved only because of pressures deployed by the United States all over the world to get votes for condemning Cuba, with the aid of certain allies. In no way does it signify a condemnation of our country.
In any case, we reject this exercise, we question the relevance of this Resolution. We reject the fact that three Latin American countries -- Peru, Uruguay and Costa Rica -- involved themselves in this maneuver, well knowing that it is totally unfounded. It is a U.S. text serving U.S. interests. I reject the notion that it aims to establish collaboration with Cuba, as its Latin American sponsors claim. And the pronouncements of the State Department, which I will come back to later, are the proof positive of who the true authors are and that they have had to admit defeat.
Fifth, I want to leave no doubt that the use of blackmail, of pressures from senior U.S. officials, of congress people with Cuban origins who serve the interests of the Miami terrorist mob, including the use of the international financial organizations, has this year reached an unprecedented level. The fierce pressures, arm-twisting, open threats against Third World countries - as reported in an editorial in Granma newspaper yesterday - were the methods employed by U.S. diplomacy to win its pyrrhic victory based on a majority of just four votes for a text that says practically nothing.
Sixth, I wish to emphasized that, regrettably, the EU, an economic, cultural and social giant, has again demonstrated its weakness as a political force, its lack of strategic thinking, its shrinking from playing a key role in world affairs, as well as showing by its actions a pattern of double standards. While it was ready to support the U.S. amendment condemning Cuba for alleged human rights violations at the recent trials in Cuba, held in accordance with the law and applying the relevant safeguards, the Western nations, the EU, Canada and Australia voted against declaring the blockade a violation of the human rights of Cubans, when everybody knows that it is the principal violation of the rights of an entire people.
So we can see again that under present conditions and, above all, in the wake of the war in Iraq, the EU sadly lacks the ability to formulate its own independent policy towards Cuba. In any event, Cuba will remain open to relations with the EU and hopes for the day when a more mature EU, which is clearer in its objectives and responsibilities to the world, will be able to remedy the shameful inadequacies of its present stance on Cuba.
Now then, I have here the statements made by Mr. King Holmes, Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, one of the prime movers of U.S. diplomacy. Mr. King Holmes, whose surname is spelled like that of Sherlock Holmes, announced yesterday - and this was published in the bulletin issued by the U.S. mission in Geneva - that the United States “strongly back a resolution introduced by three Latin American nations before the United Nations Commission on Human Rights condemning the violations of human rights in Cuba,” referring to the proposal by Peru, Costa Rica and Uruguay. So I hope that the government representatives from these countries are not going to go on saying they were motivated by the desire to cooperate with Cuba and that the text was not intended to condemn Cuba. While the end result was not censure of Cuba, that does not reflect the intention of its sponsors, but rather Cuba's battle and its support within the international community. The intentions of the main sponsor, the United States, leave no doubt as to what Washington wanted; but on top of that, the day before, Secretary of State Mr. Colin Powell expressed his wish that the Commission on Human Rights would approve a declaration condemning the human rights situation in Cuba.
In a TV interview for the AP agency, Powell said he had spoken on the phone to the foreign ministers of the Commission member states to make clear the importance of a vote of censure against Cuba. How do you imagine these conversations went? A respectful tone, an argued appeal? Or, as actually happened, a series of pressures and threats, by the U.S. ambassadors in all those countries and by other very senior U.S. officials?
However, how did things work out for Mr. Powell? I must really express our regrets to the Secretary of State, for the way his plans came to nothing. Perhaps next time he'll have better luck. Anyway, Cuba is ready to do battle against any such future maneuvers, it will keep up the fight long after the present incumbents of the U.S. administration have gone into retirement.
Here is another dispatch, in this case from the France Press agency, which gives a good account of what happened there in Geneva, after the first session and the amendments put forward by Cuba, whose effect at the Commission - as our newspaper said - was "a bombshell".
The dispatch reports that on Wednesday, Washington gave up on trying to get an explicit condemnation of Cuba at the Commission, which was to vote on the issue the following day – it had already been postponed -- and indicated that in the absence of consensus, it would settle for – settle for! -- the original resolution submitted by Peru, Costa Rica and Uruguay.
According to the dispatch, instead of pursuing a harder line explicitly condemning repression of dissidents, with scant prospects of approval, U.S. officials agreed at a legislative session to support the draft resolution originally submitted.
Now I ask myself, if this text was Peruvian, Costa Rican and Uruguayan, why is it that the discussions about what was to be done were in the United States? I think the foreign ministries of those countries should explain why it wasn't the Peruvian, Costa Rican or Uruguayan congress that made the decisions, the night before, about whether to adopt this or that variant.
Mr. King Holmes, who was summoned there to find out if he had the answer to this “enigma”, stated the following: “We had worked hard to strengthen it” – the resolution – “but there is a strong resistance to changing the wording.
“While the resolution itself may not have the language we hoped to achieve, it nevertheless is a slap in the face for [Cuba].” He hoped the international community would reiterate its condemnation of the human rights situation in Cuba, he added.
Because the United States interprets this text -- which the Peruvian foreign minister described last night as not condemning but rather seeking cooperation with Cuba to avoid condemnation -- as a condemnation that justifies maintaining the blockade and the policy of pressures on Cuba. The United States asked Peru to submit it.
According to Mr. Holmes, “We prefer a resolution and the personal representative of the High Commissioner...of any of the alternatives.” Something is better than nothing, says the imperial official. “The important point is that we ought to ensure the personal representative of the United Nations’ High Commissioner on Human Rights has a mandate to report on the situation in Cuba.” The important thing was to send a clear message.
The night before, they were vacillating. I can see them sitting there debating it: "She loves me, she loves me not," picking petals. "Let's go for it." "Forget it." "What if we go for it and lose?" But in the morning, the final decision was to submit the amendment. The United States made the decision and Costa Rica accordingly stood by the amendment, which -- as we've seen -- was defeated.
Nevertheless, I believe this very clearly shows that what the United States wants, above all, is to keep the Cuba question on the table at Geneva, so it can revive it next year.
Now, what has been their reaction since the vote? The reporters asked them -- this is a NOTIMEX agency dispatch [he holds it up] -- they ask "Don't you regard what happened as a kind of defeat, for you and your allies?" The U.S. State Department spokesman -- Mr. Richard Boucher, the unfortunate one left with the task of trying to explain the disaster after the fact -- insisted that it wasn't a defeat, that the resolution told the world that there is concern over the human rights situation in Cuba. Not true: let's look at the text. I don't think they gave Mr. Boucher time to read the document, which he claimed said one thing and not another. That was what we wanted, he said, and that was what we got. Note that this is the United States speaking, not Peru, or Costa Rica or Uruguay. It is the Americans who are saying this.
In other words, it seems to me that in Geneva the U.S. administration went for the jackpot and lost its wallet. It suffered a humiliating defeat.
The international community has endorsed Cuba's right to hold trials and sentence those found guilty in our courts. There is absolutely nothing in the approved text that questions what has happened in Cuba. There is no truth in the allegation -- which has consequently been rejected by the international community -- that there have been infractions of Cuban or international law in the legitimate defensive measures taken by Cuba. And it wasn't rejected by a narrow margin, like the other, watered-down resolution on Cuba, of a mere four votes. It was voted down 31 to 15 by the members of the Commission.
Now, can the shameful action of Peru, Costa Rica and Uruguay on behalf of the aggressive aims of U.S. government policy be in any way justified? It cannot be justified. Can it be explained? Not in terms of law or the independent action of states. Reasons can be found though, and I'll talk about that later.
Now then, what does the final text - approved by 24 votes to 20 – actually say, this text Washington calls a condemnation? It has three paragraphs. The first says that the Commission on Human Rights .... expresses its satisfaction with the appointment of Ms. Christine Chanet as personal representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,” it expresses satisfaction because this lady has been appointed as representative for Cuba. The second paragraph "urges” the Cuban government to receive the lady and to provide her with all the facilities. And the third says that the Commission “decides to consider this matter” next year. This is what it says, this text that Mr. Boucher describes as a resolution expressing concern, thereby giving them "what they wanted," and the condemnation they hoped for as announced by Secretary Colin Powell. That is what has been approved.
This is where they've ended up. After 14 years, all their efforts, all the pressure of U.S. diplomacy, have produced this ridiculous document. That's the reality.
Now, this does not mean that Cuba accepts even this version. Cuba challenges and rejects this resolution, because Cuba considers it unjustified; because Cuba believes there is no reason at all to include the Cuba question on the agenda of the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva which, as we know, is dogged by pressures from a group of powerful nations, by selective, discriminatory and politicized measures instigated primarily by the United States and a group of its allies. So we reject it. But we are also going to say the following:
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, a result of the 1993 Vienna Conference, is a relatively new institution. To date, there have been three high commissioners and, in fact, the High Commissioner for Human Rights has only been in existence for the last nine years. Cuba was the first Latin American nation to invite the High Commissioner to visit, back at the beginning in 1994.
Indeed, the High Commissioner has visited only four countries in Latin America: Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba and Panama. Why do we need a resolution asking Cuba to invite the High Commissioner again, and turn the process into a maelstrom of pressures and manipulation, when only four countries out of the over 30 in Latin America and the Caribbean have been visited?
Mrs. Mary Robinson -- predecessor of the present High Commissioner, Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello, who took office last year -- waited in vain for five years for an invitation from the U.S. government, which has categorically stated that there is nothing to worry about as regards human rights in the United States. They didn't invite her and she wasn't able to visit the country officially, by invitation of the government.
So if she wasn't received in the United States, and just four countries in Latin America, including Cuba, have been visited, why make it an objective to have the High Commissioner or his representative visit Cuba a second time? There is manipulation behind all this; Cuba is not refusing to cooperate with the High Commissioner, quite the opposite; it is not refusing to cooperate with the non-selective, non-discriminatory mechanisms of the Commission or of the Office of the High Commissioner, quite the opposite. What Cuba is not prepared to accept is manipulation of this issue; the unscrupulous use of a United Nations agency to justify a campaign against Cuba whose ultimate aim is to get some document or other, a resolution in Geneva, that will let them go on justifying the blockade against Cuba. That's the aim of U.S. diplomacy, and that's why we do not accept the content of this resolution.
There are those who tell us, "Why don't you get rid of the problem by accepting the visit by the Commissioner's representative?" No, we can't do that; that would be selling short the rest of the Third World nations. We're not just defending the rights of Cuba here, we're defending the right of every Third World country to be treated with respect.
Why, when we already invited the High Commissioner, who came to Cuba and published a report recognizing that there was no situation of human rights violation here? Why, when we already invited a delegation from the Commission on Human Rights, which traveled to Cuba and published a report saying there were none of the massive, flagrant and systematic violations of human rights which the Commission concerns itself with? Why, when Cuba already invited a group of NGOs, which came here headed by Mrs. Danielle Mitterand and issued a report, after visiting the whole country, visiting prisons, like the High Commissioner, like the other delegation? Why us, when we have shown our readiness to cooperate, we who respond to the requirements of the High Commissioner and are one of the countries that are parties to the largest number of human rights instruments -- far more than the very nation that tries to pass judgment on us, the United States? Why should we accept the imposition forced on us by this resolution? That's why we refuse, and that's why we don't accept the resolution approved yesterday either, and that's why I say again here that Cuba will not cooperate with this resolution, which it regards as spurious and illegal and that's why it will not cooperate with the Personal Representative or sanction her visit to Cuba. That does not imply any personal slight on Ms. Chanet, whom we admire and respect, but who is someone who has sadly been brought into in an exercise in which Cuba cannot cooperate.
I reiterate our regard for Ms. Chanet, our willingness to cooperate with and respect for Mr Vieira de Mello, the High Commissioner, a diplomat of Brazilian origins; but Cuba cannot and will not have anything to do with this concoction.
Now, it's clear that only four countries in Latin America have received a visit by a High Commissioner. Why doesn't the United States press first for visits to the countries which did not accept the High Commissioner, not to mention the rest of the Latin American nations?
Neither Peru nor Uruguay, presenters of the resolution on Cuba, have been visited by the High Commissioner. Why all the fuss about a second visit to Cuba, when we were the first country in the region he came to?
That's why Cuba rejects all the manipulation and lies that surround this issue.
Last night, the Peruvian foreign minister said the same thing I said: that the resolution was only three paragraphs long, was basically procedural and meant there was no condemnation of Cuba. But why is there a resolution at all? Why does Peru have to table a resolution on Cuba? Peru has never submitted a resolution on the United States, on the violations of human rights in the United States or anywhere else. Why just on Cuba does Peru - or Costa Rica, or Uruguay - propose a visit by the High Commissioner when he hasn't even been to Peru but has already visited Cuba? Because it is acting under pressure from the United States and in the interests of Washington. That's the reality. It's rough, but it's the reality and the truth has to be told.
Now, do the Latin American governments have the moral authority to concern themselves with the issue of human rights in Cuba, to worry about what’s happening here?
This [he holds up a document] is the report published by the State Department this year on human rights worldwide. There's just one thing: it doesn't include the United States. In other words, it's the only country not addressed. Well, that's a minor detail, and the sort of thing we're used to.
It talks about 180 countries in here, more or less, but one detail is missing: any treatment of their own domestic situation.
Let's see what this U.S. report has to say about Peru; how Washington sees the situation in Peru.
I'm going to read a few bits word for word:
“There were allegations of unlawful or ungranted killings by police.”
“Police tortured, hit and otherwise abused detainees.”
“Prison security forces abused inmates.”
“Torture and abuse of military recruits continued.”
“Impunity remained a problem.”
“Fifty-six percent of the prison population remains incarcerated by unsentenced.”
I've read out some parts of the allegations.
If that is the State Department's view of what's happening in Peru, why doesn't the United States submit a resolution in Geneva about what's happening in Peru?
The report doesn’t say anything that is even similar about Cuba, and the report devotes several pages to Cuba from the State Department. Not a single word is said, because it can’t be said, about there being a tortured person in Cuba, a disappeared person, a murdered person, a victim that has died due to police brutality. The report doesn’t say it. There it is, published. However, the United States is intent, with all of its resources and might, on condemning Cuba; and, having published this about Peru, there is, nevertheless, no resolution against Peru.
But, besides, we think the Peruvian government actually has a lot to tend to in Peru, instead of minding Cuba's business.
According to a report from the Peruvian government to its congress, infant mortality in that country is 43 per 1000 live births.
Seven times more children die in Peru before they are one year old than they do in Cuba. Shouldn’t it be focusing its attention on this, instead of passing judgement on Cuba where six children die for every 1000 live births, rather than 43, the latter figure according to the doubtful statistics of most Latin American countries?
The report says that there are six million Peruvians without access to health care, six of the 25 million. In Cuba, 100% of the population has health care coverage despite the blockade, the hostility and over 40 years of aggressions. Isn’t this a right the Peruvian government should be seeing to, instead of trying to have Cuba receive a High Commissioner that they themselves have not received?
According to the Peruvian government’s report, half of the people in Peru live in poverty. It seems to me that the United States acts with hypocrisy and with double standards when it tries to condemn Cuba by exerting pressure on and using the services of Peru, against which it launches such serious accusations. The United States, however, pretends not to notice these and does not bring them to the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva.
Now, does the Uruguayan government have well grounded reasons, for example? Well, according to the Uruguayan press – not me – according to the Uruguayan press, “the positions the Uruguayan government adopts in relation to Cuba are elements of reciprocity for President Jorge Batlle, if President Bush intercedes to soften the stance of the IMF, which is holding back funds and demanding a rescheduling of the Uruguayan foreign debt.” This was published in late January by all the Uruguayan press.
“According to Uruguayan parliamentary and foreign affairs sources” – who say the things that appear in quotation marks – “members of the American delegation who accompanied the U.S. Undersecretary of State, Paula Dobriansky” – who was there “by chance”, on a “brief” stop she made there in Montevideo – “the members of her delegation talked to Uruguayan officials about” – and this is what they are quoted as saying – “‘the United States’ needs: on the one hand, that Uruguay repeat this year in Geneva the same actions it carried out in 2002 and once again present a condemnation against Cuba.’
“The discreet actions of some of the visitors have not been very well received by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the time being.”
Those who tell the story say: “When the American visitors explained that, for the moment, Argentina, Peru and Chile were reticent to play a leading role in Geneva, the Uruguayan officials said that ‘only if it were absolutely indispensable’ would the Uruguayan delegation assume that initiative once again.”
“The subject was also addressed” – states the Uruguayan press – “in the conversations President Batlle held with Paula Dobriansky, who visited Uruguay on January 28 and 29. The matter was also dealt with in the conversations held by the U.S. ambassador to Uruguay, Martin Silverstein, and in several contacts they had in Washington also.
“The Uruguayan decision was adopted in the context of the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, as the Cuban issue was part of the requirements the United States presented to grant aid to Uruguay.
“The other objective of maximum interest put forth by Washington, which will have Uruguay as the main player, is to have several Latin American countries present the motion jointly.” That is how things stood at the end of January.
As we can see, the main role was finally assumed by Peru. It is fair to admit that Uruguay maintained a low profile, due, in fact, to the domestic situation, to the fact that everyone knows how it was clear to all last year that Uruguay’s actions were due to these interests, and, finally, Peru was the main presenter, although Uruguay and Costa Rica went along with it.
To understand the Peruvian government’s motivations we must remember that, after president Bush visited Lima last year, the tariffs on Peruvian textiles to enter the U.S. market were eliminated. Then there was the matter of several loans, financing from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank being held back for Peru, and after president Bush expressed his wish that the matter should be rapidly resolved, “autonomously” the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank “decided to agree” with president Bush and liberate the funds.
In the case of Costa Rica, we know very well that their policy is focused on achieving a free trade agreement with the United States and, obviously, the favor to the United States facilitates that wish. We must also say that the Costa Rican government receives pressure not only from the American government, but from the Cuban mob in Miami which has an active representation in San José.
After knowing all this, should Cuba give this matter more importance than it really has, except to prove the double standard that permeates all this, the dirty methods of U.S. diplomacy to achieve this objective? No, Cuba has to oppose all this – not only for Cuba’s benefit, but for the benefit of the other Third World countries and for the credibility of this Commission – and that is why it opposes it, and that is why it fights, and that is why it obtains a resounding victory as it did yesterday by rejecting the condemning text, by exposing the maneuver and, after 14 years of struggle, by putting the United States in the ridiculous role of having to be content with a text that doesn’t say anything and that only succeeds in keeping the Cuban issue on the agenda.
Some personalities have said that in Cuba the death penalty has been applied to political dissidents, while referring to common criminals, with very bad criminal records, who hijacked a boat using weapons, who jeopardized the lives of all who were traveling there, who threatened to kill them, who committed acts of terrorism. It has been said that they were political prisoners, it is written in the press, and I have read declarations.
Now, if I were to look for an argument, I would read this here:
“President Bush in Texas held the record for death penalty executions in the history of the United States.”
Last winter he stated, and I quote: “I support the death penalty; I believe it is a measure that helps saving lives.” I don’t know why, if this is what the President thinks, there are U.S. officials who have the hypocrisy of speaking out because in Cuba the death penalty has been applied, exceptionally, sorrowfully, and compelled by the specific circumstances the country is living through. President Bush has said that it is a measure “that helps saving lives” and that he supports it.
I will continue reading:
“In the six years he was governor of Texas, 152 people were executed.” He signed these executions. So I don’t know why no country presents a resolution against this in Geneva.
The American diplomats should be shamed into silence in reference to what has happened in Cuba, because the whole world knows the truth about what is happening over there.
International law and Cuban Law prohibit the application of the death penalty to minors.
Let me read now: “The United States has executed 12 minors since the death penalty was reinstated in that country in 1977.” They were minors when the crimes were committed. “Except for the United States, all countries have agreed to observe Article 3.7 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits the application of the death penalty to minors under 18 years of age.”
The United States is the only country in the world which has not wanted to accept that precept of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“Eighty-five death penalties were applied in the United States in 2001 and 71 in 2002, while 3,700 persons sentenced to death await their execution on the death rows. Eighty of those who are awaiting their execution were minors when they committed the crimes.”
Then, I wonder about this piece of information:
“The black population in the United States is 12% of the total, however they represent 42% of those sentenced to death.” It has been acknowledged that the death penalty in the United States is applied to the poor who cannot afford a lawyer, to the black. Almost eight hundred persons have received the death sentence in the United States in the last 25 years.
Where am I quoting this from, a document from the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs? No, I am quoting from an Amnesty International document. Why? Why has this never been discussed in the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva? Can it be done? Does anyone propose it? Has any European country which defends the elimination of the death penalty in the world proposed analyzing this topic in Geneva? No, they have never proposed it. And let somebody come and tell me here (if they have). They have never proposed a resolution calling the United States by its name.
Has anyone in Latin America proposed analyzing this issue in Geneva? No, no one has. Has any of those who have made statements against Cuba in the European governments, referred to this issue this way? No, no, this is not done, it is not done, and they know it well.
And listen to Bush’s statement: “I support the death penalty; I believe it is a measure that helps saving lives.” That is his opinion, it is not mine, it is not ours. I don’t support it. We wish, and we hope one day, not to have it. The death penalty is not inherent to our philosophy of life. It is for us today something we resort to only exceptionally, and for really important reasons, something we have had to resort to in order to defend a country that has been under attack for more than 40 years, which they have tried to destabilize and are still trying to destabilize.
I don’t share that view. And it is true we have had to do it now for exceptional reasons to prevent a very dangerous situation in Cuba, a crisis, a migratory incident wished for by the sectors in the United States that want a war with Cuba. To avoid a war, to save lives. And we have had to make a painful decision, that we do not enjoy, on the contrary; but we carry on our shoulders the lives of millions of Cubans and of tens of thousands of Americans that would lose their lives in a confrontation between the two countries, in a war that would last a hundred years. So then, we are acting to prevent the success of that plan intended to bring about a confrontation between the two countries. We have been forced into that blind alley.
If the migratory agreements were observed, if the Cuban Adjustment Act did not exist, allowing any murderer to arrive in the United States and automatically become a permanent resident; if those who have committed crimes by hijacking Cuban boats and aircraft were not allowed into the United States; if there were a “legal, safe and orderly” migratory flow, which was what we agreed on, there wouldn’t be events like the recent hijackings of aircraft and boats.
Why doesn’t the United States return a single hijacker to Cuba, instead of trying to manipulate all of this and of maliciously lying about this matter? Just one returned would be enough.
When, after repeated warnings, Cuba sent two plane hijackers back to the United States in 1980, not a single American aircraft was ever diverted to Cuba again. And this solved a problem that had been invented for use against Cuba as part of the aggressions against our country. Cuba solved that problem and rid the United States of that scourge. It returned two hijackers, after warning it would do so, and it never occurred again. Why doesn’t the United States do the same?
What other than an encouragement to more crimes of this sort is the fact that people can see the hijackers arrive there and be let off scot-free, and the aircraft confiscated? In the United States everybody saw Leonel Macías – a murderer who hijacked a boat with a gun and took it to the United States in the summer of 1993, and now lives free in Miami – murdering an officer of the Revolutionary Navy in Cuba.
If the potential hijackers of boats and aircraft knew that the United States would not allow them to go there, that they would be returned to Cuba, that the Cuban Adjustment Act was abolished, that the United States complied with granting the number of visas promised in the Migratory Agreements -- because, as we have seen, they have granted 700 visas in six months. The other day I said 500 in five months; now I say 700 in six months, and it should be around 10,000 at least.
So then, why must we act the way we have? Because we have been forced to. And the United States’ destabilization policy, along with the U.S. government’s failure to fulfill its obligations, are entirely to blame for the death penalty of these violent hijackers.
Finally, I will take two other matters as examples:
In 1989, the United States Supreme Court ruled that it was not anti-constitutional to execute mentally retarded persons. The United States applies the death penalty not only to minors, but to mentally retarded persons, and mainly to black and poor people; and foreigners, without allowing them consular access to their embassies.
Why hasn’t this conduct ever been examined in Geneva? In Cuba absolutely none of this occurs. Neither minors, nor women, nor mentally retarded persons. The death penalty occurs only exceptionally and under similar circumstances to the current one.
And I am going to read one last thing, from the Amnesty International Report, not something we have made up: Calvin Burdine, a declared homosexual, was sentenced to death in Texas in a trial where he was defended by an assigned counsel, who referred to homosexuals as “queers” and “faggots”, who did not interview any witnesses to prepare the defense, and who was seen to fall asleep repeatedly during the trial. This was the defense this defendant had. Has this issue ever been examined? Has anybody ever denounced this problem, any of the governments that have lent themselves to condemning Cuba?
Calvin Burdine remains on death row; his execution has been suspended two times now, when it was only an hour away. And the Amnesty International report finishes by noting that no one knows how many prisoners have been executed in the United States for crimes they did not commit.
I think then that we should demand our right to see more ethical behavior and less hypocrisy and double standards in matters of such a serious and sensitive nature. That is our country’s opinion. Therefore, we reject the manipulation against Cuba, we reject the mere idea that Cuba’s name be presented in the Commission on Human Rights, we oppose this exercise and are not going to cooperate with it. We reject the idea that a country of Latin America has its own reasons to be concerned with Cuba; no one has the moral authority nor real reasons to do so. We denounce all this as an American maneuver, in which some countries have not been able to avoid involvement, some out of complicity and others because they have had no other choice, due to the pressure exerted on them.
But I also want to share an additional piece of information: On March 19, in the Commission on Human Rights, they tried to hold a special session of the Commission to consider the humanitarian and human rights consequences the Iraqi population would suffer as a result of the U.S. aggression against that country. They simply wanted the issue to be discussed, not even to issue a condemnation or to adopt an agreement. They only wanted to talk about the subject, discuss it. A war, bombings, an affected civilian population, and then they proposed: “Let’s discuss what consequences this may have, now that this war is starting, from the humanitarian point of view, for human rights, for the right to life.” The United States made great efforts – with Great Britain’s support, in the first place, and that of some others – for this not to occur, and finally they got their way and the proposal to discuss the topic was defeated. The idea wasn’t even to adopt an agreement on it, only to sit in a room and for everybody to give their opinion. That was not possible: 18 countries voted in favor, Cuba among them; 25 voted against; seven abstained, and three countries were absent.
Who voted against? The United States voted against, as was to be expected. Costa Rica voted against.
Costa Rica, who, on the one hand, thought that they had to examine the trials there had been in Cuba, the death penalties, and have someone from the Commission come here, on the other hand, considered that there was no reason to devote a morning, a day, there in the Commission, to discuss what was going to happen to the thousands of Iraqi mothers who would lose their children; the children who would be mutilated and whose families would be killed. That needn’t be done.
Peru also voted against, like the United States. Uruguay voted against, as did all the Western countries which yesterday, however, voted in favor of trying to condemn Cuba in that paragraph that was defeated.
Now then, is this shameful or not? Isn’t Cuba right in objecting to this illegitimate maneuver and its shady motivations? Cuba is in the right and, therefore, it defends itself.
We understand that this really causes hostility and renews the desire of condemning Cuba; but Cuba will continue to fight, not only for Cuba’s rights, but for the rights of the other countries of the world.
Finally I will give you this piece of information:
Resolution adopted in the Commission on Human Rights: “On the situation in occupied Palestine”, the Palestinian occupied territories. A resolution was presented there on the violations of the Palestinian people’s human rights by the Israeli army and government. Results of the voting: 51 countries in favor, one vote against. Who? The United States.
So then, the United States, which uses all its resources, makes all its efforts concerning itself with what is happening in Cuba, is not ashamed of voting alone against a resolution that demands respect for the rights of the Palestinian people. Can a great country like the United States, which should play an important role in the world, have any moral authority or credibility (this way)?
The United States government should know that authority and respect can be achieved only by the morality of its actions, by the ethics of its behavior, by the force of reason and not by threatening language or military might, and this is a discredit to its policy. Why isn’t this examined? Why isn’t it stated? Ah! Because people are afraid to speak of this.
Has any European government said these words that I am pronouncing on the United States’ behavior in voting against a resolution that condemns something as evident as the crimes that are daily committed against the Palestinian people? No, they have all kept silent.
Has any of the Latin American countries that have lent themselves to the maneuvers against Cuba throughout these years ever made a public demand? No, they haven’t. They keep silent.
“Resolution on the occupied Syrian Golan”, the Syrian territories occupied by the Israeli government. Passed. One vote against. Who? The United States.
“Human rights situation in the occupied Arab territories.” Passed. The United States and two or three allies vote against.
“On the Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory”, presented by the European Union. Violations of the Palestinian people’s human rights; removal from their houses by force, by means of explosions, heavy equipment, using that territory to set up communities where Israeli citizens will live: 50 votes in favor, one vote against. Who? The United States.
So then, the United States has one standard to judge the behavior of Israel, its ally, and another to judge Cuba. Therefore, we think there is no moral authority nor credibility in the alleged concerns of a country which should first acknowledge its obligation to lift the blockade against Cuba, demanded in the United Nations last year by 173 countries that voted, with three votes against, the United States, Israel and a small Pacific country the United States shamefully forced to also vote against Cuba.
“Human rights situation of Lebanese detainees in Israel”: passed. One vote against. Who? The United States.
So I think we are right in thinking that yesterday Cuba gave a new lesson to the empire’s diplomacy, in celebrating as a victory the fact that the United States was not able to have Cuba condemned, and the sign of support and recognition of the actions our country has taken in the last few days, in defense of its sovereignty and to prevent terrorist acts that would contribute to destabilizing the situation and creating a dangerous crisis between the two countries.
That is what I have to say, while I will comment on -- because I have misplaced and didn’t bring with me the press dispatch that talks about it -- the reaction in Miami to what occurred in Geneva. Some are asking for a naval blockade against Cuba; others proclaim that the United States must go from condemnation to concrete action, which is what the extremist, violent groups in Miami are betting on: the creation of conditions for a conflict to break out between the two countries, something we do not want, but will face as we know how to if it takes place.
Well, this is what I can tell you. Although I have been rather serious I must say that I am actually very satisfied with yesterday’s outcome, due to the way we have defeated the amendment that tried to condemn us, although, of course, I am not satisfied with the final passing of a document that, in any case, demonstrates the weakness of the exercise against Cuba today.
J.M. Martín Medem (Spanish Television).- Good morning.
You have said that the government of Cuba considers the defeat of the amendment presented by the government of Costa Rica as a sign of recognition of Cuba’s right to enforce its laws in legitimate trials to punish mercenary behaviors and terrorist acts.
Regarding terrorism, during more than 40 years, the application of the death penalty has not prevented the commission of these acts, organized fr [snip - maximum size exceeded]
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