Our meetings are open to all
3rd Wednesday of each month
Note: Usually we meet in Brunswick, but ocassionally at other locations around the state, so contact us just to be sure.
(207) 743-2183 (207) 273-3247 (207) 443-2899
mail (at) letcubalive.org
Let Cuba Live
Who is better on Human Rights?
By Tom Whitney, December 14, 2008
If scant Internet postings and newspaper coverage indicate anything, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human rights (UDHR), December 10 - designated each year as Human Rights Day - passed almost unnoticed in the United States.
Cuba staged a workshop attended by 200 people looking at “Sixty Years After.” Nobel Prize winners Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and José Saramago sent messages. Foreign participants included Brazilian priest Frei Betto; Puerto Rican nationalist leader Rafael Cancel Miranda; Javier Couzo from Spain, whose journalist brother U.S. troops killed in Iraq; and U.S. delegates peace activist Cindy Sheehan, film maker and writer Saul Landau, academician Nelson Valdez, and recent presidential candidate Cynthia Mckinney.
The latter in an Internet report charged that Washington had converted human rights from a “noble goal into an instrument of foreign policy used by rich and powerful nations against the poorest and weakest people of the world.”
In inaugural remarks contrasting U.S. and Cuban stewardship of human rights, Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque undid U.S. credibility. He cited U.S. torture at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prisons, the existence of the Guantanamo prison and base, disappearances and murders by former Latin American dictators favored by Washington, and safe haven for criminal Luis Posada Carriles who organized the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976 that killed 73 people.
He could have added “extraordinary rendition” – one way the U.S. government transports torture victims - and the case of Jose Padilla. For almost four years the Bush administration denied that U.S. citizen a civilian trial. For him and for over 1000 Muslims rounded up in the United States soon after September 11, 2001, habeas corpus did not apply.
Perez Roque castigated U. S. handling of the case of “Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, René, and Fernando.” The five Cuban men, subjected to flawed prosecutorial and judicial processes, are serving long prison terms for the supposed crime of monitoring private, Florida-based paramilitary groups carrying out murderous attacks on the Cuban people.
The conduct of their prosecution, trial and sentencing violated Declaration prescriptions on judicial norms. Articles seven through eleven refer to “equal protection of law,” “effective remedy” through courts for righting abuses, provisions against “arbitrary arrest, detention,” and rights to an “impartial tribunal.” Perez Roque further observed that “Today there is not a single Cuban family crying over a family member disappeared over the last 50 years” – or assassinated, or tortured.
Echoing old criticisms, Danilo Zolo, writing in Il Manifesto, points out the UDHR suffers “from a concrete vision of the world infused with individualism, liberalism, and Western judicial formalism.” “Collective rights” are left out, he believes, notably “the struggle of peoples against poverty and economic, financial, and military domination.”
Taking off on an expanded definition of human rights, elaborated upon in a 1993 world conference on human rights in Vienna, Perez Roque is on sure ground: human rights signify a “people’s right to establish their own economic, political, and social system.”
Frei Betto reminded the assembly that Cuba guarantees three basic rights – food, health, and education. “Today no Cuban family,” declared the Foreign Minister, “laments that their child can’t go to school or that a sick relative can’t exercise their right to receive medical attention.” He took note of “a billion victims of hunger and malnutrition [in the world], more than 800 million who can neither read nor write, and 11 million children under five years old dying this year because of preventable and curable diseases.”
Writing for Agenpress, Cuban analyst Manuel Yepe made some comparisons. Over eight years In Illinois, the cut taken from all families paying for public university education rose from 19 percent to 35 percent, in Pennsylvania from 29 to 41 percent, and from low income families nationwide from 39 to 55 percent. In Cuba cost-free access to university education has contributed to 68 percent of 18 to 26 year-old people attending universities.
Writer Jose Saramago thinks that human rights “do not exist.” The UDHR is a declaration of “intentions” because human rights are in the hands of governments. In fact, he writes, “Human rights are dead in the entire world” except that “at least in Cuba, nothing ever is dead.”