Saturday, June 30, 2012

Raul Castro's International Relations: Europe's Last Dictator & Sri Lanka's Genocidal President

"I really do inhabit a system in which words are capable of shaking the entire structure of government, where words can prove mightier than ten military divisions." - Václav Havel, October 1989

Sharing Havel's worldview is the reason that while observing the situation in the world one is compelled to offer an opinion and when circumstances demand it to repeat it and act on it. This is the situation with regards to the regime operating in Cuba that makes a negative impact not only on the lives of Cubans in the island but around the world in places like Belarus, China, Iran, Libya, Sri Lanka and Syria.

Many of these tyrants, like their Cuban counterpart, share Havel's view, but whereas he expressed this statement with hope and optimism, they view it with fear. It is for that reason that these dictatorships attack freedom of the press and freedom of expression because they view both as an existential threat.

Raul Castro and Alexander Lukashenko


The past two weeks have once again demonstrated its defense of dictators and genocidal regimes with visits from heads of state from Belarus and Sri Lanka leaders to Cuba. At the same time in Geneva at the U.N. Human Rights Council its efforts to silent critics while defending brutal dictatorships demonstrates the horrid nature of the regime.

Alexander Lukashenko is the last dictator of  Europe and has the prisoners of conscience. He has been the "president" of Belarus since 1994. His official visit to Cuba on June 24, 2012 was not his first. Both Lukashenko and the Castro brothers have a lot in common in persecuting dissidents and stifling freedom of expression and association.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, the president of Sri Lanka and Raul Castro

In the case of Sri Lanka, in 2009 the Cuban government's diplomats took the lead in blocking efforts to address the wholesale slaughter taking place in Sri Lanka. The Foreign Policy Association reported at the time that:
As expected, Cuba’s seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council has already become an obstacle to the process of investigation and recognition of gross human rights offenses. Yesterday Cuba succeeded in blocking debate on abuses in Sri Lanka, which many countries have pushed for after the extreme violence that rocked the country earlier this month.
Amnesty International said that “[t]he vote is extremely disappointing and is a low point for the Human Rights Council. It abandons hundreds of thousands of people in Sri Lanka to cynical political considerations.” In 2011 the regime's diplomats opposed a reopening of the Sri  Lanka case which many have called a genocide. The official visit to Cuba of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the president of Sri Lanka (considered by many to be a war criminal) should dispel the illusion that Raul Castro is any different than his predecessor.



Some on the Left that recognize this loathsome behavior attempt to minimize it within a cold war paradigm but to do so they must ignore the Castro regime's strategic embrace of the Argentine military junta in the 1970s that disappeared 30,000 leftists. Not to mention its initial reception to the Bush Administration shipping prisoners to Guantanamo.

The choice is simple and clear it is not one of being right or left but whether you believe that human beings have dignity and fundamental rights that you are willing to recognize and defend or you don't.  In Cuba, under the Castro brothers the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is considered a subversive document. It is for these reasons that the dictatorship in Cuba and its ally Venezuela have no place on the U.N. Human Rights council. The effort to remove or keep out of the membership these kind of regimes from the Council is not done out of small mindedness but out of a desire to save it from irrelevance.

At the same time it is up to all of us wherever we are to speak out when we have the opportunity for those who are being silenced in solidarity with them.


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