Thursday, May 2, 2013

The passionate intensity of the worse: Cuba and the Universal Periodic Review

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity." 

 - William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming

Ladies in White hold wake for Laura Pollán on October 14, 2011
 The government of Cuba has submitted itself to the UN Human Rights Council's universal periodic review (UPR) on two occasions. The first time was during the second UPR session on February 5, 2009 and the second was today at the sixteenth UPR session on May 1, 2013. The Castro regime has managed to turn Marx's quote upside down. The first UPR session was a farce while the second one today was a tragedy. The dictatorship's diplomats provided a false sense of déjà vu by repeating themselves.

The strategies carried out by the Castro regime today were a repeat of 2009. Prior to today the Cuban government had already distorted the review. Hillel Neuer of UN Watch offered the following comparison: "UPR country reviews saw 23 NGO submissions on Germany, 32 on Russia, and, the highest, 48 on Canada. ... For Cuba, however the number soars to an incredible 454. This is fraud committed on a massive scale." Why is there such a huge disparity? UN Watch offers the answer in their report, MASSIVE FRAUD: THE CORRUPTION OF THE 2013 UPR REVIEW OF CUBA, :

Cuba used hundreds of front groups to hijack the United Nations compilation of NGO submissions and turn it into a propaganda sheet for the Castro Communist regime. While critiques of genuine NGOs do appear, they are overwhelmed by an unprecedented a mount of submissions by fraudulent “NGOs” that, if they do exist, are mere puppets of Cuba and its allies abroad.
Although now it was a new Foreign Minister, the previous one purged after recordings had been discovered in which he spoke in non-flattering terms about the Castro brothers, the rhetoric remained the same as did the promises made.

For example, today in his final remarks before the universal periodic the Cuban Foreign Minister said that special rapporteurs would be welcome in Cuba. Back in 2009 the previous Cuban Foreign Minister had made a similar pledge in January that was repeated by the Cuban "justice" minister during the second UPR session formally extending an invitation to the independent expert on torture only to postpone it for the subsequent four years. The Castro regime made a lot of noise about this invitation at the time, got a lot of positive press and never allowed the special rapporteur in. 

Back in 2009, with scores of prisoners of conscience locked behind bars since March of 2003 being human rights defenders, or for their part in the Varela Project and/or having engaged in independent journalism the claims of the Cuban regime were farcical.

Four years later the same dictatorship in Cuba claims to be both a democracy and a regime that will never except a change of regime. It also claimed that “All citizens’ rights to freedoms of opinion, expression, information and press are recognized” but the facts demonstrate otherwise.

However the failure of the international community to take the farce seriously in 2009 and hold the regime accountable has led to four years of tragedy. Cuban human rights defenders Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Juan Wilfredo Soto García, and Wilman Villar Mendoza died while under the custody of the Cuban government. 

Both Orlando Zapata Tamayo and Wilman Villar Mendoza had been recognized by Amnesty International as prisoners of conscience. Even more tragic was the failure of the sixteenth UPR to hold the dictatorship in Cuba accountable for the deaths of these activists or to question the death of a high profile civic leader such as Ladies in White founder Laura Pollán over the past four years.

Funeral of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas
Only a smattering of countries called for an international investigation into the death of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas. We are grateful to countries like the Czech Republic, who spoke up for Oswaldo, but unfortunately, they were the exception not the rule. The failure to address the death threats, brutal beatings and deaths in Cuba over the past four years have had and will continue to have dire consequences. 

This indifference will invite the deaths of more nonviolent dissidents in Cuba.



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