Friday, May 31, 2013

Turkish government attacks nonviolent protesters in Taksim Square

Update: Nonviolent protesters in Taksim Square attacked with high pressure hoses

Turkey must halt brutal police repression and investigate abuses at Istanbul protest

© Eren Aytuğ / NarPhotos
by Amnesty International
The Turkish authorities must order police to stop using excessive force against peaceful protesters in Istanbul and immediately investigate alleged abuses, said Amnesty International after more than a hundred people were injured during an ongoing peaceful demonstration in a city centre park. On 30 and 31 May, police officers used water cannon and tear gas to disperse a peaceful protest against the destruction of Gezi Park in central Istanbul.

More than a hundred protesters are reported to have been injured during police interventions. Some suffered head injuries and at least two people had to receive emergency surgery.

Amnesty International activists who were observing the protest were also hit with truncheons and tear gassed.

“The use of violence by police on this scale appears designed to deny the right to peaceful protest altogether and to discourage others from taking part” said John Dalhuisen, Director of Europe and Central Asia Programme at Amnesty International.

“The use of tear gas against peaceful protestors and in confined spaces where it may constitute a serious danger to health is unacceptable, breaches international human rights standards and must be stopped immediately.”

“The Turkish authorities must order police to halt any excessive use of force and urgently investigate all reports of abuse. They have a duty to ensure that people can exercise their right to free expression and assembly.”

On Friday afternoon, riot police were preventing access to Gezi Park but an estimated 4,000 people were continuing their protest in the area. Police reportedly continued their use of water cannon to repress the protest. A further protest has been called for 7pm local time on Friday evening.

“Any decision to forcefully disperse a peaceful protest should be taken only as a last resort, and police intervention should always be measured,” said John Dalhuisen.

Protests against the closure of Gezi Park began on 28 May with a few hundred activists taking part initially.

The park is facing demolition to make way for the construction of a shopping centre as part of a large scale regeneration of the area.

Excessive force is routinely used by law enforcement officials to disperse protests in Turkey.

Four weeks ago, police in Istanbul used excessive force to disperse a May Day demonstration.

Jorge Valls and a Conspiracy of Hope

Prisoners of conscience at a rock concert

The year was 1986. The Berlin Wall would not fall for another three years, the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen square massacre had not happened yet and the Cold War still raged on. Nevertheless, or because of it, Amnesty International organized six benefit concerts starting on June 4th and ending on June 15, 1986 to observe the 25th anniversary of their founding while seeking to attract a new generation to letter writing for the release of prisoners of conscience.

The shows were headlined by U2, Sting and Bryan Adams and also featured Peter Gabriel, Lou Reed, Joan Baez, and The Neville Brothers. The last three concerts featured the reuniting of the British rock band The Police who would not play again on stage until 2003.

At the end of the concert broadcast over MTV on June 15, 1986 former prisoners of conscience appeared on stage holding their hands together and lifting them high. Among them was Jorge Valls, a poet and a Cuban prisoner of conscience who had unjustly spent 20 years and 40 days in prison. He'd fought against two dictatorships and in favor of human rights and dignity and paid the price for being a free man with a conscience.
Like Mr. Castro, I wanted a radical change in Cuban society, but I also knew that authority would never become legitimate unless the pure power of violence was submitted to reason, and strict respect for individual rights was guaranteed.

Without civil rights, the best intentions turn into a trap, and societies become prisons and asylums. There is a danger that we become as alienated and as fierce as the evil we think we are fighting.

That is what happened in Cuba under the Castro regime. In 1964, I was convicted of "conspiracy against the state," because I testified against the Castro government in a political trial, and I spent 20 years and 40 days in jail. I don't regret my time there, because I was defending this essential respectability of the human person.
 At 1 hour and 1 minute and 13 seconds into this video of the 1986 Conspiracy of Hope tour there appears among a row of prisoners of conscience on stage wearing a blue t-shirt the Cuban poet and former prisoner of conscience Jorge Valls. He reappears again at 1 hour 2 minutes and 2 seconds in the same video and briefly stares into the camera.

Jorge Valls in 2013
 This should serve as a reminder as we watch all these talented and courageous Cubans traveling the world and speaking truth to power that others have come before them. First, to appreciate the good works done in the past and also what they too can accomplish.

Finally, one should appreciate the powerful moral authority and legitimacy that prisoners of conscience have. Sadly and proudly there are many Cuban prisoners of conscience young and old that are available to tell their history and unlike at other times there are many that want to listen.

It truly is a conspiracy of hope.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Liberal International calls on the UNHRC to investigate death of Oswaldo Payá

Human Rights Council
Twenty-third session
Agenda item 3

Promotion and protection of all human rights, 
civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights,
including the right to development

Written statement* submitted by Liberal International, a non-governmental organization in general consultative status

The Secretary-General has received the following written statement, which is circulated in
accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.

[10 May 2013]

Suspicious death of Cuban political activist Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas

Liberal International (LI) welcomes the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation with Human Rights Defenders to the 67th Session of the UN General Assembly, Mrs. Margaret Sekaggya, which focused on the use of legislation to regulate the activities of Human Rights defenders. LI firmly supports the conclusions of the report which stress that “recent legislative developments in a number of countries are not in compliance with international human rights standards, notably the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders,
and do not contribute to a conducive working environment for defenders.”

This statement would like to pay particular attention to the suspicious death of the Cuban political activist Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas in light of the constant repression and prosecution to which human rights defenders and democracy activists are subjected by the authorities of the Republic of Cuba.

Recognizing that:
• the illegitimate laws which govern the exercise of fundamental rights in the Republic of Cuba allow for the constant repression and prosecution of human rights defenders and democracy activists in the country. Just last year there were 6,602 cases of arbitrary detentions which represents a 50% increase compared to the year 2011. The number of political prisoners who have been sentenced or are awaiting trial has risen to 82. The members of “Ladies in White”, an organization peacefully struggling for the liberation of political prisoners, continue to be harassed, beaten and arrested by the paramilitary groups organized by the political police.

• Cuban citizens are being punished on a daily basis simply because they strive to achieve a true democratic process allowing them to enjoy true economic prosperity and brighter future.

• the Cuban Constitution continues to consider the Communist party as the only legitimate political party while at the same time establishing that no dissent or protest can be used against the Cuban government. Independent journalists and activists who present or promote political ideas contradicting the postulates of the Cuban communist party are often expelled from their work place, denied studies at higher levels, and limited to their travels in and outside of the country

• the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, an independent group which monitors the violation of Human Rights in Cuba, has documented 6,602 cases of arbitrary detentions for the year 2012, which means an increase of 50% compared to 2011, and the number of political prisoners who have been sentenced or are awaiting trial has risen to 82
• none of the changes that have taken place on the island could lead to a real opening unless the persecution and the repression against those who peacefully defend the free exercise and respect for Human Rights in Cuba ceases. The island will continue to have the worst record in the Western hemisphere with regards to respect for fundamental liberties

Stressing that:
• the late political activist and founder of the opposition Christian Liberation Movement Oswaldo Paya had played a tremendous role in trying to bring a democratic change to the Republic of Cuba by initiating the Varela Project which called for a national referendum on free elections, free expression and releasing all
political prisoners

• the circumstances surrounding the death of Oswaldo Payá are extremely suspicious as the driver of the car with which Mr. Payá crashed and the leader of Spain’s ruling party, Mr. Angel Carromero, reported that the car was struck from behind and he was heavily drugged by the Cuban authorities when he appeared to admit to reckless driving.

• the Cuban authorities had conducted an insufficient investigation into Mr. Paya’s death given the evidence collected at the scene of the accident which pointed to foul play

• several months prior to the incident Mr. Payá and his family had received dozens of death threats

• Mr. Paya’s daughter, Rosa Maria Payá , had delivered a petition to the 22nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council signed by dozens of human rights activists and political leaders from around the world calling for an independent investigation into the death of her father

• the administration of US President Barack Obama has called for an international investigation with independent international observers into the death of Mr. Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas

Liberal International Recalls:
• its World Today resolution on Cuba as submitted to the 58th Congress in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire which calls for the immediate release of political prisoners and the establishment a multi-party open democracy in Cuba

Liberal International Calls on the United Nations:
• to create an international committee in order to conduct an independent investigation into the suspicious death of the Cuban political activist Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Remembering Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas: The Consistent Human Rights Defender

“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness...” Elie Weisel 

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas spent his entire adult life defending the human rights of the Cuban people and demanding, using nonviolent means, that human rights be respected in Cuba and the need for a democratic transition on the island mobilizing thousands of Cubans in the process. However, he did not only focus on the human rights violations of the Castro regime and consistently defended human rights in stark contrast to the current government in Oswaldo's homeland.

Two instances separated by a decade involving the United States and Iran demonstrate this courageous consistency in speaking truth to power.

On January 12, 2002 the Cuban Communist Party's daily newspaper Granma offered the official position of the dictatorship on the prison camp in Guantanamo: "We will not create any obstacles to the development of the [U.S. military] operation, though the transfer of foreign prisoners of war by the U.S. government to the base—located on a space in our territory upon which we have been deprived of any jurisdiction—was not part of the agreement that the base was founded upon."

The first Cuban on the island to criticize and denounce the United States for housing Afghan prisoners in Cuba and demanding they be treated with dignity was Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas on December 17, 2002:  
"It's obviously a matter of shame that our land is being used for that purpose, having foreign prisoners brought to Cuba. Even if they are terrorists they deserve respect. Their human rights should be respected."
Ten years later, January 11, 2012,  Oswaldo Paya was criticizing the honoring of the Iranian despot Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denouncing both his antisemitism and brutal human rights record:

"Tyrant lizard on the hill. Currently Ahmadinejad speaks at the University of Havana. It is an insult to the students and an outrage to the sacred remains of Father Varela and against the virtue and the homeland of the Cubans

Mahmoud, why do you deny the Holocaust? Would you repeat it? Never again against any people."
Seven months later on July 22, 2012 this consistent defender of human rights was killed in what appears to have been a state security operation that led to a car crash. Beyond that the facts of what happened have still not been cleared up and his family is demanding an investigation.

 The 23rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council is taking place between May 27, 2013 to June 14, 2013 and the Human Rights Council Secretariat is providing updates via the hashtag: #HRC23.

People of goodwill that wish to send a message to the international community let the human rights community know that the deaths of Oswaldo and Harold need to be investigated. Use the hashtag #HRC23 along with quotes by Oswaldo and/or requests for an international investigation into their deaths.

Please follow the interactive dialogue on May 30, 2013 with the special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions that will be held in Geneva at the UN Human Rights Council and if this extrajudicial death is not mentioned please ask why it was not raised and if it is mentioned let others know about what happened and the need for an investigation to arrive at the truth of what happened.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cell phone usage in Cuba and in Haiti

 1 out of 10 Cubans has a cell phone in Cuba versus 4 out of 10 Haitians in Haiti
Man rents cell phone chargers in Port-au-Prince  Reuters/Eduardo Munoz
 Some argue that comparing Cuba with the United States or other developed economies such as Chile is unfair. One wonders how they will react to the following comparison between Cuba and Haiti?

In 2012, Cuba a country with a population of 11 million had 1.3 million cellphones; while Haiti a country with a population of 10 million had 4.2 million cellphones. Breaking it down on a per capita basis: 42% of Haitians in Haiti have cell phones whereas in Cuba only 12% of Cubans have cell phones.

The numbers above are taken from CIA world factbook on the Science Daily website. Havana times based out of Cuba places the number of cell phones in Cuba at 1.6 million as of May 2013.

And, before the Pavlovian response kicks in the U.S. embargo has nothing to do with it. Treasury Department regulations with regards to telecommunications in Cuba are self-explanatory:

1. U.S. telecommunications services providers are authorized to engage in all
transactions incident to the provision of telecommunications services between
the United States and Cuba, the provision of satellite radio or satellite
television services to Cuba, and the provision of roaming services involving
telecommunications services providers in Cuba. Please see: 515.542(b).

2. Section 515.542(c) authorizes persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to
contract with and pay non-Cuban telecommunications services providers for
services provided to particular individuals in Cuba (other than certain
prohibited Cubans). For example, an individual in the United States may pay a
U.S. or third-country telecommunications company to provide cellular telephone
service for a phone owned and used by that individual's friend in Cuba.
Likewise, a U.S. telecommunications services provider may enter into a contract
with a particular individual in Cuba to provide telecommunications services to
that individual.

3. Transactions incident to establishing facilities to provide
telecommunications services linking the United States and Cuba, including
fiber-optic cables and satellite facilities, are authorized pursuant to:
515.542(d)(1). OFAC also may issue specific licenses on a case-by-case basis
authorizing transactions incident to establishing facilities to provide
telecommunications services linking third countries and Cuba in certain
circumstances pursuant to': 515.542(d)(2). 
The Cuban government only allowed the sale of cell phones to every day Cubans in 2009. Whereas the Bush Administration lifted restrictions on cell phones being shipped to Cuba in 2008, when Raul Castro allowed Cubans to own them. The liberalization of U.S. regulations in telecommunications has continued under the Obama Administration.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Cuban-American held by State Security after visiting dissident's home in Cuba

A twitter timeline of the arrest of Cecilia Rojas
Cecilia Rojas, detained by State Security in Cuba on Sunday
Update May 27, 2013: Cecilia Rojas was released earlier today and her documents returned to her reports Martinoticias and other sources.

Miami resident Cecilia Rojas, a U.S. citizen, arrested by state security leaving the home of Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez" after expressing solidarity with Cuban hunger striker Luis E. Santos. She was taken to the police station of Placetas and her drivers license taken.

The news was tweeted by "Antúnez" over his account: @AntunezCuba at 5:00pm on Sunday, May 26: "Miami resident Cecilia Rojas arrested leaving my home after expressing solidarity with hunger striker Luis E Santos."

Martha Beatriz Roque broke the story over twitter at 4:29pm announcing "Detained in Placetas Cecilia Rojas, American citizen was visiting Antunez."

Felix Reyes at 4:55pm reported: "The American citizen Cecilia Rojas was arrested in Placetas for expressing her solidarity with hunger striker Luis E. Santos" and tweeted that for further information to contact "Antunez" at the telephone +52731656

Yoani Sanchez with over five hundred thousand followers tweeted about the arrest at 4:58pm saying that she had learned about it via twitter.

At 5:10pm Cuban dissident Sara Marta Fonseca reported on twitter, "State Security troops transfer Cecilia Rojas to police station of Placetas and take her Florida's Drivers License."

Luis E. Santos will initiate a hunger strike at 10:58am today protesting the unjust loss of his home.  Antúnez over his twitter account this morning announced Luis's demand via the FNRC~OZT: "Solve housing case of Luis E Santos and wife within 24 hours or you'll face a hunger strike."

 At 7:23pm tweeted a question and repeat it again now: "Cecilia Rojas has apparently been detained in Cuba. Will international press there report on it before the official media?" Or will it be a repeat of the reporting on the cholera outbreak that reached Havana and was not widely reported on until the official media broke it in January of 2013? So far, ten hours after the arrest the story has yet to be picked up by the international press.

Another question that arises: Will Cecilia obtain consular support from American diplomats immediately or will she too be forced to wait 25 days, as Alan Gross did, for a visit?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A conservative conception of universal human rights

“All the races of the world are men, and of all men and of each individual there is but one definition, and this is that they are rational. All have understanding and will and free choice, as all are made in the image and likeness of God . . . Thus the entire human race is one.” - Bishop Bartolomé De Las Casas (1550)

Yesterday, over twitter Joel R. Pruce, a Post Doc in Human Rights Studies at the University of Dayton, made a remarkable claim: "Either you are for a liberal conception of universal human rights, or you're politically conservative. Can't be both."

The essay below will make the case that this is not only incorrect but exposes a misunderstanding of the origins of the idea of universal human rights and the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

The discourse and modern concept of human rights emerged out of internal debates within the Catholic Church in the late Middle Ages and the very universality of human rights emerged out of a debate in which a Catholic Bishop defended the rights of the indigenous peoples of America. This at a time when liberals refused to recognize it in favor of their commercial interests.
"The missionary Church opposed this state of affairs from the beginning, and nearly everything positive that was done for the benefit of the indigenous peoples resulted from the call and clamor of the missionaries. The fact remained, however, that widespread injustice was extremely difficult to uproot ... Even more important than Bartolome de Las Casas was the Bishop of Nicaragua, Antonio de Valdeviso, who ultimately suffered martyrdom for his defense of the Indian." [Dussel, E. 1981]

Human rights and the concept that all human beings are equal in dignity before their maker are at the root of the universal human rights standard and it is not a "liberal conception" but a profoundly conservative one rooted in that most conservative and anti-modern of institutions the Roman Catholic Church. This is not how many modern academics view the Catholic Church of the 15th and 16th Century but rather as an accomplices to authoritarian rule.

First the development of the modern language of human rights emerges out of the public debate surrounding the treatment of American Indians in the first years of the Spanish conquest and led King Charles V to organize a debate between Bartolomé De Las Casas and Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda in 1550 in which the humanity of the indigenous peoples of the Americas and their ability to govern themselves was recognized as briefly outlined in the quote by Bishop Bartolomé De Las Casas at the top of the page.

Although relatively unknown in the English language Francisco de Vitoria (1483-1546), regarded as the founder of the “School of Salamanca,” arrived at the University of Salamanca in 1526, the University had been founded in 1218. Following the debate between De Las Casas and de Sepúlveda King Charles V would side with neither but followed de Vitoria's council which recognized the humanity of the indigenous people and their right to their own property. The Salamanca School and De Las Casas would leave a profound mark on Latin American thought.

Fast forward four hundred and twenty two years to the aftermath of WWII and the revelations of the Nazi holocaust that led to the conclusion that the nation state could not be relied on to protect the lives of its citizens and the ground was laid for a formalized international standard.

Pope John Paul II recalled the Roman Catholic Church's role in 1991 in the Papal Encyclical Centesimus Annus published on the 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarum:
...[A]fter the Second World War, and in reaction to its horrors, there arose a more lively sense of human rights, which found recognition in a number of International Documents52 and, one might say, in the drawing up of a new "right of nations", to which the Holy See has constantly contributed. The focal point of this evolution has been the United Nations Organization.

One of the drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was Jacques Maritain, a French philosopher who was a profound Catholic and anti-modernist inspired by Christian humanism:
There is but one solution for the history of the world, I mean in a Christian regime, however it may be otherwise. It is that the creature be truly respected in its connection with God and because receiving everything from Him: humanism but theocentric humanism, rooted where man has his roots, integral humanism, humanism of the incarnation.
The formation of the United Nations was an opportunity for Latin Americans to push for international human rights standards. The American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man was the first international human rights instrument and was signed into existence in Bogota, Colombia in April of 1948 nine months prior to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in December of 1948 where Latin Americans played a major and crucial role, among them the Cuban delegation. The first draft of the Declaration was fashioned from various models collected by the UN Secretariat among them "a model based on a Cuban-sponsored proposal at the San Francisco conference, a proposed first draft offered by the Chilean delegation, and the earlier Panamanian draft."

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is heavily informed and influenced by Catholic social doctrine found in the 1891 Papal Encyclical Rerum Novarum by Pope Leo XIII. The Catholic Church in its social teaching rejects both liberalism and communism embracing a defense of the dignity of human beings grounded in its own metaphysical vision of personhood. The holistic approach to human rights that embraces both civil/political and social/economic rights was not found in a compromise between the liberal anglosphere and the socialist soviet sphere but was the initiative of Catholic thinkers, states and the Holy See that shaped this most important document.

Trying to understand Pruce's claim required reflecting on a couple of issues related to the American experience in the northern hemisphere.

Liberalism and the United States

The United States is politically a liberal country. Both major political parties from an international perspective are liberal parties. The Democratic party commonly described as liberals would fit the definition of a modern liberal party. This means that it has social democratic tendencies. Whereas the Republican Party, that describes itself as the party of free markets, limited government and rugged individualism fits the definition of classical liberalism with libertarian tendencies.  Neither is truly conservative when applying a vision of conservatism found on the European continent or in Latin America. The Catholic Church is one of the historical bulwarks of conservatism as is the monarchy and aristocracy. The first did not play a role in the founding of the United States and the second was rejected in favor of the current republic. This is not to say that there have not been conservative currents in the culture and important conservative thinkers.

Conservative skepticism of human rights

As with the case of Liberalism within conservatism there are different currents of thoughts. Perhaps Pruce's claim that one cannot be conservative and hold a universal conception of human rights is based on a narrow look at a particular strand of conservative thoughts? Within the American tradition there has been skepticism about the use of universal human rights standards as a means to an end which justifies war.

Thomas Fleming in The Morality of Everyday Life asks: “If rights are claims to be enforced by government, then what are ‘international human rights’ if not the theoretical justification for world government?”[Fleming, T. 2007 ] American conservatives are also concerned with the proliferation of rights into areas that undermine traditions.

It has been demonstrated that governments have a history of mass killing. Why should one think that a world government would be any better? The question has not only been raised by American conservatives but also by a man who the official media of the Soviet Union described as a reactionary utopian upon his death in 1948. Mohandas Gandhi looked upon an increase in the power of the State with the greatest fear because, although it appeared to be doing good by minimizing exploitation, it did the greatest harm to mankind by destroying individuality [Gandhi, M. 1960]. Furthermore Gandhi believed that: “Centralization as a system is inconsistent with [a] non-violent structure of society.”[Gandhi, M. 1960] 

The bottom line
Despite this skepticism the fact remains that both human rights discourse and the universality of human rights emerged out of one of the most conservative institutions: The Catholic Church. Therefore having a conservative conception of human rights is a necessity if one wishes to understand how human rights came to be and what can be done to ensure that they can be preserved in a manner that does not lead to their wholesale violation.


Dussel, Enrique, A History of the Church in Latin America, Wm B Eerdmans Publishing, 1981, pp. 45, 52, 53  

Fleming, Thomas The Morality of Everyday Life, 2007,  pg. 229

Gandhi, Mohandas The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi Compiled & Edited by: R. K. Prabhu & U. R. Rao 1960

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Amnesty International Report 2013: Cuba chapter


Head of state and government 
Raúl Castro Ruz

 Repression of independent journalists, opposition leaders and human rights activists increased. There were reports of an average of 400 short-term arrests each month and activists travelling from the provinces to Havana were frequently detained. Prisoners of conscience continued to be sentenced on trumped-up charges or held in pre-trial detention.

Rights to freedom of expression, association, movement and assembly

Peaceful demonstrators, independent journalists and human rights activists were routinely detained for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. Many were detained and others were subjected to acts of repudiation by government supporters.
  • In March, local human rights activists faced a wave of arrests and local organizations reported 1,137 arbitrary detentions before and after the visit of Pope Benedict XVI.
The authorities adopted a range of measures to prevent activists reporting on human rights including surrounding the homes of activists and disconnecting phones. Organizations whose activities had been tolerated by the authorities in the past, such as the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, were targeted. Independent journalists reporting on dissidents’ activities were detained.
The government continued to exert control over all media, while access to information on the internet remained challenging due to technical limitations and restrictions on content.
  • In July, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, one of Cuba’s most respected human rights and pro-democracy campaigners, died in a car accident in Granma Province. Several journalists and bloggers covering the hearing into the accident were detained for several hours.
  • Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez, founder of the independent news agency Let’s Talk Press (Hablemos Press), was forced into a car in September, and reportedly beaten as he was driven to a police station. Before being released, he was told that he had become the “number one dissident journalist” and would be imprisoned if he continued his activities.
A number of measures were used to stop or penalize activities by political opponents. Many attempting to attend meetings or demonstrations were detained or prevented from leaving their homes. Political opponents, independent journalists and human rights activists were routinely denied visas to travel abroad.
  • For the 19th time since May 2008, Yoani Sánchez, an opposition blogger, was denied an exit visa. She had planned to attend the screening in Brazil of a documentary on blogging and censorship in which she featured.
  • In September, around 50 members of the Ladies in White organization were detained on their way to Havana to attend a public demonstration. Most were immediately sent back to their home provinces and then released; 19 were held incommunicado for several days.
In October, the government announced changes to the Migration Law that facilitate travel abroad, including the removal of mandatory exit visas. However, a series of requirements – over which the government would exercise discretion – could continue to restrict freedom to leave the country. The amendments were due to become effective in January 2013.

Prisoners of conscience

Seven new prisoners of conscience were adopted by Amnesty International during the year; three were released without charge.
  • Antonio Michel Lima Cruz was released in October after completing his two-year sentence. He had been convicted of “insulting symbols of the homeland” and “public disorder” for singing anti-government songs. His brother, Marcos Máiquel, who received a longer sentence for the same offences, remained in prison at the end of the year.
  • Ivonne Malleza Galano and Ignacio Martínez Montejo were released in January, along with Isabel Haydee Álvarez, who was detained after calling for their release. They were held for 52 days without charge after taking part in a demonstration in November 2011. On their release, officials threatened them with “harsh sentences” if they continued dissident activities.
  • Yasmín Conyedo Riverón, a journalist and representative of Ladies in White in Santa Clara province, and her husband, Yusmani Rafael Álvarez Esmori, were released on bail in April after nearly three months in prison. They faced charges of using violence or intimidation against a state official, who later withdrew the accusation.

Arbitrary detention

Short-term arbitrary detention continued and reports of short-term incommunicado detentions were frequent.
  • In February, former prisoner of conscience José Daniel Ferrer García was detained and held incommunicado for three days. While detained, he was threatened with imprisonment if he continued dissident activities through the Patriotic Union of Cuba. In April, he was detained again on charges of “public disorder” and released 27 days later on condition that he give up political activism.
  • Ladies in White Niurka Luque Álvarez and Sonia Garro Alfonso, and Sonia’s husband Ramón Alejandro Muñoz González, were detained without charge in March. Niurka Luque Álvarez was released in October. Sonia Garro Alfonso and her husband remained in detention at the end of the year, but had not been formally charged.
  • Andrés Carrión Álvarez was arrested for shouting “freedom” and “down with communism” at a mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI. He was released after 16 days in prison. He was detained for five hours three days later and charged with another count of “public disorder”. He was released on condition that he report to the police once a week, and that he did not leave his home municipality without prior authorization or associate with government critics.

The US embargo against Cuba

In September, the USA renewed the Trading with the Enemy Act, which imposes financial and economic sanctions on Cuba and prohibits US citizens from travelling to and engaging in economic activities with the island. In November, the UN General Assembly adopted, for the 21st consecutive year, a resolution calling on the USA to lift the unilateral embargo.
The WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA and other UN agencies reported on the negative impact of the embargo on the health and wellbeing of Cubans and in particular on marginalized groups. In 2012, Cuba’s health care authority and UN agencies did not have access to medical equipment, medicines and laboratory materials produced under US patents.

Country Visits

  • The Cuban authorities have not granted Amnesty International access to the country since 1990.

Country Reports

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Oslo Freedom Forum 2013: Challenging Power

The 2013 program centered on a range of topics: the art of dissent, asymmetric activism, new tools for rights advocates, the power of media, women under Islamic law, and the threat of authoritarian capitalism.

Speakers at this year's forum represented a diverse group of countries, including: Angola, Bangladesh, Belarus, Cameroon, Colombia, Cuba, Iran, Malaysia, North Korea, Palestine, Peru, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Syria, Tibet and Zimbabwe.

Hannah Song, president of Liberty in North Korea, spoke about the rising civil society in North Korea despite all the efforts of the totalitarian regime there to crush it.

Nobel Laureate in Literature Mario Vargas Llosa made a powerful address to the Freedom Forum on "Literature, Freedom and Power":

Another notable presentation was made by Lobsang Sangay the prime minister of Tibet on the subject of "Democracy in Exile":

The conference concluded on the evening of May 15, with the presentation of the second Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent which was presented by Emil Constatinescu and Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen.

The 2013 Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent laureates are: Berta Soler representing The Ladies in White from Cuba, Ali Ferzat from Syria, and Park Sang Hak from North Korea.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Action not reaction: The politics of love in Cuba and Miami

"Action not reaction." - David D. Omni

Eskuadron Patriota and David D. Omni headlined a concert tonight in Miami at Art Walk on Bird Road.

 Their messages of resistance to tyranny in all its manifestations, love and unity of Cubans serve as a dissolving agent against tyranny while at the same time healing divisions provoked and promoted by the dictatorship.

In the song below "Monologue", Eskuadron Patriota carries out a dialogue with an official who warns him of the consequences of his actions. The Cuban rapper thanks him for his concerns and goes on to denounce the culture of fear that the dictatorship relies on to maintain power.

These Cuban artists will be playing venues in Miami over the following weeks. Raudell Collazo (Escuadrón Patriota) will hold a concert at CubaOcho Art & Research Center on May 24. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Unusual Alliance: Cuban-Argentine Relations in Geneva, 1976-1983

Unusual Alliance: Cuban-Argentine Relations in Geneva, 1976-19831
By Kezia McKeague

The role of the Soviet Union in Argentinas defense is well-known among human rights experts, who noted the development of an “unholy alliance. Less is understood about the support that Cuba gave the military government in order to block consideration of the Argentine case at the United Nations. This document, based on a chapter of a planned book on Argentine-Cuban relations, attempts to fill that gap based on information from personal interviews, Argentine archival material, and secondary sources.

Kezia McKeague earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Spanish from Wake Forest University (North Carolina, U.S.A.). She was a recipient of the prestigious Reynolds Scholarship and graduated Summa Cum Laude with Honors in Political Science. She won the first prize for papers on Cuba from the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy. She has presented her research at the “Cuba Today” conference (at City University of New York) and the international congress of the Latin American Studies Association. She is currently a master’s student in International Studies at Torcuato Di Tella University and an Associated Researcher of CADAL.

Although their relations were not always marked by agreement, Cuba and the lastArgentine military regime became close on the sensitive issue of human rights. For the Argentine junta, it was imperative to counteract international criticism of the repression that followed the 1976 coup. This effort centered on the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, where the anticommunist regime ironically found diplomatic backing among its ideological adversaries.2  

The role of the Soviet Union inArgentinas defense is well-known among human rights experts, who noted the development of an “unholy alliance (Tolley, 1983, p. 53). Less is understood about the support that Cuba gave the military government in order to block consideration of the Argentine case at the United Nations. This article attempts to fill that gap based on information from personal interviews, Argentine archival material, and secondary sources.3

The first section provides background on the principal UN human rights bodies and procedures. The subsequent sections detail the nature and significance of Cuban support throughout the period of the military regime. The conclusion analyzes multiple factors that contributed to Cuban cooperation with Argentina, arguing that it largely resulted from a pragmatic assessment of national interest. 

 United Nations Procedure  

A subsidiary body of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Commission on Human Rights has met annually in Geneva since 1946. It consists of state representatives, selected for three-year terms according to a formula designed to ensure an equitable regional distribution. Between 1967 and 1980, they numbered 32; with a 1980 reform, Commission membership increased to 43 states.4  The developing states dominate the Commission, though they do not form a united bloc, unlike the relatively cohesive Western and Eastern groups during the Cold War. The loose coalition of non-aligned countries frequently protected its members while approving investigations of others, but it also split on decisive issues in its different regions. According to Tolley (1987), the most partisan delegates, whatever their ideological convictions, “alternately profess indignation at gross violations of human rights by their foes, and then defend allies by complaining of selective enforcement, double standards, and unlawful political intervention in domestic matters” (p. 202).
 Such political calculations largely account for the disparate treatment of human rights violations cited by critics of the Commission. Indeed, many members are themselves serious abusers of human rights, with a vested interest in not only preventing action on their own internal situations but also in rarely, and selectively, enforcing human rights norms in order to weaken the overall mechanisms and gain political advantage over their adversaries.  This is perhaps the inevitable outcome of an intergovernmental organ whose delegates must promote the national interest over human rights when the two conflict. Nevertheless, a few governments have adopted more impartial policies, and, while cohesive voting coalitions can block proposed resolutions, the passage of an initiative usually requires cooperation from others (Tolley, 1987). 5 
Sincere commitment to opposing human rights principles can also create conflict, as exemplified by the Western emphasis on civil and political rights and the priority given to economic and social rights by the less-developed states (Tolley, 1984).  Unlike the government representatives of the Commission, the 26 members of the Sub-Commission on Prevention and Protection of Minorities, the only subsidiary body of the Commission, serve in a personal capacity. 6 Critics have argued, however, that they operate under similar political pressures, “in accord with, if not actually under the instructions of, their governments” (Gardeniers, Hannum, & Kruger, 1982, p. 357). The independence of the Sub- Commission is indeed constrained, though indirectly, by the election procedure, which takes place in the Commission on the nomination of governments (Hannum, 1981). 
Some countries regularly nominate employees of their foreign ministries, while others, such as the Eastern bloc states during the Cold War, openly reject the principle of independent experts (Forsyth, 1985).  The enforcement capabilities of the Commission and Sub-Commission, which initially limited themselves to the mere promotion of human rights, reside in two ECOSOC decisions: resolution 1235, of June 1967, and resolution 1503, of May 1970. Resolution 1235 authorized both the Commission and the Sub-Commission to consult information on violations and to study situations that demonstrate a consistent pattern of gross violations. This procedure is public and does not use confidential communications as evidence. Resolution 1503, on the other hand, provided for a confidential procedure to review communications through a two-step screening process. 
A five-member Working Group, appointed by the Sub-Commission with one member each from the African,Asian, Latin American, Eastern European, and Western European groups, convenes two weeks before the Sub-Commission sessions in August to identify consistent patterns of gross violations and to refer such situations to the full Sub-Commission. In private sessions, the Sub- Commission then selects situations for referral to the Commission. The Commission, in turn, may maintain a situation under review, conduct an investigation with the cooperation of the target government, or abandon the confidential procedure in favor of the public 1235 process (Tolley, 1987).  
Resolution 1503 thus created an international complaint system that allows individual petitioners and nongovernmental organizations to condemn human rights violations in any country. Western activists initially praised the new mechanism, yet soon found that its confidential nature enabled repressive governments to escape meaningful scrutiny (Tolley, 1984). In practice, regimes such as the Argentine military junta tried to use the slow and secretive procedure as a shield against public censure. Though their natural preference was to avoid review entirely, the second best option was to feign cooperation with the confidential process in order to thwart any public debate.

The Argentine Case

The massive campaign of forced disappearances launched by the Argentine military junta attracted the attention of the United Nations only a few months after the March 1976 coup. At its annual session in August, the Sub- Commission passed a resolution mentioning Argentina by name and expressing concern about the human rights situation and the plight of refugees (Guest, 1990). The resolution represented a setback for the Argentine ambassador to Geneva, Gabriel Martínez, who was determined to prevent both public criticism and confidential investigations, however ineffective the 1503 procedure might be. For the next two years, the Argentine militarys strategy, faithfully implemented by Martínez in Geneva, would be to deny the legitimacy of all international pressure over human rights (Sikkink, 1993).

Martínezs target during this period was the Sub- Commission due to its position at the first level of the UN hierarchy for the protection of human rights. No Cuban served on the Sub-Commission at this time, but the Soviet member played a crucial role as one of the five Sub- Commisioners on the working group responsible for reviewing communications.7 By the following year, hundreds of communications on Argentina had arrived in Geneva, where they were examined by the working group prior to the August session of the Sub-Commission. There, the Soviet, Pakistani, and Nicaraguan members voted in favor of the Argentine government (unlike the U.S. and Ghanian members), thus preventing any action on the communications for another year (Guest, 1990).

In 1978, however, the working group put Argentina on the preliminary “blacklist of gross violators; the Soviet and Pakistani members maintained their vote in favor of the military regime, while the U.S., Nigerian, and Columbian members voted against (Guest, 1990). In the full Sub- Commission, Mario Amadeo, the new Argentine Sub- Commissioner elected the previous March, argued that his government needed more time to review all the individual cases contained in the communications. With the decisive votes of the Soviet and non-aligned members, the Sub- Commission decided not to send the Argentine case to the Commission.8

This triumph for Martínez  and Amadeo impeded any investigation under the private 1503 procedure for another year, but, at the next meeting of the Commission in February 1979, seven Western delegations publicly issued a draft resolution calling on the UN Secretary General to collect information on disappearances (Guest, 1990). Though Argentina still was not a member of the Commission, Martínez had successfully cultivated close personal contacts with the nonaligned and socialist delegates, which he put to use to block the Western resolution (interview, November 15, 2005). With their support, Martínez employed a typical tactic for defeating critical resolutions: the introduction of a counter proposal charging ones opponents with violations. His amendment to the Western resolution, targeting the United States, was presented by the nonaligned delegates and, following UN rules, put to a vote before the actual resolution. Tense negotiations to find a compromise text collapsed, and, as a result, the issue was postponed for another year.

As one of the most influential, though controversial, nonaligned countries in the Commission, Cuba played an important role in the nonaligned movements defense of the Argentine regime. The Cuban government maintained an active delegation since gaining Commission membership in 1976 (Tolley, 1983), while its election to the chairmanship of the nonaligned movement in 1979 year raised its profile among developing countries. Coupled with improved relations with the Soviet Union in the late 1970s, this leadership position also established Cuba as a broker between the developing world and the socialist bloc (Erisman, 2000).

For Martínez, as well, Cuba acted as an “interlocutor between the Argentine and Eastern European delegations (interview, November 15, 2005). When Martínez needed to relay a message to an Eastern bloc country, he would often ask the Cuban ambassador to serve as the messenger. Cuba also helped to convene meetings of the nonaligned delegates on Argentinas behalf. Such favors reflected a relationship between the Cuban and Argentine representatives in Geneva that Martínez described as “optimal and “extremely close (interview). Uninhibited by ideological differences, the support was mutual, according to Martínez: “The Cubans always, always supported us, and we supported them (interview).

This support from Cuba and the other nonaligned and socialist countries on the Commission proved crucial in February 1979. Despite its ideological opposition to nonaligned objectives, the military junta had remained in the movement in order to gain the backing of the numerically important group on issues such as human rights and the Malvinas Islands. Its pragmatism was rewarded in 1979, as a Foreign Ministry report later recognized:

The evolution of Argentine participation in the [nonaligned] Movement demonstrates that, as a result of positive and fertile diplomatic activity, the Republic was able to achieve the necessary support for a decorous treatment of the Argentine case at the Commission on Human Rights, as a consequence of the decisive action in her favor of the Nonaligned members of the Commission. This became evident at the 35th Session (February 1979), shortly after the attendance of Foreign Minister Vice admiral Oscar Antonio Montes at the Foreign Ministers Conference conducted in Belgrade in July 1978. (Ministerio, 1982, p. 3)

Change in Strategy
Argentina had once again avoided an investigation of its human rights situation, but Martínez recognized that growing international pressure made a condemnation of the military regime more and more likely. He thus recommended to the junta a 180-degree shift in strategy: cooperation with the 1503 procedure in order to preclude public debate on the disappearances. Since action on the Argentine case appeared imminent, Martínez shrewdly exploited the confidentiality rule as a buffer against a far more embarrassing public condemnation. To do so, he asked Amadeo, the Argentine Sub-Commissioner, to make Argentina lose the vote in the August 1979 session of the Sub-Commission (interview, November 15, 2005). At Amadeos request, the Soviet member of the working group on communications reversed his vote, sending the communications on Argentina to the full Sub-Commission, where they were, in turn, referred to the Commission.

In the months between the Sub-Commission decision and the next Commission session in February 1980, several changes in the international climate affected both Cuban and Argentine foreign policies. The sixth nonaligned summit, held in Havana in September 1979, helped dispel earlier controversy about the role of Cuba in the movement, strengthening its claims to leadership of the developing world. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December, however, had the opposite effect. The Cuban vote against the UN General Assembly condemnation of the invasion distanced the regime from the majority of nonaligned members and exposed Soviet pressure on Cuban policy making (Domínguez, 1989).9

ForArgentina, the Soviet intervention inAfghanistan led to improved commercial and political relations with the superpower. When the Argentine government refused to adhere to the grain embargo decreed by the Carter administration, exports to the USSR increased dramatically, solidifying Argentinas position as Moscows principal trading partner in the region.10 Although the junta voted in the General Assembly to condemn the Soviet invasion and complied with the boycott of the Olympic Games in Moscow, bilateral contacts increased in frequency and cordiality. These new levels of cooperation quickly became evident at the 1980 session of the Commission.  In efforts to block a resolution in support of Russian dissident Andrei Sakharov, Argentina joined Cuba as the sole Latin American states that backed the Soviet Union (Cohen, 1982).

Concerning the issue of disappearances, the preliminary group of five Commission delegates in charge of reviewing the Sub-Commission report requested that the Argentine delegation answer seven questions about the countrys human rights record. When this recommendation was discussed in private by the full Commission, Brazil interceded on Argentinas behalf. The final resolution was softened, simply asking for information about disappeared persons (Bartolomei, 1994). Martínez seemed vindicated in his strategy to utilize the private 1503 procedure, but momentum to produce a thematic investigation of disappearances in the public debate continued to grow.

The Western bloc decided to take the initiative in presenting an effective resolution, though it needed some support from developing countries in order to counter the weak Argentine proposal, which essentially postponed any action for at least a year (Guest, 1990). Ultimately, the nonaligned bloc accepted the need to create a working group to investigate disappearances, but it was unprepared to support the strong and open-ended mechanism that the Western draft demanded. As a result, the Western bloc decided to cede leadership on the issue. The Iraqi delegation prepared a new proposal that became the focus of discussion throughout the fourth week.

During the frantic negotiations that ensued on the language of the resolution, Jerome Shestack, the head of the U.S. delegation, met with the Cuban delegates to request their support. Shestack pointed out the contradiction of Cuban and Soviet defense of the anti-communist military junta, yet the Cuban response, according to Shestack, was “lame excuses. I tried to get them on our side, but, no, they stood by Argentina,” Shestack recalled (interview, February 20, 2005).11

Among the nonaligned countries, some reacted in favor to the Iraqi proposal and others neutrally or unfavorably, but most were interested in obtaining a consensus (Kramer & Weissbrodt, 1981). The Cuban government, in particular, was likely anxious to avoid a split of the bloc given its position as chair of the movement and the ongoing criticism of its backing of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In order to preserve an appearance of unanimity, Iraq moved that its resolution be adopted without a vote upon the resumption of the public debate, so that “those countries who might abstain or vote “no in a roll call vote would not have their position recorded if the measure was passed without a vote” (Kramer & Weissbrodt, 1981, p. 28). Despite Argentine efforts to introduce amendments to weaken the resolution, a delicate agreement was reached, resulting in the passage of the Iraqi proposal without a vote.
The Working Group on Disappearances was thus established to examine enforced or involuntary disappearances. It consisted of five Commission members acting in their own capacities, appointed for one year. The Argentine delegation had been forced to acquiesce in the creation of a public inquiry, though the investigation did not focus exclusively on Argentina. The Groups report, presented in January 1981, confirmed disappearances in 15 countries. The Commission extended the Working Group for another three years, though Martínez won a concession at the 1981 session with a resolution requiring that all individual communications be handled in private. The Sub- Commission maintained the 1503 examination of the Argentine case untilAugust 1983, when it removed Argentina from the confidential blacklist in view of the forthcoming democratic transition.

Explaining Cuban Support
Cuba and Argentina cooperated in the Commission on Human Rights despite their conspicuous ideological differences. Why did a communist regime support a fervently anti-communist military junta whose chief goal was to eliminate left-wing subversion? The most obvious explanation is that both governments violated the human rights of their citizens and thus sought to protect themselves from criticism and resist any expansion of UN enforcement mechanisms. This shared interest was certainly a necessary condition for collaboration, but it was not, by itself, a sufficient cause. During this period, in fact, the Cuban government was at little risk of investigation given the favorable balance of power in the Commission, which prevented debate on Cuba until 1987.

The multiple sources of Cuban-Argentine cooperation are better understood by examining the contrast with Cuban policy towards Chile. The Chilean military regime became a pariah at the United Nations, subject to country-specific investigations and several public condemnations. Cuba, along with the rest of the socialist bloc and the majority of the nonaligned countries, consistently voted for these condemnatory resolutions. The distinction with Argentina did not relate to the human rights records of the two countries, for repression in Argentina was even more extensive (though better hidden) than in Chile. Yet other differences between the two military regimes explain the inconsistency, showing that Cuban support for Argentina was due to more than a common interest in defending the principle of non-intervention on human rights issues.

First, the predecessors of the military rulers in each country differed considerably. The 1973 coup in Chile overthrew a Marxist government that had developed warm relations with Cuba, whereas the 1976 coup in Argentina ousted a government in which rightist sectors had initiated repression against leftist groups. For Fidel Castro, there was clearly more cause for hostility towards the successors of Salvador Allende than towards those of Isabel Perón. The Argentine communist party, which maintained close ties with the Cuban government, even justified the intervention of the armed forces as a necessary response to the chaotic political and economic conditions at the time (Vacs, 1984).

Second, the Argentine and Chilean regimes adopted very different policies towards Cuba. Upon seizing power, Pinochet quickly broke off diplomatic relations with Havana and outlawed the Chilean communist party. The Argentine junta, on the other hand, avoided confrontation, preferring correct political relations and limited trade with the island. It also spared the Argentine communist leaders from persecution and allowed the party to retain its offices and operate in the same state of semi-legality that applied to parties of the right and center. In response, Cuba ceased support for guerrilla groups in Argentina but continued to back the overthrow of the Pinochet regime.

Relations with the Soviet Union constituted a third difference between the Chilean and Argentine regimes. The USSR never became an important market for Chile, and the two countries refused to establish diplomatic relations. Argentina, however, maintained a high volume of trade with the Soviet Union, which became its single most important customer in 1980. The Soviet demand for agricultural imports also provided the basis for some collaboration in the political sphere, as illustrated by military exchanges and cooperation on nuclear power issues (Blazier, 1987).

These key differences between the Chilean and Argentine regimes account for the divergence in Cuban policy towards the two countries in the Commission on Human Rights. Argentinas conciliatory approach was probably the most important factor given Cubas goal of normalizing state- to-state relations within the hemisphere.12 While the third variable may have influenced Cuban decision making, it is unlikely that Cuban support of Argentina resulted directly from Soviet pressure. Academic specialists on Cuba generally reject the view that the Kremlin dictated policy to Havana; despite its reliance on Soviet economic aid, the Cuban government acted more as an autonomous actor than a Soviet satellite (Duncan, 1985; Domínguez, 1989). It is quite possible, however, that the two regimes coordinated their policies towards Argentina, particularly during the late 1970s, when Cuban strategy called for closer alignment with Moscow.13
From the Argentine perspective, it would have made little political sense to eschew Cuban support. In fact, the military regime actively sought allies such as Cuba in order to avoid the international isolation experienced by Chile. In the face of criticism from European governments and the Carter administration, typical alliances become inverted in Geneva, with the anti-communist, pro-Western junta turning to the socialist and developing countries for protection on human rights issues.14  Cubas simultaneous membership in the Latin American bloc, the socialist camp, and the nonaligned movement placed it a particularly influential position for Argentine interests.

Although the two regimes occupied opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, the personality of theArgentine ambassador in Geneva may have helped to mitigate this constraint on the relationship. A self-described technocrat and trade specialist without political affiliation, Martínez had developed friendly contacts with Cuba while working on the negotiation of the Argentine loan to Havana in 1973 (interview, December 1, 2005). After his appointment to the United Nations by Perón, Martínez cultivated a close personal relationship with Carlos Lechug Hevía, the Cuban ambassador. Indeed, for the nationalistic Martínez, the protection of Argentine interests mattered much more than ideological distinctions. Following the 1976 coup, according to former foreign minister Oscar Camilión, Martínez was given considerable discretion to solicit support wherever he could find it for the defense of the regime (interview, Sept. 6, 2005).

That Martínezs search met with an affirmative response from the Cuban delegation was, in the end, not so surprising. A basic convergence of interests made Cuba willing to condone Argentine human rights violations, though other pragmatic motivations that had little to do with human rights determined its disparate treatment of Argentina and Chile. These incentives have been analyzed separately here, but in the Cuban foreign policy calculus they merged to produce an unusual alliance in the UN Commission on Human Rights.

1I would like to thank Fernando Petrella and Jorge Domínguez for their suggestions and encouragement. I am particularly grateful to Cristina Giordano at the United Nations Library in Geneva locating and sending me UN documentation. This document is based on a chapter of a planned book on Argentine-Cuban relations.
2 The Organization of American States was the other main international forum that addressed human rights violations in Argentina. It is not discussed here because Cuba was not a member state.
3 This research faces several limitations, however. Most importantly, Cuban archives are not open to the public. Although the archives of the Argentine Foreign Ministry are open to researchers, there are, unfortunately, significant gaps. I was able to consult cables and memorandums written on the nonaligned movement, but the archives of the Argentine ministry in Geneva are mysteriously unavailable. They were sent to Buenos Aires in 1985 for use by the prosecution in the trial of the former military commanders; despite repeated requests for information from various government ministries, I have not learned what happened to the documents after the trial. Finally, the United Nations has made public the 1503 documents pertaining to Argentina between 1980 and 1984, but all 1503 documents on Argentina prior to 1980 are still restricted.
4 Prior to the 1980 increase, the Economic and Social Council elected members according to the following geographical allocation: Africa eight; Asia six; Eastern Europe four; Latin America six; and Western Europe and others eight. With the increase to 43 states, the five regions had the following allocation of seats: Africa eleven; Asia eight; Eastern Europe five; Latin America eight; and Western Europe and others ten. Currently, the total number of Commission members is 53.
5 Tolley (1984) writes: “Partisan competition by Commission members has produced inconsistent decision-making, but political compromise has also advanced the cause of international human rights(p. 57).
6  Since 1999, the Sub-Commission has been called the Sub-Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.
7 Nor did an Argentine sit on the Sub-Commission until 1978, though Martínez attended the meetings of the full Sub-Commission as an observer.
8 These deliberations were confidential, but Isabelle Vichniac, a reporter for the French newspaper Le Monde, exposed the Soviet vote in an article published September 13, 1970. Sergei Smirnov, the Soviet Sub-Commissioner, promptly demanded an investigation into the source of her information.
9 Cubas resulting loss of prestige was reflected in its failure to secure a seat on the UN Security Council, though its election had previously seemed assured.
10  Meanwhile, international pressure concerning the human rights situation continued to grow with the visit of the Interamerican Commission of Human Rights of the Organization of American States in September 1979.
11 Shestack received criticism from the State Department for the meeting with the Cuban delegation. Martínez complained to Washington about his “lobbyingwith Cuba, alarming officials at the American Republics Area (ARA) bureau at the State Department (Shestack, interview, February 20, 2005).
12  Beginning in the early 1970s, Havana prioritized ties with governments willing to offer a rapprochement over aid to revolutionary movements (Domínguez, 1989).
13 As Duncan (1985) put it, “the record indicates less a case of Cuba under direct Soviet power over all domestic and foreign policy issues, that is, Cuba modifying its behavior to suit Soviet priorities as a result of Soviet pressure, than one of both the Soviets and the Cubans adapting their policies in pursuit of perceived mutually beneficial outcomes (p. 86).
14  Argentine-Cuban cooperation did not escape the attention of the U.S. government, as one recently declassified State Department report proves: “Human rights will remain the central issue in bilateral relations with the U.S. and the driving force behind efforts to obtain support from such otherwise unlikely partners such as Cuba, the Soviet Union, and the non-aligned movement (Department of State, 1980, p. 3).


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