During the days prior to and after the voting on the membership to the UN Human Rights Council, on May 9, 2006, I have been reading comments made by some persons on news media, including foreigners, questioning Cuba's record on human rights and giving the Bahamian public their views on what is good or bad about Cuba in this important area of human development. Also, there have been comments on other areas related to Cuba.
I should begin by saying that on May 9, 2006, a total of 135 countries out of 191 voted for Cuba to be a member of the UN Human Rights Council. Who is going to argue that more than two-thirds of the UN membership are fools? Who can say that all these countries were wrong by choosing Cuba for such an important body? Isn't that a recognition of the kind of human rights that Cuba stands for?
When I was interviewed after the vote at the UN by a local daily and asked if that was considered a victory, I said that the election to the UN Council could only be regarded as a victory against those like the U.S. Government and its allies — including, of course, a few of them in The Bahamas — who are engaged in a futile exercise, always trying to attack Cuba and portray a bad image about the country I represent. Cuba wasn't afraid of presenting its candidacy to the UN body, because we knew that the international community is not blind.
Critics of Cuba must ask themselves why is it that after exerting all kinds of pressures on countries and being overwhelmingly defeated in their effort to impose their will on the way to set up the new Human Rights Council, the U.S. Government — along with three of its allies — voted against its Constitution.
Also, those persons must ask themselves why the U.S. did not present its candidacy for the new UN body. Be sure that Guantánamo, the Eastern Europe Secret Prisons, Abu Ghraib, the killing of innocent civilians in Iraq, etc, made them doubt about their election on a secret ballot exercise. They knew they would be held accountable for many things that are going on wrong now in the world. On the contrary, Cuba had nothing to fear.
With its membership on the Human Rights Council, Cuba hopes to contribute in a decisive manner to the consolidation of an approach to cooperation and understanding in the United Nations Human Rights Machinery. Its experience will be applied to avoid the harmful experiences of confrontation and unjust condemnation to the South to be passed on to the new body, from spurious motivations that are completely alien to the legitimate cause of the defence of all human rights.
Our country has a dignified and vast record in terms of international cooperation in the field of human rights. Cuba is a State party to 15 of the main international instruments in this field and has already signed two more. We have been visited by several thematic rapporteurs under the Commission and ranked among the first to receive in our territory the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, barely a year after this mandate had been established. Cuba systematically responds to all the requests of information forwarded through the thematic procedures.
For those who oppose Cuba's membership at the Council, I can say that my country participated in an active and constructive manner in the negotiation of the modalities that brought about the establishment of the previous Human Rights Commission, presenting in the different phases of the process proposals and contributions aimed at guaranteeing that the new body (Human Rights Council) eradicates from its works the harmful practices of confrontation and political manipulation which brought discredit on the Commission on Human Rights.
Cuba also strived to facilitate the attention to the fair historical demands by the peoples of the South, including the Caribbean and the large majorities of the entire planet, on issues such as the effective realization of the right to development, the struggle against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other forms of related intolerance; and to ensure full respect to the principles of universality, indivisibility, objectivity and non-selectivity in strengthening the cooperation and frank and genuine dialogue in human rights matters.
Cuba will work to uphold truth, justice, genuine dialogue and the much-needed international cooperation in favour of promoting and protecting all human rights for all peoples and nations.
Some — honestly, no more than six voices — brought to the attention of the Bahamian public aspects with regards to Cuba. They are a few, but unfortunately, have the control of certain news media organizations.
One of the latter last week tried to mislead the Bahamian public by introducing a front page article speaking on alleged complications on 17 patients from a friendly country who went to Cuba for operation. But it did not mention that a total of 2,196 patients of that country have already been operated on in Havana. I have recently seen in The Bahamas that an outstanding person went to a close country for a minor operation and after it, some complications came up and the person died. Everybody knows that in medicine such things are possible. But no critic has come out to question what happened in that country.
Most recently, another local daily published its approximately 20th long article in more or less three months attacking Cuba (as usual) on the situation which apparently happened in the above-mentioned friendly country in the Caribbean with medical operations taken place in Cuba and pretending to influence and therefore discourage Bahamians to go for surgery to my country.
I wouldn't be honest if I don't say what I feel: there must be someone in this daily who is either heavily obsessed and therefore sick about Cuba, or directly working on behalf of the only enemy Cuba has in the world. Or both.
This same daily, prior to the beginning of the eye operations in The Bahamas, had many articles trying to prevent the programme from starting. It began in January with tremendous success. No word about it coming from this daily despite the fact that hundreds of operations have taken place.
It is crystal clear that the daily is only waiting for the first problem to happen to again begin its attacks against Cuba.
Journalism should be about the truth, honesty, objectiveness, and non-partisanship. Otherwise, some may think they are journalists, but they aren't. And people, who are not illiterate, at the end of the road will make their own judgements. Nobody can believe that everything coming from a country, in this case Cuba, is bad as certain media in The Bahamas wants to sell.
I would like to see long articles written about what the aggressors did or are doing in Abu Ghraib; Guantánamo; the thousands of innocent people killed in Iraq; the embargo on Cuba; the Eastern European illegal prisons; the banning of the musical group "The Dixie Chicks" in the U.S. for criticizing President Bush; the way American Journalist Peter Arnett was called "unpatriotic" for giving a point of view different than that of the U.S. Government during the war in Iraq, etc.
It is only then when I and many others who have approached me will have the opinion that this daily is making a good journalism and not based on biased points of views.
I think it is very important for the Bahamians to know more about my country, but not influenced by critics who appear to be driven by the U.S. propaganda and by sheer emotions.
I should be honest in saying that there have also been a number of persons who wrote in rebuttal to these critics of recent issues related to Cuba — namely Mr. Allen of The Tribune, Mr. Watkins of The Guardian, Ms. Kelly of The Punch and Dr. Alcena of The Bahama Journal — whose articles were not ideological or emotional, but honest, factual, realistic.
My country is not perfect and, in fact, no country is, simply because all of them are run by human beings. There is only one country in the whole world whose Government deems appropriate to criticize and impose on others their will, claiming to have the best society and to be an example to be followed by the rest of the world. That is the U.S. Government. The one whose President was elected in 2000 after manipulation of the elections by a small number of members of the Cuban Miami Mafia who rigged the electoral results and to whom President Bush owes many favours. The one which contrary to the International Community, including Human Rights Organizations, has kept a Concentration Camp in Guantánamo.
The same U.S. Government which under the excuse of seeking weapons of mass destruction has killed thousands of innocent people, among them many children in Iraq, the most recent being the 25 civilians killed in cold blood in Haditha, last November. The same country known for the atrocities in Abu Ghraib.
It is precisely the U.S. Government which had secret prisons in Eastern Europe for torturing persons they qualified as enemies; the one that discriminated against poor people, including blacks during the Katrina disaster; the same one which ordered eavesdropping on Americans without Court authorization.
The main crusader against Cuba and its human rights record is the Government that imposed an economic and commercial blockade on a small country whose only "crime" is trying to build a different society based on values, including human rights values different from theirs. Isn't the embargo an example of gross violation of human rights?
In May, 2004, President George W. Bush approved a report submitted by the so-called Committee for the Assistance to a Free Cuba and the fast-track implementation of the measures in this report to "hasten the transition enforced by the U.S. Government against Cuba: a strategy to deprive the Cuban People of their right to self determination and to reimpose a regime of neocolonial and racial dominance."
I wish the critics of Cuba can think of what would be their reaction if such a plan is approved for their country.
But they and the U.S. Government must be aware that transition in Cuba began in 1959 with the triumph of the Revolution led by Fidel Castro.
Félix Wilson Hernández
Ambassador of Cuba, The Bahamas