Irony in human rights ideology of Cuba, America


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Category: International Date: 07 May 00

There is as vast a different in ideology between America and Cuba as the economic gap between them. The irony is that each side feels that they are the torchbearers of “human rights” and that the other side is evil.


Cuba, in many people’s minds is inextricably linked to America. People’s view of Cuba has been coloured by idealistic mythical images. This island’s relations with its big neighbour brings to mind a David and Goliath story in Cuba’s ability to maintain a “communist revolution” on the doorstep of the worlds giant of capitalism despite several attempts to destabilise and destroy it.


As the largest country in the Caribbean, Cuba demands our attention. And Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban boy washed up on American shores rekindled our curiosity about Cuba and put the spotlight, once again on American/Cuban relations.


The following are views from Cuban Ambassador to T&T Mr Guillermo Batista, and a US official source from Washington.


US:  “The freedom to think and believe what you want, congregate, the means to better yourself: those are real human rights. We will return Elian to Cuba but he will probably be forced to join the Young Pioneers and be ideologically indoctrinated at age seven similar to the Soviet era when young youth group kids go off like Scouts and Guides and are brainwashed about socialism.”

(I asked him about the worldwide American cultural penetration in the media through cable, internet video games and films and the rampant nationalism of American soldiers, but the US official dismissed it saying this was about making choices.)


Cuba: “In Elian’s case it is clear that his family there (in Miami) is serving the interest of the Cuban-American Mafia.”


US: “Before the Elian story, the US was on its way to a quiet diplomacy with Cuba. Now that’s destroyed. If Castro had kept out of this whole thing Elian would have been back in the first week. The reason for storming in and seizing Elian under gunpoint was because I am told from an inside source from the Department of Justice that there was a plan by some Cuban-Americans to kill the boy and make him into a martyr. We’ve denied both sides the opportunity to make him to a martyr. That’s why Janet Reno allowed an AP photographer in despite the bad press she suffered in her own city. Still, I admit it is scary that in America a child can be grabbed by the state at gunpoint.”


Cuba: “In accordance with American law the child should have been sent home, but the Cuban Americans unscrupulously used the child, to politicise the issue and violated his father’s rights by trying to score a point against the Cuban revolution despite the fact that 60 per cent of Americans believed he should be sent home.”


US: “Maybe in Elian’s case a lot of the Cuban Americans were thinking back of their own youth, identifying with the sacrifice of their families, when 15,000 of them were put on airplanes by the Catholic church in Operation Pedro Pan (Peter Pan) because their parents decided it was more important for them to grow up free or have God in their lives. Civil rights advocates in Cuba say that there is nasty spate of retribution for people speaking their minds - they’re getting the crap beaten out of them or detained without trial. It’s no picnic for people inside Cuba - a lot of young people are disaffected and feel its time for change.”


Cuba: “We are proud of human rights record of Cuba. No other country in Latin America is doing more for human rights of their people and children’s rights: Free education, free health, social and racial equality, and increasingly, religious freedom. One of our MPs is the President of the Council of Churches. But we will defend ourselves if we are attacked. We are a Caribbean people with nothing to hide. There are over 300 foreign correspondents in Cuba but there has been a lot of negative news on Cuba from International Agencies such as Reuters. They refer to us as the “Communist” Government of Cuba. Nobody says the “Capitalist” government of France or America. They go into our most depressing areas, and there are few reports on our excellent record on health and education on their travel channels. They call us a Police state, but if you go there you will not find many policemen on the streets. I am not painting a paradise but our crime levels are no higher than the international levels.

“Like every country we have our poor and modern districts but in Cuba you will not find economic and social discrimination. Some people can afford to paint their houses. Others can’t. Our per capita income is $1,500 - small when compared to countries which have $5,000-6,000 per capita income, but when only 20 per cent of their population have access to 70-80 per cent of the wealth, then it is not a true indicator. Our social welfare system takes care of all our people.”


The views appear diametrically opposite but the reality is these countries are close neighbours, both appear to be champions of human rights, from the left and right, and there is no cold war left to fight.


Instead of working towards reconciliation, the leaders of both countries appear to be playing for their domestic audiences and it seems that once again, politics, rather than people, have won the day.

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur