Human Rights Commission, Geneva, 26, March 2002
I do not think it is necessary here to go over truths that are no longer questioned by anybody, such as the ever-increasing lack of credibility and the extreme politicization that today weigh down the work of the Human Rights Commission. Disrepute is growing, time is running out. It is essential that we democratize the methods of this Commission, reestablish with transparency its purpose and rules; in a word, set it up anew. We need a Commission at the service of everyone’s interests, and not hostage to the designs of a minority or, as becomes more obvious every day, to the whims of the mightiest.
It is absolutely necessary to banish double standards from this Commission. Did those who today question the legitimacy of the elections in an African country utter a word when, scarcely a year ago, amid the scandal, we had to wait almost a month to learn who would be President of the United States? It is absolutely necessary to banish selectivity from this Commission. Last year, the Commission adopted resolutions and declarations criticizing the human rights situation in 18 countries of the Third World. Some of those, like the one on Cuba, were imposed by using brutal pressure. Nevertheless, not one decision mentioned any human rights violations in the developed world. Is it because there are no such violations or because it is impossible to criticize a rich country in this Commission?
It is absolutely necessary to banish inequality from this Commission. A minority of rich, developed countries impose their interests here. They are the ones who can have large delegations accredited here; they are the ones who introduce most of the resolutions and decisions that are passed; they are the ones who have all the resources to do their job. They are always the judges and never the accused. On the other hand, here we are, the underdeveloped countries, accounting for three quarters of the world population. We are always the accused—and the ones who through great sacrifices and scarce resources try to make our voices heard here.
It is absolutely necessary to banish arbitrariness and the lack of democratic spirit from this Commission. Is it not shameful that the United States is pressing to return to the Human Rights Commission without having to go through a vote? Is it not almost laughable, if not truly pathetic, the reaction with which the United States has wanted to take reprisals for its fair exclusion from this body?
It is absolutely necessary to banish from this Commission the attempt to ignore the defense of basic human rights for us, the poor peoples of the Earth. Why do the rich, developed countries fail to openly recognize our right to development and to receive financing to that end? Why is our right to receive compensation for the centuries of grief and looting that slavery and colonialism imposed on our countries not recognized? Why is it not recognized our right to see the cancellation of the debt strangling our countries? Why is it not recognized our right to overcome poverty, our right to food, our right to guarantee healthcare for our peoples, our right to life? Why is it not recognized our right to education, our right to enjoy scientific knowledge and our original cultures? Why is it not recognized our right to sovereignty, our right to live in a democratic, fair and equitable world?
Cuba considers that despite the differences in beliefs, ideologies and political positions among us, there is—nevertheless—a common danger facing us all: the attempt to impose a world dictatorship that serves the interests of the mighty superpower and its transnational corporations, clearly stating that you are either with them or against them.
Why do we not demand that the United States cease unleashing wars that not only fail to resolve conflicts but in fact also create new and more dangerous ones? Why do we not demand that it abandon its plans to use nuclear weapons? Why do we not demand that it not scrap the ABM Treaty? Why do we not demand that it commit itself to accepting the principle of verification envisaged in the Additional Protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention? Why do we not demand that it cease its unconditional support for and complicity with the genocide of the Palestinian people perpetrated by the Israeli army? Why do we not demand that it relinquish its attempts to turn the United Nations Organization into a tool that serves its interests?
Why do we not demand that it contribute to the establishment of the fair, democratic and unbiased International Criminal Court that we need and not to this warped attempt to set up a court subjected to the will of the powerful? Why do we not demand that it respect international conventions and the principles of humanitarian International Law in its treatment of the prisoners taken in the war against terrorism?
Why do we not demand that it sign the Kyoto Protocol? Why do we not demand that it recognize the commitment to allocate 0.7% of Gross Domestic Product as Official Development Assistance? Why do we not demand that it put an end to unilateral protectionist practices and stop making the World Trade Organization subservient to its interests? Why do we not demand that it cease imposing arbitrary tariffs—as it just did with steel and other products—that destroy whole branches of the economies of other countries?
Why do we not demand that it stop being the only country opposing the proclamation of the right to food as a basic and fundamental human right? Why do we not demand that it cease thwarting the formulas that would guarantee AIDS patients access to drugs? Why do we not demand that it repeal the Helms-Burton Act and the extraterritorial enforcement of its laws? Why do we not demand that it respect the international legislation on intellectual property?
Why do we not demand that it give up the idea of turning the Human Rights Commission into a tool to accuse and judge poor countries? Why do we not demand that it cease to look for the mote in its neighbor’s eye when it cannot see the beam in its own? Why do we not demand that it deal with the scandalous Enron case and with corruption right in the US and stop lecturing about corruption throughout the world? Why do we not ask it to give up the principle of “do as I say and not as I do”?
And now, with all due respect, I ask you, as representatives of the rich and developed countries: Why, if in private you agree with almost everything I have said, do you remain silent and not lead the attack on these dangers threatening us all? Is it perhaps that you have the right to relinquish your own values?
Is it that perhaps the will and the interests of the overwhelming majority of the Earth’s inhabitants do not need to be respected? Do not the countries in the West—which up until yesterday were allies of the United States in a bipolar world but today are victims as are we of this dangerous and unsustainable order it is trying to impose—think that the time has come to defend our rights together? Why not try to form a new alliance for a future of peace, security and justice for all? Why not try to form a coalition that will once again proclaim on its flag the aspiration of liberty, equality and brotherhood for all nations? Why not strive for democracy not only within countries but also in relations among countries? Why not believe that a better world is possible?
I cannot end without saying a few words on Cuba. I do so not so much for our country—whose generous and brave people have defeated aggression and economic warfare for more than forty years—but rather because we think that the manipulations concocted and the forceful condemnation intended against Cuba could tomorrow be sought in this Commission against any other country represented in this hall. I am not, I repeat, thinking of Cuba—to which nothing or nobody can deny a future of justice and dignity for its children—but of the credibility of this Human Rights Commission and the United Nations System.
The United States has had to face a new situation this year. On top of its exclusion from this Commission comes the Czech Government’s announcement that it will not be available to introduce the resolution against Cuba this time around. Our country took note of this announcement and will wait to see if such decision is final.
However, the US Government, including its highest authorities, is making frantic efforts in Latin America, using a lot of stick and little carrot, to get one or several countries in our region to agree to play that infamous role. We trust that no Judas will now appear on the Latin American scene. I will not take a single minute to defend the generous and noble work of the Cuban Revolution in favor of the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Cuban people. I will only say that there is no country that has the moral authority to propose any censure of Cuba.
We will use all our strength to oppose the attempt to single Cuba out. We will reject a resolution whatever its text and will reject any other manipulation. We will not accept conciliatory appeals or exhortations to cooperate, since they are not necessary.
Should any government offer itself for the anti-Cuban maneuver, we are sure that it would not be doing so out of supposedly democratic convictions or a commitment to the defense of human rights. It would be doing so out of lack of courage to stand up to US pressures and that betrayal could only earn our contempt.
We very well know that our small country embodies—for billions of men and women in Latin America, Africa, Asia and Oceania who are currently struggling against despair—the certainty that it is possible to live in an independent country with freedom and justice. Indeed, many millions of poor and exploited people in the First World—who are joined by intellectuals, some middle-class people and others whose ethics reject the injustices, immorality and ecological risks prevailing in the world of today—share this same certainty and the same hope with the nations of the Third World that a better world is possible and that they are prepared to struggle for it. Seattle, Québec, Davos, Genoa and other similar events prove that this is so.
Since these times, my fellow delegates, are not for fears, concessions and weaknesses, I would like to put formalities aside and implore to be forgiven if I repeat what I said last year when we were asked subservient gestures for the US Government, concluding my remarks with the slogan of a heroic people that does not yield and will not yield to the mightiest imperialist power that has ever existed in history:
Motherland or Death!
We shall overcome!
Essays in this series…
Capitalism, the Absurd System: A View from the United States
(June 1, 2010)
South Africa’s Bubble Meets Boiling Urban Social Protest
(June 1, 2010)
Political Reawakening in Zimbabwe
(April 1, 1999)
April 1999, Volume 50, Number 11
(April 1, 1999)
The Financial Power Elite
(May 1, 2010)
July-August 2010, Volume 62, Number 3
(July 1, 2010)
Foreword to the Summer Issue
(July 1, 2010)
Awakening in Oaxaca: Stirrings of the People’s Giant
(June 1, 2010)
Time to Pay the Piper
(June 1, 2010)
Sartre: Conversations with a “Bourgeois Revolutionary”
(June 1, 2010)