Cuban “Ambassador” to Norway reprimanded for the third time, from the Human Rights Foundation:
Norway Tells Cuba to Stop Attacking Human Rights Defender; Foreign Ministry Reprimands Cuban Ambassador
OSLO, Norway (July 30, 2009) — Norwegian daily newspaper Aftenposten reported on July 16 that Cuba’s ambassador to Norway, Rogerio Santana, was to be reprimanded by Norway’s Foreign Minister for the third time for attacking a Norwegian government official. Ambassador Santana referred to Jan Tore Sanner, a member of Norway’s parliament, as an “insect” and as a “banana republic politician” with links to “terrorists.” Sanner had written to the Cuban Embassy expressing concern about the conditions of political prisoners and imprisoned journalists.
“We congratulate the government of Norway for informing Ambassador Santana that his behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” said Thor Halvorssen, President of the Human Rights Foundation (HRF). “Ambassador Santana has a long history of defaming, harassing, and threatening human rights defenders who express concern about the appalling human rights violations in Cuba,” he added.
In April and May of this year, HRF became a target of Ambassador Santana’s vitriol in Norway when the Oslo Freedom Forum, a gathering of human rights defenders, took place. After physically accosting an HRF staff member in Oslo’s City Hall in April this year, Ambassador Santana sent numerous communiqués to other embassies and to the Norwegian media, repeating accusations similar to those levelled against Mr. Sanner. Cuba’s ambassador described HRF and its staff as “terrorists,” “CIA agent[s],” and “subversives.”
These absurd and baseless allegations were intended to disrupt and besmirch a conference where, among other dictatorships, the crimes of the Cuban regime were exposed and condemned in the strongest terms by celebrated advocates for human rights, including Amnesty International Norway’s Secretary General John Peder Egenæs. Despite Ambassador Santana’s spurious accusations about HRF and conference participant Armando Valladares, Mr. Egenæs recently referred to the latter as “a man, who to me, embodies the term that I believed was invented by Amnesty International’s founder Peter Benenson: a prisoner of conscience. Mr. Armando Valladares was arrested and sentenced to 30 years in prison, not for something he did but for something he refused to do, and that was to become part of Fidel Castro’s propaganda machine.”
“Throughout history, authoritarian governments have described human rights defenders as subversive elements—dictators and their henchmen are afraid of the power of truth and thus resort to personal attacks in order to disqualify those who expose their crimes,” said Halvorssen.
Cuba’s strategy of dehumanizing critics by making false and unsubstantiated allegations speaks volumes about its utter disregard for human rights in Cuba. As Mr. Sanner expressed to the Norwegian media, Ambassador Santana “represents a regime that unconcealed tries to scare me into silence. That’s well known behavior among representatives from authoritarian regimes.”
HRF has sent copies of the letters exchanged between Mr. Sanner and Ambassador Santana, materials from this case, and translations of the news stories from Norway to Cuban embassies around the world. “Perhaps this will make diplomatic personnel think twice before harassing human rights defenders,” said Halvorssen.
HRF has also been subjected to relentless harassment campaigns by the governments of Bolivia, where human rights defenders have been falsely accused of having links to a separatist group; the Dominican Republic, where HRF’s campaign to expose modern-day slavery plantations owned by the Fanjul and Vicini families has resulted in an embarrassing bribery scandal where Dominican diplomats paid journalists to attack HRF; Ecuador, where the Ministry of Justice repeatedly refused the rights of Ecuadorian citizens to undertake human rights work; and Venezuela, where an HRF researcher was shot in a politically-motivated assault. The governments of Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela have also waged a campaign against HRF inside the Organization of American States and the United Nations. “We consider these attacks a demonstration that our work is having an effect and that these bullies are afraid of being exposed,” said Halvorssen.
HRF is an international nonpartisan organization devoted to defending human rights in the Americas. It centers its work on the twin concepts of freedom of self-determination and freedom from tyranny. These ideals include the belief that all human beings have the rights to speak freely, to associate with those of like mind, and to leave and enter their countries. Individuals in a free society must be accorded equal treatment and due process under law, and must have the opportunity to participate in the governments of their countries; HRF’s ideals likewise find expression in the conviction that all human beings have the right to be free from arbitrary detainment or exile and from interference and coercion in matters of conscience. HRF does not support nor condone violence. HRF’s International Council includes former prisoners of conscience Vladimir Bukovsky, Palden Gyatso, Ramón J. Velásquez, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu.