An accounting is long overdue
Back in December of 2007 I wrote the following post. It was a hopeful look at what the newly elected president of a democratic Cuba might say to the United Nations General Assembly. At that time I was hoping that it would happen within a year. Needless to say, almost four have passed and no democracy is on the near horizon for Cuba. That said, Oscar Elias Biscet was released from the actual gulag in Cuba and now resides in the proverbial one that is Cuba. I decided to re-post this in response to the castro regime's expulsion of the Spanish journalist the other day and Enrisco's excellent indictment of said journalist as nothing more than a mouthpiece for regime propaganda. Some day such people will be made to account for their actions and inactions. The original unedited post is below.
Mr. Secretary General, Mr. President, distinguished delegates, and ladies and gentlemen: I want to thank you for the privilege of speaking to this General Assembly.
My name is Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet and I am proud be addressing you today as a citizen of the newest democracy in the world, the Republic of Cuba. Unfortunately I am not here to receive pleasantries and congratulations. I am instead here to render an accounting. On behalf of the Cuban people that I am here representing, I will render an accounting of how this body has failed to live up to letter and spirit of its charter.
For more than 49 years my country was ruled by an unelected dictator who succeeded another unelected dictator. Through much of that time the tyrant Fidel Castro received the aid and comfort of what was then the Soviet Union in a world that was polarized because of the cold war.
When the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain fell, my fellow Cubans and I were certain that end was also near for the murderous Castro regime. We waited patiently for the world to recognize that Cuba was no different than Czechoslovakia, Poland or any other communist state, that Cubans too yearned to live in freedom and democracy.
We waited for this body to act and denounce as intolerable the conditions under which the Castro brothers condemned us to live. But we didn’t just wait for help from the outside. Despite the odds against us and the many obstacles in our path, we organized opposition movements. For our troubles, many of us were rounded up and sent to deplorable political prisons where we once again waited for the world to recognize our plight.
My crime against Fidel Castro was that I had the temerity to denounce human rights abuses committed by the totalitarian regime in Cuba. For that I served most of the last 10 years in a prison that could only be accurately described as a Caribbean gulag. But there were aggravating factors to my offense. Since I am black and also a physician, I was guilty of the crime of being ungrateful to Revolution to which I was supposed to be indebted. This was an unforgivable offense because it belied the official story which so many in this body were willing to believe despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary. 20 years ago my countryman Armando Valladares joined this body and shared his experiences as a 22-year veteran of Castro’s political prisons. He explained how the Castro brothers cynically manipulated foreign governments and ruled through intimidation and terror. Still the General Assembly failed to act decisively in defense of the Cuban people.
But this body is not just guilty of inaction when confronted with deplorable crimes. Sadly it’s much worse than that. As a medical doctor I always attempted to live by the dictum of “first do no harm” but this body could not abide by even that most basic of principles. On the contrary, it enabled the criminals that misgoverned my country for close to half a century in the commission of their crimes. Unbelievably the Castro regime was rewarded for its decades of human rights abuses with a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council.
In addition to the holding this body accountable for its actions and omissions I am here to render an accounting of individual members for theirs. Democracies like Spain, Canada, the United Kingdom, and France are responsible for breathing life into the crumbling regime by allowing their corporations to conduct business in Cuba without setting even the most basic of guidelines to ensure fair treatment of Cuban workers. Cubans were leased to foreign corporations in a disgusting form of indentured servitude. Those corporations also became partners with the regime in the enforcement of Cuba’s repugnant apartheid system. Additionally, many of these foreign interests also trafficked in stolen property in contravention of the norms of international trade. The list of offenders is too long to articulate here but Sol Meliá, Sherritt International and Bouygues are just some of the companies that collaborated with the Castro regime and against the Cuban people.
I must also take a moment to talk about the international media. As we all know a free and robust media is vital to protecting human rights, preserving democracy and exposing abuses of power. That is why it is so disconcerting to note that the international news media largely ignored what was happening to the people of Cuba. Specifically, agencies like the Associated Press, the BBC, ABC News, Reuters, the Chicago Tribune and others censored themselves and allowed themselves to be censored in order to maintain access. One would have thought that these organizations had learned a lesson when executives CNN had to embarrassingly confess that they knew about disturbing abuses of human rights in Saddam Hussein's Iraq but never reported them. Similarly the international media failed everyday Cubans.
My country's objective in rendering this accounting is not to create discomfort among the members of this body, though that discomfort is not undeserved. No, our objective is set the record straight so that future generations will not make the same mistakes with regards to other countries that have plagued this body with respect to Cuba for almost 50 years.
In order to make this accounting complete I must recognize, on behalf the Cuban people, the countries and entities that chose the road less traveled and aligned themselves in solidarity with the Cuban people. These include the aforementioned former members of the Soviet Bloc like Czechoslovakia and Poland. Additionally we must recognize the work of NGOs that tried to keep the plight of the Cuban people in forefront. We would be remiss if we did not recognize the efforts and tears of Cuban people that at some point had to abandon the country but never abandoned the hope of a free Cuba. To all of those people I have only five words to say:
¡Viva Cuba Libre y Democrática!
The above was inspired by the words of Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey, a champion of human rights around the world who spoke at Monday's U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC luncheon. He assured us that the day is soon coming when the countries that enabled the castro regime will hang their head in shame. In my imagination there would be no better person to deliver the necessary words than Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet. I know that it's a bit presumptuous to put words in Dr. Biscet's mouth, but hopefully I did him justice. Thanks for reading.