Freedom House condemns Cuba’s presidency of CELAC
Freedom House condemns the decision by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) to grant the presidency of the organization to Cuba. This decision is a contradiction of CELAC’s principles and values according to their foundational document, the Declaration of Caracas, which explicitly notes the protection and promotion of all human rights and democracy as core values of the organization.
On January 28, Cuban President Raul Castro assumed the presidency of CELAC, a regional grouping of 33 Latin American and Caribbean States, excluding the United States and Canada, and created in December 2011 under the stewardship of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. The presidency was passed on to Cuba at the closing ceremony of the CELAC summit in Santiago that was hosted by Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, and which also included a European Union (EU)–CELAC summit.
“By putting Cuba at the helm of CELAC, member states are sending the message that they are not serious about their stated commitment to democracy and human rights,” said Viviana Giacaman, director for Latin America programs at Freedom House. “CELAC members should be embarrassed by this decision. With its decaying centralized economy and abysmal human rights record, Cuba is hardly the best ambassador of Latin America at the international stage.”
As part of its creation, member states of CELAC signed a “Special Declaration on Defense of Democracy and the Constitutional Order,” declaring that “respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are essential conditions to participate in the different organs of CELAC.” This past year the Raul Castro regime unleashed countless waves of arrests to quell dissent throughout the island. Over the past several years, Cuba’s rate of arbitrary detentions has grown exponentially, to over 6,600 in 2012 and the number of political prisoners this year went up by approximately 30.
“While CELAC wants to send a message of protest against Cuba’s isolation, integrating Cuba also means holding it accountable to the democratic principles that underpin Latin American integration and global governance more broadly,” stated Cynthia Romero, senior program officer for Latin America. “CELAC’s unconditional embrace of the Cuba’s presidency will instead set the organization back from any real efforts to pursue an agenda of shared prosperity based on common values.”
Freedom House consistently places Cuba among the world’s most repressive societies. The country is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2013, Freedom House’s survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2012. The island nation also received the second-lowest ranking in Freedom on the Net, a study of internet freedom in 47 countries released in 2012.