Cuban and Venezuelan dissidents were reportedly harassed this week by officials from their authoritarian governments while participating in a panel at the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, according to a watchdog group.
The dissidents testified on Tuesday at the council in Geneva about abuses committed by their countries’ governments, including arbitrary arrests and torture of detainees. Government delegates from Cuba and Venezuela—current members of the council despite accusations that they perpetrate systematic human rights abuses—shouted at the members of the panel and accused them of being part of a U.S.-funded conspiracy to undermine their rule.
“This is clearly a program of the United States to undermine Cuba, and they have given these speakers money to participate,” said one Cuban representative, according to the human rights organization UN Watch.
“You [the United States] have the greatest empire and you are trying to take our resources,” said one Venezuelan representative, referring to the country’s oil reserves.
Keith Harper, U.S. ambassador to the council and a speaker at the event, expressed concerns about the hounding of dissidents by government officials.
The dissidents from Venezuela included Alejandro Suarez Teppa, a student activist and national board member of the United Active Youth of Venezuela. Teppa said he witnessed student protesters being shot in February and recounted how his protest camp was raided on the night of May 8.
He told reporters that he was beaten by state security forces and held in isolation for three days.
“They put drugs and weapons inside the camps and U.S. dollars to indicate we were financed by foreign powers,” he said. “We urge the United Nations to investigate the abuses.”
Venezuela has not invited a UN human rights investigator since 1996, while an investigator last visited Cuba in 2007.
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