Among the series of international instruments related to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Implementing them requires two basic steps. First, they must be signed. By doing this the state in question agrees to analyze their meaning and by implication to accept their stipulated terms.
The second and more significant step requires them to be ratified, an action which requires the state to modify those aspects of its constitution and statutes that are not in accordance with the spirit of the covenants. Once ratified, the government’s position goes from one of tacit compliance to mandatory compliance. Since these amendments become binding, they ensure, at least theoretically, respect for the rights outlined therein.
The campaign “Por Otra Cuba” (For Another Cuba), launched by members of Cuba’s civil society, seeks to secure the rights outlined under the above agreements, which were signed by the Cuban government back in February 2008. Though more than six years have passed since their signing, they have yet to be ratified. In fact Cuba is among an “elite” group of eight governments that have not yet taken this second and definitive step.
What is keeping the Cuban government from ratifying these conventions? What does our ruling elite fear? It would be worthwhile to briefly analyze the implications of what this action might have, at least in theory, on Cuba’s socio-economic dynamic. I say “in theory” because the Cuban revolution was born, consolidated and has withered, all within half a century. Cuba was a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, though this never disrupted the long saga of abuse suffered by its people over this entire period of time.
Ratification of these agreements would “require” the Cuban government, the Communist Party and the state security apparatus — in essence they are one and the same — to officially recognize the existence of civically organized opposition political parties with the right to nominate candidates for elections as pluralistic as the people they would represent.
It would require the government to suspend and subsequently prohibit all repressive actions against individuals and organizations engaged in peaceful opposition, including acts of repudiation and brazen assaults in the street. Those carrying out such assaults would face the risk of trial by impartial courts issuing fair rulings based on due process and without regard to political considerations. It would also require authorities to amend the Penal Code to recognize these actions for what they in fact are: crude acts of vandalism.
It would require them to recognize our right of assembly and association as well as our right to peaceful public protest, and thus to suspend all hostilities against opposition marches organized by the opposition and to halt the waves of arbitrary arrests intended to prevent them, as is routine practice today.
It would require them to respect our right to free expression and the ability to exercise it through all possible means of mass communication, and thus to allow unrestricted access to the media, including the press in all its forms, and immediate, full and uncensored access to the internet.
Ratification would require them to respect the fundamental right of parents to choose the kind of education that their children receive rather than leave them with no choice but stale political indoctrination. It would also guarantee our right to receive a fair salary, one that would allow us to live without having to trade our dignity for paltry handouts.
Today these and other universal rights, which lie beneath the totalitarian aegis, are the focus of these covenants. Their broad scope, representing the vindication of human dignity, explains the strong aversion that dictatorships have always shown towards them.
These conventions are neither “abominable propaganda tools” nor a form of “bourgeois domination” by “global capitalism,” as they are often characterized in government propaganda. They are in fact among the most advanced instruments conceived by humankind to prevent a return to the barbarism from which the UN arose in mid-20th century. This in why only the most retrograde governments openly oppose them.
No one here is talking about “returning to a shameful past — a stale and decrepit slogan — or sighing nostalgically for bygone eras. This is simply no longer possible. The world has changed too much and, along with it, Cuba and its people. The only thing anyone here talks about is bringing the country up to date, of no longer being the breeding ground for laziness, and of the ambition of some to begin turning it into a source equality and prosperity for everyone.
This is why last Monday I “physically” signed this citizen petition along with my wife, Dr. Aliette Padron Antigua (I had already given my “virtual” support a few weeks ago) and submitted it to the headquarters of the Council of State. We endorse this campaign because we firmly believe that another Cuba — one without abuse, where all Cubans live together in dignity and peace, the Cuba for which our forebears gave their lives — is still a valid and possible dream.