With the communist Castro dictatorship taking a seat on the Human Rights Council, we see yet another travesty at the UN. Instead of protecting human rights, the UNHRC is becoming a club for the world’s worst human rights violators.
Cuba Being on the UN Human Rights Council Is a Travesty
The Cuban government is settling into its new role as an elected member of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Juxtapose this against recent news of eight Cuban migrants, including two expectant mothers, rescued after capsizing in a styrofoam boat en route to Florida. In the face of seemingly irreconcilable headlines, we must ask—how can one of the foremost perpetrators of human rights abuses assume a credible role on the international stage?
Evidence points to increasing repression on the island, with Amnesty International recognizing six official prisoners of conscience representing only a fraction of those detained. And a dissident music video has grabbed international attention with impassioned lyrics and reggaeton beats. It is in this context that it is so jarring to hear the Cuban representative assert to the UN at the ongoing 46th session of the Human Rights Council that “Cuba has given irrefutable proof of its firm commitment to the promotion and protection of the human rights of its people and other peoples in the world.”
As a Cuban-American human rights lawyer with a decade-long career at the UN, the legitimization of Cuba as a valid human rights player brings me great personal and professional anguish. I reflect upon the history of my family, exiled from the island in 1961. My grandfather was a revolutionary seeking a free Cuba. He championed the insurrection against the repressive Batista dictatorship—an initial attempt at authentic nationalism that sadly fell prey to socialism. He rose to a position of prominence in the early Castro government, only to be betrayed by the quick onset of violence in the regime. Seeing the writing on the wall, he prepared for his family’s exodus to Miami, and in so doing caught the attention of the CIA, culminating in being asked by the American government to assassinate Fidel Castro as confirmed by declassified documents.
Seated only a few feet away from Castro at his desk as first secretary, my grandfather was prevented from killing him by moral compunction—a fact that Castro vehemently rejected. While the details are lost in history, what is clear is that Castro, and his Cuban revolutionary government, lived to take their toll. Having put his family on a plane to Miami, my grandfather left his position, taking asylum in an embassy. He remained there for three years, waiting for his own safe passage. Meanwhile, his family in Florida, including my teenage mother, led the rallying cry for his freedom, picketing, handing out leaflets and contacting heads of state to get him out of Cuba.
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