HAVANA TIMES — The image and sounds are worth a thousand words. Yelling “down with human rights!” the old man summarizes the official ideology of the Cuban State in a terrible and succinct way: human rights (HR) are a weapon the enemy uses to subvert the system, period.
It doesn’t matter if, afterwards, at some international forum or other, Cuba’s official spokespeople talk about “the human rights we defend,” equating these with the country’s well-known achievements in health and education. They don’t bother to mention that even these achievements of the revolution, at a time of pro-market rhetoric, are today slowly disappearing.
Those who stand to lose from Raul Castro’s reforms – families who do not receive remittances, the inhabitants of Havana’s peripheral neighborhoods and the country’s interior, the great mass of black, mixed race and elderly people and impoverished women – are enjoying less and less of these achievements, and this because they cannot demand them as rights as a result of the way in which the State has hijacked civil and political rights.
Don’t let yourselves be fooled by the fact these Cuban officials invoke Hebe de Bonafini, Esquivel and other renowned human rights activists to once again level accusations at imperialism. Human rights are an acceptable issue if they are handled to their convenience, if they are dealt with as a problem of the past or if they are something demanding of one’s adversary. To address the issue in Cuba is still basically taboo.
Human rights are neglected – or mishandled – by the majority of official academics and publications. No human rights organizations are legally acknowledged by the Associations Registry of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Cuba.
For Cuban citizens, it is virtually impossible (and even punishable) to offer testimony about, monitor or report on violations committed by officials, even if these infringe on socialist legality, and this owing to the State’s ability to control society and the subordination of the mass media to government directives. When some people become organized to demand respect towards their rights and the rights of others, they suffer police harassment and, worse, so-called public reprisals.
There isn’t one catalogue of rights for revolutionaries and another one for dissidents. It is false to say that this is an issue for intellectuals or a matter that is not of interest to common people. Someone who complains about a poor medical service is demanding their rights as citizens, in view of a negative action by the State, as much as someone who protests over a relative who has been unjustly imprisoned. People should be able to demand their rights, and the mechanisms to demand and defend these rights should exist.
Rights are also universal, inherent to any subject, regardless of their sexual identity, cultural background, political preferences and socio-economic condition. Above all else, they are indivisible and, if they are not fully asserted, neither civil nor political rights will be ever be an effective means of defending social rights, and vice-versa.
In short, either we assume these rights, in all of their forms and for all Cuban citizens, male or female, in Cuba or abroad, or we condemn them to be a mere punitive and regulatory instrument of the tropical Leviathan.