While many governments expressed concern over the violent Cuban government crackdown against peaceful protestors, they also oppose the US embargo on the island.
By Laura Roque Valero (El Toque)
HAVANA TIMES –The day after the demonstrations on Sunday, July 11, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, assured on national TV “I can say that in general, the world has reacted with great respect and trust, which comes from knowing Cuba’s impeccable track record, always truthful and always transparent.”
What has transpired the following days should oblige the foreign minister to qualify his discourse.
The first declarations came from Cuba’s allies. On Monday July 12, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro expressed his support for Díaz Canel’s Government, while his Nicaraguan counterpart, Daniel Ortega, forewarned threats of “imperialist destabilization” in the demonstrations in Cuba.
Mexican President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, at first avoided commenting in his customary Morning Meetings on Cuba’s internal matters and self-determination. At the same time, he offered to send vaccines and humanitarian aid. Days later he made known his proposal to consider Cuba the “Patrimoney of Humanity” seeing it as an “example of resistance” in relation to the US blockade.
However, from the moment the demonstrations began, other dignitaries noted that the protesters’ complaints should be heard. At the core are the declarations from the United States, due to the historic conflict between the two countries, and because that’s where the largest community of Cuban ex-patriots is located.
Shortly after the protests, President Joe Biden joined the call for freedom in a press release from the White House: “The United States calls on the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves.”
On July 12th, Wendy Morton, the United Kingdom’s Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for European Neighborhood and the Americas, called for calm and openness so that the Cubans can express their opinions. On July 21, the UK’s ambassador in Havana, Antony Stokes, met with vice-minister Anayansi Rodriguez of Cuba’s Foreign Ministry (Minrex) to discuss a wide range of topics, among them “the right to peaceful protests, acts of violence, detentions, internal and external blockades, attacks on social networks, internet shutdowns, fake news, freedom of the press,” in addition to Cuban vaccines, cooperation in regards to the pandemic, travel restrictions, and other bilateral and multilateral matters.
Less reserved, Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil, referred from the very beginning to a “cruel dictatorship” that “massacres” freedom and “peddles to the world the fantasy of a socialist paradise.”
On July 13, Lithuania, Perú, Spain and Sweden followed the development of events expressing concern about the deteriorating situation in Cuba and supporting the right to protest. Chile’s Foreign Ministry stated in a press release that there was no justification for silencing Cuban citizens with repressive measures.
The following day, Portugal, Germany, Colombia and Uruguay also came out against the violence, and troubled by the first officially recognized death resulting from the protests. The concern regarding respect for human rights and democracy were repeated in these messages.
On July 15, the communiques focused on the court proceedings against the demonstrators and their irregularities. The Netherlands and Switzerland called for releasing those who participated peacefully in July 11 protests.
Also on July 15, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemned the repression and the use of force: “The Commission maintains that official statements branding demonstrators as enemies are inadmissible and reckless. These statements stigmatize protest, foster an atmosphere that tolerates violence, may encourage clashes between citizens, and are incompatible with international standards to protect the right to protest,” pointing out the duty of the Cuban State to guarantee this right, and its contemptable response of criminalizing it.
Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, expressed similar worries about the arrests and the use of excessive force against the demonstrators, and urged the Government to restore access to the Internet and social networks.
Costa Rica, Ecuador, Canada, Poland and the Czech Republic also agreed about the lack of freedom and political rights of Cubans in relationship to their government. They petitioned for democracy, the end of repression, and for dialogue. Another point of agreement in several documents was to call for the end of the US embargo against the island.
Poland, whose embassy in Havana has echoed the demand for the release of artist Hamlet Lavastida made by his 7-year-old son Leo, announced via its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a meeting with the Cuban ambassador in Varsovia, Jose Marti Martinez, in which (in addition to acknowledge the increase in bilateral commerce) the Polish vice-minister Przydacz communicated his profound distress over the recent events in Cuba, demanding an end to the repression and the creation of a dialogue.
In response to the international reaction, Cuba’s diplomacy focuses on the ones in their favor. FM Bruno Rodríguez, summing up a conversation with his Canadian counterpart, Marc Garneau, said that Cuba expressed its concern over human rights violations to native peoples in Canada. Communication from Canada, however, states that Garneau expressed “profound preoccupation for the violent repression of the protests in Cuba, in particular the repressive measures against peaceful demonstrators, journalists and activists, and the arbitrary detentions.”
In addition to these individual statements, on July 25 a joint statement was issued by the Governments of Austria, Brazil, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Guatemala, Greece, Honduras, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Republic of Korea, Ukraine, and the United States of America.
“On July 11, tens of thousands of Cuban citizens participated in peaceful demonstrations across the country to protest deteriorating living conditions and to demand change. They exercised universal freedoms of expression and assembly, rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights, the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and the European Convention on Human Rights.
“We call on the Cuban government to respect the legally guaranteed rights and freedoms of the Cuban people without fear of arrest and detention. We urge the Cuban government to release those detained for exercising their rights to peaceful protest. We call for press freedom and for the full restoration of Internet access, which allows economies and societies to thrive. We urge the Cuban government to heed the voices and demands of the Cuban people.
“The international community will not waver in its support of the Cuban people and all those who stand up for the basic freedoms all people deserve.”
This declaration is a word for word match to a message that the Cuban Foreign Minister leaked on his Twitter account a few days earlier. Rodriguez announced that the United States, with Bolsonaro’s support, was pressuring European and Latin American countries to sign on.
The final number, 21 signatories, is not an earth-shattering number for an international community comprising 190 countries. Yet, it is noteworthy that countries such as Greece, Austria and Cyprus, which rarely comment on Cuba’s political system, signed along with countries that abstained (Colombia and Ukraine) in the recent vote against the US embargo, in the UN General Assembly.
According to some analysts, most of the world’s governments that have come out against the repression of peaceful demonstrators in Cuba prefer not to combine it with rhetoric like “failed State,” which the Biden administration brandishes. This is because they are also critical of the embargo, so they prefer to speak solely about civil rights in Cuba. Obviously, they have not remained silent.