Summary of 5-part Series:

By Ron Ridenour*

HAVANA TIMES,  Dec. 1 – “Those who are exploited are our compatriots all over the world; and the exploiters all over the world are our enemies… Our country is really the whole world, and all the revolutionaries of the world are our brothers,” President Fidel Castro told writer-photographer Lee Lockwood, “Castro’s Cuba, Cuba’s Fidel”, Macmillan, 1967.

I think that the governments of Cuba, Bolivia, and Nicaragua let down the entire Tamil population in the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, as well as the “exploited…all over the world”, by extending unconditional political support to Sri Lanka’s racist government.

Cuba did so-along with the Bolivian and Nicaraguan governments of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America-on May 27, 2009 when signing UN Human Rights Council Resolution S-11/1, which praises the government of Sri Lanka for “the promotion and protection of human rights”, while only condemning for terrorism the Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which fought the government in a civil war since 1983 until their defeat on May 19, 2009.

During the last year of war the Sri Lankan government illegally and brutally interned nearly half-a-million Tamil civilians in several “welfare centers”. Half-a-year later, more than half remain entrapped. Their conditions are the opposite of “promotion and protection of human rights”. Hundreds have died and are dying for lack of food, water, basic health care. Scores have been murdered and hundreds brutally raped by Sri Lanka’s military.

In this five-part series, I present the case that Sri Lanka’s governments practice genocide. I also speculate about why the three ALBA countries on the UN Human Rights Council have decided to ignore this reality, why they disallowed an investigation into abuse of human rights, and why they support such a cruel, chauvinistic regime.  I also sketch the history of the Sinhalese and Tamils; outline the right and necessity for Tamil nationhood; delineate their struggles for equal rights; and show the geo-political power game being played out between the west and its’ sometimes antagonistic counterpart regimes in China and Iran; and conclude with the present state of affairs for Tamils.

Is it possible that the developing countries, which back Sri Lanka’s racist regime against the Tamil population, do so out of economic reasons?  China and Iran provide needed investments and technology and thus one must not criticize them politically when they back such rogue states as Sri Lanka.  Is that the case? Is this consistent with our humanitarian principles and socialist ideology?  Cannot one be a trading partner without cowing politically?

ALBA countries condemned the Tigers for using terrorism in their struggle for liberation but then they support the more brutal terrorist state.  This contradiction does not hold. I find that most if not all armed movements commit acts of atrocities, even acts of terror in the long course of warfare.

Cuba’s struggle for liberation was different, exceptionally so, but only lasted two years. FARC and PFLP have sometimes used terror in their 40+ years of struggle. But I support them in their righteous struggle. They are up against, as was the more brutal LTTE, much greater military and economic forces that practice state terror endemically.  The ANC, in South Africa’s war for liberation, acted much the same.

*Other articles by Ron Ridenour about Cuba include: Freedom of Expression and Socialism in Cuba and Fifty Years On: Cuba’s Challenges

13 thoughts on “Cuba–ALBA Let Down Sri Lanka Tamils

  • Thanks Craig.
    Bethune was a Canadian and apologies for my mistake. Though one was a medical doctor and the other a journalist, both are internationalists like Che and that is the similarity.
    It is not hundreds but really hundreds of thousands have been killed. Total Tamil civilians killed in the civil war is 300000 and in the first 5 months alone it is estimated that 20, 000 to 50,000 civilians have been killed. 30000 Tamil fighters have been killed and probably an equivalent number of soldiers have been killed.. Space does not permit all the references but an international war crimes commission can establish all the evidence. The mere fact (as admitted by the Sri Lankan government victory speech) that 20 governments (including USA, UK, India, China, Pakistan, Israel) participated in the war against Tamils deserve the Commission. Internationalism should not be confined to the oppressor.

  • Another important factor in the international politics of this affair is that when the Human Rights Council was formed in 2006 – reforming the old Human Rights Commission – the NOAM countries managed to get rid of the old Commission’s practice of targeted reviews. The big powers had organised the numbers to target particular states (e.g. Iran). With just a few exceptions, the new Council relies more now on the ‘Universal Periodic Review’ of the human rights situation in all countries. The NOAM countries (and especially those which had been targeted by the US (including Cuba) see this as more democratic. It means that the big powers and their clients get their turn too, and not just the chosen targets of the big powers. Of course the US (the Bush administration) fiercely opposed this reform – but failed. What it means is that, under the UPR, Sri Lanka will get its turn and will face scrutiny.

  • To my knowledge, India has not recognised the Sri Lankan Tamils as a separate people with a right to their own state. Which states have? International legitimacy begins here. The East Timorese had it; the Saharuis have it.

    I believe the future of the Sri Lankan Tamils will have a lot to do with they way they build their relationship with India. With the defeat of the Tigers the next generation of Tamil independence activists might best start with India, as a way to influence the other NOAM members and so gain international legitimacy.

    The Cubans for their part are intervening in the way they know best – they have sent doctors to Sri Lanka to help deal with dengue.

    cont …

  • In ‘The West’ sovereignty and non-intervention are thus often portrayed as ‘obstacles’ to human rights interventions, which have been practised from the constant US attacks on Cuba to the ‘human rights’ bombings of Afghanistan.

    Nevertheless, in the postcolonial era the formerly colonised countries have held on strongly to principles sovereignty and non-intervention. They are linked to that first principle of human rights, the right of a people to self-determination.

    These ideas also influence India, the biggest and closest NOAM member and the one with greatest capacity to help the Tamil minority. There is great sympathy for Sri Lankan Tamils in many parts of India, yet the reason India does not take a stronger role is not simply that the Tigers killed Rajiv Gandhi.


  • The same criticism could have been made of Cuba’s support for NOAM member Indonesia under Suharto, and its failure to support the East Timorese, until after their independence. One question at that time might have been – what in a practical sense could little Cuba have done anyway?

    Cuba’s strong support for Timor Leste now (in health and literacy) in my view has been influenced by admiration for the Fretilin-led East Timorese freedom struggle and some sense of guilt for not having helped them more in the past.

    To understand the international politics of this we have to remember that ‘human rights interventions’ have become quite a fashion amongst the big powers. An associated belief is that international condemnation can delegitimise and help change regimes or change regime behaviour – at least in vulnerable, developing countries.

    cont …

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