Are You One of Those Human Rights People? / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 9 December 2014 — Victims of political illiteracy — as so aptly described by Dagoberto Valdés — many people do not know the difference between being a member of an opposition party, a civil society activist, an independent journalist or a protester in their own right. All are usually accommodated under a single definition: “Those human rights people.”

I’m not going to give a history here — which needs to be written – of the Cuban movement in defense of human rights. In the last thirty years, several have specialized in researching, noting and reporting on violations committed in the country of those rights enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights issued on 10 December 1948.

Such has been the hostility of the Cuban authorities to these claims, that in more than one act of repudiation voices have been heard to vociferously scream the infamous slogan, “Down with Human Rights!” This demonization has reached such an extreme that for many years the mere allusion that you have a right to something has been seen as suspicious.

Who are those who dare to approach, to jump the barriers of fear? Strangers who knock on the door, telephone calls from prison, old friends who reappear. Anyone who has seen their rights violated and has dared to go through their own Via Cruces of legal appeals, including the useless visit to the Council of State’s Office of Attention to the Population, or the call to the prosecutor’s new phone numbers when there is no other recourse, then he or she seeks out one of those “human rights people.”

The moral force of this dreaded spectrum, typecast as mercenaries in the pay of the empire, has been growing. I know of cases that are invoked as a threat, ”If you don’t resolve this problem I’m going to go to those human rights people, and see what you are going to do about it!” says the lady who built an bedroom extension on her house that they now want to make her demolish; or the worker in the process of retiring who claims a few years of service are missing from his file; or those convicted without proof, fined for no reason, the self-employed worker whose license they are going to revoke, someone who suffers a confiscation, a search; in short, all those being run over.

It is not enough to explain that others dedicate themselves to this issue, including journalists, independent librarians, or the creators of a political platform. In the end they don’t understand and they say to you, “I know you are one of those human rights people,” and there is no way to convince them that they should approach another specialist on this issue. We end up hearing the case and helping the injured.

How would you react? Would you, perhaps, tell me that you aren’t one of those human rights people either?