Despite the Political Prisoners, Cuba Is Running Again for the UN Human Rights Council

The exhibition was inaugurated this Tuesday at United Nations headquarters. (@GerardoPPortal)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 30 August 2023 — Starting Tuesday, the main lobby of the United Nations headquarters in New York is hosting an exhibition with a disturbing title: “Cuba, a sustained commitment to human rights for all.” Paintings by the Cuban visual artist Yosvany Martínez alternate with works by other photographers from the Island in an exhibition organized to promote the re-election of Cuba as a member of the Human Rights Council, a mandate that expires on December 31.

“The Cuban people own their own destiny, exercise full power and control over the life of their country, and actively participate in an effective system of socialist democracy and social justice that they support and endorse,” reads the text of the exhibit’s presentation, signed by the Deputy Prime Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba and Permanent Representative to the UN, Gerardo Peñalver Portal.

The document aims to highlight the importance of “the protection of human rights and international cooperation” for Cuba’s policies. “With humility, but with an important track record of performance in this sphere, with tangible results enjoyed by our people and internationally recognized,” the message continues, which mentions, as expected, that everything has been achieved “despite a hard blockade of more than 60 years.”

The exhibition contains photographs of Cuban doctors on international missions at a time when the discredit is total

The text continues to gloss over those things that once functioned as promotional pillars of the regime but have now visibly deteriorated; namely, health, education, sports and science.

To illustrate this, the exhibition contains photographs of Cuban doctors on international missions at a time when the discredit is total and has been denounced by different organizations, including the one that hosts the exhibition, for the exploitation of professionals, who receive only 15% of the salaries that the host countries pay to the Cuban government for them. To this should be added the fact that their documentation is withdrawn to prevent them from traveling; they are forced to show their adherence to the Government, and they are prevented from interacting with the population of the destination countries.

Nor can anything better be said in the case of athletes, whose escapes are counted by several dozen annually; or of the teachers who left their jobs, causing a chronic shortage of teachers in recent years.

Another photograph claims that Cuba has produced three vaccines against COVID-19, although three years later they still haven’t received the endorsement of the World Health Organization for emergency use.

The authorities boast, as can be seen on their posters, of other alleged achievements. One of them is the fight against racism, despite the fact that official surveys systematically show that the black and mulatto populations have worse jobs, worse wages, higher poverty rates and lower institutional representation, among other adversities.

The authorities boast, as can be seen on their posters, of other alleged achievements. One of them is the fight against racism

There is also an apparent protection for people with disabilities that few would subscribe to.

The most striking thing, however, is the poster that proclaims the benefits of the Criminal Code, the Criminal Procedure Law and other reforms that “guarantee due process” in the field of the administration of justice, something difficult to believe about a country that, as a member of the Human Rights Council (the election is for three years and dates back to 2020) imprisoned more than a thousand people for the demonstrations of July 11, 2021, imposing sentences of tens of years on some of them for “sedition.” The illustration that accompanies the text is not far behind and shows a unanimous vote in the National Assembly.

The artists who gave life to the exhibition are “educated entirely by the Revolution, totally free, like all those born after 1959,” adds the presentation text, which continues: “This exhibition reflects our progress in economic, social and cultural rights, in the sphere of political and civil rights.”

Peñalver, who attended the inauguration on Tuesday with Yosvany Martínez, invited the permanent and rotating members of the Council to enjoy the exhibition. “I hope you enjoy it and understand the pride of being Cuban,” the text closes.

Cuba was elected a member of the Council in October 2020 amid the discomfort of many countries that were indignant about its entry, which took place along with that of China and Russia. The members are directly elected every three years by regional quotas – Latin America has eight seats – and they cannot repeat after two consecutive terms, so the Island is trying to win what would be its last short-term opportunity, for 2024-2026.

Translated by Regina Anavy


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.