The Cuban Foreign Minister Made the Wrong Speech at the Session on Human Rights in Geneva

Bruno Rodríguez in Geneva during the presentation of the Universal Periodic Review report. (A)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 15 November 2023 — A discussion of the United States took up half the time taken by the Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, in his  presentation of Cuba’s report for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Human Rights Council this Wednesday in Geneva. The mechanism is designed for the United Nations to evaluate the situation of each country in this matter and issue recommendations for its possible improvement, but this morning’s session seemed more intended to analyze Washington.

“The economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba constitutes a massive, flagrant and systematic violation of the human rights of Cubans,” Rodríguez repeated. His speech did not move a millimeter of words that both at the UN and on the Island already sound like a mantra.

Rodríguez recalled the things that have happened since the previous UPR to which the Island was subjected, in 2018, such as the “more than 240 additional unilateral coercive measures and the fraudulent inclusion of Cuba in the spurious list of countries sponsoring terrorism,” on one side. Also in that period there was a pandemic, Covid-19, in which “[Cuba] was prevented from acquiring lung ventilators from subsidiaries of American companies,” said the chancellor, who made reference to other materials, including oxygen, even though the embargo specifically allows drugs and medical devices to be acquired by Cuba.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs went on a rampage and also blamed the embargo for all of the country’s problems without exception, namely: exorbitant prices, currency devaluation and salaries

From April 2018 to February 2023, the Foreign Minister stated for the occasion, “the blockade has caused damages and losses to Cuba estimated, conservatively, on the order of 24.7 billion dollars.” Rodríguez, who also offered his estimate for the 60 years the measure has been in effect: damages and losses of 159 billion dollars. All of this is the cause of “suffering, deprivation and anxiety for Cuban families, and is the fundamental cause of the scarce supply of medicines and food, even for the regulated basic basket, which is insufficient, but everyone receives it highly subsidized.”

The Minister of Foreign Affairs got going and also blamed the embargo for all of the country’s problems without exception, namely: the exorbitant prices, the devaluation of the currency and salaries, “the crippling power outages,” the limitations in primary transportation services and the “negative effects also on health and education.”

Furthermore, Cuba is, he maintained, a “victim” of media campaigns to “project an absolutely false image about human rights and to subvert the nation’s constitutional order. This modus operandi was implemented, with particular intensity, in 2021, when an attempt was made to force a destabilizing situation.”

That was the moment everyone was waiting for. Reports from international organizations  of different sensitivities have warned in recent weeks of the alarming deterioration experienced in human rights in Cuba, with the mass protests of 11 July 2021 [11J] as a turning point. That day of anti-government protests led to thousands of arrests and hundreds of prisoners sentenced to up to 30 years in prison amid dubious trials. But the chancellor haggled and left without saying a single word about the repression, not even to argue a defense for the occasion.

The foreign minister added a dose of humility and stated that “despite Cuba’s progress since the previous Review” there are “dissatisfactions

On the contrary, the report presented by Cuba speaks of strict compliance with the recommendations made in 2018 (those that were accepted, of course). The total was 226, of which 215 were completed and 11 are on the way. The achievements cited by the minister include the new Constitution of 2019, which enshrines the “irrevocable” nature of the socialist system and the Communist Party as unique and legal.

## From there, he spoke of 129 new legal norms, the new Family Code and a whole variety of programs that exist on paper but are still absent from the daily life of Cubans, among them one against racism, another for protection to people with physical or intellectual disabilities and one more against gender violence, precisely in a year in which 75 femicides have been recorded to date for a country of about 11 million people.

Rodríguez also mentioned the recent designation of Cuba to a seat on the UN Human Rights Council and the cooperation that the Island maintains with the Office of the High Commissioner.

Approaching the end, the chancellor added a dose of humility and stated that “despite Cuba’s progress since the previous Review” there are “dissatisfactions,” but the effort to “improve, promote full dignity and all justice” prevails. To achieve this, he explained, the Island will continue to cooperate “in a sovereign manner” with the United Nations, which “will always be able to count on Cuba to defend peace and multilateralism and promote the realization of all human rights for all.”

Two others are added to the report presented by Rodríguez, one from experts on the subject from the United Nations and another from non-governmental organizations, which will be evaluated by a troika of rapporteurs composed, in the case of Cuba, of Argentina, Benin and Nepal. On Friday afternoon, the 47 members of the Council will issue their recommendations to Cuba and the island’s representatives may deign to talk about the issue that is on the table at the Geneva meeting.


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