Cuba is the Black Sheep of Human Rights / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar &
Posted on January 19, 2015
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 10 December 2014* — Coinciding with
the observance of International Human Rights Day today, we spoke with
Elizardo Sánchez, spokesman for the Cuban Commission for Human Rights
and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) in Havana to review the current
situation on the Island.
Q: Today the whole world commemorates Human Rights Day. What is the
situation in our country at the close of 2014? Do we have reasons for
hope or for worry?
A: The general scene of civil, political, labor and other fundamental
rights continues to worsen. Although the rate of detentions for
political reasons has diminished in recent months, this is because the
government has understood that this type of arrest portrays a very
negative image. It did the same before when it decided to reduce the
number of political prisoners, which is currently at around 110 persons.
Nonetheless, the government has not reformed any laws, and it has not
given up its repressive and threatening mission against all of society.
Therefore, it cannot be said that the situation has improved. Unless a
miracle occurs, it will continue to worsen.
Q: What are the repressive methods which are most used at this moment?
A: There has been a metamorphosis insofar as repression for political
reasons is concerned. It no longer consists of lengthy prison sentences,
or even of extended detentions. Instead, what occurs frequently are
short-term arrests with the added element of other forms of
intimidation, such as vandalism, including rocks being thrown at houses
or residences being ransacked. There are also physical aggressions,
which have increased throughout the year, be they overt or covert.
The repressive apparatus can be quite creative in its activities, such
as taking the clothes off activists on some remote highway–or leaving
them without shoes, which results in these people having to walk many
miles barefoot to get home. This is in addition to the psychological
effect inflicted on any individual when part of their clothing is taken
Q: The Cuban government has called for this day to be observed
throughout the country. How do you assess this new attitude?
A: We have been following the official media and we heard their calls
for this day to be observed in parks and public places. Doing so, they
neutralize any initiative undertaken by the independent civil society.
An example is the announcement by the Ladies in White to meet today at
the centrally-located corner of L and 23rd Streets. Very likely, this
event will be quashed. The government will try to not have so much
recourse to detentions, in keeping with the repressive trend this past
Q: Do you believe that Cuba will one day come to be a referee of human
rights, even a regional watchdog to ensure their implementation?
A: This is the dream of many of ours. But, unfortunately, Cuba is today
the black sheep of human rights within the inter-American sphere and the
world. This is so because Cuba encourages abuses and blocks any attempt
to bring forth certain complaints to the United Nations, as in the case
of its complicity with the regime of North Korea.
Q: Would you say that there is an International Committee of Human
A: The great violators of human rights tend to act in conjunction with
the rest, shielding themselves behind each other and lending mutual
support. That is, not only is there a negative situation maintained
within the country, but the Cuban regime provides negative leadership at
the international level, much more than any other government does. This
is quite contrary to the leadership role that the Republic of Cuba took
in the drafting of the Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Our
diplomats at that time were second only to the French and the North
Americans in terms of leading that task.
We therefore hope that Cuba will again become a bastion in the defense
of human rights, and that the whole infrastructure that the regime has
in place today for its own ends will help to create congresses that
promote respect for fundamental rights at the continental level. May
those halls and convention centers provide space for the formation,
popularization, protection and training of human rights defenders
throughout the world.
*Translator’s note: This interview took place a week before Barack
Obama’s announcement of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations
Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison
10 December 2014
Source: Cuba is the Black Sheep of Human Rights / 14ymedio, Reinaldo
Escobar & Elizardo Sanchez | Translating Cuba –