Obama’s Visit to Cuba and Human Rights

The issue of human rights in the context of Cuba–US relations has erupted once again on the eve of Obama’s visit to the island on March 21 and 22, 2016. In Geneva on March 2, the Deputy Secretary of State of the US State Department, Antony J. Blinken, issued the National Statement at the Human Rights Council. He dealt with several countries that are always the target of US accusations of supposed human rights violations, such as China, Russia and Venezuela.

As is always the case, Cuba was also singled out. Concerning this country, the Blinken Statement indicated:

In Cuba, we are increasingly concerned about the government’s use of short-term detentions of peaceful activists, which reached record numbers in January. We call on the Cuban government to stop this tactic as a means of quelling peaceful protest. President Obama will make a historic visit to Cuba in a few weeks and will emphasize that the Cuban people are best served by an environment where people are free to choose their political parties and their leaders, express their ideas, and where civil society is independent and allowed to flourish.

The Cuban response

The head of the Cuban delegation to the Council, Pedro Núñez Mosquera, who is General Director of the Division on Multilateral Affairs and International Law at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, was not at all intimidated by the superpower. Since 1959, Cuba has had a history of defending its interests in all international forums. Cuba is a small country, but with a voice that is respected internationally. In Geneva, Núñez Mosquera turned the tables on the US by calling it out for the gross violations of human rights that the US itself is responsible for, including racial discrimination, police violence, persecution of immigrants and torture that takes place in the Guantánamo prison. In addition, he insisted, the US is responsible for violations of the human rights of the Cuban people because of the blockade against the island.

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