“Few Governments Have Done as Much For Their People as Cuba”
The Cuban Foreign Affairs Ministry submitted, on April 23, its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to the United Nations Human Rights Council, to be reviewed by the UN on May 1 in Geneva, Switzerland.
The document reports on the situation in Cuba, its legal framework and the human rights programs available for the benefit of all. At its center are the recommendations accepted by Cuba in 2009, in the first round of the UPR, a process with which all 193 UN member states are required to comply, according to Vice Minister Abelardo Moreno.
Many state, government and civil organizations contributed in drafting the report, Moreno added during a videoconference with Geneva, also attended by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marcelino Medina, and representatives from the diplomatic delegation which will present the report before the UN.
“The main violation of human rights in Cuba is the economic, trade and financial blockade imposed by the United States, which is an act of genocide,” expressed the Deputy Minister. However, he said, the country has succeeded in fulfilling a large number of Millennium Development Goals and scores highly in terms of human development.
“Few governments have done so much for their people as Cuba, since the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, despite enormous obstacles,” he added after condemning the media campaigns which ignore or distort the country’s achievements, causing a negative impact on the Human Rights Council. Moreno also criticized terrorism promoted, organized and led by the United States, the recruiting of agents who attempt to destroy the Cuban constitutional system, acting contrary to the people’s right to self-determination, national security and integrity.
The Cuban UPR report, which was distributed to the press, highlights many achievements including in the areas of education, health, culture, sports, food, social security, religious freedom, treatment of prisoners, and gender equality.
Cuba is honored to present its second National Report to the Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism. It does so proud of its humanistic work and its achievements in guaranteeing the exercise of all human rights for all its citizens.
The economic, political and media blockade imposed by the United States, which Cuba has resisted, undefeated, for more than 50 years, is a massive, flagrant and systematic violation of human rights which provokes damage, shortages and suffering, but it has not detained the country’s equal opportunities, equity in the distribution of wealth, or social justice.
Persistent efforts on the part of the United States to impose a “regime change” on Cuba are a serious violation of the nation’s right to self-determination. These efforts have been unable to prevent the active, democratic and direct participation of its citizens in the construction of constitutional order, in government decisions and in the election of its authorities.
Before this Council is a country without homeless persons or people deprived of dignity, in which no child lacks an education of quality, the sick enjoy sterling medical attention and the elderly social protection. A nation in which the rights of workers, farmers, intellectuals and students are protected by law. A country with citizens’ security, without organized crime, or drugs. Before this Council is a united people, with profound social cohesion. A state in which no one has been executed without trial, tortured or disappeared, and there are no kidnappings or secret prisons.
This exercise coincides with International Workers’ Day, joyfully celebrated in Cuba’s plazas and streets by millions of compatriots and hundreds of friends from all over the world. They do so as free women and men, in defense of rights that have been won. They are not masses of justly angry people, workers on strike, students besieged by education costs and debt, immigrants persecuted by self-interest, racism and xenophobia. We offer our solidarity to all those fighting – everywhere on the planet – for human rights for all, for peace, for development, for the survival of humanity, threatened by colossal military arsenals and climate change.
This report is the result of a wide-ranging and participative consultation process which involved countless government institutions, Parliament, civil society organizations and other relevant institutions.
The follow up on the recommendations accepted in the first UPR cycle was the principal objective of the work of the National Group, which coordinated the process and prepared the report.
From Cuba’s first presentation to this mechanism in 2009 through today, significant changes have taken place in the economy and society. Advances have been made in the institutional perfection process, greater citizens’ participation and control as a fundamental aspect of our democracy, and the undertaking to achieve sustainable development with social justice has been maintained.
Cuba remains committed to its irrevocable decision to advance its socialist, national, original, democratic and freely participative socialist development.
We did not come here to present a completed task, nor do we pretend that the Cuban socialist model should be considered for anyone or everyone. Nor do we accept that there is a unique or universal model of democracy, and far less the imposition of the political system of Western industrialized countries which have entered into crisis. We likewise reject the political manipulation, hypocrisy and double standards frequently present in the debate on human rights issues.
One of the most significant events since the previous session is the adoption by the National Assembly of People’s Power of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines, which constitute a body of decisions essential to the updating of the Cuban economic and social model and a government program.
The guidelines were adopted after an extremely wide-ranging popular debate in which millions of Cuban women and men formulated, with total freedom, more than 400,000 amendments modifying two thirds of the draft document, and voted on each one of its 12 chapters. This was a unique experience of citizens’ direct popular consultation in order to reach consensus on government economic, monetary and social policies, in con junction with measures to overcome the effects of the global economic crisis and problems of the Cuban economy without neoliberal austerity formulas, without saving banks at the cost of unjust social cuts.
Cuba has continued strengthening the democratic nature of its institutionality with laws, policies and programs of a popular and participative nature, in accordance with the people’s aspirations.
New regulations have been adopted to expand the legislative base of human rights, such as those related to social security, housing, employment and exclusively self-employed work, the granting of land in usufruct, among others. In parallel, advances are being made in perfecting and updating the country’s legal system, by implementing a number of modifications responding to the needs of Cuban society and the highest international standards in this context.
Outstanding among these amendments is the Migration and Travel Act, which has had a notable impact and has benefited the Cuban nation’s relations with its émigré community, despite constant manipulation of the migration issue.
The legal system for the protection of human rights in Cuba is not confined to their constitutional drafting. The system is duly developed and implemented in other substantive, procedural regulations, in accordance with rights recognized in the Universal Declaration and other international human rights instruments.
Cuba has made significant advances in the realization of economic, social and cultural rights. Education has is universally accessible and is free of charge at all levels of teaching.
Through its various programs, the Cuban state guarantees every girl, boy and young adult the possibility and right to study within the National Education System and to continue in their education as far as their aptitudes and efforts allow them, with equality of opportunity. The First Vice President of the Council of State and Ministers was invested with the responsibility to protect and supervise children’s rights.
The right to education is assured for every child and young adult with any kind of mental or physical disability through the Special Education Program, in cases where the full integration of differently-abled children in general educational institutions is not possible. Attention is given to these children throughout the country in different forms and at all levels of teaching.
In the most recent UNESCO World Report on the follow-up of Education for All (2012), Cuba appears in 16th place, given its educational development indices. UNESCO recognized Cuba as the Latin American and Caribbean country to direct the highest proportion of its national budget to education.
Under the Martí doctrine of “being educated in order to be free,” Cuba is outstanding in terms of its cultural development, its population’s full access to art and literature, for the preservation and defense of our culture and the enrichment of our spiritual values.
Cuba is equally recognized for its outstanding results and the high quality of its public health system, with universal coverage and free medical attention. With an infant mortality rate of 4.6 per 1,000 live births, Cuba has established indicators higher than those of many industrialized countries. With one doctor for every 137 inhabitants, Cuba is – according to the World Health Organization – the most endowed nation in this sector.
From 2009 through 2011, 19,371 mothers of children with severe disabilities received social security protection, thus giving them the possibility of personally caring for their children.
Attention to older adults is a priority and for that reason, multidisciplinary and cross-sector work is underway to guarantee quality of life for this growing population sector. Life expectancy at birth stands at an average of 78 years. In the next decade, more than 87% of Cubans will have exceeded 60 years of age.
Rights to life, freedom and personal security are sustained by the principle of respect for human dignity and constitute pillars in the conduct of Cuban authorities and the functioning of the entire society.
The five Cuban anti-terrorist fighters who are enduring unjust and long prison terms in the United States lack protection. They were tried without guarantees of due process, in an atmosphere of revenge and hatred, under a slanderous press campaign paid for by the District Attorney’s Office, subjected to prolonged solitary confinement, impediments to their legal defense, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and a number of them have been deprived of visits from their families.
We are deeply concerned at the legal impasse which is sustaining the permanent and atrocious violation of human rights occurring on the illegal Guantánamo Naval Base, Cuban territory usurped by the United States, a center of torture and deaths in custody, where 166 detainees have been held for 10 years, without guarantees, a trial or defense. Currently, 100 of them are on hunger strike, with 17 of these, whose lives are in danger, being force fed through tubes. This prison and military base must be closed and this territory returned to Cuba.
Cuba recognizes, respects and guarantees religious freedoms without discrimination of any kind.
Approximately 400 religions and religious institutions exist in the country.
The freedoms of opinion, expression, access to information and the press are recognized for all citizens. The high educational and cultural level of the people; the social and public nature of communications media; the inexistence of giant for-profit media corporations which in other places impose economic and political interests; the absence of generally stultifying commercial publicity; and the exercise of popular power, all facilitate the material conditions which allow for the enjoyment of these freedoms.
The right to truthful information, free of charge, should be guaranteed by the state. The democratization of internet, the transference of resources and technology appropriate for social communication, is an urgent need. The technological and content monopoly; the political and military use of networks; linguistic and cultural discrimination must be ended. The digital gap must be closed.
The blockade prevents Cuba from connecting to nearby underwater cables, making services more expensive and access for the population more difficult. It prohibits international providers from supplying Cuba with services, software and technology. Our country is denied, for example, diverse Google services and access to international digital platforms.
Between 2010 and 2013, the United States has, as well, allocated 191.7 million dollars to finance organizations, paid agents, the subversive use of information technology and illegal radio and television broadcasts promoting regime change in Cuba. Additionally, millions more are channeled through special services and private groups. Some U.S. allies participate in this effort.
In Cuba, equality and non-discriminatory policies are fully guaranteed. Advances in terms of gender equality are outstanding. The Cuban government continues to implement numerous laws, policies and programs directed toward reaffirming these.
The percentage of Cuban women in the National Assembly of People’s Power, our Parliament, has reached 48.86%. Cuba occupies second place on a world scale in terms of the percentage of female parliamentarians. For the first time, two women are now Council of State Vice Presidents, and women constitute 41.9% of this body. A third of our ministries are headed by women.
Institutional racism has been eradicated, ample opportunities for development and concrete benefits are provided for less favored sectors, and we are struggling to assure complete, effective equality of opportunity to sectors historically marginalized and to dysfunctional families. Not yet overcome are certain racial prejudices and stereotypes surviving from slavery during our colonial past and a neocolonial regime which institutionalized racism and racial segregation.
Complementary to government efforts and full protection under the law, a decision was made to assign a Council of State Vice President the task of following up on and supervising the struggle against racism and racial discrimination.
We are proud of our African heritage. We share, in a disinterested fashion, the fate of our African brothers and sisters in their battle against colonialism and apartheid.
Another area in which sustained progress is being made is the struggle against discrimination based on sexual orientation. The National Sexual Education Program has incorporated an ongoing educational strategy promoting respect for all sexual orientations and gender identities, establishing multiple opportunities for exchange based on the principles of equality and non-discrimination.
In relation to the promotion and protection of the rights of disabled persons, we have assured that the majority are able to access education and join the workforce. Support is offered in diverse arenas of social activity.
Cuba’s penitentiary system is based on the principle of human betterment. Cuba fulfils all precepts of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and prioritizes a preventative focus through a number of social programs, among them those directed toward converting prisons into educational centers.
All inmates are guaranteed medical and dental attention free of charge, under the same conditions as the rest of Cuba’s population. They receive a wage commensurate with the work they perform.
In Cuba, 27,000,095 inmates, approximately half of the total, are studying at different levels in every penal institution in the country. Many of them are additionally learning a trade. This educational system has supported inmates’ reintegration into society and the workforce.
Despite shortages and difficulties, in a disinterested fashion, our people have shared and share what we have with other nations, offering solidarity to contribute to the realization of human rights of other peoples around the world.
Since 2004, tens of thousands of citizens have regained their sight through Operation Miracle and 2.4 million ophthalmologic surgeries have been performed in 34 Latin American, Caribbean and African countries.
Since 2005, the (Henry Reeve) International Contingent of Doctors Specializing in Disaster and Serious Epidemic Situations has offered medical assistance to more than three million affected persons.
Cooperation with Haiti, a sister Caribbean country in need of resources for reconstruction and development, has been maintained. More than 12,000 Cuban collaborators have worked there.
Beginning in 2004, cooperation has expanded in literacy learning and development through the Cuban programs Yes, I can (UNESCO King Sejong Prize), I can read and write now and Yes, I can do more. As of November, 2012, 6.9 million people had completed the basic Yes I can literacy program and 976,000 had completed Yes, I can do more.
Cuba maintains a high level of cooperation and interaction within procedures and structures established by the United Nations in terms of human rights, which are universally applicable, on a non-discriminatory basis.
We have always demonstrated out unequivocal openness to dialogue on all issues, with all states, on the basis of mutual respect, sovereign equality and recognition of the right to self-determination.
Cuba has established a positive dialogue with bodies created in accordance with international treaties in the area of human rights.
Since 2009, five National Reports have been prepared; three of which have been presented before the respective committees. Currently in the final stages of revision are Cuba’s Initial Report in accordance with the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of Children in relation to the sale of children, child prostitution and the use of children in pornography; as well as our Initial Report in compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons.
Cuba is a signatory to 42 international human rights treaties and has complied with all of their stipulations. Other human rights instruments, including two Pacts, are being studied by relevant authorities.
Our country maintains cooperative relations with diverse humanitarian and human rights organizations throughout the world, both within our own territory and in the development of collaborative missions internationally.
We are open to constructive, respectful dialogue which adheres to the facts. We will provide necessary information and clarifications.
Thank you very much.