Cuba predicts US will fail in efforts to condemn island at UN rights commission

Campaign News | Tuesday, 22 March 2005

"US has a sick obsession", says foreign minister

HAVANA - Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque predicted on Monday that the United States would fail in its efforts to have Cuba condemned next month by the top UN human rights watchdog.

"This will constitute the first defeat by the United States" in its annual efforts to condemn Cuba at the United Nations meeting, Perez Roque told a news conference.

"The government of the United States really has a sick obsession with Cuba," he added.

The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush has said in recent days that it plans to submit to the UN Human Rights Commission a resolution critical of Cuba's rights record.

The commission, now meeting in Geneva, is expected to consider the US resolution on Cuba by mid-April.

US officials say they are making no prediction on the outcome of the Cuba resolution, pointing out that in past years the vote has almost always been close.

The UN commission last year narrowly passed a resolution critical of Cuba's rights record. Adopted 22-21 with 10 abstentions, the resolution said Cuba "should refrain from adopting measures which could jeopardize the fundamental rights, the freedom of expression and the right to due process of its citizens."

Cuba, meanwhile, plans to present to the commission nine of its own resolutions expected to appeal to other developing nations, including ones that characterize access to food and freedom from foreign debt as human rights.

Developing countries complain that Western nations spend too much time at the commission discussing things such as elections and press freedom and too little studying issues of greater concern to poorer nations.

The United States has imposed an economic blockade on Cuba for more than four decades in an unsuccessful effort to force it to embrace Western-style democracy and capitalism.

Cuba says it respects human rights more than the United States and other developed countries by guaranteeing its people broad social services such as free health care and education.

This year's UN vote comes a few weeks after the second anniversary of Cuba's roundup of 75 US-paid opponents.

Several weekend events by self-styled 'dissidents' to mark the anniversary of the March 2003 arrests were answered by much larger counter protests by government supporters.

The foreign minister said he was unfamiliar with a pro-government protest on Saturday in which an Associated Press writer alleged that government supporters chased a so-called dissident into his home.

"The revolution has the support of the people," Perez Roque said, saying that government supporters had every right to hold their own demonstrations as long as they remained "within ethics and limits." He characterized dissidents as "mercenaries" of the American government.

"Those of us with the revolution are the immense majority in this country," he added.

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