Cuba will continue to build an ever freer, more democratic, just and fraternal society

Statement by Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba, during the presentation of Cuba’s National Report to the Third Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Human Rights Council. Geneva, may 16, 2018. (Unofficial version)

Mr. President:

Once again, Cuba attends the Universal Periodic Review to ratify its firm commitment with the guarantees for the exercise of human rights.

The national report that we are presenting is the result of a broad and participatory process of consultations which involved numerous government institutions and civil society organizations, as well as the implementation of the recommendations accepted during the second review -79 per cent of all the recommendations that were formulated.

Mr. President:

From the times of the US military occupation, which severed our independence, under the governments it imposed, 45 per cent of children did not attend schools; 85 per cent of persons lacked running water; farmers lived in abject poverty without ever owning the land they tilled and immigrants were brutally exploited.

In Cuba, workers and farmers had no rights.  Extrajudicial execution, enforced disappearances and torture were recurrent.  Discrimination based on the color of the skin was brutal; poverty was rampant and women and girls were even more excluded.  The dignity of Cubans was tarnished and Cuba’s national culture was trampled upon.

The Cuban Revolution led by Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz transformed that reality and continues to strive to improve the quality of life, wellbeing and social justice for all of our people, thus implementing all human rights.

That willingness to protect human dignity, provide equal opportunities and “conquer all the justice”, has remained unchanged and unswerving until today.

Mr. President:

Our country has continued to take steps to further improve its economic and social development model with the purpose of building a sovereign, independent, socialist, democratic, prosperous and sustainable nation by strengthening the institutional structure of our political system, which is genuinely participatory and enjoys full popular support.

In accordance with the Constitution, we have continued to strengthen the legal and institutional framework for the protection and promotion of those rights, and we have introduced modifications and proposals adapted to the needs and realities of the Cuban society and international standards.

The attention to citizens has been equally improved by means of the expansion of the mechanisms, ways and recourses in the hands of the population to denounce any  infringement of the legal system or their rights; file claims or petitions to the competent authorities; channel up their opinions and concerns and actively participate in the adoption of government decisions.

Mr. President:

The protection of the right to life has continued to be the highest priority. This is ensured by recognizing the right to physical integrity and inviolability of persons; observing the guarantees of the due process and preventing anyone from being deprived of freedom except under the law and with full guarantees.

Law enforcement authorities fulfill their duty in accordance with the law and are subject to rigorous control processes and popular scrutiny. There has been no impunity in the very few cases of abuses involving law enforcement agents and officials; and there are no laws or rules that could condone it.

There is no sale or traffic in firearms.  Homicides rates are very low, which makes Cuba one of the safest countries in the world.

Mr. President:

Cuba has continued to strengthen people’s participation in government decision making and the exercise of the freedoms recognized under the Constitution and the law, including the civil and political rights that are fully protected.  In the country there is an extensive plurality of ideas and there is a rich debate about the most diverse aspects of the political, economic, social and cultural life of the nation

More than 1.6 million Cubans participated in the process of consultation of the documents on the Conceptualization of Cuba’s Economic and Social Model for Socialist Development and the Fundamentals for the National Economic and Social Development Plan by the Year 2030. More than 500 000 of them were young people.  A total of 208 161 proposals of modifications were made, which generated changes of a considerable part of the original text.

In Cuba, the democratic exercise is a continued process that is based on our democracy model, which has been legitimately established and is also participatory and popular.

The right to participate in the conduction of public affairs is not limited to electoral processes.  It is permanently exercised in the different walks of the political, economic and social life of the nation.

We have continued to increase the effectiveness of the control exercised by all citizens over the activity of state organs, elected representatives and public officials.

Our electoral processes are not media contests among elitist political parties in which candidates make promises they do not keep; where division, hatred, lies and corruption are promoted; where technologies are used to manipulate the will of voters; or the ethical behavior of contestants is sacrificed for the sake of having an electoral edge.

Elected representatives in Cuba do not earn a salary for that; nor are they committed to big companies and donors.  Under Cuba’s democratic system, there is no room for money, demagogy and publicity.

There is not a unique democracy model or a pre-established or agreed formula on this concept. As established in Article 8 of the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action of 1933, “democracy is based on the freely expressed will of the people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems and their full participation in all aspects of their lives”.

This is also established in Item 5 of the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, signed by the Heads of State and Government in 2014 in Havana.

Elections in Cuba are held periodically and in absolute freedom and normalcy, in accordance with our electoral law, and are characterized by keeping automatic and public registries; people are entitled to appoint candidates and there are high turnout levels in a climate of absolute tranquility.

At the recently concluded election of deputies to the National People’s Power Assembly, 86 per cent of voters cast their vote and 94 per cent of ballots were rendered valid. These results, which are not achieved in countries portrayed as ideal democracy models, show the high level of legitimacy and popular support enjoyed by the Cuban political system.

The Cuban society is represented in the National Assembly in all its diversity.  Its seats are occupied by workers and farmers; intellectuals and artists; students and youths; all sectors of the economy, production and services, including the non-state sector; athletes and scientists; the workers of the media; religious institutions; as well as the armed forces and law enforcement institutions.

Fifty three per cent of deputies are women and 41 per cent are black and mulatto, which is a reflection of the composition of the Cuban nation.  The average age is 49 years and 13 per cent is between 18 and 35 years of age. This will be the first mandate for 56 per cent of elected deputies.

We have continued advancing in the promotion of the right to full equality; in the struggle against elements of discrimination based on the color of the skin and against women, which are still present in the behavior of some persons.  This is a permanent goal that we will continue to pursue non-stop and without setbacks.

Progress has also been made, with the support of government institutions, to prevent and cope with manifestations of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  The programs aimed at the care and protection of children and youths; older persons and persons with disabilities, as empowered actors, subjects of law and beneficiaries of national development, are being strengthened.

Mr. President:

Cuba’s civil society consolidates as an ever more important actor in the national scene. The number of associations in Cuba increase; they currently account for more than 2 200 organizations. Civil society organizations are ensured ample attributions and proactive capabilities, as well as facilities for making consultations, expressing their opinions and participating in decision making processes associated to the design, implementation and evaluation of programs of great social impact as well as in the identification of the remaining challenges.

Guarantees for the exercise of human rights are a priority obligation of the State.  In Cuba, every sphere of social life counts on thousands of defenders of these rights, whose work enjoys recognition and government support.

However, as it occurs in many other countries where the rule of law prevails, in Cuba, the legal system can not be infringed upon or subverted to satisfy a foreign agenda that calls for a change of regime, the constitutional order and the political system that Cubans have freely chosen.  Those who act this way are not worthy of being described as human rights defenders; they rather qualify as agents to the service of a foreign power, according to many western legislations.

Mr. President:

Cuba has continued to strengthen its cooperation with the UN mechanisms that take care of these issues, which are universal and non-discriminatory. We have strictly complied with all international commitments and obligations entered into by virtue of these.

We are party to 44 of the 61 international human rights instruments, which makes our country to be among the States with higher levels of ratifications.

Our country has made great efforts to honor its commitments with human rights treaty bodies, with which it has managed to consolidate a positive dialogue.

Since the former UPR, we have defended periodic reviews before the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Committee on the Rights of the Child, as well as the initial report before the Committee on Enforced Disappearances.  This August, we will defend a periodic report before the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; and in 2019 we will defend the initial report before the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

In April and July of 2017 respectively, we received the visits of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children; and of the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity.
The first had the opportunity to corroborate the results achieved by Cuba in the implementation of the national “zero tolerance” policy with regards to this type of crime, which has a low incidence in our country; and receive information about the National Program of Action for the prevention and struggle against trafficking in persons and the protection of victims, adopted during the early days of 2017.

The Independent Expert on International Solidarity was able to assess the results of the program of international cooperation established by Cuba to support the enjoyment of human rights in other developing countries.

Mr. President:

Cuba has continued to promote initiatives at the Human Rights Council and the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly, for the defense of human rights, including the rights to development and peace.  We have consistently opposed every attempt to politically manipulate said bodies; selectivity as well as double standards.

We have consolidated our cooperation with humanitarian and human rights organizations of the whole world.  Every year we are visited by high authorities of the United Nations, its funds, programs and specialized agencies, as well as by representatives of non-governmental organizations.

In November of 2015 and February of 2018 respectively we received the working visits of the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Secretary General of the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent.

Mr. President:

Despite the achievements attained by Cuba in terms of the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights, we have certain dissatisfactions, but we are striving to solve our difficulties.  Our people, who have made the greatest sacrifices and run the highest risks to preserve its sovereignty, deserve efficient institutions to improve the wellbeing and quality of life and  promote social justice for all.

We are aware of the difficulties and deficiencies in the life of our compatriots.  As was pointed out by the then President Raúl Castro Ruz in December last: “In this period, efforts have been reinforced and intensified with greater comprehensiveness and scope, such that we are capable of, at the same time that we unify the currency system, overcoming the existing distortions in terms of subsidies, prices, and wholesale and retail rates and, as is logical, pensions and salaries in the state sector of the economy.”

Likewise, huge efforts are being made, amid adverse financial conditions, to preserve the purchasing power of salaries and pensions, improve access to food, adequate housing and public transportation, while preserving and even enhancing the quality of universal and free education and public health. No one will ever be left to his or her own fate in Cuba.

We can not but mention our condition as a small island developing country, faced with an unfavorable international economic situation, characterized by the prevalence of irrational and unsustainable patterns of production and consumption; market regulations and non transparent and less than democratic international financial institutions. Added to this are the adverse effects of climate change and the impact of natural disasters of high intensity on our economy.  Substantial resources should be invested to cope with them.

Our future priorities are to continue working on the updating of the economic and social development model; the strengthening of the legal and institutional framework for the promotion and protection of human rights; the improvement of our political system and the Cuban socialist democracy model; and the defense of our values, national unity and independence.

In pursuing these goals, we will soon engage in a process to reform our Constitution, which will be characterized by a broad popular participation.

Mr. President:

The strengthening of the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba and its extraterritorial implementation causes deprivations and continue to be the main obstacle to the economic and social development of the country.  This unjust policy, which has been rejected by the international community, violates the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and International Law and represents a flagrant, massive and systematic violation of the human rights of our people, thus qualifying as an act of genocide under the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948.

We demand the return of the territory usurped by the US Naval Base in Guantánamo, where the United States maintains a detention camp in which serious human rights violations and acts of torture are committed.

The political and media campaigns against Cuba, which distort our reality, intend to discredit our country and conceal Cuba’s undeniable human rights achievements.

Mr. President:

Cuba will continue to move forward, firmly and reassured, with the political will and determination of the Cuban people and government, to build an ever freer, more democratic, participatory just and fraternal society.

We are opened to dialogue and will offer all the necessary information based on the respect and objectivity that should characterize this exercise, in which there should be no double standards or politically motivated manipulations, which we will not accept, because, as was expressed by the President of the Council of State and Ministers, Comrade Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez on April 19, “there is no room for a transition that ignores or destroys the legacy of so many years of struggle.  In Cuba, by the decision of the people, there is only room for the continuity of that legacy with the Revolution and the founding generation, without giving up to pressures, without fear and setbacks, always defending our truths and reasons, without ever renouncing sovereignty and independence, development programs and our own dreams.”

Thank you, very much.