Human Rights: Are There False Ones?
Before Friday October 23 I thought that human rights were a source of conflict and subject to manipulation; that they are a pretext, paradoxically, for many violations. But it never crossed my mind that some of these rights may be real, while others are not. But that's what seems to be suggested by the title of an article by journalist Elson Concepción Pérez, published in Granma this past Friday: "Human Rights: What are the real ones?"
Admittedly, it is a catchy title. One immediately wonders whether some of the rights enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights are actually false. And, of course, you have to read the text to find out the answer, at least from the journalist's point of view.
Elson Concepción cites examples of how human rights have been used to justify massacres: the bombing and disintegration of the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia by US and NATO troops; the invasion of Iraq; the imprisonments at Abu Ghraib; the illegal base at Guantanamo, Cuba; the invasion of Afghanistan; and the death of Libya’s president.
Concepción also describes as alarming —and I agree— the fact that the United States is the only country that has not endorsed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, "the main law of all those in existence." And then he refers to the plight of many children living in the richest country in the world —where one in six lives in poverty. "The United States ranks near the bottom with regards to relative child poverty, the gap between rich and poor, births among teen mothers, low birth weight, children victims of armed violence, and number of minors in prison."
Of course, once the reality in the United States (based on data from the IPS) is presented, it is necessary to compare it with that of the Cubans; otherwise, what sense does the preceding analysis make? "What about the fact that Cuba guarantees free, quality education to all its citizens, and quality health that is 100% free for all its inhabitants? That is, social security for all."
It is undeniable that education and health in Cuba are available to all (although some people have been expelled from the University for their sexual orientation or religious beliefs). Speaking of quality in both sectors is more difficult, because it has been declining year after year. As for being "free," we must ask how it is financed. If we citizens do not pay for it, somehow, who does? The president, the Party, the Central Committee? Or might there be a relationship between Cuba's low wages, taxes on remittances, the high prices at its currency stores ... and the coverage of education and health services? Not to mention that the private sector is paying taxes. However, I repeat that it is a great achievement that education and health are available to all.
But, at this point in the article, we all know what “true” human rights are, at least in Elson Concepción’s view: children's rights, the right to education, to health, to social security. Rights such as the freedom of the press, expression, and association, for which Cuba is questioned, are not even mentioned in the text. That is, they are not "real." Therefore, they can be violated. They can be infringed, and the opposition and political activists may be imprisoned.
I wonder if the article’s message is that we Cubans should settle for "real" human rights, that we should feel fortunate because, in other countries (specifically, the United States), things are worse.
Instead of trying to show that in Cuba the civil and political freedoms classed as fundamental human rights are respected, our official journalists choose to divert attention to what happens in the United States. And the worst thing is that it works, and has for years.
In several attempts to discuss politics with people who support the government, their argument has been: "Look how the poor live in the United States," "look what the US did in Afghanistan," or "look how they kill blacks in the United States."
And this is true. It is true that the United States invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, US soldiers have committed atrocities against civilian populations, and that its bombs have killed women and children. It is true that when you read the news about the African-American victims of police violence and racism there, the racism that exists in Cuba seems to pale in comparison. But if you start to think like that, you've fallen into the trap.
The issue is not what happens in the US, how its children live (or die), how much poverty there is, how many blacks have been killed, and how many more will be. This is not to justify insensitivity to this news, or to say that it should not affect us. We are also moved by the situation of those migrants who are risking their lives to reach Europe, aware that they might not succeed, and that, even if they do, they will still have to face discrimination and xenophobia in their new countries. The real question is: what does all this have to do with what is happening in Cuba?
What do teenage mothers in the United States have to do with the repression of the "Damas en Blanco" here? What does the number of minors in American jails have to do with the fact that director Juan Carlos Cremata has been barred from working in Cuba?
When we see that the writers Antón Arrufat and Eduardo Heras León have received the National Prize for Literature, and that the latter was honored recently, it seems that the silence to which they were subjected back then, was just a mistake of the past. But now the same thing is happening to Juan Carlos Cremata. Could it be that in 30 or 40 years they will honor him with a National Theater Award?
Our official journalists are so busy reporting human rights violations in the US that they have forgotten to cover those violated in Cuba. They are so busy discrediting dissidents, opponents and activists that they don´t have time to interview just one, to let him make his case, to defend his convictions.