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Obama’s Sanctimonious Human Rights Argument Against Cuba

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Raúl Castro, President of Cuba, said that he wants to start relations with the U.S., but first the U.S. must provide health insurance to all 46 million people who lack it; stop extrajudicial assassinations in sovereign countries through drone attacks; make higher education affordable for all; reform the prison system which has by far the highest incarceration rate in the entire world, with a drastically disproportionate amount of prisoners being minorities; grant Puerto Rico its sovereignty as required by the U.N. Charter, U.N. Declaration on Decolonization, and the popular referendum in Puerto Rico in 2012; halt the economic blockade, which has been ruled illegal for 22 straight years in the U.N.; close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility and return the land to Cuba; turn overterrorists living freely in Miami who have bombed Cuban civilian airplanes, hotels and fishing boats; and free the three political prisoners who were investigating these groups to prevent further attacks.

Actually, he said: “We don’t demand that the U.S. change its political or social system and we don’t accept negotiations over ours. If we really want to move our bilateral relations forward, we’ll have to learn to respect our differences, if not, we’re ready to take another 55 years in the same situation.”

President Barack Obama has said Cuba: ”Has not yet observed basic human rights … I and the American people will welcome the time when the Cuban people have the freedom to live their lives, choose their leaders, and fully participate in this global economy and international institutions.” But he added: “We haven’t gotten there yet.”

Presumably Obama means when Cuba agrees to relinquish their right to self-determination, as guaranteed in the U.N. Charter, to join the U.S.-imposed neoliberal order.  When Cuba to gives up state control over industries like banking and telecommunications and opens them up to foreign investment, so more money can be shipped off the island instead of staying in the local economy and invested in the Cuban people.  When Cuba agrees to “free trade” agreements, which would prevent labor and environmental safeguards while forcing local businesses to compete on an uneven playing field with multinational corporations that receive government subsidies, allowing them to undercut the price of local products. In short, when Cuba decides to respect private profit over the social welfare of its population.

U.S. calls for “democracy” and “human rights” in Cuba have an important historical connotation, which in reality has nothing to do with representative government nor human rights.  The term is nothing more than a propaganda tool, instantly elevating the accuser to a superior moral status and subjecting the accused to an indefensible position regardless of the real facts, history and context.

The U.S. is not suggesting that Cuba should be judged by established human rights and international humanitarian laws – The Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (which the U.S. has never ratified); and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (which the U.S. took more than 20 years to ratify); the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the U.S. has never ratified; and many others. It is suggesting Cuba abide by the criteria the U.S. sets out for them and sees fit to interpret itself.

The reality is that the United States does not get to serve as judge and jury for other countries’ internal affairs, just as they would laugh in the face of anyone who tried to do the same to them. To pretend that your demands are more important than the law that governs the international system is beyond condescending.

Incidentally, there is a United Nations Committee that impartially reviews compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, one of the few treaties which the U.S. has both signed and ratified. The committee, in its most recent annual report, found the U.S. non-compliant in many areas.

To start, they found that the U.S. “has only limited avenues to ensure that state and local governments respect and implement the Covenant, and that its provisions have been declared to be non-self-executing at the time of ratification,” which serves to “limit the legal reach and practical relevance of the Covenant.”

Among the many matters of concern is accountability for “unlawful killings during its international operations, the use of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of detainees in United States custody.”

The committee also noted numerous domestic problems, including “racial disparities in the criminal justice system,” “racial profiling,” “excessive use of force by law enforcement officials,” “criminalization of homelessness,” “National Security Agency surveillance,” and even “voting rights.”

Obama’s sanctimonious remarks about Cuba demonstrate his disregard for the law that applies to both countries equally, and his unwillingness to be held to the same standard that he preaches to others.

Matt Peppe writes about politics, U.S. foreign policy and Latin America on his blog. His writing has appeared in CounterPunch, MintPress News, Latino Rebels, Countercurrents and other outlets. You can follow him on twitter.

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Matt Peppe writes about politics, U.S. foreign policy and Latin America on his blog. You can follow him on twitter.

CounterPunch Magazine

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