Cuban foreign minister addresses festival


By Ana Kailis

HAVANA — Cuban foreign minister Roberto Robaina addressed the opening session of the 14th World Festival of Youth and Students, held here from July 28 to August 5. The subject of the session was human rights.

In his address, Robaina argued that the human rights issue has been manipulated by the US and other imperialist governments for political or economic goals.

The US has used human rights as a pretext for attacking the Cuban Revolution. Similarly in many Third World Countries, human rights have become the excuse for intervention, such as in Somalia and Iraq. Robaina continued that in the name of human rights, imperialist nations have promoted racism, xenophobia and fascism, he told the 1500-strong audience.

However, he argued, human rights are not just narrow individual liberties, because these count for little in the face of capitalist reality — poverty, homelessness and discrimination.

"Human rights need to be independent and universal, not selective and political. Human rights need to be applied to all nations, not just when it is politically useful for imperialism ... We have the right to live as human beings, and this means not just the right to breathe but the right to education, food, health, housing and modern life."

Robaina went on to say, "Liberty is impossible without sovereignty, and self-determination is one of the most basic human rights, but foreign investment and private property undermine this right and contradict the notion of social justice".

This pressure is felt most acutely in Cuba, where human rights are a euphemism for joining the global capitalist economy and abandoning socialism.

Robaina said that "globalisation" is a fabrication of the imperialist countries to get rich at the expense of the Third World but that Cubans refuse to accept the neo-liberal agenda.

"In Cuba we hold up our human rights record with pride. However, we believe human rights are concrete rather than abstract. In Cuba we have nothing to hide about human rights but we do not accept human rights being used as an ideological weapon by the US government against us.

"Rights should not be measured by the number of parties, election promises that are inevitably broken or newspapers. Cuba is a nation of dignity, social justice and solidarity. We live in a free country where we have the right to elect candidates on merit and we work based on solidarity, justice and love.

"We know we are not perfect. We know Cuba has problems, and we acknowledge them. We attempt to transform the revolution, in the revolution, through the revolution, for the revolution but never against the revolution."

To answer the US accusations on human rights, Robaina asked, "Where were the rights of the Cubans under Batista? Where are the human rights of those who rummage through bins for food and who sleep on the park bench under newspapers? Or those 93,000 who have died in the last two days from curable diseases?

"Where is the justice when 285 people control most of the world's wealth? And how can they talk of human rights when life is a human lottery under capitalism?"

He continued, "The US wishes to turn Cuba into a neo-colony again. However, Cuba will never accept to beg for a sovereignty certificate from the US every six months. The blockade is a massive violation of human rights of a whole nation, but our sovereignty is our freedom ...

"History has taught us to share little amongst all, and we know we shall overcome everything and perhaps with this lies the seed of the new man of which Che spoke."

Robaina concluded that human rights in Cuba and around the world are possible only with anti-imperialist solidarity.