28 February 2008
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE BY CUBA

 


Felipe Pérez Roque, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, announced at a Headquarters press conference today that his country on 10 December had signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights -– marking Cuba’s triumph over the “selective and unjust” mandate carried out against it by the United States in the former Human Rights Commission.


The signatures represented an “historic victory for the Cuban people”, he said, and formalized his country’s commitment to the rights protected in both instruments, a process that had been systematically realized since its 1959 revolution.  They reflected a sovereign decision.   Cuba had never acted under pressure to sign the covenants.


In fact, it was the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States that constituted the most serious obstacle to Cuban peoples’ rights, he explained.  The rights protected by the accords were enshrined in Cuba’s Constitution and national legislation, and State policies guaranteed their effective realization.  As far as the scope and application of various aspects of the instruments, Cuba would register those “interpretive declarations” it considered relevant.


Taking a question on former President Fidel Castro’s opposition to some of the provisions in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Mr. Pérez Roque said the Cuban Government shared the view Mr. Castro had expressed in a 1999 meeting with the Prime Minister of Canada.  That was not in contradiction with Cuba’s decision to sign the two covenants.


Asked about Spain’s 15 February announcement that seven dissidents had been freed and flown to Spain, and for information about another three dissidents, Mr. Pérez Roque said the remaining three people were in their homes in Cuba.  They had decided against going to Spain.


As for the recent change of Government in Cuba, and whether there would be a new response to claims that human rights were not respected in his country, he said the signing of the covenants had come at a time when Cuba had defeated the two-decade long United States Government campaign organized in the former Human Rights Commission.  The signings represented a sovereign decision that expressed Cuba’s commitment -– with international cooperation –- to human rights.  Taking such a decision had previously been impossible.  Today, the country was in a position to fulfil that decision in the new Human Rights Council.  Further, Cuba was a founding member of the Council, elected by a two-thirds majority vote in the General Assembly.  “There is no question about the moral authority and resolve of the Cuban battle in favour of the human rights of its citizens,” he asserted.


On whether he would foresee any changes in relations between Cuba and the United States in the coming year, he responded that Cuba had always been ready to maintain normal and respectful relations with the United States.   Cuba did not consider the American people enemies and did not maintain an embargo against the United States.  His country was under pressure from the United States Government, having suffered for almost 50 years from a brutal blockade that had cost almost $90 billion.  “The ball is in the US court,” he said, adding that the United States Government must deicide whether to maintain normal relations with a small country that posed no threat to its security.


In addition, Cuba had received international support last November, when 184 members of the General Assembly had voted in favour of lifting the blockade, he said.  There was no reason to maintain the embargo, which constituted the “most important violation” of the Cuban people’s human rights.


He refrained from speculating about the upcoming United States presidential elections, saying that they were a matter for the American people.  He did have a favourite candidate, although he was not in a position to discuss it, particularly because Cuba respected the internal affairs of other countries.  The Government had followed candidates’ opinions carefully and understood, from past experience, that it would be important to wait and see how any one position might be reflected once in office.


He understood there was a growing part of the United States population that was against the blockade, and he was sure the embargo would be lifted.  “We will never negotiate our sovereignty and our right to be an independent country,” he declared, adding that the Government would never make concessions for the lifting of the embargo.  It should be lifted because it was a violation of international law and the human rights of both the Cuban and American peoples.


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For information media • not an official record