Salim Lamrani is a university professor who specializes in relations between Cuba and the United States. In this interview he turns to the issue of human rights, a point of divergence between the two countries. The United States accuses Cuba of not respecting human rights, while Cuba demands a change in the criteria.
Sébastien Madau: The United States has said that they wish to discuss the issue of human rights on the island with Cuba. What aspects in particular concern them?
Salim Lamrani: The issue of human rights in Cuba has long been manipulated by the United States for political purposes. It should be recalled that since 1991, Washington has brandished the argument of "human rights" in order to justify its hostility toward Havana and maintain economic sanctions that chokes the island's population. To justify its siege against Cuba, American diplomatic rhetoric has fluctuated over the years: for example, since the 1960s, Washington has referred successively to the nationalization of property, the alliance with the Soviet Union, the aid Cuba provided independence movements in Africa and the revolutionary groups in Latin America and, finally, to human rights.
For the United States, human rights and democracy are automatically synonymous with multi-party systems, market economies and privatized media. Clearly, Cubans do not share this point of view.
SM: Cuba, for its part, says it is ready to tackle this issue, but on the condition that the human rights situation in the United States be included in the discussion. What does this position aim to accomplish?
SL: Cuba has always expressed its readiness to address all conceivable subjects with the United States, provided that three basic principles are respected: sovereign equality, reciprocity and non-interference in internal affairs.
Cuba considers that economic and social rights are as important as civil and political rights. Thus, it is essential that all citizens, whatever their ethnic origins, their geographical or social backgrounds have universal access to education, health, culture, leisure activities and security without discrimination of any kind. Obviously, American society is far from offering any such guarantees. Nearly 50 million Americans lack access to any social services worthy of the name. Minorities in this rich country suffer from high levels of unemployment, social precariousness and they constitute the main victims of violence committed by the security forces. Equitable distribution of wealth is non-existent. Yet any democracy worthy of the name must distribute national wealth fairly so that every citizen can live with dignity.
SM: Between Cuba, which does not intend to abandon its socialist system, and the United States, whose aim is to maintain its position as the world's premier capitalist power, is it possible to imagine this debate arriving at a status quo with relations between the two countries restored?
SL: We need to remember that the conflict between Cuba and the United States is asymmetric. On one side there is an aggressor, the United States, which has imposed economic sanctions that affect all categories of the population for over half a century; which illegally occupies Guantanamo, a part of the territory of a sovereign country; which finances an internal opposition intended to subvert the established order, an action that is illegal under international law; which foments, through the Cuban Adjustment Act and the Cuban Medical Program, the illegal migration of Cubans, an action designed to empty the country of its human capital; and which continues to increase the number of radio and television programs on Radio and TV Martí, media intended to sow discord in Cuba in violation, once again, of international law.
On the other side we have Cuba, a small nation of 11 million people, with its virtues and limitations, which has never attacked the United States, which has always expressed its willingness to maintain peaceful relations based on international law with all countries of the world, and which aspires to choose its own path and build a different society while respecting the sovereign will of its people.
Thus, everything depends on Washington. If the great Northern Neighbor accepts the reality of a different Cuba, one that is independent and sovereign, that is unwilling to negotiate either its political system, or its social or foreign policy models, then the two countries can live in cordial agreement and the two peoples, who have so much in common, can strengthen their fraternal ties.
Translated from the French by Larry R. Oberg.
A Doctor of Iberian and Latin American Studies at the University of Paris IV-Sorbonne, Salim Lamrani is a lecturer at the University of La Réunion, and a journalist specializing in relations between Cuba and the United States.
His new book is Cuba, parole à la défense !, Paris, Editions Estrella, 2015, with a preface by André Chassaigne.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; Salim.Lamrani@univ-reunion.fr
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/SalimLamraniOfficiel