The United States launched a campaign called “Jailed for What?” at the United Nations on Oct 16, 2018 to highlight the plight of an estimated 130 Cuban political prisoners. U.S. envoy to the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Kelley Currie persisted through the noisy protest, delivering her remarks in the ECOSOC chamber, followed by several other speakers, including Secretary General of the Organization of American States Luis Almagro.
Protesting Cuban and Bolivian diplomats shouted, chanted and banged their hands on desks. “I have never in my life seen diplomats behave the way that the Cuban delegation did today. It was really shocking and disturbing,” Currie told reporters. “You can understand very well why people feel afraid to speak their minds … with this kind of government, this kind of thuggish behavior,” she said. “It has no place here in the United Nations.”
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In a letter to Secretary General Antonio Guterres, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said the behavior by the Cuban and Bolivian diplomats was “outrageous” and called for action from Guterres. “Due to the outrageous behavior of the Cuban and Bolivian U.N. delegations, this diplomatic event became a mob scene, and resulted in significant damage to U.N. property,” the letter says. “I respectfully call on you to condemn this extremely unprofessional conduct and require the Cuban and Bolivian delegations to pay for the property damage they caused.”
Haley said that the U.N. initially said the U.S, which was the member state responsible for the room, would be contacted to pay for the damage to desks and earphones, but U.N. officials eventually said that the U.N. itself would bear the cost.
As Haley then noted, the U.S. is the largest contributor to the U.N. budget, and pays 22 percent of the budget — and therefore of any repair cost as well, which would be “completely unacceptable.” Instead, Haley demanded that the Bolivian and Cuban delegations be made to bear the cost.
— HYGO News (@HygoNews) October 24, 2018
Remarks at a U.S. Event Launching the “Jailed for What?” Campaign Highlighting Cuba’s Political Prisoners Ambassador Kelley Currie
U.S. Representative for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations, New York City
October 16, 2018
On behalf of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, I welcome you to the UN.
A few weeks ago, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel came here to the United Nations and painted a rosy picture of his country as a paragon of solidarity, democracy, and human rights. But to the more than five thousand Cubans who were arbitrarily detained for political reasons in 2017, this is a sick joke.
More and more, Cuban repression relies on raids of activists’ homes and offices, short-term detentions, and public denunciations known as “repudio.”
At the same time, reputable NGOs report that well over 100 Cubans currently languish in jails or under house arrest as political prisoners. The Cuban government tried, convicted, and sentenced many on arbitrary charges like “contempt” of Cuban authorities or “pre-criminal social dangerousness” – bogus legal constructs meant to deny human beings of their most basic rights to free thought and expression.
In the case of independent journalist Yoennis de Jesus Guerra Garcia, it was the specious charge of illegally slaughtering livestock, which police found after he ran several press accounts critical of local authorities.
However, their real transgression was to protest, criticize the regime, question the irrevocable character of socialism in Cuba, or exercise their freedom of expression, as guaranteed by the Cuban constitution.
Cuba’s political prisoners are an explicit sign of the repressive nature of the regime and represent a blatant affront to the fundamental freedoms that the United States and many other democratic governments support, and that are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The urgency of this injustice is exemplified by the grave state of health of Cuban democratic activist Tomas Nunez Magdariaga, who spent 62 days on a hunger strike in protest of his unjust imprisonment. We welcome his long overdue release and return home.
President Trump is taking action to hold the Cuban regime responsible for its human rights violations and supporting the Cuban people’s aspirations to live in freedom.
Today, we come to the United Nations to remind the world that today, in Cuba, there are political prisoners. They come from all over Cuba, these men and women – activists, lawyers, workers, from different faiths and walks of life.
They are united in their quest to speak out for a better, freer, more democratic Cuba for themselves and their children. And their imprisonment is not only a violation of the fundamental freedoms all of us cherish, but it is also a human tragedy.
We are grateful for the participation today of OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, who has championed the cause of democracy and human rights throughout the Americas, including for Cuba’s political prisoners.
We welcome Carlos Quesada, a civil society activist whose organization works side by side with activists in Cuba and other Latin American nations to enhance their ability to promote and protect the human rights of marginalized and vulnerable people.
We are especially honored to have with us today Alejandro Gonzalez Raga, a Cuban journalist and former political prisoner, who will tell us his firsthand experience of the horrors of the Cuban prison and justice system.
And we will hear from Miriam Cardet, whose brother, Eduardo, is currently serving a three-year sentence in a Cuban jail. Eduardo is a leader in the Christian Liberation Movement who criticized Fidel Castro in November 2016. Several days later, he was arrested. Though witnesses at the scene say authorities beat him during his arrest, it is Cardet who was sentenced for assault
The “Jailed for What” campaign will draw attention to the cases of specific political prisoners.
We urge our partners to join with us in calling on the Government of Cuba to release all political prisoners.
Many Member States in the United Nations call themselves friends of Cuba. The United States is proud to call ourselves friends of the Cuban people.
Nikki Haley Letter
Cuban and Bolivian diplomats chanted and banged tables at the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Tuesday in protest against a United States-organized event held to supposedly highlight the plight of what they branded “Cuban political prisoners.”
Haley was no less scathing in her assessment of the behavior by the delegations.
“Cuba’s UN delegation destroyed property with their juvenile, unprofessional behavior that was a mockery of diplomacy,” she said. “There’s no way the U.N. should pay for those repairs – with U.S. taxpayers footing 22 percent of that bill. The bill needs to be sent directly to Cuba.”
The Cuban Mission has already demanded an investigation into how the event was allowed to take place, having called it “a political comedy staged on false arguments and with supporting actors of a dark history at the service of a foreign power.”
“It is part of the actions aimed at subverting the legitimately established constitutional order and of the interventionist agenda that has gained renewed momentum under the current administration, whose fascist, racist and xenophobic ideas are a matter of grave concern in the international community,” the statement said.
Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for Guterres, told media that missions must certify that public meetings are consistent with the purposes and principles of the U.N. and that they are non-commercial in nature. He said the U.S. had done so with regards to Tuesday’s event. He also said that it is not the role of U.N. security to remove disruptive delegates unless they pose a physical threat.
Haley welcomed the Cuban call for an investigation and said that the the U.N. should also investigate the damage and the misconduct by the Cuban and Bolivian delegations — include removing access to the U.N. for those responsible.
“This conduct was an assault on the dignity, ideals and fundamental purposes of the U.N.” she said.
Dujarric told media that the Secretary General’s office had received the letter and was looking into it. The Bolivian and Cuban missions did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The event on Oct 16, 2018 still went ahead, with speakers yelling over the protesters, but the U.S. said the event was delayed after the Cuban delegation refused to allow security to conduct a sweep of the chamber.
“I have never in my life seen diplomats behave the way the Cuban delegation did today. It was really shocking and disturbing and it makes you wonder that if the diplomats of this government behave this way, how do the police behave?” U.S. ECOSOC Ambassador Kelley Currie, who led the event and herself had to yell over protesters to be heard, told reporters after the event.