In its June 22 edition the newspaper Granma published an article from Prensa Latina (Latin Press) entitled “UN Commends Cuba for Freedom of Assembly” in which it expresses “its satisfaction with having been mentioned as an example of good practices in the area of freedom of peaceful assembly and association in the report by the UN Rapporteur for Human Rights in this area, Maina Kivi.” According to Granma the Cuban delegate, Juan Antonio Quintanilla, added that “in our country there are many opportunities for the exercise of this right as exemplified by the existence of more than 2,200 non-governmental organizations in the widest variety of fields possible.”
That the rapporteur stated this, that she might have written her report in a comfortable office in Geneva or in a shady spot in Central Park, is understandable. We are by now accustomed to such slip-ups by the UN. Such a report or some similar resolution, dictated from one of the organization’s sterile platforms, deserves to be treated no better than a piece of toilet paper. It is not surprising that a UN rapporteur would babble on as much as he or she wishes on the subject of Cuba’s freedom of association, but to hear the same thing coming from the mouth of a Cuban always leaves one quite astonished.
To be fair, it must be pointed out that the life of an official from our emblematic MINREX (Ministry of Foreign Relations) is full of trips and diplomatic missions. Señor Quintanilla could be so busy that it is possible he has not been informed about the misfortune befalling a Cuban opposition figure when he wishes to take full advantage of his right to free association. Or perhaps he has not heard about the mobs who attack women who defend themselves with fragile gladiolas*. Or about the scandalous repudiation demonstrations organized by the Communist Party and State Security which take place outside – and even inside – the homes of many dissidents.
There certainly is no visible movement of indignados (outraged people) here, as the Cuban delegate mentions when he refers to the protestors on Wall Street or throughout Europe, who have been the focus of repressive waves, which, incidentally, we know about thanks to press reports from those countries themselves. But what the Cuban delegate knows very well yet fails to mention is that here the matter is resolved in a much simpler and more pragmatic way: If you try to cause similar troubles, you will simply be detained in the very doorway of your house. You will not be allowed to go out into the street and, to top it off, you will have to put up with them telling you that this is being done to protect you from the anger of an “enraged people.”
As for the thousands of NGOs mentioned in Quintanilla remarks, one need only take a quick glance to realize that they all have one element in common. Not one has a political profile. None have the slightest intention of questioning in any way the current system of government in Cuba. At this stage only a crazy person would dare to deny that real civil society exists only in a semi-clandestine form. It is not even officially recognized by our government, which refuses to establish any sort of dialog. The profile of each and every one of these “NGOs” has been knowingly designed and approved under the watchful eye of the Communist Party to reject any inconvenient proposals. To put it simply, anyone talking about freedom of association and of an authentic civil society which enjoys “ample freedoms for the exercise of this right” in this one-party state is hallucinating.
*Translator’s note: The writer is referring to the Ladies in White, a Cuban opposition movement consisting of the female relatives of jailed dissidents who protest the imprisonments by attending Mass each Sunday wearing white clothes and carrying gladiolas.
June 26 2012