US: Cuba’s political prisoners are “affront” to democracy

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States says Cuba is jailing 130 political prisoners in a “blatant affront” to fundamental democratic freedoms, but the Cuban ambassador to the United Nations said Monday that the U.S. lacks the moral authority to teach other countries such lessons given what she calls the Trump administration’s “agenda of supremacist, racist and xenophobic ideas.”

The U.S. plans to formally launch a campaign Tuesday at the United Nations called “Jailed for What?” holding Cuba’s regime responsible for human rights violations.

In a statement released Sunday, Cuban Ambassador Anayansi Rodriguez Camejo demanded that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres cancel the event. She said the U.S. had itself violated human rights, especially in the use of torture, detention and “arbitrary deprivation of liberty” at its Guantanamo military base, where terrorism suspects have been held for years. She also pointed to U.S. immigrant policies that have separated parents and children.

“The United States lack the morals to give lessons, much less in this matter,” Camejo said.

On Monday, the Cuban diplomat used stronger language to reject the “Jailed for What?” campaign, telling the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, that the United States “lacks any moral authority to judge Cuba, when its current administration drives an agenda of supremacist, racist and xenophobic ideas.”

During Tuesday’s launch of the political-prisoner campaign, Kelley E. Currie, the U.S. representative on the U.N. Economic and Social Council, plans to focus on an estimated 130 Cuban prisoners as “an explicit sign of the repressive nature of the Cuban regime,” said a statement released by the U.S. State Department last week. Those being held “represent a blatant affront to the fundamental freedoms that the United States and many other democratic governments support,” it said.

Currie added that the Cuban people’s “aspirations to live in freedom are key components of President Trump’s National Security Presidential Memorandum of 2017.”

The State Department said the Cuban government is silencing its people with “arbitrary detention and specious charges.”

The Cubans call the “Jailed for What?” campaign part of the Trump administration’s escalation of anti-Cuban actions that started 56 years ago with an economic and financial blockade of the island.

Camejo said U.N. space is reserved for events directly relevant to the organization’s work and Tuesday’s gathering would violate the U.N. charter. On Monday, U.N. officials said only that they would meet with Cuban diplomats to discuss their concerns.

Michael Kozak of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor is scheduled to moderate a discussion on the Cuban detainees. Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States; Carlos Quesada, executive director of the Institute of Race and Equality; and former Cuban political prisoner Alejandro Gonzalez Raga are to participate.

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