- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 17, 2003

GENEVA, Switzerland, April 17 (UPI) — The United Nations human rights commission turned the heat on Cuba over its poor track record Thursday in adopting, by three votes, a resolution that calls on Cuba's government to accept inspection by a special envoy.

While conceding it was ultimately not as strong as Washington would have liked, "we're very glad the resolution passed," Kevin Moley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, told reporters.

The head of the Cuban delegation, Juan Antonio Fernandez, denounced the outcome and said Havana has no intention to accept the motion.

"We're not going to accept the visit by inspectors … let alone in the way it is trying to be imposed," he told reporters. Cuba says it would violate its sovereignty.

The country's human rights situation, long an issue, has deteriorated in recent weeks. Government authorities have arrested dozens who are opposed to its president-for-life, Fidel Castro; nearly all are still in detention. And last week three men were arrested, tried and then executed for hijacking a ferry.

The communist-based regime of Castro, who overthrew Cuba's U.S.-backed autocrat in 1959, has survived over 40 years of sanctions imposed by the United States. During the Cold War the Americans saw Cuba as a toehold of communism just off its coast, and indeed Soviet missile batteries set up there in 1962 sparked a crisis between the two superpowers that briefly brought them to the brink of war.

The human rights resolution, sponsored by Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Peru and Uruguay, passed Thursday 24-20 with nine abstentions. But it was preceded by weeks of behind-the-scenes diplomatic maneuverings and periodic heated public exchanges between Cuba and its arch adversary, the United States.

Fernandez told a packed audience the Latin sponsors were "disgusting lackeys" and leveled the accusation that the draft "is made in the United States." The adoption of the motion each year is the result of "huge and shameful pressures," he added.

"Cuba this year was very aggressive because events of the last couple of weeks put them on the defensive," an ambassador from a non-aligned country told United Press International.

The 53-member body passed the motion only after the 31-15 defeat of a proposed amendment by Costa Rica, calling for the U.N. body to condemn the recent detention and harsh sentencing of Cuban dissidents. Cuba's retaliation, a proposed amendment declaring the U.S. embargo was a flagrant violation of Cubans' human rights, was also defeated, 26-17.

Said the United States' Moley: "We wish it (Thursday's resolution) took into account the egregious violations of human rights that have taken place since this commission began, including the execution just this past Friday of three people in the matter of days from the time they were arrested to the time they were tried and within hours executed."

The U.S. official said the motion "does in fact give some hope to the dissidents in Cuba — and to all those in Cuba, and elsewhere in the Americas — for human rights."

Moley said failure to authorize the special U.N. envoy is a violation of the human rights of the Cuban people and of their hopes for freedom.

"This is a shame which reflects on Fidel Castro's inability to provide human rights to his own people," he said. "We hope that in future there would be no need for a resolution — that in fact the regime in Cuba would change in such a way as to afford its own people the same kind of rights freedom of religion, freedom to vote, free and impartial judiciary there currently denied and have been now for 45 years. It is an outrage."

Earlier, the Cuban envoy declared "a well-elaborated plan of destabilization and subversion against Cuba is under way," and added: "Attempts are made to create a migratory crisis or any incident that may create the conditions necessary to justify a war of aggression against Cuba."

Havana has also accused the U.S. representative in Cuba, James Carson, of overreaching his diplomatic privileges in meeting with Cubans. With such acts as giving them radios and hosting prominent meetings in support of Cuba's dissidents, Carson is fomenting political opposition and recruiting spies, according to the regime.

From President George W. Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, the Bush administration released a congratulatory statement tempered with a promise of further efforts against the Castro regime.

"President Bush welcomes the leadership of the Latin America democracies in highlighting these abuses by the only dictatorship of the region. The commission has sent the right signal to courageous Cubans who struggle daily to gain their basic political and civil freedoms," it read.

Then it expressed continuing concerns about the fate of Cuban dissidents and added it would search for "new ways" with other countries and international organizations "to effect a peaceful democratic transition in Cuba."

It ended, "We also call upon the member states of the United Nations to deny Cuba a seat on the Human Rights Commission next year. No country should be allowed to sit on the Human Rights Commission if it purposely and consistently undermines the spirit and purpose of the commission."

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