Latin Americans attack Cuba at U.N. rights meeting
GENEVA, April 10 (Reuters) - Latin American countries implicitly criticized Cuba on Wednesday at the top U.N. human rights body in a move certain to spark the ire of veteran communist leader Fidel Castro. Uruguay, backed by eight other Latin American states, formally presented a resolution calling on Cuba to "make similar progress in the field of human rights" to that made in the social rights of its people.
Diplomats said the resolution had been put forward after intense lobbying by Castro's long-time foe, the United States. "This is treachery," said Ivan Mora, Cuba's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva. "They are serving the interests of the United States," he told journalists.
Although mildly worded, Latin American states in the past have been reluctant to take the lead in presenting resolutions about their Caribbean neighbor.
But diplomats said that the United States, which has lost its seat on the 53-state Commission and only has observer status, had canvassed hard among Latin American countries after the Czech Republic, its usual ally, announced it would not present any resolution against Cuba this year.
The motion, which will be put to a vote next week along with a raft of other resolutions critical of other states, such as Sudan and Iraq, also urged U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson to appoint a special representative to monitor the situation in Cuba.
One Uruguayan diplomat described the wording as "balanced," adding that this was why it had won such wide support among Latin American countries.
Other states to back the resolution were: Argentina, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Peru, as well as Canada.
Cuban President Castro and Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque in recent weeks have denounced U.S. "maneuvers" and "pressures" around the Geneva commission, and warned that any Latin American sponsor of a resolution against the Castro government would be considered a "Judas." Neither gave an immediate public reaction to the resolution.
MIXED REACTIONS BY CUBAN DISSIDENTS
In Havana, Cuban dissidents, whose treatment by the Castro government often is cited abroad as the main example of rights abuses on the island, gave mixed reactions.
Some said they were disappointed with the softer-than-normal wording, but others said they were pleased that at least a resolution was offered, albeit at the last minute.
"The important thing for us is that there is a motion at all. It seems to me to be quite appropriate that wording is soft, and it is better that it comes from Latin America than anywhere else," said Elizardo Sanchez, a leading moderate dissident who heads the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.
Another dissident, Martha Beatriz Roque, questioned why the resolution also praised Cuba's work on "social rights" and said the text's main thrust -- to have Cuba accept a U.N. human rights monitor on its territory -- was a Utopian wish.
"Cuba will never accept that," she said. "What you see in this resolution, independently of whether Cuba is sanctioned or not, is that those behind it do not understand the reality of this country." Social achievements for which Cuba is often praised are a myth, Roque argued, with education subordinated to politics and indoctrination, health services suffering "a total lack of attention" and the sports sector dedicated "to winning medals and producing champions" rather than serving the people.
In Lima, Peru's Foreign Ministry painted the resolution as a
Constructive move and a break with the "inefficient censure adopted in previous years." Peru has been coordinating informal talks with other Latin American countries.
In the Peruvian Congress, 67 legislators -- more than half the 120 members -- backed a motion calling on Peru to abstain from any censure vote.