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."
“Cuba, yes, blockade, no!” Cuban diplomats chanted during the United States-organized forum held at the U.N. headquarters in New York highlighting the nearly six-decade-old economic and cultural blockade against the island nation, which President Donald Trump has intensified since entering office in January 2017.
Among those who interrupted the U.S. envoy to ECOSOC, Kelley Currie, during her speech launching the “Jailed for What?” campaign, was the nation’s ambassador to the U.N., Anayansi Rodriguez.
After the U.N. meeting Rodriguez pointed out the hypocrisy of the U.S. initiative set up to accuse Cuba of human rights violations: “The imprisonment of children would have rightly justified the name ‘Jailed for What?,’” Rodriguez said referring to the U.S. policy of separating and detaining Central American children and parents at its southern border trying to gain entry into the United States. “This is a shame for the United States government,” she added.
The Cuban ambassador released a statement to the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres ahead of the event describing the initiative as a “political comedy.”
“Cuba is proud of its human rights record, which denies any manipulation against it,” she told reporters Monday. “On the contrary, the U.S. lacks the morals to give lessons, much less in this matter.”
The ‘Jailed for What?’ campaign claims there are 130 political prisoners held by the Cuban government, a claim the Caribbean nation flatly denies. The campaign comes just weeks before the U.N. General Assembly will vote on the draft resolution entitled a "Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba." Cuba says the U.S. campaign is an "excuse to maintain and intensify the blockade, which constitutes a massive, flagrant and systematic violation of the human rights of Cubans."
As the anti-blockade chants began to drown out her speech, Currie asked for the diplomats to be removed by security. The U.S. representative later said: “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 after the incident that the Cubans demonstrated “thuggish behavior” that has “no place” in the United Nations.
In support of Cuba, Bolivian President Evo Morales tweeted that the blockade had cost the island US$130 billion, a figure published by the United Nations in May.
Cuba's Foreign Ministry (Minrex) also issued a lengthy statement against the U.S. initiative, which it described as a "failure" and an "anti-Cuban show."
"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba strongly rejects the defamatory campaign against Cuba on human rights launched on 16 October by the United States Government at United Nations Headquarters.
"As has already been pointed out, this action is part of the sequence of statements against our country carried out during recent weeks by high-level officials of the United States government, who show increasing hostility towards Cuba and the Cuban Revolution," the statement said.
It added, “The U.S. government has no moral authority to criticize Cuba."
The Minrex statement highlighted U.S. abuses stating: "Instead of worrying about the alleged 'political prisoners' they say they would exist in Cuba, they should do so because of the human rights violations that take place in their own territory.”
“It is a shame that in the richest country in the world about 40 million people live in poverty, 18.5 million in extreme poverty and 5.3 million in conditions of absolute poverty.”
Cuban officials said the U.S. should reverse its systemic gender and racial discrimination that exists within the country. “The United States government should account for the 987 people killed in 2017 by law enforcement agents by firearms. African American people, who make up 13% of the population, accounted for almost 23% of the victims.
"There is systematic racial discrimination in law enforcement and in judicial bodies. Black male offenders were sentenced, on average, to only 19.1% longer than those white offenders who were in similar situations,” Minrex said.
ECOSOC is responsible for coordinating the economic, social and related work of 15 U.N. specialized agencies, their commissions, and five regional commissioners.