Statement by Ambassador Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Cuba to the United Nations, under Agenda Item 116 "Questions Relating to Human Rights," Articles c), d) and e) of the Third Committee.

Mr. Chairman:

Cuba shared the hope that the debates on this item of the Third Committee would reflect this year a greater breakthrough in seeking a more effective cooperation and a more sincere dialogue, aimed at examining the most pressing and urgent problems that prevent or limit the exercise of all human rights by all persons.

While the focus of the Committee’s work seems to have shifted to other matters, one would have to recognize that the basis of our discussions has not changed. In essence the debate is about the defense of the purposes and principles of the Charter vis-a-vis the attempt to change, rewrite or construe them capriciously so as to adjust them to the unipolar order and to the hegemonic interests of some powers. It consists of the defense of our sovereignty against the attempt to subdue it by the imposition of one single and alien model that would wipe out the diversity of culture, history and religion which is our wealth. It is the attempt, by those who continue to consider us inferior, to colonize us again.

In this Item 116, suffer –in particular– the solid and clear principles of universality, objectivity, impartiality, interdependence, and non-selectivity in the approach to human rights. They suffer, particularly, in those speeches that contain arrogant, inexact and incomplete listings, politically motivated and, sometimes, simply slanderous.

There is no choice other than mentioning some truths that, quite intentionally, are concealed in those speeches.

It is quite conspicuous that there is no mention of the problems of minorities and immigrants, which are typical of industrialized countries.

Though it may be an omission in the "listings" that can only be explained by subordination, it can be demonstrated with irrefutable and plentiful data from U.S. and European sources, that in the United States, for instance, there are four massive, flagrant and systematic violations of the human rights of the minorities, immigrants and, by and large, of the unprotected and lowest-income persons.

  • Close to one million people live in the streets, under bridges or in emergency shelters, whereas just one of its citizens amasses now almost 100 billion dollars, as a reflection of a brutal social differentiation pattern in the U.S. society. According to The New York Times, the 2.7 million richest U.S. citizens –1% of the population– have incomes that equal those of the 100 million lowest-income citizens.
  • One of every 4 U.S. children under six years –i.e. 23% of children that age– live under the poverty line.
  • 43 million U.S. citizens have no medical coverage; 11 million of them are children.
  • Infant mortality in the United States is 5.1 for every 1,000 live births, but that rate in black children is 11.5. The black population’s life expectancy is six years shorter than that of whites. The number-one cause of death of whites between 18 and 24 years of age is drug- and alcohol-related traffic accidents whereas for young Afro-Americans it is homicide. Maternal mortality is 7.1 for every 100,000 for the overall population, but for black mothers it is 22.1. The occurrence of tuberculosis is 23.9 for every 100,000 in Afro-American communities, i.e. 3-fold the average rate. Fifty-seven percent of the new AIDS cases are Afro-American, which is 63% for ages 13 to 24.
  • It is estimated that 300,000 U.S. boys and girls are involved in child pornography and prostitution. One of every 10 teenagers has attempted suicide, and 1 out of 5 carries a gun. The children who shoot and kill in schools are victims of the system who follow its logic.
  • In the streets of New York alone, live 10,000 mentally ill who have been expelled from hospital institutions because of budget cuts in health programs. Millions of low-income, sick and elderly people, as well as single mothers have been excluded recently from social assistance programs, where the situation facing mentally sick persons is particularly dramatic. It is estimated that there are more mentally ill persons in the prisons than in psychiatric hospitals. In many states of the Union, mentally ill persons may be put in prison without having committed any crimes.
  • In the United States there is a selective racial pattern for temporary detentions, criminal sanctions, and for the application of the death penalty.
  • The United States has the world’s greatest inmate population, with 1.7 million inmates, who receive a cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Over 50% of the inmates are black, although blacks constitute only 13% of the population. In the last 23 years, 98.5% of those executed have been Afro-American. Sixty foreigners executed over that period were not informed of their right to legal assistance from their consulates. Twenty states of the Union allow for the trial of children just like and with the same sanctions as adults. In the last few years, the United States executed 8 minors, and 40 are in the death row. 114 women have been sentenced to death. 29 mentally disabled have been executed, and 38 states permit the execution of mentally retarded people. 3,269 persons were, until recently, awaiting in the death row.
  • Racial discrimination and xenophobia grow and take on institutionalized forms. Police brutality is reaching alarming levels and is disproportionately occurring against blacks, Hispanics and immigrants in general. Out of every 100 people fined for traffic violations, 73 are Afro-American and only 14 are white. It has been proven that the Manhattan taxis discriminate against Harlem residents. Black policemen are a meager minority compared to the population, and hardly any of them are officers. And the same goes for judges.
  • Access to universities is overwhelmingly smaller for the black population. Schooling rates are markedly smaller. In the United States there are more young blacks in jail than in college. Only 16% of the Bronx 8th-graders meet the already deficient parameters of New York City.

Mr. Chairman:


For its part, the European Union made reference to 47 countries but forgot to say that almost all of us were their colonies and that many of the current problems and conflict situations originate in the violence of the conquest, the plundering of resources and the imposition of absurd borders.

It is curious that Europe has no memory of the Holocaust and watches impassively the proliferation of fascist and neo-Nazi parties. We have not heard one single word on the growing xenophobia and violence against immigrants, unfair and selective deportation policies, the traffic of organs –including children’s organs, child and exotic prostitution, pedophilia and the promotion of sexual tourism.

The situation of the authoctonous peoples who, surrounded by the opulence of societies they were virtually exterminated and absorbed by, receive the lowest incomes and the worst employment, education and health rates. It is regrettable that the representatives of Canada and Australia have not even mentioned the serious and systematic violations of the human rights of North America’s native nations and of the Strait of Torres’ islanders.

While the fall of the Berlin Wall is celebrated with sequins and frivolities, a shameful silence is made about the Rio Bravo Wall, where there is a low-intensity war in which, only last year, 350 people died, many of them under the fire of U.S. patrols.

The new Maticni Wall, in the Czech Republic, is the best symbol of the hypocrisy –in the Commission on Human Rights– of those responsible for the serious violations of human rights, for racism, for the persecution, violence and murders of Romanies. It is estimated that in the Czech Republic, 250,000 Romanies live in marginality and unemployment. This year alone, hundreds of them have asked for shelter in other countries.

Czech airlines discriminate against and mark persons with Romany appearance. According to Czech official statistics, 50% of Romany children are sent to schools for the mentally retarded, a figure that, according to community leaders is 70%. Discriminatory employment policies, describing them as mentally retarded or disabled, are also permitted. Their language is not respected.


Mr. Chairman:

Freedom and democracy are not the exclusive property of the North countries, which have not been granted by anyone the faculty to determine the political and social organization of other countries. The globalized world it has fallen to our lot to live in cannot develop upon the so-called "single thought." The unjust, unequal, unsustainable and unipolar order imposed upon Humankind will have to change if we are to survive.

Without the exercise of the right to development, there will be no progress. If those who today address the South with arrogance and disdain do not comply with their commitments, not out of generosity but out of their historical responsibility as former colonial powers, there will be no progress.

We shall never believe in the paradise of freedoms and political rights that were are being offered whereas nothing is done to eradicate poverty and ensure development; to prevent millions of people from dying of hunger and curable diseases; to feed those who neither have eaten today nor will eat tomorrow; to cure our sick people; to educate our illiterate people; to shelter the helpless; to ensure an honorable old-age for our elderly; to ensure the empowerment of women in the South; to offer our children a future to live for.

Cuba reiterates its willingness about cooperation and respectful dialogue, amongst equals, in the field of human rights, based on respect for the sovereignty of States, for the norms of International Law, and for the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, which are more valid today than ever before.


Thank you very much.

New York, 16 November 1999

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