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Monday, August 24, 2015

The Judge: May the United States walk in Cuban shoes

By David Brooks, August 18, 2015

This past weekend, [on August 14], the government of Barack Obama celebrated restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba with a message of  continued  support for a democratic future and an improved human rights situation on the island.

Meanwhile at home, news crops up that should be generating serious concern about the future of democracy in the United States. Former President Jimmy Carter declared that this country is ‘an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery.’ Human rights defenders and even the United Nations organization are denouncing serious abuses of civil and human rights. Policies there threaten freedom of expression and the rights to privacy and free association (labor unions included).  They have the biggest prison population in the world, and there is official sanction for the use of torture and for disappearing people, all in violation of international law.  On the one hand basic rights are eroding, voting rights included, and on the other data on economic inequality are without precedent since before the great depression. 

Perhaps now is the time to ask other countries and other activists in the world for support, assistance, and even intervention (unarmed) in order to promote a peaceful transition to democracy in the United States.

It seems, however, that the script for expressing such a message of “support” and international commitment to promoting democracy and rights in the United States already exists and says something like:

“We are in the business of assuring that the U.S. people have freedom and the capacity to participate and to shape their own destiny and their own lives.”  And, “our objective [is] to empower [U.S.] Americans for building an open and democratic country.” 

“No [U.S.] American should face harassment or arrest or beatings simply because they're exercising a universal right to have their voices heard, and we will continue to support civil society there …” (It’s worth remembering that in the past year, as U.S. authorities offered violent reaction to the wave of protest following events in Ferguson, [Missouri,] the secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, called upon those in charge in the United States to guarantee protection of rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of expression.)

Likewise, “we continue to believe that [U.S.] American workers should be free to form unions, just as their citizens should be free to participate in the political process.”

A spokesperson continues:  “[T]hrough a policy of engagement, we can more effectively stand up for our values and help the [U.S.] American people help themselves as they move into the 21st century. We are calling on the United States to unleash the potential of … millions of [U.S.] Americans by ending unnecessary restrictions on their political, social, and economic activities.”  
A series of actions would be announced that offer “continued strong support for the sake of improved human rights conditions and democratic reforms in the United States.  The promotion of democracy supports universal human rights by empowering civil society and a person’s right to speak freely, peacefully assemble, and associate, and by supporting the ability of people to freely determine their future…”
And, “with this change, we will be able to substantially increase our contacts with the U.S. people.  …  And our diplomats will have the ability to engage more broadly throughout that country.  That will include the U.S. government, civil society, and ordinary [U.S.] Americans — who are looking for a better life. On issues of common interest …We will find new ways to cooperate with the United States.  And I’ve been clear that we will also continue to have some very serious differences.  That includes enduring support for universal values, like freedom of speech and assembly. …  And we will not hesitate to speak out when we see actions that contradict those values.”(1) 
While it was affirmed that self-determination would be respected and “that the future of the United States now has to be shaped by its own citizens, there was a warning that supervision will be maintained over ‘democratic principles’ and ‘democratic reforms’ in the United States.” 
According to a speaker, “We remain convinced the people of the United States would be best served by genuine democracy, where people are free to choose their leaders, express their ideas, practice their faith; where the commitment to economic and social justice is realized more fully; where institutions are answerable to those they serve.” (2)  
These public declarations would be consistent with democratization programs, among them the funding of various dissident organizations in order to create new channels of struggle in defense of human and civil rights inside the country. These would involve support offered to U.S. activists and defenders of human rights as they present cases of human and civil rights violations before the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and support also for their participation in training workshops aimed at improving their capacity to document cases and allowing them to share experiences with counterparts. These programs would promote consensus and cooperation among democratically-inclined U.S. activists, would open up access to uncensored information for ordinary citizens, and would defend “the rights of African-Americans and underrepresented communities…” (3)     

In the declarations and official descriptions cited here, one word has been substituted for another. The words “Cuba” and “Cubans” are replaced with “United States” or “[U.S.] Americans.”  The first footnote number in the text refers to official statements on Cuba issued by President Barack Obama or the White House from December 17, 2014, on. The second footnote number relates Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks in Havana on August 14, 2015. The third one points to part of the text describing in general those programs funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and directed at Cuba. 

Thus is confirmed the proverb: “Let the good judge begin at home.” 

David Brooks has served as U.S. correspondent for the Mexico City daily newspaper La Jornada since 1992. He is the author of several scholarly works and founder and coordinator of the Mexico – U.S. Diálogos Program. 

Source: La Jornada

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