Ridiculous as it sounds, Mexico, Argentina and Chile are calling on the Biden administration to invite the Cuban dictatorship to June’s Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, despite credible reports that the regime is committing its worst violations. of human rights in more than 20 years.
According to Human Rights Watch, Cuba holds about 1,000 political prisoners, including about 700 who were arrested during peaceful protests nationwide in July 2021.
“We haven’t seen these levels of repression in Cuba for at least 20 years,” Juan Pappier, a Latin America researcher at Human Rights Watch, told me.
There has been a mass exodus of Cubans as the crackdown intensifies. About 115,000 Cubans, more than 1% of the island’s population, have fled the country in the past seven months, according to US Customs and Border Patrol data.
This is “without a doubt the largest exodus from Cuba in the past four decades,” Jorge Duany, an emigration expert at Florida International University’s Cuban Research Institute, told the Miami Herald.
Among the latest examples of the regime’s crackdown on dissent are the unusually harsh sentences handed down to those arrested during protests last year.
Some of the protesters were sentenced to up to 30 years in prison on alleged charges of “sedition”. Many were sentenced to around a year behind bars for chanting or holding signs that read “Homeland and Life” (“La patrie et la vie”), a protest song that refuted late dictator Fidel Castro’s motto “La patrie ou la mort”.
“The sentences are totally disproportionate to the charges,” Pappier told me.
According to a joint press release by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, the regime plans to sentence rapper Maykel Castillo Pérez, who calls himself “Osorbo”, and visual artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara on May 30. detention for nearly a year, and a Cuban prosecutor has called for them to be sentenced to seven and 10 years in prison, respectively, for their performances and statements critical of the regime.
Meanwhile, Cuba’s government-controlled parliament this month approved a penal code that increases penalties for unauthorized contact with foreign individuals or organizations that may affect “the social peace and stability of our nation”.
And in August last year, just weeks after the mass protests, the dictatorship issued Executive Order No. 35, which orders telecommunications companies to cut internet connections from customers who post information the government deems false. .
Yet despite mounting government repression on the island, Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador has been threatening for weeks to boycott the Summit of the Americas unless the Biden administration invites Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Lopez Obrador, who recently visited Cuba, said on May 26 that Cuban dictator Miguel Díaz-Canel “is a very honest man, with principles.”
Argentina, Chile and more than a dozen Caribbean countries have also asked the Biden administration that Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua be invited, but, unlike Mexico, they have not said they would boycott the summit.
Like Mexico, they are most vocal in their support for Cuba’s presence, perhaps because the killings of hundreds of peaceful protesters in Venezuela and Nicaragua over the past three years are still too fresh in memory.
It’s hard to understand why some Latin American presidents who claim to champion democracy and human rights make such a big deal out of Biden’s good decision not to invite dictatorships to the top.
Under a rule approved at the 2001 Summit of the Americas in Quebec, Canada, any unconstitutional breakdown of democratic rule in the region is an “insurmountable obstacle” to a government’s participation in the Summit of the Americas.
What is even more absurd is that at a time when Latin America desperately needs to increase its exports and reorganize its economy, Mexico and its friends have placed the participation of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua at the center of the summit agenda.
They should use this rare opportunity – this hemispheric summit only takes place every three or four years – to seek new regional agreements to enhance trade, investment, technology transfer and educational exchanges with the United States, which is still the largest economy in the world.
Instead of defending Cuba’s decrepit dictatorship, Mexico, Argentina and their friends should support its victims.
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This story was originally published May 27, 2022 6:16 p.m.