Cuban, Venezuelan Dissidents Harassed at UN Panel
Cuban, Venezuelan Dissidents Harassed at UN Panel
Dissidents testified on arbitrary arrests, torture of detainees
BY: Daniel Wiser
June 19, 2014 3:10 pm
Cuban and Venezuelan dissidents were reportedly harassed this week by
officials from their authoritarian governments while participating in a
panel at the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, according to a
The dissidents testified on Tuesday at the council in Geneva about
abuses committed by their countries’ governments, including arbitrary
arrests and torture of detainees. Government delegates from Cuba and
Venezuela—current members of the council despite accusations that they
perpetrate systematic human rights abuses—shouted at the members of the
panel and accused them of being part of a U.S.-funded conspiracy to
undermine their rule.
“This is clearly a program of the United States to undermine Cuba, and
they have given these speakers money to participate,” said one Cuban
representative, according to the human rights organization UN Watch.
“You [the United States] have the greatest empire and you are trying to
take our resources,” said one Venezuelan representative, referring to
the country’s oil reserves.
Keith Harper, U.S. ambassador to the council and a speaker at the event,
expressed concerns about the hounding of dissidents by government officials.
“#Cuba trying to stifle dissent at the UN, just as it does at home,”
The dissidents from Venezuela included Alejandro Suarez Teppa, a student
activist and national board member of the United Active Youth of
Venezuela. Teppa said he witnessed student protesters being shot in
February and recounted how his protest camp was raided on the night of
He told reporters that he was beaten by state security forces and held
in isolation for three days.
“They put drugs and weapons inside the camps and U.S. dollars to
indicate we were financed by foreign powers,” he said. “We urge the
United Nations to investigate the abuses.”
Venezuela has not invited a UN human rights investigator since 1996,
while an investigator last visited Cuba in 2007.
Teppa’s story mirrors dozens of other cases of arbitrary detention and
torture documented by human rights groups monitoring the situation in
Venezuela, where more than 40 people have died in protests since
February. Student demonstrators blame the administration of President
Nicolas Maduro for rampant crime, inflation, shortages of basic goods,
and the silencing of all dissent.
U.S. lawmakers have been pressing the Obama administration to impose
U.S. visa and asset bans on Venezuelan officials who perpetrated human
rights abuses. Bipartisan legislation that directs President Barack
Obama to do so passed the House last month.
The aunt of detained opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez also spoke on the
UN panel. Lopez has been held in a military facility since February and
now faces more than 10 years in prison on charges of damaging public
property and inciting crime, accusations by the government that are
widely viewed as politically motivated.
“They [the Venezuelan government] are accusing him of having used
subliminal language inciting people to take to the streets, and having
killed the students; it was not him, but the police!” Julieta Lopez said.
Cuba’s communist government has reportedly sent thousands of internal
security advisers to Venezuela in recent years to assist with the
repression of dissidents, activists say.
Spanish politician Ángel Francisco Carromero Barrios urged the UN to
further investigate the 2012 deaths of Cuban democracy activists Oswaldo
Paya and Harold Cepero in a car accident. Carromero drove the car that
both him and Paya’s family allege was hit by another car from behind in
“The accident took place two years ago and the family hasn’t had any
access to the autopsy; I’m asking you to have common sense,” Carromero said.
The UN panel discussion followed the recent arrests of Cuban political
dissidents Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, known as “Antunez,” and his wife
Yris Perez for what activists say was no apparent reason. Politically
motivated detentions in Cuba have spiked this year, according to human
Cuban-American Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.), a staunch opponent
of the Obama administration’s recent overtures to Cuba, condemned the
arrests in a statement.
“In yet another unsurprising act of oppression, the Castro regime, in a
massive crackdown, has violently arrested Cuban pro-democracy leaders
Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez,’ Yris Perez Aguilera, Ladies in White
leader Berta Soler, Angel Moya, and dozens more,” she said. “These
arbitrary detentions are another somber reminder of the dictatorship’s
forceful grip on the island in attempts to silence courageous leaders
who seek democracy and freedom.”
“The Obama administration must immediately condemn this new repressive
wave and stop providing concessions to the Castro regime,” she added.
Source: Cuban, Venezuelan Dissidents Harassed at UN Panel | Washington
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