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Days Before Obama’s Visit, Cuba’s Allies Try to Block Dissident From Speaking at UN Human Rights Council

Days Before Obama’s Visit, Cuba’s Allies Try to Block From
Speaking at UN Council
By Patrick Goodenough | March 16, 2016 | 4:32 AM EDT

( – The Castro regime, backed by representatives of some of
the world’s most repressive regimes, tried on Tuesday to prevent a
prominent Cuban dissident from speaking at the U.N. Human Rights
Council, repeatedly interrupting Rosa Maria Paya who expressed the hope
that Obama in his March 21-22 visit will defend human rights.


Paya had scarcely spoken a single sentence when Cuban delegate Pablo
Berti complained that she was not properly accredited to speak as
representative of a non-governmental organization (NGO).

Paya was speaking on behalf of House during a general HRC debate
in Geneva under an agenda item on “human rights situations requiring the
council’s attention.”

The independent Washington-based democracy watchdog is accredited – via
the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) – to participate at HRC

But Berti said it was public knowledge that Paya was not a
representative of “so-called NGO, Freedom House,” implying that she
should therefore be silenced.

One by one, delegates from , North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran,
Russia, , Egypt, Pakistan and others spoke in favor of Cuba’s position.

Other members, including the U.S., and European nations, spoke in
support of allowing Paya to speak.

Later in the session, Berti lashed out at Freedom House, calling it “a
machine of subversion” that “answers to the CIA.”

He said the group’s funds come from the State Department and USAID,
adding that its “links to known terrorists are well-known.”

In response to the intervention by Cuba and others, the HRC’s president,
Choi Kyonglim of South Korea, noted that Freedom House was indeed
accredited and that it had authorized Paya to speak in its name.

Invited to continue, Paya said the Cuban people have not had the right
to elect their representatives for decades. She voiced the hope that
Obama during his visit to the island will speak in favor of human rights
and a national consultation process.

Paya then referred to the slain opposition leader , her
father, who died in a 2012 car crash which relatives and supporters view
as suspicious. In her remarks, Paya said he had been “murdered.”

Another round of points of order ensued, led by Cuba’s delegate who
charged that Paya was directing “baseless accusations” at his country,
in contravention of U.N. practices and policies.

Other countries backed Berti, although the Dutch representative,
speaking for the , said NGO statements should not be
interrupted simply because they include “concrete examples” of
violations by governments.

Eventually allowed to continue, Paya spoke about death threats received
by her family after she spoke on a previous occasion at the HRC, in 2013.

She urged the council to “try to prevent the impunity of the Cuban
government and try to help save the lives of those who are defending
human rights and democracy in Cuba. The delegation of the Cuban tyranny
has of course been striving to do this—”

Berti again interrupted, accusing her of using “very disrespectful
language” about his government.

His colleague from Venezuela went further, saying it was “inconceivable”
to hear such language in relation to a sovereign state, and urging the
president to withdraw Freedom House’s right to speak. By this time
Paya’s time had all but expired.

Later in Tuesday’s debate – during a right to reply period – Venezuelan
representative Jorge Valero himself used strong language in relation to
a sovereign state, referring to U.S. diplomats in the chamber as the
“imperialists’ delegation” and “representatives of the most
interventionist empire that’s ever existed in the history of humanity.”

For his part, Berti accused the U.S. of torturing terror suspects at
Guantanamo Bay, and of enforcing a “genocidal” blockade against Cuba.

During Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address, Rosa Maria Paya was a
guest of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a leading critic of the president’s
policy of engaging Havana, announced the previous month.

Source: Days Before Obama’s Visit, Cuba’s Allies Try to Block Dissident
From Speaking at UN Human Rights Council –

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