Friday, October 21, 2016

Tom Malinowski Speaks with the Independent Cuban Press

Tom Malinowski Speaks with the Independent Cuban Press / 14ymedio,
Miriam Celaya

14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 15 October 2016 — The second round of
talks on Human Rights took place this past Friday between the
governments of Cuba and the United States, as part of the ongoing
dialogue initiated when relations were restored.

In line with the importance of the issue and in relation with the
relevance that the US government has granted him, this Saturday, Thomas
Malinowski — Deputy Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and
Labor- who co-chaired the US delegation, together with Mrs. Mari Carmen
Aponte, Acting Assistant Secretary for Affairs of the Western Hemisphere
— met with independent journalists Ignacio González and Miriam Celaya,
to discuss topics that were debated on that occasion.

Unlike the previous meeting held in Washington on March 31, 2015, this
time both sides delved deeply into human rights issues, on which they
hold opposing positions.

"I don't expect to be able to persuade the Cuban government about how we
consider human rights should be applied in Cuba, but we consider human
rights as an important and permanent item on our agenda," said
Malinowski. While acknowledging the opposing stances of the two
governments, he considers that these meetings are of great value
because, on the one hand, they reflect the common agreement of both
governments on addressing that the issue of human rights in the
rapprochement process is legitimate; and on the other hand, it has been
established that the basis for these freedoms is upheld in international
standards that establish the universal character of human rights,
recognized and signed by our two countries.

"The result is positive. At least the Cuban government is not refusing
to discuss human rights, and does not deny that they are also applicable
to Cuba, though the legal interpretation of the principles is defined
differently in our countries".

Both sides discussed related laws and international treaties that
confirm the universality and protection of fundamental rights, such as
freedom of association, freedom to join unions, and electoral systems,
among others. About the last item, the US side fully explained the
characteristics of its electoral system and inquired about the Cuban
system, particularly the obstacles faced by opponents and critics of the
Cuban government to aspire to political office.

"For our part, we recognize that our system is not perfect. But in the
US human rights violations are made public, and there are ways and
mechanisms to force politicians to fulfill their commitments and

Cuban laws, however, are designed so that the Power can manipulate them
according to its interests, with no civic or legal mechanisms to force
the government to observe the principles enshrined in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, signed in 1948.

Malinowski asserted that the US government is committed to the debate on
human rights at every meeting with the Cuban authorities, but he insists
that it is not their place to interfere in Cuban politics, which is a
matter for the government and the people of Cuba. He believes that
dialogue is proceeding on the basis of mutual respect, despite
differences in respective viewpoints on the subject. However, he
believes that frank conversations about the realities of our nations
create a more positive and beneficial climate for all than does the
policy of confrontation that maintained a breach between the two countries.

There are pockets of the dissidence that remain critical or skeptical of
the White House's new policy of a thaw towards the Palace of the
Revolution. Some people assume that it only favors the Castro regime,
and complain that the demands of opponents are not represented on the

In that vein, Malinowski said: "We have maintained contact with all of
Cuban civil society. Not only with opponents, independent journalists
and other sectors of civil society, but also with representatives of the
emerging private sector and even the sectors that are in tune with the
Cuban government. We want to hear all opinions, aspirations and
proposals to form a more complete picture of the aspirations of the
Cuban people. We share and defend the defense of human rights and our
government will continue with this policy".

According to Malinowski, a climate of detente favors the desires to
strengthen the ties between our peoples, and to promote a mutual
approach after half a century of estrangement and hostility. In fact, in
the last two years, exchanges between the US and Cuba have increased and
diversified, as evidenced –for example — by the participation of young
Cubans in scholarship programs in US universities

When asked how the US government viewed Cuban authorities' insistence on
spreading through its media monopoly a distorted interpretation of the
topics discussed at the bilateral meetings, Malinowski stated that this
encounter with the independent press was exactly a way to get a more
complete view to Cubans about information on the issues discussed
between the two delegations.

At the end of the meeting, the Deputy Secretary of State for Democracy,
Human Rights and Labor recognized the importance of the views and
suggestions received by the US delegation from many sectors of Cuban
society. "Without their remarks and views, without their participation,
our agenda for these meetings on human rights with the Cuban government
would not be possible. We appreciate the contributions of all Cubans. We
are open to continuing to listen to all proposals, whether they come
from those who support the dialogue process or from its detractors".

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: Tom Malinowski Speaks with the Independent Cuban Press /
14ymedio, Miriam Celaya – Translating Cuba -

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