The April meeting in Geneva of the UN Human Rights Commission has become a ritualized battle between Cuba and a U.S. government that aggressively lobbies and cajoles member nations to denounce Cuba for alleged human rights violations. Last year, the commission rejected an amendment criticizing Cuba for the arrests of 75 so-called dissidents and instead approved a watered-down resolution by a 31-15 vote that called for a United Nations monitor to visit the island.

This year, in the weeks leading up to the annual meeting of the commission, Cuban officials have focused on two special concerns. For one, the Bush administration has persuaded Honduras to introduce the U.S.-sponsored anti-Cuban resolution to the commission. Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque chided the Honduran government for its “shameful role” in taking orders from Washington. Honduras resumed diplomatic ties with Cuba only in January 2001 after a break that began in 1962, when Cuba was expelled from the Organization of American States under U.S. pressure.

Pérez Roque said that his government “doesn’t blame the Honduran people, who have always received our affection and sympathy.” He noted that some 700 Honduran students are currently enrolled at Cuban universities.

A second source of Cuban outrage is Washington’s having placed on its delegation to the Geneva meeting a Miami Cuban émigré, Luis Zuñiga Rey, whom the Cuban ambassador to the UN describes as a terrorist. In a letter to the UN secretary general, the ambassador cites a 1999 report to the Human Rights Commission on mercenaries and terrorism that was written by Peruvian diplomat Bernales Ballesteros.

That report cites Zuñiga Rey as a member of the Miami-based Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF). His assignments for CANF come under the heading of “underground security. ”

The report charges that Zuñiga Rey recruited Percy Francisco Alvarado Godoy, a citizen of Guatemala, to identify locations in Cuba that were suitable targets for terrorist attacks, such as hotels, thermoelectric plants and oil refineries. Unfortunately for Zuñiga Rey, Alvarado Godoy turned out to be a Cuban state security agent, who subsequently exposed these plans.

In his letter to Kofi Annan, Cuban UN Ambassador Orlando Requeijo Gual accuses Zuñiga Rey of being involved in plans to attack Cuban hospitals and hotels. Zuñiga Rey left Cuba in for Miami in 1973 and joined CIA operations against Cuba involving sabotage and assassination attempts. In 1974, Zuñiga Rey was arrested on Cuban soil, and his stock of explosives and weapons was confiscated. Sentenced to a 25-year jail term, he was released in 1988 and returned to Florida where he joined up with CANF.

Raqueijo Gual accuses the U.S. government of being “disrespectful to the United Nations” for sending someone like Luis Zuñiga Rey as a delegate to the Human Rights Commission. He suggests that Washington is converting the 1999 report on mercenaries into an “object of mockery.”

More than one political pundit has observed that it is hypocritical for President George Bush, the self-proclaimed world leader in the “war against terrorism,” to send a terrorist to Geneva.

In a related development, the unjust imprisonment of five Cuban anti-terrorists in U.S. jails is being raised at the Human Rights Commission meetings in Geneva by relatives of the prisoners. Olga Salanueva and Ivette González Salanueva, wife and daughter of René González; Adriana Pérez, wife of Gerardo Hernández; and Magaly Llort, mother of Fernando González; are pressing the commission to address the injustice confronting the Cuban Five and their own plight as family members who have been denied visitation rights by the U.S. government.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org.click here for Spanish text

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