On March 31 in Washington, D.C., the U.S. and Cuba held the first meeting on the topic of human rights. Cuba proposed this sub-discussion of the ongoing talks aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations and opening embassies that was launched on Dec. 17 by presidents Raúl Castro and Barack Obama.
The Cuban News Agency reported: “The representatives of the island expressed their country´s concerns regarding human rights in the United States.
“We expressed our concerns regarding discrimination and racism patterns in U.S. society, the worsening of police brutality, torture acts and extrajudicial executions in the fight on terror and the legal limbo of prisoners at the U.S. prison camp in Guantánamo,‘ said the head of the Cuban delegation to the talks, Pedro Luis Pedroso. … The island´s delegation also put forth its concern about the limitation of labor rights and union liberties.” (April 1)
This principled position is in line with Cuba’s historical diplomacy from the earliest days of the Revolution. In 1960, U.S. government and New York hotel owner harassment of the Cuban delegation to the U.N. General Assembly sent them to Harlem’s Hotel Theresa. There, the Black community and leaders like Malcolm X warmly embraced the Cubans.
The Sept. 27, 1960, New York Times summarized Fidel Castro’s General Assembly speech. It ends this way: “In one word, we are in favor of all the noble aspirations of all peoples. That is our position. There we stand. We are on the side of the just.
“In consequence, the General Assembly of the Cuban people proclaims to America and proclaims it here to the world the right of the peasants to own their land, the right of the worker to the fruit of his labor, the right of children to education, the right of the sick to be given medical assistance and hospitalization, the right of youth to work, the right of students to receive free scientific and experimental training and education, the right of the Black and the Indian to full dignity of mankind, the right of women to full civil, social and political equality, the right of the old to a secure old age, the right of intellectual artists and scientists to fight with the fruit of their labors for a better world and the right of states to nationalize imperialist monopolies, thus rescuing the national resources and wealth: the right of countries to trade freely with all people of the world, the right of nations to their full sovereignty, and the right of people to turn their military fortresses into schools and to arm their workers, because in this, we, too, have to be arms conscious, to arm our workers to defend ourselves from imperialist attack and arm our workers, our peasants, our students, our intellectuals, the Blacks, the Indians, women, youth and the old and all the oppressed and exploited so that they themselves can defend their rights and their fate.
“Some wanted to know the line followed by the revolutionary government of Cuba. There, gentlemen, you have our line.”