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Reply on Behalf of Paquito D'Rivera

Dear Andrea:

Paquito wanted me to reply on his behalf and I agreed, so let’s get down to the point:

I think that you are going beyond “careful” with the term “human rights”, you say that if someone’s rights are restricted for being black or some ethnic origin, that’s wrong… but if your rights are restricted for being Cuban, that’s just “political”, I guess that makes it OK for your “careful” watch of the human rights.

A Cuban is not allowed into beaches, hotels and other public places that are reserved for foreign tourists; he is not allowed to be paid in international currency, he is not allowed to go into business of its own, he is not allowed to “go” at all. A Cuban can’t move freely within the country or out of even when having a visa. But this goes further, even when a Cuban has escaped “Castro’s socialist paradise” and now he becomes a citizen of some other country, he will never be regarded as a real foreigner, he can not buy property in Cuba or participate in business, he can not even travel to Cuba as that country’s citizen, he must first apply for a Cuban passport and ask for permission to visit his homeland. Did you know that in Cuba there’s the concept of permanent exit? When a Cuban leaves the country “permanently”, he looses all his properties to the government.

But, as you say, this is “political ideology”, mostly embraced by people that don’t realize how privileged they are for living in democratic countries. If South Africa had been 90 miles away from Cuba, the same stream of rafters that fled to the US, would had escaped even into the apartheid, yet, for the liberal world, Castro does not deserve the same scale of condemnation.

You mentioned countries having freedom to self-determination, see…you are probably thinking of Cuban people “self-determination” when you write this, but I interpret “Castro’s self-determination“ when I read it. I wonder, if you liberal people find that George W. Bush 2000 election is doubtful for all those issues around the voting ballots, what makes Castro so legitimate for you? In more than 40 years Cuba has not had a presidential election or plebiscite, why is he so respectful? 20 % of the population had fled the country, Cuba has the biggest jail system in the world and no other voice but the official one is heard, what make it so credible?

You mentioned the Rosemberg case, and reading between lines, I see you kind of condemn that. Even though I think that their irresponsible acts brought 30 years of Cold War and that they were found guilty by a jury of their peers, lets assume that it was morally wrong, lets accept that the “civilized world” don’t kill spies. In Cuba any one opposing Castro is regarded as an agent of the United Stated and thousands have been executed on these charges with no juries or appeals, would you condemn these too?

As I see it, the intensity of condemnation is related to the left or right tendency of the condemned. South Africa apartheid opponents were leftists and so, got the support of all the liberal world of the media. Chile’s Pinochet got and still gets a big time condemnation intensity, even though it built a good economy for his country and the only right he ever restricted was that of communist subversion. Castro is not getting a fraction of this intensity for far more body count, damage and TIME.


Dear Paquito,

I have been around for a series of Conferences. Sorry for not getting back to you.

O.K., I get your point now. Cuba should receive the same isolation treatment that South Africa experienced years ago.

Are you sure about the fact that the two situations can be compared at all? I think the word "human rights" is should be used very carefully.

1. The South African regime was based on a principle that is clearly against any possible definition of human rights. The regime was based on racial segregation: people with different racial characteristics did not share the same political rights, education, health care. Blacks did not have access to some "public" places, etc.

2. Cuba is a different form of regime. It is a political regime. It is based on a political ideology that some may embrace and others do not. There is a crucial difference between these two forms of regimes. Countries have the freedom of self-determination for what regards their political structure, wealth redistribution policies, and some (not all!) property rights. Nations have also the freedom to define the punishment for what is defined a crime. In the US, for instance, espionage has been punished with the electric chair. An example is the 1953 Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Case, both executed for espionage (see http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/rosenb/ROSENB.HTM).

South Africa went well beyond this principle by restricting liberties to human beings simply because of their skin. This is not, and cannot be, accepted by ANYcountry. A couple of years ago, Serbia used ethnic cleansing to achieve "political stability". The nazi Germany is liable of another form of racial hatred. The United Nation about the fact that this matter is not left to the discretion of the right of self-determination of an individual country.

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 660 U.N.T.S. 195, entered into force Jan. 4, 1969. is very clear about this.

Back in 1980, the General Assembly with res. 47/80, 47 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49) at 161, and then later in 1992 in the U.N. Doc. A/47/49, is very clear about this.

"Considering that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set out therein, without distinction of any kind, in particular as to race, colour or national origin. Considering that all human beings are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law against any discrimination and against any incitement to discrimination. [.....].  States Parties condemn racial segregation and apartheid and undertake to prevent, prohibit and eradicate all practices of this nature in territories under their jurisdiction."

The United Nation extended this principle also to discriminations based on religion and belief.

Don't you think that it is difficult to compare South Africa to the current Cuba? Don't you think that although we all agree that Cuba is a regime that it should be condemned, the total form of isolation that you envision is well beyond what can be considered reasonable and effective?

Take care and congratulation for the June cover story!

Andrea Buraschi

The University of Chicago Graduate School of Business 1101 E.58th Street 60637 Chicago, IL http://www.london.edu/faculty/aburaschi/