UNITED NATIONS: Agencies (28/2.2008) – Cuba‘s government signed two key international human rights treaties Thursday that Fidel Castro long opposed, but said it had reservations about some provisions and accused the United States of impeding the Cuban people’s enjoyment of their rights.
Fidel Castro was still president when Cuba announced Dec. 10 that it would sign the accords on civil, political and economic rights and at the time he asked government television to re-air his objections in case Cubans had forgotten his opposition.
The formal signing came four days after Fidel’s younger brother, Raul, permanently replaced him in the presidency after filling in during Fidel’s illness since mid-2006.
Correspondents say whether the signing by Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque marks a turning point for human rights on the communist island nation remains to be seen.
Asked at a news conference whether Fidel’s opposition to parts of the two covenants, including the right to form independent trade unions, had changed now that Raul is president, Perez Roque said no. He reiterated that Cuba would later specify some reservations about treaty provisions. Cuba has long been criticized by the United States and others for jailing dissidents, who the government generally characterizes as U.S. mercenaries.Elizardo Sanchez, head of the rights group, called Thursday’s action by Perez Roque "positive news because the signing of these pacts is an old demand from inside Cuba and from the international community."According to the Cuban statement submitted at the signing, the United States’ economic embargo and hostility to Cuba’s communist government "constitutes the most serious obstacle to the enjoyment by the Cuban people of the rights protected by the covenants."