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During the last leg of her visit to Cuba , Argentinean President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said: “ We hope some barriers will definitely be torn down, and that all of you may have the economic, knowledge and political potential for development ”. Did Cristina gather the courage to publicly criticize the Cuban dictatorship while in Havana ? Quite the opposite. Cristina was not talking about the lack of fundamental liberties in Cuba ; while parroting verbatim the Cuban dictatorship's propaganda-packed discourse, the Argentinean President was blaming the American embargo for the development problems the Castro brothers' island is suffering.
Consequently, while in Cuba Cristina did none of the things one would expect from a head of state committed to the international advancement of human rights: demanding liberty for political prisoners and meeting with peaceful opponents of the regime. If the President and her aides think these commitments are not to be applied when facing a dictatorship, then they should not have traveled to Cuba .
Indeed, after 50 years Argentinean government officials, as well as a sizable portion of public opinion, must still be reminded of the fact that Cuba 's classification as a dictatorship stems from its own legal framework. Specifically, this means its Constitution, penal code, special laws such as law 88 –known as the “gag law”- and the sentences of popular tribunals. In this way, in the island ruled by the military-backed Castro brothers, peaceful opposition figures are imprisoned with sentences that go as far as twenty years of jail time, accused of crimes that in the rest of Latin America and any democracy are considered basic rights.
It is thus that the Cuban dictatorship justifies imprisonment for possession of “enemy propaganda”, in the cases of people discovered to own copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Only five years ago, it executed three people for an “illegal attempt to exit the country”, applying the death penalty by firing squad after a show trial –meaning without due process. The regime also uses a criminal invention called “pre-criminal dangerousness” in order to intimidate its opponents. It is clear that no progressive can defend a repressive regime such as Cuba 's, which has been denounced by prestigious organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, which are not exactly right-wing outfits.
As for the situation of physician Hilda Molina, whose case generates enormous sensitivity in public opinion, Cristina ended up kowtowing to the demands of Cuban diplomacy, which of course never gives in on anything in exchange for its inflexibility. In this way it will keep delaying its reply, until the government changes in Argentina and the new authorities in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, if they choose to follow-up on the case, will have to start from scratch. This is an irrefutable advantage in foreign relations on the part of a regime that has managed to stay illegitimately in power for half a century, and that demands respect from and equal treatment as democratic governments.
What is certain is that the outcome of Cristina's trip to Cuba in the human rights arena is completely negative, while at the same time it clears all types of doubts on her convictions on an issue Kirchnerism hoisted as a banner.
This behavior on the part of the President towards Cuba is contradictory to her Foreign Minister's –Jorge Taiana-, who has previously distinguished foreign personalities who denounced the Argentinean military dictatorship, as well as diplomats who met in those years of lead with victims of political persecution and human rights activists. Is there any doubt left that these people meddled –fortunately- in the internal affairs of Argentina during the military dictatorship? For that same reason, what will American President James Carter's former Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Pat Derian, think of Cristina? The former American official, who so bravely denounced the Argentinean military dictatorship, had already suggested to Néstor Kirchner and his wife that should they travel to Cuba, they would have to act like a defender of human rights would .
Another contradictory aspect of strengthening Argentina 's political relations with the Cuban government is Fidel Castro's well-known complicity with the Argentinean military dictatorship . Indeed, Cuba blocked condemnations of human rights violations in our country at the UN in Geneva . However, this “unusual alliance”, well documented by Kezia McKeague , is deliberately excluded from memory by part of the government, human rights organizations and by many media, as if it were not true.
Yet another contradiction of the Argentinean President's was the different attitude she had in Cuba when compared to the only precedent worthy of praise in matters of foreign policy and human rights. In that regard, it is worth remembering that in February 2008, when she received the dictator of Equatorial Guinea in the Casa Rosada (Pink House), she told Teodoro Obiang that his country “ has immense hydrocarbon resources in a world where petroleum and gas are indispensable. However, I cannot refrain from expressing, Mister President, our deep concern about the human rights situation in your country ”.
Why didn't Cristina make a similar call in front of Raúl Castro, in Cuba ? For many, the answer is the most obvious: Kirchnerism has exploited the issue of human rights politically, and lacks the most minimal concern for the subject. Cristina's trip to Cuba leaves no doubt about it, especially when, to top it off, she was received by the elderly dictator Fidel Castro, and had the delicateness of considering that event “a distinction for the entire Argentinean people”.