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Joaquín Monserrate, Head of the Political and Economic Portfolio at the United States Interests Section in Havana, between September 2009 and July 2012, was the winner of the Award to Committed Diplomacy for the period 2011-2012 after obtaining 220 votes and been nominated by 23 different groups in Cuba.
On his humanitarian work, providing recognition, support and protection to peaceful actors of the democratic Cuban movement, among those who nominated him for the award expressed the following:
- "A tireless worker who knew how to have competent partners various social, political criteria and religious and philosophical options"
- "A man with an extensive knowledge in international politics, his Puerto Rican origin helped him to establish rapid rapport with the Cubans. He conducted a tireless work to recognize the work of human rights defenders and other civic activists. The official propaganda tried to 'demonize' him on several occasions, showing his picture and name on television. However, that did not paralyzed him in the least. He and his wife developed an intense public relations covering not only the industry but also dissident academic, artistic and entrepreneurial".
- "He had a very outstanding performance in supporting various organizations of Cuban Civil Society. Under his initiative there was an increase in the activities to support the formation of independent journalists, writers, human rights leadership, and others"
- "He has been held a wide and receptive position, supporting projects to achieve democracy in our country. His affable nature and position allowed us to continue our hard struggle for freedom and Democracy "
- "He supported all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. In particular, prisoners of the Black Spring of 2003 and the movement for freedom 'Ladies in White'. Also to political parties, independent journalists, Blogger and other associations of the emerging civil society "
- "During his stay in Havana he was always partaker of each initiative. During his stay in Cuba he was another Cuban".
In this third edition of the award there were 25 foreign diplomats nominated who were in office in Cuba from the following countries: United States of America, Sweden, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Canada, Belgium and Norway. No diplomat from a Latin American country was nominated for this award by the 261 members of the Cuban civic movement that participated in this democratic exercise.
Joaquín Monserrate is now the Consul General in the United States Consulate General in Surabaya, Indonesia. Prior to his destination in Cuba he served in the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam (2007-09), at the State Department in Washington, in the Bureau of the Americas (2004-06), in India, at the Consulate General in Chennai (2002-04) and at the same Consulate where he is currently in Indonesia (2000-02).
Monserrate is a lawyer graduated from the University of Puerto Rico. He earned a Bachelor of Arts (History) at the University of Georgetown in Washington DC. He also studied at the University of London, England. He worked in the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico, where he was "law clerk" of the Chief Justice. He also served as a journalist for El Nuevo Día, the most important newspaper in the Caribbean, between 1988 and 1991.
"Rights are universal: I defend them in my country and the land where I am"
When he was notified about obtaining the Award to Committed Diplomacy in Cuba 2011-2012, Joaquin Monserrate, American diplomat, sent the following text:
"It's easy. Maintaining a commitment to the defense of fundamental human rights is no less complicated than in the work of a diplomat. Nothing to push, nor compromise, no middle to look, or parties to reconcile. Rights are universal. Enforceable by all and to all. Protect the democratic and communist, the committed and the indifferent, the weak and the powerful, the new man and the old-fashioned, the native and abroad. Rights transcend countries and nationalities. I defend them in my country, and the land where I am. Fundamental rights speak for themselves. Res ipsa loquitur, that's the issue.
It is easy also to put this commitment into practice when you have an entire country behind you. Americans differ with us on many things, but, before arriving in Cuba, I never met anyone who disputed the right of free association, free speech, or disagree with what we want, without the right depends on whether the opinion is wise or totally crazy. In Cuba, I not only had the support of a great team - Jimmy, Dale, Maureen, Daniel, Genevieve, Kat - but of all my colleagues at the U.S. Interests Section, my supervisors and my peers in Washington. President Obama shares and lives that commitment, and their support and instructions could not have been clearer. With a team like that, to promote the protection and respect of fundamental rights was, as we say in Puerto Rico, a "Take off" (ie easy).
Personally it was easy for me too because I was raised like that and I grew like that. I was taught from childhood not to cede an inch to the school bully, who stole the ball of basketball and I got her back. In the long run, you lose more giving up, my parents told me. By chance or by fate, I ended up as criminal defense before being diplomatic, and my job required me to ensure that in the exercise of justice, there were no abuses or assaults. Personally also, I felt a deep affinity with the Cubans I met during my three years there. The best thing about Cuba is its people, that is clear. Whether the people who dissented in public, as they did in private, and even those who would say: 'Boy, We Better talk about ball in those topics I do not interfere' - they all made our work and our time there much easier.
Needless to say, those who had it less easy, were not the foreigners whithout licensed and immunities. They were, and unfortunately still are, the Cubans. For Cubans who have to engage to try to be heard, to meet and to review it for them self that this issue is not easy. They risk everything, work, family relationships, freedom and, sometimes, even life itself. Good people dedicated to demand what they are entitled to no other immediate revenue that moral satisfaction of knowing that what they demand is universal and undeniable; and now it is unattainable, must sooner or later come to them. The fact that this recognition comes from them, fills me with pride and humility."