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U.S. Disputes Re-Election of Cuba to Human Rights Commission - 2003-04-30


Havana and Washington are at odds over many of the policies of president Fidel Castro. As David Cohler reports, two recent issues have made matters even worse in the U.S. Cuban bilateral relationship.

When on Tuesday Cuba was re-elected to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer reacted sharply.

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN
"This is a setback for the cause of human rights. Cuba does not deserve a seat on the Human Rights Commission. Cuba deserves to be investigated by the Human Rights Commission."

The U.N. dispute followed Cuba’s arrest and sentencing to long jail terms of 75 dissidents. President Fidel Castro accused them of working with U.S. diplomats to undermine the Cuban revolution and government. Then, in an unusually harsh sentence apparently aimed at any Cubans still planning to escape the island by sea, the government sent three men who hijacked a ferryboat to execution by firing squad. Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Council of the Americas Monday that such actions demand a collective response.

COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE
"We look to our friends in the OAS to live up to the ideals we share and take a principled stand for freedom, democracy and human rights in Cuba. We look to them to join us in developing a common hemispheric approach to supporting Cubans dedicated to building a democratic and free Cuba. We can do no less, for our hemisphere will not be fully free until the Cuban people are free."

Other countries also criticized the Castro government. Sweden said Cuba's actions could harm its prospects for a better relationship with the European Union, while Canada and Italy sent letters of protest to President Castro.

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