(Adds comment from spokesman for U.N. secretary-general Antonio Guterres)
(CNSNews.com) – Cuban diplomats at the United Nations shouted down speakers and disrupted a U.S.-hosted event Tuesday highlighting the plight of Cuban political prisoners, prompting an American ambassador to say if the communist regime’s diplomats behave that way, one can only wonder how its police behave.
“I have never in my life seen diplomats behave the way that the Cuban delegation did today,” Ambassador Kelley Currie told reporters outside. “It was really shocking and disturbing.”
“And it makes you wonder, that if the diplomats of this government behave this way, how do the police behave? You can understand very well why people feel afraid to speak their minds, why people are thrown in jail for speaking their minds, with this kind of government, this kind of thuggish behavior.”
The Cuban delegation, she said, “should be ashamed of themselves for the way that they behaved today.”
Cuba complained that U.N. facilities – the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) chamber and U.N. webcast system – were being used by one member-state to “attack” another.
Asked why the U.S. mission to the U.N. had decided to hold a side event focusing specifically and solely on Cuba, Currie pointed out that Israel is frequently targeted at the United Nations.
“You will note that every day, probably, in the United Nations, there’s an event bashing Israel,” she said. “I mean, hardly a day goes by without some formal U.N.-convened event bashing Israel, let alone side events that do this.”
“So the idea that one country should not be selectively discussed for its human rights problems is patently absurd.”
Currie, who is the U.S. representative to ECOSOC, was hosting the meeting, launching a U.S. campaign entitled “Jailed for What?” focusing on the estimated 130 political prisoners held by the Cuban government.
Panelists included a former Cuban political prisoner, the sister of a current political prisoner, and Organization of American States secretary-general Luis Almagro.
Currie said “what appears to be most of the Cuban diplomatic mission” were already in the chamber when she arrived to convene the scheduled event, and would not allow U.N. security to carry out a required security check beforehand
Currie said she asked Cuban Ambassador Anayansi Rodriguez Camejo “politely” to allow security to sweep the room, assuring her the delegation would be allowed to return afterwards and resume their seats.
“She refused and would not be moved. Security asked them to move. They would not leave. The alternatives were to physically remove diplomats from the room – which was not going to happen – or to proceed with our event.”
So it proceeded but the minute it began, Currie said, “the delegation began disrupting it, screaming, beating on the table, and in general trying to shout out – shout over the people who were speaking on the panel.”
‘Cuba is proud of its human rights record’
Rodriguez also spoke to reporters outside, saying the U.S.-organized event “constitutes an affront to the sovereignty of the Cuban people and disrespect of their right to self-determination.”
She called it an “attack” not just on her country but also “on the principles of multilateralism and the foundational basis of this organization, of the United Nations.”
“They will never bring us to our knees. We have been there for 60 years, and we will be there for forever,” she said. “The Cuban revolution will be there forever.”
Rodriguez described the disruption as an exercise of “revolutionary diplomacy,” and said that “the legacy of our historical leader Fidel Castro Ruz is here to defend the dignity and sovereignty of the heroic Cuban people.”
“Cuba is proud of its human rights record,” she said, adding that the U.S. lacked the moral authority to give lessons.
She accused the U.S. of violations including torture, the occupation of Cuban territory at Guantanamo Bay, and pointed out the fact it has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (it was signed by President Clinton in 1995, but not ratified by the U.S. Senate)
Rodriguez also complained that the U.N. secretariat had had the opportunity to avoid the occurrence, after her delegation had sent a letter of protest to U.N. secretary-general Antonio Guterres, asking him “to cancel this farce of the United States government within the United Nations premises.”
Guterres’ spokesman Stéphane Dujarric told CNSNews.com that the rules for holding public meetings at the U.N. were clear.
“They must be consistent with the purposes and principles of the United Nations and that it be non-commercial in nature,” he said. “The sponsoring permanent mission must certify that this is the case upon requesting to use a U.N. conference room. The permanent mission of the United States had done so with regard to the event scheduled for today.”
Dujarric said the mission sponsoring an event is fully responsible for its content and the conduct of the event.
“It is not the role of U.N. security to physically remove any delegate from a meeting unless they pose a physical threat.”
Currie told reporters the event was an open one and the U.S. mission had been happy to have those who disagree with the U.S. stance to attend.
“We thought that maybe the Cuban delegation could actually learn something about the situation and therefore maybe open the door to a dialogue with them about it. Unfortunately they were not interested in learning anything.”
See earlier story: