Advance Questions for Cuba in Its Universal Periodic Review by the U.N. Human Rights Council

As summarized in a previous post, Cuba’s human rights record is now undergoing its third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. That post also discussed Cuba’s national report, submissions by stakeholders (NGO’s and others), a summary of U.N. information about Cuba and information about a pre-session hearing. Now we look at the questions submitted to Cuba in advance of the Council’s hearing on May 16 and an unusual criticism of Cuba by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights along with additional background information about the Council and the UPR.

Advance Questions for Cuba[1]

 The following advance questions were submitted by other Council members:

Member Questions
Belgium 1. When does the Cuban government plan to ratify human rights conventions to which it is not yet party?

2. Does Cuba plan to extend an open invitation to the special procedures of the Human Rights Council?

3. Will Cuba respond favorably to requests for visits by the Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights Defenders and Freedom of Expression, which have been pending since 2015 and 2016?

4. Does Cuba now guarantee access to independent lawyers to all persons deprived of their liberty?

5. What concrete actions has Cuba taken to release persons deprived of their liberty for political reasons.?

Brazil 1.How does Cuba guarantee the rights of the LGBTI?

2.How does Cuba ensure the independence and impartiality of the judiciary?

Germany 1.Does Cuba plan to ratify the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights?

2.What will Cuba do to enable independent journalism?

3.Identify blogs and websites currently blocked and the reasons for same.

4.Will Cuba abolish travel restrictions for persons on parole or for those in certain professions, including the medical sector?

5.Will Cuba establish an independent national human rights institution?

Liechtenstein 1.Will Cuba ratify the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court in its 2010 version?

2.Will Cuba join the Code of Conduct for U.N. Security Council action against genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes?

Malta 1.What steps has Cuba taken to increase the effectiveness of control by the people of the activities of States bodies, elected representatives and civil servants.?
Portugal 1.How does Cuba coordinate the implementation of UPR recommendations that it accepts?

2.How does Cuba coordinate the implementation of recommendations/observations by U.N. human-rights Treaty bodies and Special Procedures and by regional mechanisms?

Slovenia 1.Provide more information on how non-governmental organizations operate in Cuba and details on any consultation process with them.
Spain 1. Is Cuba reforming its Law on Associations and the Electoral Law to promote a higher level of inclusion and social participation?

2. Which multilateral instruments on Human Rights does Cuba plan to sign and/or ratify?

Sweden 1.Provide more information on Cuba’s prevention of trafficking in persons.

2.Provide more information on Cuba’s effort to improve internet access.

3.Has Cuba denied exit visas for human rights defenders and ndependent civil society members?

4.How will Cuba secure free and unrestricted travel for all of its citizens?

Switzerland 1.What did Cuba do to guarantee free and open participation of all citizens in its last election?

2.How many Cuban citizens were candidates in the election “without being a member of an officially recognized Cuban institution [e.g. Communist Party]?

3.Is Cuba broadening the list of legal private businesses (cuentapropistas)? Is Cuba reviewing the definition of cuentapropistas to include self-declared human rights organizations, independent journalists and bloggers and community-based organizations?

4.Will Cuba amend its constitution to eliminate the subordination of the Supreme court to the National Assembly and to the Council of Ministers?

5.How is the Cuban Criminal Code’s concept of “pre-criminal social dangerousness” interpreted?

6.How do families have transparent and open information about a family member who is a temporarily detained as an alleged criminal?

United Kingdom 1.Will Cuba allow the development of independent political parties, including their legal registration and participation in future elections?

2.How does Cuba ensure that all Cubans are able to participate fully in political and electoral processes?

3.Will Cuba end laws and policies that apparently give primacy to the principle of national unity?

4.Will Cuba move towards international independent verification of the condition of its prisons and detention facilities?

5.Will Cuba bring its laws into compliance with international human rights standards on freedom of expression, association and assembly?

U.S.A. 1. Will Cuba ensure that members of the political opposition, including independent candidates, can participate freely and without threats?

2. When will Cuba allow members of Ladies in White and all other citizens to exercise their rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, religion and association?

3. How does Cuba ensure that those responsible for violations and abuses of human rights and labor rights (including members of the police, military and security services) are investigated and held responsible?

4. Will Cuba respect the rights of peaceful assembly and freedoms of assembly, expression and association of members of the Independent Union Association of Cuba and all other workers and representatives?

5. How is Cuba promoting access to information and access to an Internet that is open, interoperable, reliable,  secure and affordable to its citizens?

 

U.N. High Commissioner’s Criticism of Cuba[2]

At a May 11 press briefing, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights released statements of concerns about human rights in Cuba and four other countries. Here is what was said about Cuba:

“There are deeply worrying reports that officials in Cuba have prevented a number of human rights defenders and civil society representatives from boarding flights to travel to meetings abroad on the pretext of requiring more detailed identity checks. These measures have resulted in passengers missing their flights and therefore the meetings, which in some cases were organised by a UN entity.”

“So far this year, the UN Human Rights Office has received direct information relating to 14 cases of Cubans being told by officials that the computer system required extra screening. We are also aware of reports that dozens of other people may have been stopped in this way from travelling, allegedly with no explanation by the Cuban authorities as to why they were held up nor on whose orders”

“These cases suggest that these additional checks are being used deliberately as a form of intimidation, pressure and harassment against certain individuals. Civil society organizations have also told us that they were informed verbally by the authorities that their representatives would not be allowed to leave the island before June.”

“We have previously expressed our concern at the harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders in Cuba, including the arbitrary arrest and short-term detention of individuals, particularly before, during and just after demonstrations. “

“We call on the Cuban authorities to respect everyone’s right to freedom of expression and to freedom of movement, and to ensure that human rights defenders and civil society representatives are not unjustifiably prevented from travelling, including those planning to attend UN meetings, in particular the Universal Periodic Review of Cuba on 16 May in Geneva.”

“Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, ‘everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”’Article 19 of the Universal Declaration states that ‘everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’”

“The UN Secretary-General presents an annual report to the Human Rights Council on intimidation and reprisals, and in October 2016 the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Andrew Gilmour, was designated to lead the monitoring and response to reprisals for cooperation or intimidation, including that which aims to discourage or prevent future co-operation with the UN system. Cuba was among the countries named in the last two reports.”

“The UN Human Rights Office will continue to monitor such cases to ascertain whether they merit inclusion in the next report.”

U.N. Human Rights Council Membership[3]

The Council is made of 47 U.N. Member States, which are elected by the majority of members of the U.N. General Assembly through direct and secret ballot. The General Assembly takes into account the candidate States’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and commitments in this regard.

The Council’s Members serve for a period of three years and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms. The seats are allocated on the following geographical basis:

  • African States: 13 seats
  • Asia-Pacific States: 13 seats
  • Latin American and Caribbean States: 8 seats
  • Western European and other States: 7 seats
  • Eastern European States: 6 seats

The current members include Cuba and the United States, both of whose terms expire on December 31, 2019, while Venezuela is also a member with its term expiring on December 31, 2018.

Council’s UPR Working Group for Cuba’s UPR[4]

The UPRs are conducted by the Council’s 47 members acting as an UPR Working Group. In addition, any other U.N. Member State can take part in the review.

Each State’s review is assisted by a groups of three States, known as a “troika,” who serve as rapporteurs. The selection of the troikas for each State is done through a drawing of lots following elections for the Council membership in the General Assembly

For Cuba’s third UPR the Troika members are Egypt, Nepal and Peru.

The May 16 hearing will last three and a half hours, during which the state under review is given 70 minutes to present its report, as well as answer questions made by other states and present concluding remarks. The remaining 140 minutes are allocated to states participating in the review to ask questions, make comments and recommendations to the state under review.

The second stage of the process will be take place during the Council’s 39th period of sessions in September 2018, at which time the final report will be presented by the Troika.

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[1] U.N. Hum. Rts. Council, Advance Questions for Cuba (First Batch); U.N. Hum. Rts. Council, Advance Questions for Cuba (Second Batch); Hum. Rts. Council, Advance Questions for Cuba (Third Batch).

[2] U.N. High Comm. Hum. Rts., Press briefing note on Yemen, Cambodia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Montenegro (May 11, 2018); The UN denounces the blockade of the Cuban regime on the departure of human rights defenders, Diario de Cuba (May 11, 2018).

[3] U.N. Hum. Rts. Council, Background on Council Membership; U.N. Hum. Rts. Council, Current Council Members.

[4] U.N. Hum. Rts. Council, Basic facts about the UPR; U.N. Hum. Rts. Council, List of Troikas (20th Session).

 

 

 

 

 

The Opening of the Current Session of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean  

During the week of May 7 the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), one of five U.N. entitles promoting economic and social development in the world, is holding its 37th biennial session, this time in Havana, Cuba.

Three important opening speeches were delivered on May 8 by Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary Alicia Bárcena and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, a native of Portugal. Here are highlights of these speeches.[1]

Cuba President’s Welcoming Speech[2]

 “ECLAC, which for decades has been a benchmark for economic and social knowledge in Latin America and the Caribbean, at a regional and global level, has contributed decisively to placing equity at the center of development, has shown that the region continues to be the most unequal planet, and has studied certain structural causes of the problem, which will surely be addressed in this meeting.”

“It is necessary to transform the culture of inequality, associated with the colonial past of our nations and which particularly affects the indigenous populations, people of African descent, girls and women. It is also, in our opinion, a consequence of imperialism, neoliberalism, macroeconomic policies that for decades favored the transnationals and deepened the differences: of classes, by the color of the skin, territories and urban and rural population.”

“There will also have to be serious challenges that include the slow growth of productivity, the lack of diversification of the productive structure and poor technological modernization.”

“There is no other option but to advance regional integration and development with equity, which will lead us to reverse the pyramid where, in the main countries of the region, the richest 1% of the population appropriates a huge part of the population’s riches.”

“ECLAC correctly points out, ‘inequality has not only economic, but also political, social and cultural implications’”.

“The distribution of income and wealth is the central element in closing this gap and for this, States must have access to food, work, quality education, health, and the right to education. culture and better conditions of existence.”

“While it is true that we must address, as the central theme of this meeting, ‘the inefficiency of inequality,’ the real objective must be the ‘search for equal opportunities and social justice’ and, consequently, the reduction and elimination of the growing poverty, suffered by hundreds of millions of Latin Americans and the Caribbean.”

“The recent history of the region showed that adequate public policies led to successful results of social progress and economic growth that drew tens of millions of people out of hunger, illiteracy and lack of culture, as reported by ECLAC. It would be inadmissible and cruel to  attempt to impose a neoliberal wave like the one that made our peoples go back a decade.”

“It is necessary to fight to make the theme of the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 a reality, that is, that ‘nobody is left behind’”.

“With the Paris Agreement, a path leading to confronting climate change may have begun, affecting all of us in one way or another; but in the Caribbean States these threats multiply and impose enormous strains on their economies that require special and differentiated treatment, and, at the same time, greater support, solidarity and cooperation.”

“It is essential that, when addressing the issue of inequality, we also do so with access to knowledge.”

“Information and communication technologies favor development. To reduce the gap between ‘those who have’ and ‘those who do not have”, and between rich and poor countries, it will be essential to try to eliminate the difference between ‘those who know”‘ and ‘those who do not know,’ between knowledge and the ignorance.”

“We must bet on a use of these technologies that promotes social solidarity, creates values, contributes to peace and the economic, cultural and political sustainability of our nations.”

“In the same way, the growing monopolization of the media and the attempt to impose, through them, a single thought, consumerism, manipulation of the will of people and values ​​far removed from it, obliges us to reflect and constantly analyze. the realities and aspirations of our countries.”

“For our part, despite the difficulties facing the Cuban economy, particularly due to the intensification of the blockade imposed on Cuba for almost six decades, we will continue to focus on the development goals set in order to preserve, expand and deepen our achievements.” (Emphasis added.)

“We work on the preparation of a National Plan for Economic and Social Development until 2030, whose strategic axes are intertwined with the Sustainable Development Goals, as part of the process of updating the Economic and Social Model, begun in 2011, governed by the premise inviolable not to leave any homeless citizen. We will never apply the known shock therapies that only affect the most needy.”

“In a particular way, we reiterate in this forum the commitment of Cuba with solidarity cooperation towards other countries, based on mutual respect, selfless help and complementarity. Despite shortcomings and difficulties, we will maintain this will, following the principle of sharing what we have, not what we have left.”

“We have received the presidency pro tempore of ECLAC for the period 2018-2020, and of two of its subsidiary bodies: the Committee for South-South Cooperation and the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development.”

“We do so with a high commitment and awareness of the challenges we face, focused on continuing to promote cooperation among the countries of the region in the materialization of the new 2030 Agenda. We will put our efforts in supporting ECLAC’s vocation to promote the search for a fair, equitable and inclusive world that recognizes people as the central element of sustainable development. We will strive to promote unity within diversity. . . . [while] ratifying the thesis of José Martí: ‘the good of many is preferable to the opulence of a few.’”

 ECLAC’s Executive Secretary’s Speech[3]

 Cuba “is testing its own paths in the face of the brutal human costs that the imposition of an unjust blockade has imposed for more than 50 years. We evaluate it every year, as an Economic Commission, and we know that this blockade costs the Cuban people more than 130 billion dollars, at current prices, and that it has left an indelible mark on its economic structure. (Emphasis added.)

“As of 2010, ECLAC has positioned equality as a fundamental value of development and as an irreducible ethical principle and in synchrony with the growing relevance of the issue in citizen demands.”

“We have said that equality is at the center of development, because it provides policies with an ultimate foundation centered on a rights approach, with a humanistic vocation that reflects the most precious heritage of modernity. It is also a favorable condition to move towards a development model focused on closing structural gaps and technological convergence that allows us to advance to higher levels of productivity, with economic and environmental sustainability, thinking about future generations.”

“Today we take a step further and we bring you a proposal and a bet, with policy proposals that we have expressed in the document called: The inefficiency of inequality.”

“We affirm that inequality is not only unfair, but inefficient and unsustainable. We have brought empirical evidence to show this statement, why it is inefficient. Not only from the social point of view is unacceptable, but from the economic point of view is not viable for the future.”

“Why do we affirm this? Because it generates and sustains institutions that do not promote productivity or innovation, because it rewards or punishes class, ethnic or gender belonging, and because it generates a culture of privilege that reinforces these inequalities, which incorporates inequality into social relations as if it were something natural, as if it were something acceptable, and it reproduces it in time.”

“Discrimination closes opportunities and also represents the loss of learning and innovation paths favorable to productivity, especially in the discrimination of women. The glass roof that restricts the advancement of women in their careers is also a ceiling to productivity.”

“Today in our continent poverty has the face of a woman. One third of Latin American and Caribbean women do not manage to generate income and are economically dependent, and when they do, their salary is significantly lower than that of men with equal education and skills.”

“The costs of excluding institutions are many, let’s notice the great losses of potential productivity that result from the inequality of access to education and that occur in a generation and sometimes in our region are transmitted to other generations, intergenerationally, and this is especially serious in the context of the technological revolution, where the capacities . . . to absorb technical progress endogenously, are indispensable to compete and generate employment.”

“Our endemic structural heterogeneity is the factory of inequality, it has its roots in the culture of privilege, and it emerges, precisely, in that conjunction of structures with little diversification, low intensity of knowledge, and inefficient institutions. That is why we propose a path, to move from the culture of privileges to the culture of equality, to achieve these tasks that are undoubtedly associated with growth and productive diversification with innovation. But we must . . . expand our fiscal spaces to sustain financing capacity and also to protect those citizens who are going to be marginalized in the context of these profound transformations, especially in the world of work.”

“We bet on a new welfare regime, which is based on public finances that move from the current role of crisis management to one that is development-oriented, progressive and sufficient tax systems, increase in public investment, which is the most punished variable when there is a matter of fiscal consolidation, increase in public investment and social spending, to achieve just closing these structural gaps.”

“We need a macroeconomics for development, which seeks to preserve. Yes, real stability is very important . . . in those decades where it was so urgent to preserve and achieve real stability and financial stability through policies . . . that protect . . . public investment.”

“A determined struggle against corruption in the public and private sphere is required. It is sad . . . that 57% of Latin American citizens do not trust their institutions; we have to change this. That is why a mechanism is urgently needed, renewed institutions that allow greater control on the part of citizens: If paying taxes is a duty, monitoring public spending is a right. . . . [Because] no matter how hard the countries try to make a fiscal discipline, a national fiscal policy, it will be necessary to establish global fiscal rules to eradicate the transnationalization of the evasion, the tax illusion and ending the scheme of globalized fiscal privileges.”

“The increase in investment rates in Latin America remains a pending task. Notice that the levels of gross fixed-capital formation have been below the levels recorded in other regions, while Latin America has been around 20%, East Asia has reached very high levels, over 30%, reaching sometimes 40%. We can no longer ignore it, the growing gap between these two regions is closely linked to investment and innovation.”

“That is why today we want to reinforce our conviction and commitment to propose, to build together with the Member States, precisely, this road that we have to travel together, also making an accurate reading of what is happening in the present. Because it is true that we have better prospects for global growth, that there is better synchrony, more than 140 countries growing at the same time; but there are worrying contingencies and uncertainties.”

“We are also alert to trade confrontations between global economic factors, coupled with the return of more protectionist policies. We see with concern the deployment of a rapid technological revolution, which is difficult for us to keep pace and pace, while drawing potential threats to the future of work.”

“ECLAC in our region has projected for this year a growth of 2.2%. We are growing again after a couple of years of recession, and also the trade picks up slightly with better prices in raw materials; but what is a pending task . . . is regional integration.”

“We must continue to fight for greater regional integration, not only commercial but productive with integrated industries . . . in our region. This is more necessary than ever, because our region . . . is still the most unequal region in the world. All our singular richness in natural resources and human capacities still does not translate into a more dignified life for all its inhabitants.”

“In this past year more than 187 million people continue to live in poverty and, of these, 62 million in extreme poverty. [This is a] warning sign, because we are committed to eliminate poverty in all its forms by 2030. Then we have to accelerate the pace and propose a great environmental impulse that promotes industrial and technological policies that deploy the range of low-carbon productive activities such as renewable energy.”

“We propose greater integration of new, innovative, digital, technological industries that connect us, that link us, that link us through productive chains, human chains and that stimulate growth.”

“The region must overcome a development style that expresses environmental inefficiencies and is highly exposed to the growing impact of climate change. And the truth is that we do not have to look for the evidence very far, the recent catastrophic events show it clearly.”

The most affected part of our region, where all of us must strongly support each other is the Caribbean, and that is precisely why at ECLAC we have made the decision that in all ECLAC sessions there will always be a session of the First Caribbean. This is fundamental, because the historical magnitude of the hurricanes Irma and María underscore the urgency to act and act collectively.” (Emphasis added.)

“The economic costs of climate change in the region, calculated by ECLAC, to 2050 are between 1.5% and 5% of regional GDP. In some Caribbean nations, in the recent disaster, this calculation even reaches figures above 100% of GDP. This is what happens to us in the region and its impacts are not linear, they affect heterogeneously in different regions, periods and differently from social groups, especially the most marginalized.”

“Therefore, it is urgent that the civilizing agenda of the 2030 Agenda has equality in the center, with an identity and domicile in Latin America and the Caribbean, that from our history, from our rich diversity, from our shared hopes and challenges common we give it its own face, our institutions and we impose the urgencies that our reality demands.”

“The 2030 Agenda outlines a way to launch a new generation of policies and institutions, a new style of development and achieve a virtuous circle of growth, equality and sustainability. We owe it to the present and future generations.”

U.N. Secretary-General’s Speech[4]

“Decade after decade, ECLAC has been a progressive paradigm and authoritative voice of social justice in the world economy. The Commission has played a precursor role in integrating the economic, social and environmental dimensions of development. ECLAC has promoted, with perseverance and courage, a vision of development that considers equality as the driving force of growth. You at ECLAC have focused on a deeper meaning of equality, have looked beyond income, as a measure of well-being and as a decisive test of development cooperation, and have always maintained attention to equality of rights in its broadest sense, economic, social and political equality.”

“ECLAC has done everything on the basis of solid, rigorous research and delivery to share experiences that link national priorities with global deliberations.”

“Seventy years after its founding, ECLAC continues to be present where it has always been, in the first line of efforts to promote an equitable globalization, presenting empirically based policies, technical analysis and knowledge aimed at forging an economic, structural and progressive transformation .”

“This decision and this approach are now more necessary than ever before. We know the challenges facing our world. It is true that globalization has brought many benefits: more people have emerged from extreme poverty than ever before, the global middle class is greater than ever, more people have a longer and healthier life, but too many people are left behind. Women are still less likely to participate in the labor market and gender wage inequality remains a global concern.”

“Unemployment among young people reaches alarming levels, with a tragic impact on the well-being of young people, on the development possibilities of countries and even in some parts of the world with a negative impact on security.”

“Fundamental inequalities make it more difficult for people to enjoy better health, education and access to justice. These inequalities make it harder for people to earn a decent salary and live with dignity. For more than a generation, the richest 1% of the world’s income has grown twice as fast as the poorest 50%.”

“Like it or not, the increase in inequality has become the face of globalization and has generated discontent, intolerance and social instability, especially among our youth.”

“People wonder, rightly: What world is this in which a handful of men – because the richest in the world are men, in extreme wealth gender inequality also exists – accumulates the same amount of wealth as half poorest of humanity?”

“At the same time, the way we live and work is being transformed by the effect of technologies, from bioengineering to artificial intelligence and much more. But we must take advantage of the potential of the fourth industrial revolution and at the same time protect ourselves from the risks it poses. This is probably the most difficult challenge that we will have in the next two decades, making the fourth industrial revolution an origin of wellbeing and progress and not a risk that can have very negative consequences for the lives of our societies and our economies.”

“In an increasingly complex and multipolar world, we must redefine the concept of development, especially in transition regions and middle-income countries, such as those in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

“I congratulate ECLAC for partnering with the European Commission and the Development Center of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to allocate a fund of 10 million euros to countries in transition. We need a global economy that benefits everyone and creates opportunities for all. We need an equitable globalization.”

For this,  . . the 2030 Agenda is our fundamental contribution. The eradication of poverty is and remains our top priority. The 2030 Agenda is our road map, and its objectives and goals are the instruments to achieve that goal of eradicating extreme poverty.”

“The objectives of Sustainable Development make clear our ambition and our commitment: to empower women, achieve productive inclusion of young people, reduce climate risk, create decent jobs, demobilize clean investments in favor of inclusive growth and offer dignity and more opportunities for everyone on a healthy planet.”

We “must support the efforts made by the countries to mobilize their internal resources; but those efforts must be accompanied by a stronger commitment on the part of the international community to combat tax evasion, money laundering and illicit financial flows.”

“The audacity of the 2020-2030 Agenda calls for equally bold changes in the work and activities of the United Nations. Our efforts to reposition the United Nations Development System are based on creating a new generation of country teams that support countries, that reinforce national leadership and promote national ownership in favor of sustainable development.”

“We are committed to creating a system that responds to demand, aimed at achieving results at scale and rendering accounts for the provision of support to make the 2020-2030 Agenda a reality. The support of ECLAC is essential to help the countries of the region to implement the Agenda and sustainable development.”

“In September 2019, I will convene a climate summit in New York, where leaders from all fields will meet to fulfill the Paris Commitments, but also to elaborate more ambitious plans for sustainable development, because the Paris Commitments do not they are enough; plans that are based on investment in a resilient and low carbon development.”

Conclusion

As is typical for occasions like this, grandiose language is used to proclaim the objectives of the organization. Whether such language is justified, only time will tell.

It was surprising to this observer to hear Executive Secretary Bárcena say anything about the U.S. embargo (blockade) of Cuba. It was even more surprising to hear her say that “the blockade costs the Cuban people more than 130 billion dollars, at current prices,” which happens to be the same amount claimed by Cuba last November in the U.N. General Assembly debate over the annual resolution against this U.S. embargo.[5]

Although the Executive Secretary said, “We [at ECLAC] evaluate it [the impact of the embargo (blockade)] “every year,” she did not provide details about the calculations or methodology that produced the amount of the alleged damages or who or what ECLAC office did that analysis. Nor did she indicate whether or not Cuban officials were involved in that ECLAC effort.

Nevertheless, Cuban officials undoubtedly were pleased to hear her make this pronouncement even though it does not constitute conclusive proof of such an amount (or any other amount). Instead, it is an another allegation that has not been subjected to U.S. (or any other) analysis, cross-examination or contrary evidence.

As this blog has suggested, both Cuba and the U.S. should agree to submit all of their damage claims against each other, including the embargo claim, for resolution to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague in the Netherlands under its Arbitration Rules 2012 before a panel of three or five arbitrators.[6]

These points regarding the alleged damages from the embargo (blockade) are notwithstanding this blogger’s consistent opposition to the embargo and urging the U.S. to end the embargo as soon as possible. It does not advance any real U.S. interest and obviously imposes some negative impact on Cuba. Moreover, the alleged damages obviously constitute a contingent liability of the U.S., and any rational actor should seek ways to reduce such a contingent liability, the easiest of which is stopping the practice.[7]

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[1] Other aspects of the ECLAC meeting  are d discussed in ECLAC, News;  Borrero, Cuba shows that economic growth and equality are not incompatible, Granma (May 9, 2018).

[2] Diaz-Canel, Cuba reiterates its commitment to partnership for development, based on mutual respect, selfless help and complementarity, Granma (May 8, 2018).

[3]  Bárcena, The 2030 Agenda outlines a way to launch a new style of development, Granma (May 8, 2018). Ms. Bárcena holds degrees in biology and public administration from the National Autonomous University of Mexico and Harvard University and has held positions at U.N. headquarters before becoming ECLAC’s Executive Secretary. (Ten years of the first woman in charge of ECLAC, Granma (May 8, 2018).)

[4] Guterres, Let’s commit ourselves to continue creating, to keep working and to keep fighting for not leaving anyone behind, Granma (May 8, 2018).

[5] See Another U.S. General Assembly Resolution Condemns U.S. Embargo (Blockade) of Cuba, dwkcommentaries.com (Nov. 1, 2017).

[6] Resolution of U.S. and Cuba’s Damage Claims, dwkcommentaries.com (April 6, 2015); Resolving U.S. and Cuba Damage Claims, dwkcommentaries.com (Dec. 13, 2015).

[7] See posts listed in the “U.S. Embargo of Cuba” section of List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: CUBA.

 

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Unsatisfactory “Case for Reparations”

840The June 2014 issue of The Atlantic devotes 20 black-bordered pages to “The Case for Reparations” as the lead and cover article by Ta-Nehisi Coates, its national correspondent.

This is a serious subject by an author who has been obtaining some prominence or notoriety this year occasioned by his best-selling book, “Between the World and Me,” which was discussed in a previous post.

Moreover, on September 28, 2015, the MacArthur Foundation awarded one of its prestigious Fellows or “genius” grants to Coates and asserted that he “brings personal reflection and historical scholarship to bear on America’s most contested issues . . . without shallow polemic and in a measured style.” In “The Case for Reparations,” according to the Foundation, “Coates grapples with the rationalizations for slavery and their persistence in twentieth-century policies like Jim Crow and redlining . . . [and] compellingly argues for remuneration for the economic impact on African Americans denied the ability to accumulate wealth or social status for generations. [The article is] deeply felt and intensely researched.”

I, therefore, was expecting a serious discussion of this important issue.

Instead, I was profoundly disappointed in the analysis as well as the quality of the research and writing of this article and strongly disagree with MacArthur’s glowing commentary on the article.

Coates’ Discussion of Reparations

Coates mentions that certain scholars have discussed how reparations might be implemented. One, he says, suggested multiplying the number of African Americans in the population by the difference between white and black per capita income and then presumably paying that difference to each African American each year for a decade or two. Another, Coates reports, proposed a program of job training and public works for all poor people. (P. 69) But Coates does not endorse either one.

Instead Coates hides in generalizations. He says reparations means “the full acceptance of our collective biography and its consequences” and “a revolution of American consciousness, a reconciling of our self-image as the great democratizer with the facts of our history” (p.70).

On the last page of the article (p. 71) Coates becomes more specific by advocating congressional adoption of a bill for a federal study of the issue of reparations that has been offered by Representative John Conyers (Dem., MI) for the last 25 years. Without examining the details of the bill or the arguments advanced for the bill by Conyers, Coates states, “No one can know what would come out of such a [study and] debate. Perhaps no number can fully capture the multi-century plunder of back people in America. Perhaps the number is so large that it can’t be imagined, let alone calculated and dispensed. But I believe that wrestling with these questions matters as much as—if not more than—the specific answers that might be produced. An America that asks what it owes its most vulnerable citizens is improved and humane.”

This is not, as MacArthur suggests, a compelling argument “for remuneration for the economic impact on African Americans denied the ability to accumulate wealth or social status for generations.”

The Conyers’ Bill

An examination of the Conyers bill itself does not buttress the claimed genius of the Coates article. In the current session of Congress this bill is H.R.40: The Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act. A quick examination of the Library of Congress THOMAS website reveals that the bill (in sections 4, 5 and 7) would establish a commission of seven members (three to be appointed by the U.S. President, three by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and one by the president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate) to hold hearings and issue a report of its findings and recommendations.

The key to the bill is section 2(a), which would make the following factual findings that Coates takes most of 20 pages to elucidate:

“(1) approximately 4,000,000 Africans and their descendants were enslaved in the United States and colonies that became the United States from 1619 to 1865;

(2) the institution of slavery was constitutionally and statutorily sanctioned by the Government of the United States from 1789 through 1865;

(3) the slavery that flourished in the United States constituted an immoral and inhumane deprivation of Africans’ life, liberty, African citizenship rights, and cultural heritage, and denied them the fruits of their own labor; and

(4) sufficient inquiry has not been made into the effects of the institution of slavery on living African-Americans and society in the United States.”

Section 2(b) of the bill  then states the commission would examine and report on these factual predicates plus the “de facto discrimination against freed slaves and their descendants from the end of the Civil War to the present, including economic, political, and social discrimination.” With such factual determinations the commission would be charged to “recommend appropriate ways to educate the American public of the Commission’s findings” and “appropriate remedies.”

Representative Conyers’ website  contains a discussion of the bill that at least alludes to the following challenging sub-issues that would face such a commission and that are not examined by Coates: “whether an apology is owed, whether compensation is warranted and, if so, in what form and who should be eligible.”

Resolution for Rectification of Misdeeds Against African-Americans

More importantly, Coates’ article does not mention a resolution (H.Res.194) adopted in 2008 by the U.S. House of Representatives that has lengthy factual preambles about the evils of slavery and Jim Crow. [1] The House in H.Res.194 more importantly also:

  1. “acknowledges that slavery is incompatible with the basic founding principles recognized in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal;”
  2. “acknowledges the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow;”
  3. “apologizes to African Americans on behalf of the people of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them and  their ancestors who suffered under slavery and  Jim Crow; and”
  4. “expresses its commitment to rectify the lingering consequences of the misdeeds committed against African Americans under slavery and Jim Crow and to stop the occurrence of human rights violations in the future.”

Yes, this is only a resolution by only one chamber of the Congress, but it is closer to the result apparently being advocated by Coates than the Conyers’ bill.

U.S. Presidential Statements About Slavery

H.Res.194 in a preamble asserts that “on July 8, 2003, during a trip to Goree Island, Senegal, a former slave port, President George W. Bush acknowledged slavery’s continuing legacy in American life and the need to confront that legacy when he stated that slavery `was . . . one of the greatest crimes of history . . . The racial bigotry fed by slavery did not end with slavery or with segregation. And many of the issues that still trouble America have roots in the bitter experience of other times. But however long the journey, our destiny is set: liberty and justice for all.”[2]

In another preamble H.Res.194 asserts, “President Bill Clinton also acknowledged the deep-seated problems caused by the continuing legacy of racism against African-Americans that began with slavery when he initiated a national dialogue about race.”

Neither of these presidential statements is mentioned by Coates, both of which support his opinion favoring reparations.

Caribbean States’ Reparations Claims

Apparently at least 14 states in the Caribbean are preparing claims for reparations for slavery against their former colonial rulers: Great Britain, France, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands. Britain’s Prime Minister Cameron recently rejected that reparations idea.[3]

Again there is no mention of these claims by Coates even though they lend credence to his advocacy of similar reparations in the U.S.[4]

Litigation Over Contracts for Deed

Coates leads the article with a lengthy discussion of problems faced by blacks on the west side of Chicago in the 1960’s in financing purchases of homes and as a result being forced to do so on contracts for deed with unscrupulous sellers (pp. 56-59). Coates then enthusiastically endorses these black purchasers’ bringing a federal lawsuit against the sellers for reparations (or money damages). On the next page (p.60), however, Coates tells the reader, without any citation of source, that in 1976 the black plaintiffs lost a jury trial supposedly due to anti-black prejudice of the jury and even later in the article (p.67) he says that as a result of the lawsuit some of the plaintiffs were allowed to own their homes outright while others obtained regular mortgages.

Coates, however, fails to mention that according to a secondary source from the University of Illinois-Chicago, the west-side case went to trial in the Spring of 1976, and in November 1979, the jury decided that the sellers had taken advantage of the buyers for higher profits, but that the sellers were so ruthless they would have cheated anyone, not only blacks, and, therefore, the jury rejected the racial discrimination claim, and the plaintiffs’ lawyers decided not to appeal this decision.

That same secondary source reports that a related case from the south side of Chicago went to trial in 1972 before a federal district judge with a jury. At the close of the evidence, the court directed a verdict against the plaintiffs saying that they had not proved a prima facie case of discrimination. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded for a new trial. That new trial occurred in 1979, without a jury, before a district judge who decided in favor of the defendants, and the Seventh Circuit affirmed.

Clyde Ross was prominently mentioned at the start of the Coates’ article about the housing discrimination that led to the above litigation, and after the publishing of the Coates article, Ross said in an interview, “I don’t know why we would even discuss [reparations] . . .when that would never happen. It involves taking money, property, from other people, from the people with power and wealth. How could that ever come to be? In theory, yes it is a good idea, but it’s better to be practical. I support equality under the law. I just want to be able to pay off a mortgage knowing that I am getting the same deal as the white guy. That’s all I ask.”

Coates also did not uncover in his research the successful Minnesota lawsuit in the 1920’s by a black couple against white landlords who after accepting contract-for-deed payments for 25 years denied the couple possession of the Minneapolis house on the false assertion that their payments were only rent. The couple’s attorney, by the way, was Lena Olive Smith, the state’s first black female lawyer who became the leader of the city’s NAACP branch in the 1930s.

Conclusion

I am not a scholar of race relations in the U.S. or of reparations generally or in the U.S. specifically. The above discussion of facts that apparently were not discovered by Coates was based upon this blogger’s perfunctory Internet searching.

The Coates article also is difficult to read because of the lack of an introduction and conclusion and of any headings or subdivisions amidst the parade of often densely packed paragraphs that do not follow in a logical order.[5]

This blogger as a retired lawyer might be seen as engaging in an inappropriate  lawyerly criticism of the Coates’ article. But Coates presumably is advocating for others to embrace the conclusion that reparations are a necessary response to a major societal problem. As an advocate, he should write to be more persuasive.

This blogger as a white American is supportive of civil and human rights generally and is willing to consider a well-written and documented case for U.S. reparations for slavery and Jim Crow. Unfortunately the Coates article does not do that. It needs additional research and a major rewrite. (As always, I invite others’ comments of agreement or disagreement.)

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[1] U.S. House of Reps., 110th Cong., 2nd Sess.,  H.Res.194 (July 29, 2008)..As February 23, 2007, was the bicentennial of the British Parliament’s abolition of slave trading, the 110th U.S. Congress (2007-2009) had 150 bills and resolutions that mentioned the word “slavery,” but this blog has not “drilled down” to determine their details.

[2] President Bush Speaks at Goree Island in Sengal (July 8, 2003)

[3] E.g., Search for “slavery,” Guardian; Bilefsky, David Cameron Grapples with Issue of Slavery Reparations in Jamaica, N.Y. Times (Sept. 30, 2015); Assoc. Press, Cameron Provides Caribbean Aid, Rejects Slavery Reparations, N.Y. Times (Sept. 30, 2015); Room for Debate: Are Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Reparations Due?, N.Y. Times (Oct. 8, 2015).

[4] Coates does mention Massachusetts’ granting a 1783 petition for reparations by a black freewoman; 17th and 18th century Quakers’ granting reparations; the 1987 formation of a National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America; the 1993 NAACP’s endorsement of reparations; a lawsuit for reparations brought by Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree, Jr. (without mentioning its details or outcome); and Germany’s reparations to Israel for the Holocaust (pp. 61, 70-71).

[5] The online version of the article added headings I through X, but most of them are quotations from sources in the sections, requiring the reader to dive into the sections to discover their significance. Another post discusses Coates’ “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” The Atlantic (Oct. 2015), which also has chapter headings, most of which do not help the reader.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More about Coates:

 

Brooks: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/21/opinion/david-brookss-letter-to-ta-nehisi-coates-about-race.html

 

Ltrs re column: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/21/opinion/david-brookss-letter-to-ta-nehisi-coates-about-race.html

 

http://www.salon.com/2015/07/17/david_brooks_scolds_ta_nehisi_coates_i_think_you_distort_history/

 

http://crooksandliars.com/2015/07/dont-be-fooled-all-forelock-tugging-david

 

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/david-brooks-nyt-ta-nehisi-coates

 

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/cafe/ta-nehisi-coates-david-brooks-american-dream

 

http://jezebel.com/listening-to-ta-nehisi-coates-whilst-snuggled-deep-with-1718506352

 

http://www.alternet.org/media/david-brooks-relies-ignorant-white-privilege-attack-ta-nehisi-coates-new-book

 

http://townhall.com/columnists/marknuckols/2015/07/17/tanehisi-coates-cheers-deaths-of-911-rescuers-david-brooks-apologizes-for-being-white-n2026881

 

http://aaihs.org/ta-nehisi-coates-david-brooks-and-the-master-narrative-of-american-history/

 

http://www.citypaper.com/arts/books/bcp-072915-books-coates-gunnery-20150724-story.html

 

https://www.thewrap.com/new-york-times-columnist-david-brooks-blasted-for-white-privilege-letter-to-ta-nehisi-coates/

 

http://flavorwire.com/528823/the-american-dream-david-brooks-loves-so-much-is-rich-white-americas-greatest-tool-of-social-control