This week, the U.S. State Department released its extensive 2008 country reports on human rights practices, a country-by-country evaluation of worker rights, free movement, privacy and other basic expectations of the State Department.
The report covers often-criticized China, whose authorities claim that the U.S. evaluations — including reports of state persecution of ethnic minorities and dissidents — willfully ignored and distorted basic facts.
Blogger Akhila Kolisetty at “Justice for All” disapproves of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent statement that “our pressing on those issues can’t interfere with the global economic crisis.”
I’m shocked that Clinton chose to prioritize economic issues over human rights — not that those issues aren’t important, but simply because she’s denying that human rights is important. By choosing to separate human rights from all these other issues, Clinton also fails to understand that all these problems are interrelated. How can you progress on climate change or security when human rights at home are being violated?
The State Department also cited instances of political imprisonment and media control, among other charges, in Cuba. Despite such charges, Marvin Kalb of GlobalPost wonders if Cuba is the site of a “golden opportunity” that President Obama may be missing in terms of engagement.
Raul Castro has launched a program of “reform,” but it appears to be successful only in generating demands for more reform. What had once been taken for granted in Cuba — unmistakable advances in education, health care and pensions — are now under a spreading cloud of doubt. I’m told the average state wage is $18 a month, clearly no longer adequate, if it ever was. And ration cards can provide no more than half the monthly food needs of a family.
Optimists exist, and they catch glimpses of a promising tomorrow. Oil, for instance: Cuba controls a corner of the Gulf of Mexico that has oil reserves estimated at 10 to 15 billion barrels, just waiting to be developed. Would it not be better for the U.S. to be moderately dependent on Cuba for its oil than on Saudi Arabia?
And, buried deep in the State Department, but ready for rapid excavation after the Bush years, are numerous policy briefs for a considerable expansion of Cuban-American relations, including joint operations against drugs and organized crime and a lifting of the embargo in all communications and travel. Cuba could quickly become a very attractive market.
For more, listen to our online radio show on Cuba and the U.S. In other human rights news, Serbia’s arrest of accused war criminals who operated under Slobodan Milosevic led to five convictions involving 22-year sentences.
Balkan blogger “Grey Falcon” finds the acquittal of ex-Serbian president Milan Milutinovic bigger news, more atypical that the story of the convictions. Falcon sees political motivations behind the acquittal:
The purpose of today’s verdict was threefold: to legitimize the NATO aggression from 1999 (i.e. NATO action was necessary and appropriate because the Serbs were engaging in a criminal conspiracy to murder and expel Albanians); to buttress the “Independent State of Kosovo,” proclaimed last February but so far recognized by only 55 governments; and to brand Serbia as the aggressor and criminal, rather than the victim of NATO’s aggression, occupation of Kosovo and the ethnic cleansing of its citizens that followed.
The UK has admitted complicity in the American practice of extraordinary rendition, which they had previously denied.
British blogger Stephen Linlithgow mocks Tony Blair’s previous denial of collusion:
To be fair to Tony Blair it now appears that collusion is indeed the wrong way to describe it. The Labour government appear to have actively handed over suspects to them to catch these flights. Far more than even Sir Menzies Campbell hinted at on that particular Wednesday when it was only assumed that our airspace or airfields were being used.
Venezeula is just one of several countries that responded negatively to the State Department report. “VIO News Blog” reports on the Venezuelan condemnation of the findings, which claim that the country has a partial judiciary and harasses the media:
Venezuela on Thursday condemned the report and categorically rejected what it says are false allegations and a clear example of political meddling in its internal affairs. Contrary to the impression given by the report, Venezuela’s opposition parties enjoy all the political freedoms that are found in other democratic countries and have in fact made significant gains in recent elections. Meanwhile, freedom of speech is fully respected, as is demonstrated by the fact that a majority of private media outlets remain ardent and vocal critics of the government.
The report offers no evaluation of U.S. human rights practices.