Published by La Alborada on 31 March 2015
The US and Cuba have recently met to exchange concerns about the observance of human rights in the respective countries. Following are some differences between the two countries that may be mentioned. Because the concepts of civil and human rights are often confused, we include also some of the former.
Cuba has a one-party system that is focused on building socialism. In the last few years, however, it has fostered a new private sector of agricultural and non-agricultural cooperatives and individual businesses. The US, on the other hand, has a two-party system (with a few other micro-parties that do not make a difference at any higher level of government) that is focused on maintaining capitalism.
Cuba's legislative assembly generally follows the lead of the Communist Party, as is in fact provided in the Constitution. The legislature of the US generally follows the lead of banks and corporations and of the industrial-military-security complex, which is not in the Constitution. Cuba's elections to the assembly are low-cost, while elections in the US are highly dependent on financial contributions, as are legislative initiatives.
Cuba's elections are not likely to favor pro-capitalist, pro-war candidates. Elections in the US are not likely to favor socialist, pro-peace candidates.
Most Cuban media are owned by state entities. US mass media are owned by a handful of conglomerates led by corporate boards of directors.
Even the annual reports of the US on human rights note that there are no credible instances of torture in Cuba. Plenty of torture has been applied in one part of Cuba, however: the US base at Guantanamo base. In fact, the US has defended at the highest levels the use of torture as standard procedure. No trials have been brought for the violation of the International Convention Against Torture, except for a few low-ranking troops who were made scapegoats to protect high officials who directed and approved torture.
Cuba does not maintain military bases abroad, and it does not invade and destroy other nations. It does not cause deaths, maiming, or wounds abroad, and it does not leave behind cluster bombs or depleted uranium. It does not destroy water and sewage systems, schools, and other civilian institutions. Instead, it sends medical personnel, teachers, engineers, and other professionals. The US, however, has been continually at war against other countries since early in this century. The number of deaths alone has been calculated to be as at least in the hundreds of thousands, maybe two million. Displaced people have been counted in the millions, both internally and externally. The repercussions of these still-current wars are incarnated in the extremist Islamic State.
Columbus and his pirates practically erased the indigenous people of Cuba in short order. The US took a lot longer to come close to total genocide from the east to the west coasts. Now, survivors make up a minimal percentage of the US population, restricted to reservations where life is often miserable. The genocide has slowed, but it is still ongoing.
Cuba's police are sometimes said to, for example, stop and question black Cubans disproportionately, especially in tourist zones. The police, however, do not kill citizens with impunity. In the US, on the other hand, death by shooting or even strangling when there is no credible threat to officers is common. That is especially the case with black men.
In Cuba, the police detain certain demonstrators, especially those who are financed from the US as a means of subverting the state. Usually, they are released after a short time. In the US, certain demonstrators are detained, like those who challenge the periodic World Bank-IMF meetings in Washington, and the detainees are usually released after the demonstrations are over; or they may be retained in the case of broader movements such as Occupy Wall Street, against which pepper spray and batons were used regularly.
Right to privacy
There is no comparison between the actions of Cuba's security agents and the massive surveillance and spying applied by the US both domestically and abroad.
Education and health
Cuba provides free education through university level. US public schools provide free education through high-school level. Cuba provides free health care for all; the US provides some but not complete care, for most but not all people. Cuba sees these two fields as human rights; the US considers them as determined by the markets.
There are other areas to discuss, of course, and one very principal difference: Cuba has been under embargo and blockade for 54 years, by the US. It has never been the other way around.
For more than half a century, the US has sought to make life miserable in Cuba – on the grounds that it is defending the human rights of Cubans.