Episode 3, Series 1: Human rights issues in Cuba

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Welcome to Episode 3 of EarthRights podcast. Today, Pippa is interviewing Mel on her research into the human rights situation in Cuba but dealing with it from a non-traditional perspective. The traditional perspective being that Cuba has an appalling record of upholding many basic civil and political rights. As you’ll hear early on in the episode, Mel thought there was more to it than that.

Starting with the inspiration for the topic, Mel and Pippa talk about a conference they went to together in Prague 2017 during the week of ‘Festival Democracy’ called: Cuba Before The Dawn NOT A USEFUL ARTIST. At the conference many exiled and dissident artists spoke about their work and their loss of the freedom of expression – in Cuba it is very easy to be imprisoned for opposing the state.

Here is the online booklet:

It was clear the Cuban approach to civil and political was insufficient. And yet, in its modern history, Cuba has been seen to have a good record of upholding economic and social rights (universal health care, education, transport and food subsidies). So, as Mel demonstrates, Cuba has prioritised economic and social rights over civil and political rights. She explains a few of her own theories for this prioritisation.

However, since the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba has found it hard to guarantee economic and social rights and thus the achievements of the 1959 Revolution – universal health care, food, transport etc.

Cuba seems to be in a lose-lose situation.

Added to Cuba’s struggle is the U.S. embargo used to sanction it – the U.S. in its attempts to force Cuba to improve its record with respect to civil and political rights, has in fact contributed to the inability of Cuba to grant basic health care, food and sanitation needs to the population.

The U.S. approach causes the Cuban state to retaliate and further tighten its policy with respect to civil and political rights – e.g. imprisoning more dissidents.

The approaches of both nations operate in a vicious circle. But Mel, at the end, suggests that the U.S. approach is inappropriate for Cuba, and points to another podcast that she and Pippa have listened to by Scene on Radio, which discuss the convoluted journey of American Democracy. A particular episode we recommend is ‘American Empire’.

For a profound account of Cuba’s history:
For a refreshing perspective on Cuba’s economy post the collapse of the Soviet Union: