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Obama’s Trip to Cuba Reveals His Double Standard on Human Rights

By: Carlos Sabino - @Sabino2324 - Apr 5, 2016, 1:51 pm
Obama's trip to Cuba
The United States has gone from being an unrestricted advocate for freedom to a supporter of the Cuban dictatorship. (Plano Informativo)

EspañolPresident Barack Obama’s recent trip to Cuba has raised many concerns. Some see a door of opportunity for improvement on economic conditions for Cubans and a gradual opening to some liberalization of the dictatorship.

However, others point out that the President has given a boost to the Cuban leadership in power for the last six decades without obtaining any further concessions in return.

There may be some truth in each of these positions but it’s also easy to see how there are more negatives than positives about the visit. More than anything else, the advertised trip has helped to show the profound inconsistency of the US policy toward Latin America and its double standards over human rights.

In countries like Guatemala and some others in the region, the United States strives to achieve convictions of military officers who fought guerrilla subversion in past decades.

For example, they have favored General Efraín Ríos Montt’s genocide conviction for massacres committed between 1982 and 1983 as part of the bloody struggle that occurred in the Ixil area in the Quiche region.

Obviously these abuses existed not as part of an ethnic extermination, but within the context of a fighting between government forces and Marxist insurgents: the Guatemalan army sought to “annihilate” guerrillas, not indigenous people; the latter were also mercilessly trying to destroy military units.

The US support granted to the Guatemalan Attorney General and the judge who conducted these accusations was broad and obvious. They were rewarded in the United States, and the US Ambassador’s statements left no doubt.

Something similar happened with another trial that, though not concerning genocide charges, also involved military who fought guerrillas but did not participate in the massacres that occurred.

Obama’s visit to Cuba has served to show the profound inconsistency of US policy facing Latin America and the double standards over human rights.

Regarding Cuba, the US attitude toward human rights is completely different. Obama happily participated in various events along with the dictatorship’s high dignitaries.

And even though he met with some Cuban dissidents and called for the release of political prisoners, he indeed accepts the Castro brothers’ tyranny, in power for 57 years, proposes no transition and does not make any reference to political crimes committed by a regime that has killed those who committed the “outrageous crime” of simply wanting to leave the country.

Why this vexing difference? Why are some cases revived from the past to punish those who fought communism and, on the other hand, are the crimes of those who opposed the United States in the Cold War ignored?

[adrotate group=”8″]We understand this country — like any other — has interests, not friends, as is common when foreign policy is analyzed.

But what interests can the American power have in pursuing a distorted notion of justice while in Cuba and countries such as Saudi Arabia, human rights are neglected and serious violations of the rights of its inhabitants remain forgotten?

In such a short article we cannot analyze the problem and find definitive answers to these disturbing questions. But dissonance is notable and calls into question the supposed morality that guides US foreign policy.

If it is a matter of principle, there should be no exception and the US should treat everyone equally, whether or not they have oil, are large or small nations, or are governed by the left or right. But it is not so: in some cases, a moralist attitude besets against one of the warring factions, while in others cases “state policy” considerations prevail.

The unfortunate result of this double standard is that, gradually, the United States is losing its moral authority in Latin American and abandoning the role it played in the past, when the US was presented as a beacon illuminating the path of freedom and democracy.

Because justice is equal for all, or it is not justice.

Carlos Sabino Carlos Sabino

Sociologist, writer, and university professor, Sabino is director of the masters and doctoral programs in history at the University of Francisco Marroquín, Guatemala. Follow him @Sabino2324