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UN Hypocrisy on Women Reaches New Level with Cuba Stance

By: John Suarez - Oct 13, 2015, 4:22 pm
Sirley Ávila León of Cuba: reform-minded official turned mutilated opposition activist. (John Suarez)
Sirley Ávila León of Cuba: a reform-minded official turned mutilated opposition activist. (John Suarez)

EspañolThe Castro regime has a record that stretches back decades of threatening, brutalizing, and murdering women who speak their minds and demand that human rights be respected in Cuba.

Back on September 17, 2013, the PanAm Post published my op-ed that explained how the Castro brothers got a pass for terrorizing and killing women. Unfortunately, the situation has gotten worse. The December 17, 2014, announcement of normalized relations between Cuba and the United States has been accompanied by new accounts of regime violence against women that have escalated in severity. Meanwhile, the international community have been complicit in their silence.

Consider Sirley Ávila León, an ex-delegate of the People’s Assembly of Majibacoa. She joined the democratic opposition after she was driven out of her position for trying to keep a school open in her community. Official channels ignored her, and when she went to the international media she was removed from office.

Following escalating acts of repression by state security, the mother of two, aged 56, was gravely wounded in a machete attack on May 24, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. The enforcer was Osmany Carrión, who had been “sent by state-security thugs,” Ávila León explains, for an act of aggression that “was politically motivated.”

Ávila León suffered deep cuts to her neck and knees, lost her left hand, and could still lose her right arm. Although Carrión was the principal assailant in the coordinated attack, his wife forced Ávila León’s hand into the mud to compound the injury with infection.

Sent home from hospital, Ávila León remained in this critical state without the proper medication. Five months have passed, and she still needs medical attention, completely incapacitated, demanding justice, and denouncing irregularities in the judicial process against her assailant. On September 2, 2015, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concurred that she was in a “serious and urgent situation, since her life and physical integrity are at risk.”

In a democratic country, Sirley would be a political leader in government representing her constituents, but in Cuba she is a target of brutal repression. Let’s just say she has yet to find support from UN Women, the agency of the United Nations that claims it is “for gender equality and women’s empowerment.” They are even promoting Raul Castro on their twitter stream.

This ignores that the government in Cuba is a totalitarian dictatorship in which the rule of law is non-existent. Since 1959, the ultimate authority has resided in two brothers: Fidel and Raúl Castro. Women in Cuban government structures have no real power other than to rubber stamp the decisions of the Castro brothers or face the consequences. UN Women should be helping women like Sirley Ávila León not legitimizing their oppressors.
John Suarez John Suarez

John Suarez is a human rights activist who has spoken before the United Nations Human Rights Council on several occasions. He is a specialist on the human rights situation in Cuba. John hosts the blog Notes From the Cuban Exile Quarter. Follow him on Twitter @johnjsuarez.