Log Cabin Chronicles

Peter Scowen

Trade with Cuba?


NEVER been to Cuba. Hear it's nice.

Doesn't matter that I haven't been, though, 'cause I've never been to China, Indonesia, North Korea, Burma, Nigeria or any other poet-hanging, baby-killing dictatorship, either. All I know is that the US trades with China, Indonesia, North Korea, Burma and Nigeria but not with Cuba.

Why is that?

It can't be because of human-rights abuses, since Cuba is not known to commit more heinous crimes against its people than any of the torture states the US trades with.

From Amnesty International's 1997 report on human-rights abuses in the Americas (available at www.amnesty.org):

Argentina "Investigations into past disappearances made little progress, despite new evidence pointing to military responsibility for the torture and execution of thousands of disappeared during the last military government. Dozens of possible extrajudicial executions by police were reported during the year."

The US is not enforcing an economic embargo of Argentina, and has regular trade ties with that country.

Brazil "Hundreds of people were killed by police and police-backed death squads in circumstances suggesting extrajudicial executions. Torture was reported to be widespread in police stations, and detention and jail conditions remained harsh. Land-reform activists continued to be arrested under the charge of 'forming a criminal band.'"

The US is not enforcing an economic embargo of Brazil, and has regular trade ties with that country.

Colombia "More than 1,000 civilians, including human-rights defenders, were extrajudicially executed by the security forces and their paramilitary allies, and more than 120 civilians disappeared. Death-squad-style killings of people regarded as 'disposable' continued in urban areas. Armed opposition groups were responsible for numerous human-rights abuses, including scores of arbitrary killings and the taking of hostages."

The US is not enforcing an economic embargo of Columbia, and has regular trade ties with that country.

Cuba "Scores of dissidents, including human-rights defenders, were arbitrarily detained for short periods or subjected to persistent harassment. Several were tried and imprisoned as prisoners of conscience or confined to specific areas of the country, and at least nine people were forced into exile. Some 600 other prisoners of conscience and several hundred political prisoners remained in prison."

The U.S. is enforcing an economic embargo of Cuba, and wants all its allies to break off regular trade ties with that country.

Guatemala "Security forces and government-backed groups were allegedly responsible for more than 100 extrajudicial executions, and scores of cases of torture, ill-treatment and arbitrary detention. Little progress was made in clarifying the extrajudicial execution of tens of thousands of Guatemalans in the previous two decades, or in bringing human-rights violators to justice. The death penalty was applied in the country for the first time in 13 years."

The US is not enforcing an economic embargo of Guatemala, and has regular trade ties with that country.

Mexico "A large number of civil-rights activists, including human-rights defenders and journalists, suffered death threats, assaults and other serious human-rights violations such as abductions and torture. Torture was widespread, scores of people were extrajudicially executed, and dozens disappeared following their arrest by the security forces. At least one person was arbitrarily killed after detention by an armed opposition group."

The US is not enforcing an economic embargo of Mexico, and has regular trade ties with that country.

Peru "Thousands of prisoners accused of terrorism-related offences experienced delays in being brought to trial or were serving sentences under procedures that fell short of international fair-trial standards. Abuses by the armed opposition continued."

The US is not enforcing an economic embargo of Peru, and has regular trade ties with that country.

USA "The death penalty continued to be used extensively, where a total of 45 people were executed and more than 3,150 were under death sentence. There were reports of deaths in custody, killings and wounding by the police in disputed circumstances, and torture and ill-treatment of prisoners. The use of chain gangs was introduced for women for the first time."

The US is not enforcing... oh, never mind.

So it can't be the human-rights abuses that upsets the US. Cuba's communist dictator must be the real problem. For the United States of America, it doesn't matter how many people a dictator imprisons or executes; it's whether or not he makes a profit for the right people while doing it.

Peter Scowen is editor of Montreal's Hour Magazine. His columns are republished with permission.

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