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Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and All Forms of Discrimination

Speech delivered by Rodolfo Reyes, member of the Cuban delegation to the 57th. Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Geneva, March 2001.

Mr. Chairman, as we get closer to the celebration of the Third World Conference against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination and intolerance, the consideration of this agenda item acquires a higher relevance. The threats of xenophobic and racist forces are becoming stronger and more dangerous, too. It seems as if the lessons of history have been forgotten.

Indeed, we are all witnesses of the worrying reappearance and strengthening, in different parts of the world, of new and more sophisticated forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia. However, their growing dissemination faces an unquestionable reality: it is in the industrialized world where it is present in a more alarming, perfidious and subtle form. In Western and Eastern Europe, and in North America, the ultra-rightist and neo-fascist ideas are gaining ground and poisoning a growing part of the public opinion. Political parties with platforms promoting racial exclusion become more powerful and obtain quotas of power within the political scenery of some industrialized countries.  There are countries in which they even facilitate the financing of these political groups of racist nature with state budget resources.

Cuba urges all States to the immediate application of Rule 4 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, by proceeding to the unconditional prohibition of all racist groups and propaganda.

Manifestations of racism are generated and aggravated by different factors. The unequal wealth distribution within the countries and the growing abyss that separates the North from the South, the aggravated economic situation as a result of the liberalization of markets and the globalization of the economy under individualistic principles, constitute, without a doubt, the main factor.

In addition to the discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities, we find the discrimination and intolerance against migrants accused of being the evil affecting industrialized societies. They are victims of the verbal and physic violence handed over by ultra-rightist party members and xenophobic and extremist groups partisans. They are also victims of an institutionalized racism and more repressive police corps.

A special complexity challenge added to the objective of eradicating racism and racial discrimination is the internationalization of the highways of information. Worldwide networks, such as the internet, are used for spreading ideas based on racial superiority and hatred. This situation requires closer attention and concrete actions for a better and more responsible use of the network.

Mr. Chairman, The latest report presented by the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Maurice Ahanhanzo, gives information about these situations.

The most critical situation, which reflects a persistent case of flagrant and massive violations of human rights, is that of the United States of America. No other country reveals a more illustrative case of systematic institutionalization of racism including all aspects of the political, economic, social and cultural life.

The United States got its independence and promulgated a constitution in which slavery was preserved as an institution. Moreover, they even denied the formal recognition of African descendant population to their civil and political rights. This situation lasted until about three decades ago. The murder of the fighter for the civil rights, Mr. Shaka Sankofa, convicted and executed unfairly is an evidence of the racist manipulation of justice in the United States. Some other defenders of the human rights of the Afro-American population are still in prison, waiting for the moment of their official lynching.

For example, in the State of Pennsylvania, only 9% of its population is Afro-American, but 62% of the individuals convicted to death penalty are blacks. In the whole country, 60% of women imprisoned are Afro-American or Hispanics.

In the United States, the annual average income of a white family practically doubles that of Afro-American families. Black men have thirteen times more possibilities of being sentenced to longer condemnations than the white men do when they are involved in drug crimes, even though most of the drug dealers in the US are white men and, in relation to of drug addiction, white men surpass black men in a proportion of 1 to 5.

In addition, environmental racism is now added to what was already mentioned. Afro-Americans are confined to neighborhoods which are really ghettos where they accumulate toxic residuals and locate the most polluting industries.

Discrimination against Afro-Americans comes together with that exerted against indigenous peoples deprived of their patrimony and their rights, and submitted to a real genocide.

The Hispanic population in the United States has also become one of the sectors submitted to exclusion and segregation. They are violently persecuted along the borders and submitted to the worse forms of economic exploitation. They are even deprived of the right to be educated in their mother tongue.

The international community cannot remain impassive in presence of violations of human rights of this nature. The Commission, should do an urgent call upon the government of the United States of America to stop the massacre and to put an end to the State Racism prevailing in the country. On the other hand, the sordid situation that the Roma minority faces in some European countries [captured] the attention not only of the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination but also of the Special Rapporteur who has had the opportunity to corroborate the accusations of violations against that minority during his visits to some Eastern European countries, and in particular the Czech Republic.

In the Czech Republic, the Roma children are systematically registered in special schools for mentally disabled children. In spite of representing only 3% of the whole population of the country, the Roma children constitute 60% of the students in the special schools for mentally disabled persons. 70% to 80% of the Roma children are registered in such institutions. Violence against the Roma population has reached very high levels. During the last eight years, more than 1800 cases of racial motivated attacks against Roma individuals have been recorded, including, at least, 32 dead persons. The international concern about this issue is so remarked that, last August, the Sub-Commission for the Prevention and Protection of Human Rights decided to recommend some of its members to initiate a study on this matter.

Mr. Chairman, The World Conference can be a turning-point in the compensation of the victims of racism, particularly those persons and peoples who were victims, and today continue to be suffering the consequences of colonialism, slavery and the slave trade across the oceans. These were the, essential factors in the process of primitive accumulation of capital, which constituted the bases of most of the economies of the industrialized countries.

Slavery and transatlantic African slave trade and its current consequences should be considered as crimes against humanity and, therefore, the victims and their descendants should receive the moral vindication that they deserve, as well as the proper compensation in accordance with the internationally recognized regulations in connection with the obligations towards the victims of violations of human rights.

Cuba reaffirms its commitment of going on participating actively within the United Nations efforts for the definite eradication of racism and racial discrimination, and reiterates its willingness of contributing to the successful results of the World Conference in Durban, South Africa.

Thank you.

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