April 18, 2000
U.N. rights panel votes to criticize Cuba

                  GENEVA (AP) -- The U.N. Human Rights Commission voted narrowly to
                  censure Cuba's record Tuesday, deciding 21-18 in favor of a critical motion
                  submitted by Poland and the Czech Republic.

                  The motion expressed "concern about the continued repression of members of
                  the political opposition and about the detention of dissidents." Fourteen countries

                  It noted "the continued violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms ...
                  such as freedom of expression, association and assembly and the rights
                  associated with the administration of justice, despite the expectations raised by
                  some positive steps taken by the government of Cuba in the past few years."

                  "It is generally recognized that the human rights record of the Cuban authorities
                  has not improved during the last year," Czech Ambassador Miroslav Somol said
                  as he presented the resolution to the 53-nation commission. He said the text was
                  "fair and balanced."

                  Cuba insisted that the U.S. administration was the "true author" of the resolution.

                  "The U.S. government has not given up on its interest to manipulate the
                  commission," Cuban Ambassador Carlos Amat told delegates. Washington "once
                  again wielded the strings of their occasional puppets," he added.

                  Amat also referred to the "abduction" of 6-year-old Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez,
                  who is being held by his great-uncle's family in Miami against the will of the
                  boy's father.

                  He criticized the United States for criticizing other countries' records while it "is
                  showing itself incapable of having the law prevail on its own territory."

                  "Whatever the result of the vote, Cuba will always consider it a moral victory,"
                  Amat said.

                  European Union countries voted against Cuba, but Portuguese Ambassador
                  Alvaro de Mendonca e Moura, speaking on behalf of the EU, said the resolution
                  "should have contained a reference to the negative effects of the economic

                  The communist island last year was rebuked by a single-vote margin. In 1998, a
                  U.S.-backed move to rebuke Cuba was defeated for the first time since 1991.

                  In Havana, streets were closed for blocks around the Czech Embassy as the
                  government and Communist Party bused in masses of people for a protest march
                  against the resolution.

                  The government said between 100,000 and 120,000 students, workers and
                  others had been called to take part.

                  Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.