In this issue from THE DAILY SIGNAL, “US Makes the Right Call to Quit UN Human Rights Council:  "14 of the 47 members of the council (including Burundi, China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela) are ranked “not free” by Freedom House. This is the highest number of “not free” countries in council history."  Also in this issue from 14yMedio "Mariel, the Cuban Hong Kong That Never Became One ,” by Mario Penton Martinez.

 

THE DAILY SIGNAL (The Heritage Foundation) 

 US Makes the Right Call to Quit UN Human Rights Council

Brett Schaefer / June 19, 2018

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Ambassador Nikki Haley led U.S. efforts to reform the Human Rights Council for the past year, but won little support. (Photo: Albin Lohr-Jones/Sipa USA/Newscom)

COMMENTARY BY Brett Schaefer

Brett D. Schaefer is the Jay Kingham fellow in International Regulatory Affairs at The Heritage Foundation. Schaefer analyzes a broad range of foreign policy issues, focusing primarily on international organizations and sub-Saharan Africa. Read his research.

The United States announced Tuesday that it will leave the United Nations Human Rights Council.

This is hardly surprising. As Ambassador Nikki Haley explained in Geneva last year, the Human Rights Council remains beset by three fundamental problems.

1. Bias against Israel.

According to UN Watch, the council had adopted 169 condemnatory resolutions on countries as of the end of May. Of those, nearly half (47 percent) focused on Israel. In addition, the council has convened 28 special sessions to address human rights violations or related emergencies. Of those 28 sessions, eight focused on Israel.

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Moreover, Israel is the only country subject to a separate agenda item: Item 7, labeled “Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.” Every other country is examined under Item 4, “Human rights situations that require the council’s attention.”

The council’s fixation on Israel is absurd. By spending exponentially more time on Israel than on North Korea or Syria, the council only underscores the politicization and bias of its agenda.

2. Human rights abusers sit on the council.

Governments deemed “not free” and “partly free” by Freedom House historically have comprised a majority of the council’s members. Not even the world’s most repressive regimes have been excluded.

Currently, 14 of the 47 members of the council (including Burundi, China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela) are ranked “not free” by Freedom House. This is the highest number of “not free” countries in council history, indicating that the majority of the world’s governments see no problem with electing human rights violators to the U.N.’s highest human rights body.

Even defenders of the Human Rights Council acknowledge this problem. As Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, noted, “[T]he Trump administration is correct that [membership] is suboptimal .  To make matters worse, some abusive governments try to join the council in the hope of protecting themselves and their kind from condemnation.”

3. Consistent failure to address serious human rights situations equally and objectively.

In stark contrast to its obsessive focus on Israel, the council is notably incurious about the human rights situations in some of the world’s most oppressive counties.

For instance, the Human Rights Council has never passed a condemnatory resolution on China, Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia, or Zimbabwe, despite their terrible records of religious persecutionpunishment of political dissenthostility to freedom of the pressunequal rights for women, and use of force against civil society and government opponents, respectively.

One can also look at the Universal Periodic Review, a process under which every country undergoes a review of its human rights practices and receives recommendations for improvement. According to UPR Info, the country that has received the most recommendations for improvement is the United States.

That’s right. The Human Rights Council’s process has concluded that the U.S. has more need of human rights advice than Cuba, Iran, and Sudan. Israel is also in the top 25, naturally, right ahead of China.

For over a year, the U.S. has tried to rally support among other member states to reform the council to address these problems. Unfortunately, most governments either prefer a weak, biased council or are unwilling to devote the effort needed to reform it.This is not a recent development in response to the Trump administration. The Obama administration met similar resistance when it proposed reforms at the mandatory 2011 review of the council.

Nonetheless, over the past year, the U.S. has tried again. Led by Haley and strongly supported by U.S. diplomats in Geneva, New York, Washington, and around the world, the U.S. has engaged bilaterally and multilaterally to promote reforms to address anti-Israel bias, membership quality, and improve the council’s efficiency.

They have been met with disinterest and hostility. Even European governments and human rights groups have opposed the U.S. reform effort out of fear that countries hostile to human rights might seize the opportunity to weaken the council.

This is a self-fulfilling prophesy that condemns the council to its current gravely disappointing status quo. Worse, as long as this fear exists, any future reform effort will be stillborn.

Supporters of the Human Rights Council will criticize the U.S. decision as another example of the Trump administration’s rejection of multilateral engagement. This is wrong. The administration could have left the council any time in the past year, but it did not. Instead, it sought to work within the U.N. to fix the council. Only when other member states rebuffed these efforts did the U.S. pull back.

Sadly, the U.S. seems to be the only government that seriously wants the Human Rights Council to promote universal respect and protection of human rights, and to confront fundamental freedoms in a fair and equal manner. Unless other member states commit to fixing the council’s problems, the U.S. is better off focusing its time and effort on advancing human rights through other venues and means.

 

Mariel, the Cuban Hong Kong That Never Became One

14ymedio June 15, 2018
Mario Penton Martinez

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The Mariel Special Development Zone.

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 14 June 2018 — In 2014, Raúl Castro, who promoted the deepest economic reforms since the establishment of the socialist system in Cuba, surrounded by his allies Dilma Rousseff, Evo Morales and Nicolás Maduro, promoted the largest project of his mandate, the creation of a Special Development Zone in the Port of Mariel.

Four years and a Brazilian investment of more than one billion dollars later, the zone that promised to turn Cuba into the Caribbean Hong Kong languishes, waiting for investors, according to Emilio Morales, director of Havana Consulting Group.

“The idea of developing a special zone in the Port of Mariel is good; the problem has been in the management, and (thanks to the thaw with the United States) no Latin American country has had in just two years the number of entrepreneurs, presidents and delegations that have visited Cuba, but they did not know how to take advantage of it,” Morales said in a telephone conversation with 14ymedio.

Mariel was built at a time when the diplomatic thaw with the United States allowed one to foresee the end of the embargo. The most modern port in the Caribbean could accommodate the huge Super-Panamax ships for which the port’s entrance channel was dredged to a 60 foot depth and a modern container terminal was built.

The resistance of the Republicans in the US Congress against lifting the sanctions, the arrival of Donald Trump to the White House and the decline in trade with Caracas, which according to most experts subsidized the battered economy of the island, undid Raúl Castro’s star project.

The Cuban economy, rigidly controlled from the highest power, remains inefficient. The management of the businesses in the Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM) is under the control of State officials. “Private enterprise is essential for the future development of Cuba and Mariel. But because the only owner is the State, nobody pays for a wrong decision, the money is not theirs, nor the risk, therefore, it remains something abstract, which is called the State,” adds Morales.

At the end of March there were only 35 approved companies (five of them Cuban), of which 10 were in operation and 25 in the process of investment. The official newspaper Granma reported that so far the ZEDM has captured 1.191 billion dollars, only 9.5% of the 12.5 billion dollars that had been planned, at a rate of 2.5 billion per year.

The causes of the poor performance of the industrial zone that promised to accelerate the national economy have to be looked for in “an excessive bureaucracy, a complicated decision-making process that delays the follow-up of the investment offers from foreign companies, and delays in the completion of the infrastructure,” Morales highlighted in an article recently published in Martí Noticias. The government itself acknowledged in March that the ZEDM is not going “as fast” as the country needs. President Miguel Díaz-Canel, this week, reviewed the program of foreign investments and exports together with a group of ministers and officials of the sector.

“We must make things more feasible, more viable, less cumbersome,” the president said in relation to the obstacles that delay the investment process. Díaz-Canel later expressed his bewilderment about the slowness with which decisions made in the Council of Ministers or in the National Assembly are applied to the project. The Mariel works were financed by the Brazilian State, at that time governed by the Workers’ Party, an ally of Havana. The multi-million dollar contract was awarded to Odebrecht, the same company whose bribery practices to secure public contracts shook the foundations of many corrupt governments in Latin America. In Cuba, no investigation related to the multinational has been opened to date.

To Emilio Morales, much of Mariel’s failure can be seen in the small number of jobs it has achieved. “This state project has only created 4,888 jobs, compared to more than 570,000 that were generated by the granting of licenses to small private companies,” (cuentapropismo, or self-employment), he says, justifying his idea of opening up opportunities in the ZEDM to the private sector within the Island.

“It’s not possible that they would create a special economic zone in Mariel and leave out the Cubans themselves, without any chance of investing in it. National entrepreneurs should be privileged first, and then the foreigners,” he emphasizes.

The US company Cleber LLC, the first company with 100% North American capital that was going to be in Mariel, ended up being rejected by the Cuban government. The project of the Cuban-American businessman Saul Berenthal and his partner Horace Clemmons sought to assemble Oggún tractors, designed for small farmers to make the land more productive.

“Mariel had several prospects: first to process oil from the northern part of Cuba, to create industrial parks with import facilities and repatriate capital. In addition, Cuba’s geographical position places it at the center of major routes, which could facilitate the establishment of a free trade zone,” says Morales. All these opportunities are still present, but the weight of the State chokes them.

The Mariel Special Development Zone was inaugurated during the 2nd CELAC Summit in 2014, an international organization promoted from the socialist Venezuela of Hugo Chávez, excluding the United States and Canada. Four years later, the CELAC is being dismembered, Chávez has died, Venezuela is plunged into an unprecedented crisis and most of the governments of the region (including the Brazilian) have changed their ideological sign. “Political decisions cannot continue to govern the Cuban economy because the market has its own rules: the State must — as the Vietnamese advised — liberate the productive forces of the nation and not want to absorb everything,” Morales says.