"Jailed for What?" Campaign Launch Event

Remarks
Michael G. Kozak
Senior Bureau Official, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
United Nations
New York, NY
October 16, 2018


As Delivered:

Thank you, Ambassador Currie. (Audience shouting in background.)

I think we’re getting a good demonstration of the respect for freedom of expression that exists in Cuba.

This event is a kickoff for a campaign called “Jailed for What?” and our aim is to spotlight the people who are in prison in Cuba for doing nothing more than what we’re trying to do today, which is speaking calmly and peacefully.

I would like to recognize a couple of people in the room before we turn it over to the Secretary General.

If the audience who would like to hear what’s going on up here would put their earphones on, you’ll be better able to hear over all this foolishness.

So as I was saying, this is the kickoff of a campaign to bring a spotlight to those who are suffering in Cuban prison for nothing more than the freedom of expression. And we want to introduce a couple of people in the audience who are… (more shouting from audience) let’s just continue. I would like to recognize our Ambassador to the Organization of American States Carlos Trujillo, who is here today. The chief of staff of Secretary General Almagro, Gonzalo Koncke, is here today. And I think with that, let’s get on with the further part of our proceedings. We will turn it over to the Secretary General to make remarks. Thank you, Mr. Secretary General.

(Secretary General Almagro Remarks)

Thank you, Mr. Secretary General. And I want to thank the Cuban delegation again for giving us such a graphic demonstration of how they deal with alternative viewpoints in their country.

With that, I would like to turn the floor over to another old friend, Carlos Quesada, who is the executive director and founder of the civil society organization Institute for Equality, Race, and Human Rights. Carlos is trained as a journalist and a lawyer and has practiced before the OAS and other Inter-American bodies. He also formerly was an officer with Penal Reform International and he will speak about the conditions in the Cuban prisons where the political prisoners are suffering. Thank you.

(Carlos Quesada Remarks)

Thank you very much, Carlos, for those remarks.

At this point I would like to turn over the floor to someone who knows firsthand what it’s like to be a political prisoner in Cuba. Alejandro Gonzalez Raga was one of seventy-five journalists, human rights activists, and librarians arrested in 2003 in Cuba’s “Black Spring.” He was charged with “acts against the independence and territorial integrity of the state” and sentenced to fourteen years in prison. He was released and exiled to Spain in 2008. He has traveled here today from Madrid to be with us. Alejandro, thanks so much for your presence and your continued activism on behalf of your jailed compatriots.

(Alejandro Gonzalez Raga Remarks)

Thank you, Alejandro. We now will hear from our last panelist. Her name is Miriam Cardet Concepción. We will be listening to her via video. She is the sister of Eduardo Cardet Concepción, who is serving a three-year sentence for “libel and defamation of the institutions, organization, heroes, and martyrs of the revolution” because of a comment he made criticizing former president Castro. Miriam was going to be with us physically today, but the Cuban government blocked her from traveling. So with that we would like to proceed with the video, and we will hear from our final panelist in that sense.

(Miriam Cardet Concepción Video)

Okay, that ends our panelists’ presentations. And we wanted to provide a few minutes for questions from the floor, but I’m beginning to think that may not be the easiest thing to do given our activities in the room. Let me just say that the presentations of all of our panelists today will be available online. We will be posting them on the State Department and USUN websites.

Again, you can imagine what it’s like in Cuba. If this is the way the Government of Cuba behaves in the chambers of the United Nations with security present and so on, can you imagine what it would be like to be an individual Cuban citizen trying to speak their mind with this kind of attitude towards them?

So I want to thank you all for coming today and… Our friends here can’t seem to stop long enough to say goodbye (Audience yelling “Fuera”)…You know, I was ready to end the proceedings, but I’m damned if I’m going to do it for you. So I can sit here all day and let you shout yourselves silly.

(Pause for shouting)

Again, I want to thank our panelists. I want to thank our guests for coming. And I, once again, want to thank the Cuban delegation for demonstrating exactly what we were talking about. They’ve given you a better demonstration of their respect for freedom of expression than anything we could have said.

(Pause for shouting)

You know, you can shout yourselves silly, but it’s not going to change anything. I think we’re approaching the time we have the room, but we’ll sit here until that time comes.

(Pause for shouting)

Okay, we are now reaching the time when we will have to vacate the room because we’ve had it for the hour. Again, I want to thank you all for coming and we will publish the presentations of our panelists. And thank you again to the Cuban side for being so endlessly demonstrative of how they behave. Thank you all for coming.