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The Castro brothers are still laughing at the world. On November 12, the United Nations General Assembly elected Cuba to its discredited Human Rights Council.  Meanwhile, violations of basic human freedoms remain the norm on the island.


According to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, an illegal NGO that the Cuban regime tolerates, there were in the month of October “at least 909 political arrests, one of the highest figures for one single month in the last two decades.”


For the past 19 weeks, the Ladies in White in the province of Matanzas have been arrested, beaten, and denounced by pro-regime supporters stationed in front of their homes to prevent them from participating in demonstrations after Sunday Mass. The Ladies in White of Villa Clara province and those from Santiago de Cuba have suffered the same fate. There are daily reports and testimonies of rights violations from all across the island.
Unfortunately, supporters of the Cuban government ignore these facts, while many international media outlets treat selective changes as more sweeping reforms.


One of these “changes” is the government’s decision after 50 years of tight control to give more Cubans the right to travel abroad and return home. But little is said about the regime’s selective policy of issuing passports to those who wish to travel.  None of the former prisoners from the Black Spring who were sent into exile in 2010 have been allowed to reenter Cuba. And of the former prisoners who did not accept exile as a condition of their release, none have been permitted to leave Cuba.


The most recent case is that of Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, who was invited by President Barack Obama to the 50th anniversary celebrations and 2013 award ceremony for the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  In 2007, Dr. Biscet became the first Cuban to ever receive this prestigious honor. President George W. Bush awarded the medal to Dr. Biscet in absentia because he was serving a 25-year prison sentence as a victim of the Black Spring crackdown.  He was released and put under house arrest in 2011 as part of the negotiations between the regime in Havana and the government of Spain and the Catholic Church in Cuba.  Although Dr. Biscet applied for a passport to attend last week’s ceremony in Washington, DC, the Cuban government did not allow him to go. “The government still considers me a prisoner,” Dr. Biscet expressed in a telephone call [with Normando Hernández] .


Stories like this are not signs of change but of stagnation and decline; one wonders how the United Nations justifies such a noxious representative on its Human Rights Council.


Normando Hernández is a Freedom Advocate Fellow at the George W. Bush Institute.  He is also a Cuban dissident and former prisoner of conscience. Learn more about his story here.