The United Nations Commission on Human Rights, for the fifth consecutive year, approved a U.S. resolution Tuesday condemning the government of President Fidel Castro for violating human rights in Cuba.
The resolution also extends for one year the appointment of a special U.N. reporter on Cuba, a post held by Carl-Johan Groth of Sweden.
The vote in Geneva was 20-5, with 28 abstentions. Voting against were China, India, Indonesia, Zimbabwe and Cuba. Supporters of the resolution included Canada, Japan and the member nations of the European Union. Half the Latin American delegates voted in favor of the resolution; the other half abstained.
Rep. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who introduced the resolution, said he was pleased with the voting in general but disappointed by the abstentions among Latin nations. Among the nations that abstained were Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela.
Last year, a similar U.S. resolution was approved by a 22-8 vote, with 23 abstentions. This year, the number of votes in favor dropped by two and the abstentions increased by five.
Cuba lost the support of Guinea-Bissau and Sudan, which are nonvoting members this year. Nepal, which opposed the resolution in 1995, abstained Tuesday.
Russia, Ukraine and Byelorussia, which supported the United States last year, also abstained.
Menendez said later in an interview with the U.S. Spanish- language radio network Cadena Nacional that the abstentions may have been a reaction to passage of the Helms-Burton Act, which hardened the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba.
Miguel Alfonso, an aide to the Cuban delegation, said the vote shows the U.N. commission is becoming aware of U.S. political motives in seeking a condemnation of Cuba.
"Clearly, this boat is foundering," he said, alluding to the U.S. resolution. "The United States should draw the necessary conclusions."
In his address to the commission, Menendez said the resolution was a response to the thousands of dissidents on the island who suffer repression and imprisonment for expressing their ideas.
He cited the arrests, detentions, threats and harassment experienced by members of Concilio Cubano, a dissident coalition, when they requested official permission to hold a national conference in February. The government turned down the request.
Menendez also said the resolution reflected the downing Feb. 24 of two Brothers to the Rescue aircraft by Cuban warplanes over the Florida Straits. Four civilians were killed.
Cuba's chief delegate, Eumelio Caballero, replied that Cuba "does not consider itself accused or on trial" as a result of a "libelous" resolution.
Cuba rejects this "selective, discriminatory and unfair exercise," Caballero added, "and will never accept a special reporter, no matter how neutral and independent he is touted to be."
The annual resolution of condemnation is a "farce that already shows signs of exhaustion," the Cuban official said. "Neither one nor five, nor 10 resolutions will make us change our minds."
This report was supplemented with material from Herald wire services.
© 1996 The Miami Herald.