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Cuba says US embargo blocking human rights

world Updated: Jan 17, 2009 12:15 IST

Reuters
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Cuba has blamed the long standing United States trade embargo for limiting human rights on the communist run island, in a report to the United Nations released on Friday.

"The policy of hostility, blockade and aggression by successive US governments against Cuba has been a serious obstacle to full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental liberties of Cubans," said the report, which Cuba submitted to the UN Human Rights Council.

It said such things as the right to live in peace and to free will were damaged by the embargo, which the United States imposed against Cuba almost 47 years ago.

It went on to say that Cuba respects, among other things, the right to health and education and to religious freedom.

Cuba is often criticized for suppressing political dissent, free speech, a free press and the right to travel. Opponents say more than 200 dissidents are currently in Cuban jails.

The Cuban government blames many of its human rights shortcomings on having to fend off five decades of US attempts to topple its government.

Dissident Elizardo Sanchez, head of the illegal but tolerated Cuban Commission on Human Rights, criticized the report, which the UN council will use when it reviews Cuba's rights situation next month.

"The government of Cuba needed more than 10,000 words to try to hide the real situation of civil, political and economic rights that have existed in Cuba for decades," he said.

The report was released a day after Cuba freed one of 75 dissidents who were arrested and jailed in a 2003 government crackdown.

Reinaldo Labrada, 46, was released after serving his full six year sentence, said fellow dissident Oscar Espinosa Chepe, who was among the 75 arrested but is now free.

"This man served his sentence and they released him. There's no political gesture here," Chepe said.

Fifty four of the 75 remain behind bars, with sentences up to 28 years for what the government said was conspiring with the United States against Cuba.