U.S. and Cuban officials began a historic round of talks on Wednesday to bridge a 50-year rift in diplomatic relations, but just a day later, the Cuban delegation slammed the United States on its human rights track record.
Cuban diplomats announced in a statement Thursday that in discussions with American officials they expressed their “serious concerns” over human rights in the United States, citing everything from detentions at Guantanamo Bay, to “police abuse” in Ferguson and New York to racial and gender inequalities.
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The sniping comes just before Roberta Jacobson, the head of the U.S. delegation, was set to meet Friday morning with the “Ladies in White,” the wives and other female relatives of Cuban political prisoners, and other dissident groups.
Cuban officials also suggested “building up on the positive experience achieved in Cuba with regard to the enjoyment of human rights” and pointed to Cuba’s efforts to improve human rights in the world.
Cuba is known to be among the world’s worst human rights offenders, frequently jailing political dissidents and restricting freedom of expression, according to Human Rights Watch.
“The Cuban government continues to repress individuals and groups who criticize the government or call for basic human rights. Officials employ a range of tactics to punish dissent and instill fear in the public, including beatings, public acts of shaming, termination of employment, and threats of long-term imprisonment,” Human Rights Watch wrote about Cuba in its 2014 report.
The Cuban officials said they relayed their concerns to American diplomats about the “alarming cases of brutality and police abuse” in the United States, “which show the worsening of racism and racial discrimination,” according to the Cuban statement.
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The Cuban diplomats said they are also concerned about racial disparities in the application of the death penalty in the U.S. as well as the state of unequal pay for men and women in the United States.
President Barack Obama again made a push during his State of the Union address for Congress to pass legislation to improve protections for equal pay for men and women performing the same job.