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PM answers question on political prisoners in Cuba

PM answers question on political prisoners in Cuba

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When Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves becomes Chairman of CARICOM next July, he may break ground as the first chairman to support Cuba’s detention of political prisoners – that is if his answer has been correctly interpreted.

Fresh back from Fidel Castro’s 80th birthday celebrations in Havana, Gonsalves was asked at a news conference Monday what would be his position as incoming Chairman of CARICOM on human rights violations and political prisoners held by Cuba – one of St Vincent’s closest allies.{{more}}

The prime minister said that each country had its own judicial system and once a person goes through that and is afforded a fair trial “by international standards” that’s okay. He added that a fair trial has never been interpreted as a “perfect trial”.

Secondly, he justified his stance by equating the 47-year-old Cuban revolution with the five-year-old American “war on terror” saying that Cuba and the United States are in an undeclared state of war and during war certain liberties and democratic standards are suspended.

His full answer to the question was:

“First, each country has its own judicial system and once the persons go through a judicial system which affords them a fair trial, by international standards, I say that’s okay.

“A fair trial has never ever been interpreted anywhere to mean, and even the Privy Council has pronounced on this, to mean a perfect trial.

“In the Commonwealth Caribbean our Constitutions guarantee fair trials but they don’t guarantee perfect trials and one of the things in Cuba, there has been an undeclared state of war between the United States and Cuba – an embargo is an act of war.

“That’s the reality.

“Now in the United States of America, the United States and President Bush have correctly defined the war against terror as a war against the United States and it’s a barbarism against their civilization. I agree with all of that. And the United States, they passed a Patriot Act, where there are several provisions which are very draconian, and several of those provisions have been upheld by the United States Supreme Court and there are other provisions relating to the treatment of persons … the combatant in this war, who are held in Guantanamo Bay by the Americans.

“There are issues relating to habeas corpus, to represent the person. In the war those have been circumscribed.

“At particular occasions in the history of a country, I have to put some of the legislation within its own context. But I will say to you, CARICOM and Cuba we hold conversations about all sorts of matters. And I will tell you that very often the Cubans would raise these things and will say ‘it has been said, so and so, but these are the facts from our perspective’. Our best example for any country is what we do normally but in some countries there are abnormal circumstances.

“So this is the way that I will answer you.”

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