US embargo a major threat to human rights in Cuba
The US economic embargo against Cuba poses the biggest threat to Cubans' right to food, UN special rapporteur Jean Ziegler said Monday. ( dpa )
The Swiss professor said the "illegal blockade" was the main obstacle to access to food on the island because it forced up prices and restricted imports. He called for an end to the embargo in his report presented to the Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva.
Ziegler visited Cuba in October, and was the first UN official allowed to visit the Caribbean nation for almost 20 years. The country had refused access in response to constant criticism by the forerunner of the Human Rights Council, the Human Rights Commission.
Havana invited Ziegler following the council's decision to do away with the special rapporteur responsible for scrutinizing human rights in Cuba last year.
Ziegler said Cuba should be guaranteed a free entrance to export markets and be granted access to credit from institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Ziegler also criticized the Cuban authorities for excessive centralization and a lack of incentives for farmers, pointing out that only 50 per cent of potential farm land was under cultivation.
Fidel Castro, who led Cuba for nearly 50 years, formally stepped down as president last month, handing over power to his brother, Raul.