Published Thursday, December 10, 1998, in the Miami Herald
Here are excerpts from a speech delivered in Paris by Guy Perez Cisneros
y Bonnel, Cuba's chief delegate, on Dec. 10, 1948, as the U.N. Third General
Assembly prepared to vote on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
CUBA COULD not fail to participate in the choir of nations that wish to
celebrate the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man. We feel great pride
that the first, very modest draft officially submitted to serve as the basis for
the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man was written by Dr. Ernesto
Dihigo, an eminent professor at the University of Havana and a member of the
Today that initiative [is presented] by the illustrious rapporteur of the
Third Committee, Haitian Sen. [Emile] Saint Leau, and by its president, [Charles
Habib Malik] Laar, Lebanon's envoy to Havana. Cuba is deeply satisfied to see a
Haitian as the bearer to humanity of the United Nations's most valuable message.
Haiti is precisely one of those privileged lands whose whole history is
characterized by a heroic and constant effort to defend and enforce the rights
of man. And Cuba is proud of having nominated as rapporteur [this] outstanding
son of a French-speaking American nation, Haiti, a land in which the great Simon
Bolivar, our Bolivar, found both moral encouragement and material aid to achieve
his great task of liberation and freedom.
My delegation is duty bound to acknowledge the meritorious work of the
Committee on the Rights of Man, which labored untiringly for two years under the
inspiring leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt and wrote a truly valuable document
that beautifully and forcefully expresses the highest aspiration of 20th Century
man: The dawning of a world in which all human beings, freed from fear and want,
will enjoy freedom of speech and freedom of opinion.
Another historic document that inspired the Third Committee's work was the
First Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, endorsed in Bogota by the
nations of the Americas. Also, through the determined effort and great power of
conviction of the Mexican delegate, Dr. Pablo Campos Ortiz, [was added] the
important Article Nine [freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile],
based on Mexico's right of protection.
My delegation had the honor of inspiring the final text, which finds it
essential that the rights of man be protected by the rule of law, so that man
will not be compelled to exercise the extreme recourse of rebellion against
tyranny and oppression. Further, this is an homage to France from my country,
which greatly admired and watched the stages of its glorious résistance.
We are pleased that the social rights that are the main contribution of the
20th Century to this issue -- just as legal rights were in the 19th Century --
were treated in the Declaration with the importance they deserved.
We also thank the United Nations for its favorable reception of two Cuban
amendments on the subject of labor that recognize the right of man to freely
pursue his vocation and to receive a fair and satisfactory wage that will
guarantee him and his family an existence befitting their human dignity.
My delegation will not forget the way in which the United Nations welcomed
another of our initiatives: To include in the Declaration the right to the
protection of one's honor, a high moral concept rooted deep in the soul of every
Hispanic person. And we cannot silence the fact that -- through the joint
efforts of France, Mexico, and Cuba -- recognition was finally granted to those
who belong to the only legitimate aristocracy: Creators, be they artists,
writers, or scientists. They are entitled to the protection of the moral and
material gains obtained through their scientific, literary, or artistic
My country and my people are highly satisfied to see that the odious racial
discrimination and the unfair differences between men and women have been
The Cuban delegation hesitated often before submitting its numerous
amendments. It went ahead with the understanding that perfection and critical
severity were among its duties. A delegation that represents a nation that
proudly produced the Montecristi Manifesto was entitled to be demanding. [The
manifesto outlined goals of Cuba's independence movement and was drafted by Jose
Marti and Maximo Gomez.]
The members of the Cuban delegation are deeply moved when -- as they review
the articles of the important Declaration that we will adopt in a few minutes --
they recognize that all its provisions could have been accepted by that generous
spirit who was the apostle of our independence: Jose Marti, the hero who -- as
he turned his homeland into a nation -- gave us forever this generous rule:
``With everyone, and for the good of everyone.''
Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald