Guy Perez Cisneros speech - UN 1948

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 Cuban delegation.

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 productions.

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 condemned forever.

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

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