French Environment Minister Segolene Royal, representing her government at a tribute for Fidel Castro in Cuba, defended the late communist leader’s human rights record, questioning the “disinformation” going on in the French mainstream media.
The former socialist presidential candidate called Castro a “monument of history” and a “symbol of a very deep friendship between Cuba and France.”
She spoke to reporters in Santiago de Cuba before a massive rally in the eastern city late Saturday. Fidel was buried at the heroes’ cemetery in the city on Sunday.
“Thanks to Fidel Castro, Cubans reclaimed their territory, their lives, their destiny. They were inspired by the French Revolution without experiencing the terror that took place during the French Revolution,” she said.
Asked about the human rights violations denounced by mainstream media and conservative sectors, Royal said the island had “religious freedom” and “freedom of conscience.”
“There is a lot of disinformation,” said the number three official in French President Francois Hollande’s government. France ranks 45 in the 2016 World Press Freedom Index according to Reporters Without Borders.
“I know that (such comments) bother some people, because here is an island that protects its integrity, that forbids predators, that succeeded in achieving some sort of really remarkable safeness and cleanness, which many countries now giving lessons of human rights have not achieved,” she added.
Acknowledging that there are “always positive and negative” moments in history, she said “we know that here, when you ask for a list of political prisoners, there is none. Show me the lists of political prisoners, and then we can do something about it.”
Her comments were criticized not only by leaders of the center and far right, but also in her own socialist camp: Paris’ senator David Assouline tweeted “our country shines in the world because we invented the declaration of human rights, not because we support dictators.”
Royal responded that the controversy was uncalled for, calling for respect on the day of Fidel’s funeral, reported RFI.
As for France, its recent record on human rights has been quite damning over the past year: it has been accused of violating children’s rights during the evictions in the Calais refugee camp and of racial discrimination against Muslim women this summer as police officers fined women for wearing “burkinis” on at the beach.
A 24-year-old Black man reportedly died asphyxiated after four policemen sat on him during a random ID check in July — a conclusion by two autopsies that the procurator hid for months before he was transferred. The French police may be responsible for a similar rate of killings of Black men than in the United States. The European court of human rights condemned the French state for racial profiling for its random identity checks.
With the state of emergency declared and constantly renewed since November’s terror attacks, human rights groups, the United Nations and the European council of human rights voiced concerns over the increasing violations of human rights and police abuses.
Besides thousands of police raids carried out without judicial controls, numerous environmental activists were put under house arrest during COP 21, the U.N. conference on climate change in December 2015, in order to avoid disturbances during the world event hosted in Paris. A 21-year-old environmental activist was killed by a military grenade during a protest in October 2014. More than two years later, the investigation is still stalled.