WASHINGTON – Despite the U.S. State Department condemnation of Cuba’s appointment to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, the island dictatorship is making the most of the propaganda coup.

“When the Latin American and Caribbean group of the U.N.’s Human Rights Commission elected Cuba to the Standing Committee, it was unanimous acknowledgement of Cuba’s immensely prestigious reputation following a decade of work with that organization,” boasted a report in the official Cuban newspaper Granma.

Juan Antonio Fern?ndez, director of multilateral affairs at Cuba’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs, explained the sharp reaction at the U.S. State Department.

“After the election, we read press organs controlled by the major power blocs, and statements by certain so-called non-governmental and governmental organizations, some of which are a clear cover for the CIA,” he told Granma. “I believe that what is most important is that our election is an acknowledgment of the role and prestige that Cuba enjoys on that commission.

The Cuban official made clear he intends to use his new position on the commission to embarrass the U.S. – mentioning “thousands of reports on tortures in Guant?namo and Abu Ghraib.”

“Fortunately, things have changed and the Committee has changed accordingly, and has before it numerous – hundreds, if not thousands – of reports which, according to world public opinion, are the most serious human rights violations being committed in what President Fidel Castro has referred to as ‘an international torture center’ in the illegal naval base at Guant?namo on our territory. In addition to this are reports on the abhorrent torture and mistreatment practiced at the Abu Ghraib prison in occupied Iraq.”

He said Cuba’s presence on the commission will awaken the world to these abuses by the U.S.

“The United States believes that countries that routinely and systematically violate the rights of their citizens should not be selected to review the human rights performance of other countries,” State Department press officer Tom Casey said earlier this month when both Cuba and Zimbabwe were selected.

Besides Cuba and Zimbabwe, the other members of the so-called “Working Group on Situations” are Hungary, the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia.

“Despite the inappropriate membership of Cuba and Zimbabwe, we look for the working group to conduct its procedures in a balanced and transparent manner,” Casey said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice listed Cuba and Zimbabwe among six “outposts of tyranny” during her Senate confirmation hearing last month.

Casey’s statement offered no criticism of the selection of Saudi Arabia, an authoritarian monarchy. Officials note, however, that a reform movement is under way in the country, highlighted by village elections set for this week.

The working group passes judgment on the admissibility of complaints intended for consideration by the 53-member commission. The group meets every March at its headquarters in Geneva.

Cuba was selected to the working group based on the support it received from fellow Latin American countries. The Cuban Foreign Ministry web site said Argentina proposed Cuba for membership on the panel.

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