Human rights have been a major topic of focus in public discussion since the peak of the Cold War in the 1960s and 1970s. Today, countries like Cuba and Venezuela still gain media attention for their human rights abuses, making the topic relevant for the University of Miami’s diverse community.
With that in mind, the “A World Without Discrimination” panel was organized on Wednesday in Shoma Hall by Hola Hillel, a branch of UM Hillel that focuses on supporting Jewish Latin-American life on campus; La Federación de Estudiantes Cubanos (FEC); the Colombian Students Association (COLSA); and Union Venezolana (Univen).
The talk featured representatives from Cuba, Israel, Colombia and Venezuela. Each explained their relation to human rights and the importance of discussing issues of abuse and inequality on a global context.
Sophomore Harry Levine, a member of Hola Hillel and one of the organizers of the event, explained that Hola Hillel and Univen organized a similar event last year to discuss the recent human rights abuses in Venezuela. This year, however, the idea was to broaden discussions by partnering up with other culture-specific student organizations.
“I thought it was a great event,” Levine said. “Our main goal was to inform the students about what is going on in other countries in order to invite them to think critically and stand against discrimination … we are all people and we are all in this world together, thus we must stand for each other.”
One of the panelists, UM alum Jose Luiz Martinez, has been working with human rights in Cuba for three years, and explained that a lot of his work is based on one document: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“Every basic right that every person should have regardless of country … we’re all entitled to certain basic rights as human beings in this world,” Martinez said during the event. “Unfortunately, there are some countries that do not acknowledge, do not respect and do not enforce these basic rights.”
Recently, Martinez has been working on an initiative called “Connect Cuba,” which brings light to the issue of poor Internet connection on the island. According to Martinez, Cuba now has the lowest connectivity in the Western Hemisphere, as well as the most expensive and censored one in the world.
“What I want young people here to take away from this is that they need to do their own research on Cuba and dig deeper than the headlines, because you’ll see that there are issues that still need to be talked about, and they need to be talked about both inside and outside of Cuba,” Martinez said.
Other panelists included Gabriel Baredes, director of Hispanic Affairs of the Consulate General of Israel, Margaret Sanchez, CEO of the Zambrano Foundation in Colombia and Andrew Morrison, director and co-founder of Venevox Foundation in Venezuela.
All speakers talked about the importance of dealing with information critically and analytically, as that is the best way to generate discussions and bring attention to problems of global significance.
“Life is not a multiple choice test, you need to learn to think, to analyze what you see, what you hear,” Baredes said. “… People are the ones who build the borders in the world. This world belongs to all of us. So we need to understand that every single human being in this world has the right to live and enjoy his life.”