Washington Post Editorial Blasts Cuban Human Rights

On October 18 a Washington Post editorial blasted certain aspects of Cuban human rights while simultaneously criticizing the Obama Administration for not doing more to combat these concerns.[1]

First, the editorial states, “The Castro regime has arrested almost as many peaceful opponents so far this year (8,505) as it did in all of 2015 (8,616), according to the nongovernmental Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation. The ranks of the repressed include dissident lawyer Julio Alfredo Ferrer Tamayo, who was thrown in prison Sept. 23. His law firm was also ransacked and documents were taken.”

While I have no independent knowledge about the validity of the statistics cited by the editorial, a prior post did criticize the Cuban police raid on the law firm (Cubalex) and the arrest of Senor Ferrer.

Second, the editorial said, “Havana’s municipal government has just banned new licenses for private restaurants and instructed existing ones that it will start enforcing onerous taxes and regulations more tightly. It was, Reuters reported, “a new sign that Cuba’s Communist-run government is hesitant to further open up to private business in a country where it still controls most economic activity,” following similar retrenchment in agriculture and transportation last year.”

The Post’s reactions to the latter restrictions may be overstated.[2] The restrictions on new licenses may just be temporary, and one restaurant entrepreneur said her recent meeting with officials over regulations “gave her peace of mind. I thought it was going to be very tense, but it was not. [The officials] were very communicative. They even told us that our businesses are important to the economy and that there were irregularities not only in private business, but in state-owned businesses as well.” Moreover, some of the problems mentioned in the meeting “are real.” The authorities mentioned as major issues the use of public parking to accommodate restaurant customers, buying supplies on the black market, tax violation and money laundering and even prostitution rings and illegal drugs used in some places.

I also suggest the recent Havana measures regarding private-owned restaurants may be driven more by economic problems, than human rights concerns. As Raúl Castro admitted and welcomed in his speech to last April’s Communist Party of Cuba’s Congress last April, Cuba needs the private-enterprise restaurants and other tourist-oriented businesses to generate foreign-exchange earnings, and as a result, Cuba’s plan allocated more electricity to them while restricting power to residents and state-owned enterprises.[3] The recent Havana actions against such private-enterprise restaurants may suggest that electric power for residents and state-owned enterprises might be being squeezed too severely.

Finally, as discussed in a recent post, the U.S. and Cuba on October 14 had a meeting about human rights issues. Although the U.S. State Department has not commented on what the U.S. mentioned at this meeting, presumably the U.S. criticized the recent arrests of Cuban dissidents.

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[1] Editorial, Obama to the Castro regime, do whatever you want, Wash. Post (Oct. 18, 2016).

[2] Reuters, Havana suspends new licenses for private restaurants, owners fret (Oct. 18, 2016); Fernández, Cuba suspends new licenses for private eateries and warns of tighter control, InCubaToday (Oct. 17, 2016).

[3] Raúl Castro as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba at its April 2016 Congress bluntly laid out Cuba’s economic problems, including state-owned enterprises’ inefficiencies, and the need to facilitate the growth and prosperity of private-owned businesses. (See Raúl Castro Discusses Socio-Economic Issues in Report to Seventh Congress of Communist Party of Cuba (April 19, 2016)). See also, e.g., Other Signs of Cuban Regime’s Distress Over Economy (April 21, 2016); Cuban Press Offers Positive Articles About the Island’s Private Enterprise Sector (June 1, 2016).

 

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As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

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