U.S. Current Assessment of Cuban Human Rights

As discussed in a prior post, on April 20, the U.S. State Department released its annual report on the status of human rights in nearly 200 countries around the world. Here is the Executive  Summary of its report on human rights in Cuba in 2017.

Executive Summary

“Cuba is an authoritarian state led by Raul Castro, who is president of the Council of State and Council of Ministers, Communist Party (CP) first secretary, and commander in chief of security forces. The constitution recognizes the CP as the only legal party and the leading force of society and of the state. The government postponed October municipal elections due to recovery efforts related to Hurricane Irma but conducted them in November, although they were neither free nor fair. A CP candidacy commission prescreened all candidates, and the government actively worked to block non-CP approved candidates.”

“The national leadership, including members of the military, maintained effective control over the security forces.”

“The most significant human rights issues included torture of perceived political opponents; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; politically motivated, sometimes violent, detentions and arrests; a complete absence of judicial independence; arbitrary arrest and detention that was politically motivated and sometimes violent; trial processes that effectively put the burden on the defendant to prove innocence; and political prisoners.”

“ There was arbitrary interference with privacy, including search-and-seizure operations in homes and monitoring and censoring private communications.”

“Freedom of expression was limited to expression that ‘conforms to the goals of socialist society’ with strict censorship punishing even distribution of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There were bans on importation of informational materials; strict control of all forms of media; restrictions on the internet, including severely limiting availability and site blocking; restrictions on academic freedom, including punishment for any deviation from the government line; criminalization of criticism of government leaders; and severe limitations on academic and cultural freedom, including on library access.”

“There were restrictions on rights of assembly to those that the government deemed to be “’against the existence and objectives of the socialist state;’ criminalization of gatherings of three or more not authorized by the government, and use of government-organized acts of repudiation in the form of mobs organized to assault and disperse those who assembled peacefully; denial of freedom of association, including refusal to recognize independent associations; restrictions on internal and external freedom of movement; restriction of participation in the political process to those approved by the government; official corruption; outlawing of independent trade unions; compulsory labor; and trafficking in persons.”

“Government officials, at the direction of their superiors, committed most human rights abuses. Impunity for the perpetrators remained widespread.”

Conclusion

I believe that a lot of what this Report says about Cuba is true. But it reflects a common failure of Americans to recognize and appreciate Cuba’s situation. As a relatively poor, small nation, Cuba has faced over the last 59 years a vastly larger, wealthier, stronger United States which has overtly and secretly attempted to impose or encourage regime change on the island. Under those circumstances, it should be easy for Americans to understand why Cuba has sought to control opposition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cuban Violations of Press Freedom in 2017  

On March 6, the Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and Press (ICEP) announced that in 2017 there were at least 240 violations against freedom of the press on the island and that 97 independent  journalists were subjected to repression. [1]

Of the 240 violations, 102 were threats and psychological attacks; 84, arbitrary detentions; 32, dispossessions of work media; 16, prohibitions to leave the country; 4,  four, physical attacks; and 2,  expulsions from jobs.

More generally the ICEP said, ”During the year of 2017, the Cuban regime maintained its monopoly on the mass media, and . . . article 53 of the Cuban Constitution that conditions the ‘freedom of speech and press according to the aims of the socialist society’ continues to muzzle all [journalists]. The judicial system uses a Penal Code that sanctions any type of press freedom, political police harass, arrest and threaten to imprison journalists for various, alleged, crimes.”

ICEP is a non-profit NGO that defends freedom of the press and has within Cuba the only network of community media that publishes, prints and distributes printed newspapers to the population with information about the most pressing problems the Cuban population suffers.

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[1] The ICEP denounces 240 violations in Cuba against freedom of the press in 2017, Diario de Cuba (Mar. 7, 2018).