Cuba’s appalling human rights record

The 2009  Human Rights Report is out, and Cuba unfortunately remains a totalitarian state that does not tolerate opposition to official policy, and denies its citizens basic human rights.

Cuba, with a population of approximately 11 million, is a totalitarian state that does not tolerate opposition to official policy. The country is led by Raul Castro, who holds the positions of chief of state, president of the council of state and council of ministers, and commander in chief of the Revolutionary Armed Forces. Although the constitution recognizes the unicameral National Assembly as the supreme authority, the Communist Party (CP) is recognized in the constitution as the only legal party and “the superior leading force of society and of the state.” Fidel Castro remained the first secretary of the CP. The January 2008 elections for the National Assembly were neither free nor fair, and all of the candidates had to be preapproved by a CP candidacy commission, with the result that the CP candidates and their allies won 98.7 percent of the vote and 607 of 614 seats in the National Assembly. Civilian authorities, through the Ministry of the Interior, exercised control over the police, the internal security forces, and the prison system.

 The government continued to deny its citizens their basic human rights, including the right to change their government, and committed numerous and serious abuses. The following human rights problems were reported: beatings and abuse of prisoners and detainees, harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, including denial of medical care; harassment, beatings, and threats against political opponents by government-recruited mobs, police, and state security officials acting with impunity; arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights advocates and members of independent professional organizations; and denial of fair trial, including for at least 194 political prisoners and as many as 5,000 persons who have been convicted of potential “dangerousness” without being charged with any specific crime. 

 Authorities interfered with privacy and engaged in pervasive monitoring of private communications. There were also severe limitations on freedom of speech and press; denial of peaceful assembly and association; restrictions on freedom of movement, including selective denial of exit permits to citizens and the forcible removal of persons from Havana to their hometowns; and restrictions on freedom of religion and refusal to recognize domestic human rights groups or permit them to function legally. Discrimination against persons of African descent, domestic violence, underage prostitution, trafficking in persons, and severe restrictions on worker rights, including the right to form independent unions, were also problems.

Read the entire depressing report here.