U.S. Accuses Cuba of Rights Abuses

Cuba was heavily criticized in a U.S. State Department report on human rights abuses for cracking down on dissidents.

The report said Fidel Castro government’s human rights record “remained poor” and accused the Castro government of continuing to “commit numerous serious abuses.”

“At least 333 Cuban political prisoners and detainees were held at year’s end,” the State Department said.

The report did not end there, the State Department said on its website the following “human rights problems” were reported in the last year:

  • Denial of citizens’ rights to change their government
  • Beatings and abuse of detainees and prisoners, including human rights activists, carried out with impunity
  • Transfers of mentally healthy prisoners to psychiatric facilities for political reasons
  • Frequent harassment of political opponents by government-recruited mobs
  • Extremely harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, including denial of medical care
  • Arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights advocates and members of independent professional organizations
  • Denial of fair trial, particularly to political prisoners
  • Interference with privacy, including pervasive monitoring of private communications 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 thousands of citizens
  • Refusal to recognize domestic human rights groups or to permit them to function legally
  • Domestic violence, underage prostitution, and sex tourism
  • Discrimination against persons of African descent
  • Severe restrictions on worker rights, including the right to form independent unions

“In Cuba, the regime continued to control all aspects of life through the Communist Party and state-controlled mass organizations,” the report said. “The regime suppressed calls for democratic reform, such as the Varela Project, which proposed a national referendum.”

The State Department also accused the Castro government of continuing to “subject persons who disagreed with it to ‘acts of repudiation.’ At government instigation members of state-controlled mass organizations, fellow workers, or neighbors of victims staged public protests against those who dissented from the government’s policies by shouting obscenities and causing damage to the homes and property of those targeted. Physical attacks on victims or their family members sometimes occurred. Police and State Security agents often were present but took no action to prevent or end the attacks. Those who refused to participate in these actions faced disciplinary action, including loss of employment.”

The State Department also accused the Castro government of continuing to suppress freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

“The (Cuban) constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press insofar as they ‘conform to the aims of socialist society,’ a clause effectively barring free speech, and in practice the government did not allow criticism of the revolution or its leaders. Laws against antigovernment propaganda, graffiti, and disrespect of officials impose penalties between three months and one year in prison; criticism of the president or members of the ANPP or Council of State is punishable by three years’ imprisonment. Disseminating ‘enemy propaganda,’ which included expressing opinions at odds with those of the government, is punishable by up to 14 years’ imprisonment.

“The [Castro] government considers such materials as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international reports of human rights violations, and mainstream foreign newspapers and magazines to be enemy propaganda,” according to the report. 

“Police and State Security officials regularly harassed, threatened, and otherwise abused human rights advocates in public and private to intimidate them. The government subjected dissenters to “acts of repudiation.” The government also obliged members of state-controlled mass organizations, co-workers, or neighbors of victims to stage public protests against those who dissented from the government’s policies, for instance, by shouting obscenities and often causing damage to the homes and property of those targeted. Physical attacks on the victims and their family members sometimes occurred,” the report said.

The State Department also gave the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Venezuela poor marks for their human-rights practices.

The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel said there was no reaction to the report from the Castro government, which in the past has ignored such reports.

But that did not stop America’s top diplomat in Cuba from speaking out.

Michael Parmly, chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba, said a “a sinister wave of repression” is occurring in Cuba that has been instigated by the Castro government.

Parmly told reporters in Havana, the Castro government continues to engage in what he called “systematic violations of fundamental rights” and “continued to sponsor mob actions designed to squelch dissent.”

“Acts of repudiation are occurring all over the country,” Parmly said.

“When a government-mobilized mob gathers at the home of a free-thinking Cuban and offers hateful chants, threats or violence, the victim suffers enormously, as do family members.”

The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel also reported that Parmly made reference to the comments of a U.N. Human Rights Commission’s expert, Christine Chanet, who said this week that “extreme tension” between Cuba and the U.S. had led to an increase in the number of dissidents sentenced to prison.

Parmly ducked comment, however, on Chanet’s opinion that tighter U.S. sanctions on Cuba had helped create the climate for a Cuban crackdown, saying only that he wished Chanet would be given the opportunity to come to the communist island.

Chanet has never been allowed to visit Cuba since being designated as the United Nations “Cuba expert” in 2003.