HUMAN RIGHTS IN CUBA (PART I)
Freedom House, in a report titled The Most Repressive Regimes of 1997 presented to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, listed Cuba among the 17 worst violators. Cuba shared billing with the likes of China, North Korea, Vietnam, Libya, Iraq and Syria. Cuba is the only country in the Western Hemisphere on the list.
Paradoxically, it was at the 1945 Bretton Woods Conference for the creation of the UN, that Cuban Delegate Ernesto Dihigo proposed that the defense of human rights be included in the charter of the organization. Cuba is a signatory of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a member of the UN Commission on Human Rights. However, at its inception, Castro's regime began violating the UN Charter and continues to violate, in particular, the following Articles:
Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
Article 5. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Article 19. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
The Universal Declaration of Humans Rights, adopted and proclaimed by the General Assembly on December 10, 1948, is considered by Castro's regime to be a subversive document and the mere possession of a copy can result in incarceration. Cuba denies access to the Commission's Special Rapporteur. Since 1989, Cuba hasn't allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit its prisons.
Every year Amnesty International issues a report about human rights in Cuba. The current report is once again being ignored by the press as "not newsworthy." Therefore, most people are unaware of the seriousness of the tragedy of Cuba. That's a major reason why after 38 years there is so much blindness and even admiration for a regime that is nothing less than a tyranny.
Castro's intolerance and unwillingness to change is exacerbating the need for freedom. Some people inside Cuba have become defiant and daring within the framework of peaceful changes. But their efforts are frustrated by increasing repression. Since February 1996, with the persecution and incarceration of the members of Concilio Cubano (a new coalition of 140 independent political groups), the situation grew worse. The Rapid Deployment Brigades (groups of paramilitary thugs) were sent to the homes of the dissidents to beat them up. Another technique used is the "repudiation acts," inspired by Mao's 1960s Cultural Revolution. Taking place in Cuba since 1980, these acts are performed by groups of paramilitary thugs connected with the CDR (block surveillance committees) and directed by the Cuban Communist Party. A "repudiation act" consists of surrounding the houses of people disenchanted with the government, chanting and writing obscenities and accusations on the walls, throwing stones at the houses and daring its residents to step out so they can be attacked. This perpetuates the atmosphere of intimidation and fear that Cubans have been suffering for 38 years.
Another method Castro's regime uses to repress is to exile people to provinces far from their homes, effectively isolating and dividing the opposition groups. For example, since February 1995, journalists of the Independent Press Bureau, Olance Nogeras, Hector Peraza and Omar Rodriguez were exiled to distant provinces. Bernardo Fuentes, of Patria news agency, can't leave the province of Camagüey. In July and October 1996, the police apprehended Fuentes at Camagüey's train station, confiscating his ID card (without this passport-like document, Cuban citizens cannot venture out of their designated territory without facing a fine or court appearance). Ramon Cruz, also of Patria, was exiled to the province of Ciego de Avila. Pablo Cerdeno and Juan Antonio Sanchez of Cuba Press, received warnings from State Security to stay within their provinces. There are thousands of exiled Cubans inside the island.
Another method is to force the dissidents into exile abroad, by threatening them with jail and family reprisals. Some recent examples are the cases of Indamiro Restano, Rafael Solano and Roaxana Valdivia.
In May 1996, 16 members of the Pro-Human Rights Party were apprehended and 14 were accused of passing "enemy propaganda" and one of "illegal association." Many were detained and questioned a week prior to the anniversary - July 13 - of the tugboat sinking (the catalyst for the Guantanamo exodus). Among the detainees was independent journalist Rafael Solano who was accused of writing "subversive articles damaging to Castro's government" for radio stations and newspapers abroad. He was freed with the warning that if he continues writing, he will be accused of the dreaded "enemy propaganda." Other independent reporters were given the same warning and threatened with violent reprisals.
Castro's regime also tries to silence dissents by sending them to jail using the vague charge of being "dangerous." According to the 1976 Cuban Constitution, anyone suspected of being prone to commit a crime in the future, as a preventive measure, can be sent to jail indefinitely.
Castro's regime, in control of all information media, uses this tool to set in motion public campaigns to discredit, divide and accuse dissidents in order to ruin their credibility. For example, the regime said that there is proof that former political prisoner Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz, President of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, received funds from Miami exiles. Mr. Sanchez couldn't do anything but deny the charges. However, later, he received visits from unknown people, who, in intimidating ways, insisted that he owed them money.
End of Part 1
Agustín Blázquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton