What Is So Bad About Cuba?

What Is So Bad About Cuba?

What is so bad about Cuba?

Political executions[edit]

Various estimates have been made to ascertain the number of political executions carried out on behalf of the Cuban government in Cuba since the revolution. According to Amnesty International, death sentences from 1959-87 numbered 237 of which all but 21 were actually carried out.[18] The Cuban Government justified such measures on the grounds that the application of the death penalty in Cuba against war criminals and others followed the same procedure as that seen in the trials by the Allies in the Nuremberg trials. Some Cuban scholars maintain that had the government not applied severe legislation against the torturers, terrorists, and other criminals employed by the Batista regime, the people themselves would have taken justice into their own hands.[19]

Latin American historian Thomas E. Skidmore says there had been 550 executions in the first six months of 1959.[20] British historian Hugh Thomas, in his study Cuba or the pursuit of freedom[21] stated that "perhaps" 5,000 executions had taken place by 1970,[20] while The World Handbook of Political and Social Indicators ascertained that there had been 2,113 political executions between the years of 1958-67.[20]

Professor of political science at the University of Hawaii, Rudolph J. Rummel estimated the number of political executions at between 4,000 and 33,000 from 1958–87, with a mid range of 15,000.[22]

One estimate from The Black Book of Communism is that throughout Cuba 15,000–17,000 people were executed.


According to the US government, some 1,200,000 Cubans (about 10% of the current population) left the island for the United States between 1959 and 1993,[23] often by sea in small boats andfragile rafts.

Political repression[edit]

Further information: Cuban dissidents

A 2009 report by Human Rights Watch concluded that "Raúl Castro has kept Cuba’s repressive machinery firmly in place...since being handed power by his brother Fidel Castro."[26] The report found that "[s]cores of political prisoners arrested under Fidel continue to languish in prison, and Raúl has used draconian laws and sham trials to incarcerate scores more who have dared to exercise their fundamental rights.

Freedom House classifies Cuba as being "Not Free",[27] and notes that "Cuba is the only country in the Americas that consistently makes Freedom House’s list of the Worst of the Worst: the World’s Most Repressive Societies for widespread abuses of political rights and civil liberties."[28]

A 1999 Human Rights Watch report notes that the Interior Ministry has principal responsibility for monitoring the Cuban population for signs of dissent.[29] In 1991 two new mechanisms for internal surveillance and control emerged. Communist Party leaders organized the Singular Systems of Vigilance and Protection (Sistema Unico de Vigilancia y Protección, SUVP). Rapid Action Brigades (Brigadas de Acción Rapida, also referred to as Rapid Response Brigades, or Brigadas de Respuesta Rápida) observe and control dissidents.[29] The government also "maintains academic and labor files (expedientes escolares y laborales) for each citizen, in which officials record actions or statements that may bear on the person's loyalty to the revolution. Before advancing to a new school or position, the individual's record must first be deemed acceptable".[29]

The opposition movement in Cuba is a widespread collection of individuals and nongovernmental organizations, most of whom are working for the respect of individual rights on the island.[30] Some of the best known Cuban members of the opposition include the Ladies in White (recipients of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought), Martha Beatriz Roque, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Sakharov Prize winner Oswaldo Payá, as well as Oscar Elías Biscet, and Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez." The movement is violently repressed by the State despite its nonviolent strategy for change.[31]

International human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have drawn attention to the actions of the human rights movement and designated members of it as Prisoners of Conscience, such as Oscar Elías Biscet. In addition, the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba led by former heads of state Václav Havel of the Czech Republic, José María Aznar of Spain and Patricio Aylwin of Chile was created to support the civic movement.[32]


Main article: Censorship in Cuba

Cuba officially adopted the civil and political rights enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. One of the key principles in the declaration was the insistence on Freedom of expression and opinion. The Cuban constitution says that free speech is allowed "in keeping with the objectives of socialist society" and that artistic creation is allowed "as long as its content is not contrary to the Revolution".

Cuba's ranking was on the bottom of the Press Freedom Index 2008 compiled by the Reporters Without Borders (RWB).[4] Cuba was named one of the ten most censored countries in the world by the Committee to Protect Journalists.[33]

Books, newspapers, radio channels, television channels, movies and music are censored.

Media is operated under the supervision of the Communist Party's Department of Revolutionary Orientation, which "develops and coordinates propaganda strategies".[33]

Human rights groups and international organizations believe that these articles subordinate the exercise of freedom of expression to the state. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rightsassess that: "It is evident that the exercise of the right to freedom of expression under this article of the Constitution is governed by two fundamental determinants: on the one hand, the preservation and strengthening of the communist State; on the other, the need to muzzle any criticism of the group in power."[34] Human rights group Amnesty International assert that the universal state ownership of the media means that freedom of expression is restricted. Thus the exercise of the right to freedom of expression is restricted by the lack of means of mass communication falling outside state control.[35] Human Rights Watch states: "Refusing to recognize human rights monitoring as a legitimate activity, the government denies legal status to local human rights groups. Individuals who belong to these groups face systematic harassment, with the government putting up obstacles to impede them from documenting human rights conditions. In addition, international human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are barred from sending fact-finding missions to Cuba. It remains one of the few countries in the world to deny the International Committee of the Red Cross access to its prisons."[36]

A Reporters Without Borders report finds that Internet use is very restricted and under tight surveillance. Access is only possible with government permission and equipment is rationed. E-mail is monitored.[37] See also Censorship in Cuba.

Foreign journalists are systematically expelled from Cuba, e.g. notable journalists of New Left Gazeta Wyborcza, Anna Bikont and Seweryn Blumsztahn, were expelled in 2005.[citation needed]

Restrictions of assembly[edit]

Human Rights Watch states that "freedom of assembly is severely restricted in Cuba, and political dissidents are generally prohibited from meeting in large groups.[36] Amnesty states that "All human rights, civil and professional associations and unions that exist today in Cuba outside the officialdom of the state apparatus and mass organizations controlled by the government are barred from having legal status. This often puts at risk the individuals who belong to these associations of facing harassment, intimidation or criminal charges for activities which constitute the legitimate exercise of the fundamental freedoms of expression, association and assembly."[dead link][38][dead link]

The Cuban authorities only recognize a single national trade union centre, the Central de Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC), heavily controlled by the State and the Communist Party which appoints its leaders. Membership is compulsory for all workers. Before a worker can be hired, they must sign a contract in which they promise to support the Communist Party and everything it represents. The government explicitly prohibits independent trade unions, there is systematic harassment and detention of labor activists, and the leaders of attempted independent unions have been imprisoned. The right to strike is not recognized in law.[39][40][41]

Bans are enforced by "Rapid Brigades", consisting of members of the army and police in plain clothes, who beat and disperse any demonstrators.[42]

Race relations[edit]

Main article: Racism in Cuba

Esteban Morales Dominguez has pointed to institutionalized racism in his book The Challenges of the Racial Problem in Cuba (Fundación Fernando Ortiz). Racial Politics in Post-Revolutionary Cuba discusses the racial politics prevalent in communist Cuba.[59]

Enrique Patterson, writing in the Miami Herald, describes race as "social bomb" and says that "If the Cuban government were to permit black Cubans to organize and raise their problems before [authorities]... totalitarianism would fall".[60] Carlos Moore, who has authored extensive on the issue, says that "There is an unstated threat, blacks in Cuba know that whenever you raise race in Cuba, you go to jail. Therefore the struggle in Cuba is different. There cannot be a civil rights movement. You will have instantly 10,000 black people dead".[60] He says that a new generation of black Cubans are looking at politics in another way.[60]

Jorge Luis García Pérez, a well-known Afro-Cuban human rights and democracy activist who was locked up in prison for 17 years, in an interview with the Florida-based[61] Directorio Democratico Cubano states "The authorities in my country have never tolerated that a black person oppose the revolution. During the trial, the color of my skin aggravated the situation. Later when I was mistreated in prison by guards, they always referred to me as being black".[61]

Black Spring[edit]

Main article: Black Spring (Cuba)

In March 2003, the government of Cuba arrested dozens of people (including self-identified journalists and human rights activists), and charged them with sedition due to their alleged cooperation with James Cason, head of the United States Interests Section in Havana.[62] The accused were tried and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 15 to 28 years. In all, 75 people were given lengthy sentences averaging 17 years each. Among those sentenced were Raúl Rivero, Martha Beatriz Roque, and Oscar Elías Biscet. Amnesty International described the trials as "hasty and manifestly unfair."[63]

Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque denied these accusations and responded: "Cuba has the right to defend itself and apply punishment just like other nations do, like the United States punishes those who cooperate with a foreign power to inflict damage on their people and territory."[64]

During the trial, evidence was presented that the defendants had received funds from the U.S. Interests Section. Cuban officials claim that the goal of this funding was to undermine the Cuban state, disrupt internal order, and damage the Cuban economy. For his part, Cason denies offering funds to anyone in Cuba.

On November 29, 2004, the Cuban government released three of those arrested in the March 2003: Oscar Espinosa Chepe, Marcelo López, and Margarito Broche. The action followed a meeting between the Spanish ambassador and Cuba's foreign minister.[65] In subsequent days four more dissidents were released: Raúl Rivero, Osvaldo Alfonso Valdés,[66] Edel José García[67] and Jorge Olivera.[68] Seven other prisoners had previously been released for health reasons.

Campaigns against homosexual behavior[edit]

Main articles: LGBT rights in Cuba and Military Units to Aid Production

Thousands of homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, conscientious objectors, and dissidents were forced to conduct their compulsory military service in the 1960s at UMAP camps, where they were subject to political "reeducation".[55][69] Military commanders brutalized the inmates.[70] Carlos Alberto Montaner says "Camps of forced labour were instituted with all speed to "correct" such deviations.... Verbal and physical mistreatment, shaved heads, work from dawn to dusk, hammocks, dirt floors, scarce food.... The camps became increasingly crowded as the methods of arrest became more expedient".[55]

In the late 1960s, because of "revolutionary social hygiene", the Castro government claimed to cleanse the arts of "fraudulent sodomitic" writers and "sick effeminate" dancers.[71] Additionally, men with long hair were locked up and their hair was cut.[72]

Castro is reported to once have asserted that, "in the country[side], there are no homosexuals", before in 1992 claiming that homosexuality is a “natural human tendency that must simply be respected.”[73] Another source reports Castro as having denounced "maricones" ("faggots") as "agents of imperialism".[74] Castro has also reportedly asserted that "homosexuals should not be allowed in positions where they are able to exert influence upon young people".[75]

Recent changes[edit]

Cuba has taken some reforms recently.[76] In 2003, Carlos Sanchez from the International Lesbian and Gay Association issued a report on the status of gay people in Cuba that claimed that the Cuban government no longer offers any legal punishment for its gay citizens, that there is a greater level of tolerance among Cubans for gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and that the Cuban government was open to endorsing a gay and lesbian rights plank at the United Nations.[77] Since 2005 sex reassignment surgeries for transgender individuals are free under law, and are paid for by the government.[78][79] Also Havana now has a "lively and vibrant" gay and lesbian scene.[80]

In a 2010 interview with Mexican newspaper La Jornada, the former president of Cuba, Fidel Castro, called the persecution of homosexuals whilst he was in power "a great injustice, great injustice!" Taking responsibility for the persecution, he said, "If anyone is responsible, it's me... We had so many and such terrible problems, problems of life or death. In those moments I was not able to deal with that matter [of homosexuals]. I found myself immersed, principally, in the Crisis of October, in the war, in policy questions." Castro personally believed that the negative treatment of gays in Cuba arose out of the country's pre-revolutionary attitudes toward homosexuality.[81]

Mariela Castro, daughter of current president Raul Castro has been pushing for lesbian rights with the pro-lesbian government sponsored Cuban National Center for Sexual Education which she leads. Mariela has claimed her father fully supports her initiatives, saying that her father has overcome his initial homophobia to support his daughter.[82]

United Nations Human Rights Commission[edit]

Since 1990, the United States has presented various resolutions to the annual UN Human Rights Commission criticizing Cuba’s human rights record. The proposals and subsequent diplomatic disagreements have been described as a "nearly annual ritual".[83] Long term consensus between Latin American nations has not emerged.[84] The resolutions were passed 1990-1997, but were rejected in 1998.[83] Subsequent efforts by the U.S. have succeeded by narrow voting margins. In the Americas, some governments back the criticism, others oppose it, seeing it as a cynical manipulation of a serious human rights issue in order to promote the isolation of the island and to justify the decades-old embargo.[84] European Union nations have universally voted against Cuba since 1990, though requests that the resolution should contain references to the negative effects of the economic embargo have been made.[85]