U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Cuba
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Cuba, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa398.html [accessed 30 July 2015]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
CUBACuba is a totalitarian state controlled by President Fidel Castro, who is Chief of State, Head of Government, First Secretary of the Communist Party, and commander in chief of the armed forces. President Castro exercises control over all aspects of Cuban life through the Communist Party and its affiliated mass organizations, the government bureaucracy, and the state security apparatus. The Communist Party is the only legal political entity, and President Castro personally approves the membership of the Politburo, the select group that heads the party. The party controls all government positions, including judicial offices. The Ministry of Interior is the principal organ of state security and totalitarian control. Officers of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), which are led by President Castro's brother Raul, have been assigned to the majority of key positions in the Ministry of Interior in recent years. In addition to the routine law enforcement functions of regulating migration, controlling the Border Guard and the regular police forces, the Interior Ministry's Department of State Security investigates and actively suppresses organized opposition and dissent. It maintains a pervasive system of vigilance through undercover agents, informers, the rapid response brigades, and the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR's). While the Government traditionally used the CDR's to mobilize citizens against dissenters, impose ideological conformity, and root out "counter- revolutionary" behavior, severe economic problems have reduced the willingness of citizens to participate in the CDR's and thereby lessened their effectiveness. Other mass organizations also inject government and Communist Party control into citizens' daily activities at home, work, and school. The Government continued to control all significant means of production and remained the predominant employer, despite permitting some carefully controlled foreign investment. Foreign employers continue to contract workers through state agencies, which pay the workers extremely low wages while receiving large hard currency payments. The Government has also legalized some minor categories of self-employment. Although the Government forecast a modest economic growth rate of some 2.5 percent (down from a claimed 7.8 percent in 1996), the economy remained depressed due to the inefficiencies of the centrally controlled economic system; the deterioration of plant, equipment, and the transportation system; the collapse of trade relations with the former Soviet bloc; the loss of billions of dollars of annual Soviet subsidies; and the poor performance of the important sugar harvest. For the seventh straight year, the Government continued its austerity measures known euphemistically as the "special period in peacetime." Agricultural markets, legalized in 1994, gave consumers wider access to meat and produce, although at prices beyond the reach of most Cubans living on peso-only incomes. The system of "tourist apartheid" continued, with foreign visitors who pay in hard currency receiving preference over citizens for food, consumer products, and medical services. Citizens remain barred from access to the tourism industry's hotels, beaches, and resorts. The Government's human rights record remained poor. It continued systematically to violate fundamental civil and political rights of its citizens. Citizens do not have the right to change their government. There were several credible reports of death due to excessive use of force by the police. Members of the security forces and prison officials continued to beat and otherwise abuse detainees and prisoners. Prison conditions remained harsh. The authorities routinely continued to harass, threaten, arbitrarily arrest, detain, imprison, and defame human rights advocates and members of independent professional associations, including journalists, economists, and lawyers, often with the goal of goading them into leaving the country. The Government used internal and external exile against such persons, and political prisoners were offered the choice of exile or continued imprisonment. The Government denied political dissidents and human rights advocates due process and subjected them to unfair trials. The judiciary is completely subordinate to the Government and to the Communist Party. The Government infringed upon citizens' right to privacy. The Government denied citizens the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association. It limited the distribution of foreign publications and news to selected party faithful. The Government kept tight restrictions on freedom of movement, and some religious activities were restricted. The Government was sharply and publicly antagonistic to all criticism of its human rights practices and sought to thwart foreign contacts with human rights activists. Discrimination against women and racial discrimination often occur. The Government severely restricted worker rights, including the right to form independent unions. In April the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) again passed a resolution endorsing the report of the UNHRC Special Rapporteur, which detailed Cuba's human rights violations. For the fifth consecutive year, the Government refused the Special Rapporteur permission to visit Cuba.