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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1999 - Cuba

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 25 February 2000
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1999 - Cuba , 25 February 2000, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa6710.html [accessed 24 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Cuba

Cuba 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 chooses the membership of the Politburo, the select group that heads the party. There are no contested elections for the 601-member National Assembly of People's Power (ANPP), which meets twice a year for a few days to rubber stamp decisions and policies already decided by the Government. The Party controls all government positions, including judicial offices. The judiciary is completely subordinate to the Government and to the Communist Party.

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 and controlling the Border Guard and the regular police forces, the Interior Ministry's Department of State Security investigates and actively suppresses 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 "counterrevolutionary" behavior, economic problems have reduced the Government's ability to reward participation in the CDR's and hence the willingness of citizens to participate in them, thereby lessening the CDR's effectiveness. Other mass organizations also inject government and Communist Party control into citizens' daily activities at home, work, and school. Members of the security forces committed serious human rights abuses.

The Government continued to control all significant means of production and remained the predominant employer, despite permitting some carefully controlled foreign investment in joint ventures with the Government. In most cases, foreign employers are allowed to contract workers only through state agencies, which receive hard currency payments for the workers' labor but in turn pay the workers a small fraction of this, usually 5 percent, in local currency. In May 1998, the Government retracted some of the changes that had led to the rise of legal nongovernmental business activity when it further tightened restrictions on the self-employed sector by reducing the number of categories allowed and by exacting relatively high taxes on self-employed persons. In August the Government's official press reported that the number of self-employed persons was 166,000, an increase from the fewer than 150,000 reported in 1998, when the number of self-employed persons was estimated to have dropped by one-fourth from 1997. According to official figures published in December, the economy grew 6.2 percent during the year. Despite this growth, overall economic output remains below the levels prior to the drop of at least 35 percent in gross domestic product that occurred in the early 1990's due to the inefficiencies of the centrally controlled economic system; the loss of billions of dollars of annual Soviet bloc trade and Soviet subsidies; the ongoing deterioration of plants, equipment, and the transportation system; and the continued poor performance of the important sugar sector. The 1998-99 sugar harvest was marginally better than the 1997-98 harvest, considered to have been the worst in more than 50 years. For the ninth straight year, the Government continued its austerity measures known as the "special period in peacetime." Agricultural markets, legalized in 1994, provide consumers wider access to meat and produce, although at prices beyond the reach of most citizens living on peso-only incomes or pensions. Given these conditions, the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars in remittances from the exile community significantly helps those who receive dollars to survive. Tourism remained a key source of revenue for the Government. 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 tourist 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 peacefully. Unlike in 1998, there were no credible reports of death due to excessive use of force by the police. However, members of the security forces and prison officials continued to beat and otherwise abuse detainees and prisoners. The Government failed to prosecute or sanction adequately members of the security forces and prison guards who committed abuses. 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, doctors, and lawyers, often with the goal of coercing them into leaving the country. The Government used internal and external exile against such persons, and it offered political prisoners 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 Government infringed on citizens' privacy rights. 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 and maintained strict censorship of news and information to the public. The Government restricts some religious activities but permits others. Before and after the January 1998 visit of Pope John Paul II, the Government permitted some public processions on feast days, and reinstated Christmas as an official holiday, but it has not responded to the papal appeal that the Church be allowed to play a greater role in Cuban society. During the year, the Government allowed about 15 new priests to enter the country; however, the applications of many priests and religious workers remained pending, and some visas were issued for periods of only 3 to 6 months. The Government kept tight restrictions on freedom of movement, including foreign travel. The Government was sharply and publicly antagonistic to all criticism of its human rights practices and sought to discourage and thwart foreign contacts with human rights activists. The Government publicly stated before the Ibero-American Summit in November that visiting delegations were free to meet with any person in the country, and about 20 dissidents met with 9 different delegations, including 3 heads of state. However, prior to the summit, the Government temporarily detained a number of human rights activists to prevent them from preparing for meetings with the visiting leaders and also detained independent journalists to prevent them from covering the event. Violence against women is a problem, as is child prostitution. Racial discrimination often occurs. The Government severely restricted worker rights, including the right to form independent unions. The Government employs forced labor, including that by children.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of politically motivated killings. Unlike in 1998, during the year there were no credible reports of deaths due to the excessive use of force by the national police. Government sanctions against perpetrators were light or nonexistent in the cases of deaths due to excessive use of force during 1998. There were no reports of proper investigations into the 1998 deaths of Wilfredo Martinez Perez, Yuset Ochoterena and Reinery Marrera Toldedo.

In October 1996, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued its final report on the Government's July 13, 1994 sinking of the "13th of March" tugboat, which killed 41 persons, including women and children. The IACHR concluded that the Government violated the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man and found the Government legally obligated to indemnify the survivors and the relatives of the victims for the damages caused. At year's end, the Government still had not done so. The Government detained a number of human rights activists to prevent them from participating in a Mass in memory of the victims on the anniversary of the deaths (see Sections 1.d. and 2.c.).

In March the Government announced that a Havana court sentenced Salvadoran citizen Raul Ernesto Cruz Leon to death for terrorism. The authorities arrested Cruz Leon in September 1997 and charged him with being the "material author" of the killing of an Italian tourist that month with a bomb, one of a series of explosions in Havana. In April the court sentenced a second Salvadoran citizen, Otto Rene Rodriguez Llerena, to death in the same case. Neither man was executed by year's end. The authorities also held two Guatemalan citizens in custody in the case; they awaited trial at year's end.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution prohibits abusive treatment of detainees and prisoners; however, there were instances in which members of the security forces beat and otherwise abused human rights advocates, detainees, and prisoners. There have been numerous reports of disproportionate police harassment of black youths (see Section 5).

On January 26, police approached 16-year-old Yusel Vidal Mejias and his friends, who were hanging on to a gasoline truck while riding their bicycles at about 11:00 p.m. The youths dispersed upon seeing the police, but police apprehended Vidal and severely beat him. Since Vidal had no identity documents, the police took him to the local police station, where the police told the registration official that he was a "ninja" (a popular expression referring to thieves who use acrobatic maneuvers to mount a moving truck and then proceed to throw bags of rice or beans onto another moving vehicle). Vidal's father, Jose Vidal Crossa, told of his son's arrest by friends and neighbors, reached the police station after midnight, and after nearly an hour's wait, secured his son's release. The father took the boy to the nearest hospital, where a doctor diagnosed him as having suffered "severe contusions of the right elbow, of the right knee, and multiple hematomas of the back." On January 27, the father met with the chief of police, who admitted that the police officer used excessive force and said that the officer would no longer have any duties related to street patrols. Citing a radio statement by the Director of Prisons of the Ministry of Interior (MININT) in 1996 that no prisoner in Cuba is mistreated, the father officially requested that the military prosecutor investigate the case and prosecute the police officer. There was no response from the Government as of year's end.

On August 14, police detained Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet Gonzalez, president of the Lawton Human Rights Foundation (FLDH), and other activists as they were going to a public park to demonstrate (see Section 2.b.). At the police station, a policeman punched Biscet in the face while another crushed his burning cigarette on Biscet's elbow when Biscet said, "God loves you." It was not known whether the Government ever sanctioned the two policemen responsible for the cigarette burn and for striking Dr. Biscet in the face.

The Government continued to subject those who disagreed with it to "acts of repudiation." At government instigation, members of state-controlled mass organizations, fellow workers, or neighbors of intended victims are obliged to stage public protests against those who dissent with the Government's policies, shouting obscenities and often causing damage to the homes and property of those targeted; physical attacks on the victims sometimes occur. Police and state security agents are often present but take no action to prevent or end the attacks. Those who refuse to participate in these actions face disciplinary action, including loss of employment. During the year, there were no massive acts of repudiation directed against the homes of particular human rights activists; however, there were smaller-scale acts of repudiation, known as "reuniones relampagos," or "lightning fast meetings."

On October 28, in a press conference at his residence, Dr. Biscet announced plans for a protest march. Participants in the press conference were subjected to verbal abuse from a crowd in which observers noted the presence of security police in civilian clothes (see Section 2.b.). On November 10, this publicly announced nonviolent protest march from Dolores Park to Butari Park in the Lawton section of Havana was repressed when a crowd booed, chased, and struck three protesters. On November 12, Moises Rodriguez Quesada allowed his house to be used for a meeting of nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) (see Section 2.b.). On November 22, a small crowd threw stones for about 30 minutes at a metal door on the side of Rodriguez's house. Independent journalists also were subjected to acts of repudiation (see Section 2.a.).

Prison conditions continued to be harsh, and conditions in detention facilities also are harsh. The Government claims that prisoners have rights, such as family visitation, adequate nutrition, pay for work, the right to request parole, and the right to petition the prison director. However, police and prison officials often denied these rights and used beatings, neglect, isolation, and denial of medical attention against detainees and prisoners, including those convicted of political crimes or those who persisted in expressing their views. Human Rights Watch reported that in February the Government revised the Penal Code to provide that prisoners "cannot be subjected to corporal punishment, nor is it permitted to employ any means against them to humiliate them or to lessen their dignity;" however, the revised code failed to establish penalties for committing such acts. There are separate prison facilities for women and for minors.

Prison officials regularly denied prisoners other rights, such as the right to correspondence, and continued to confiscate medications and food brought by family members for political prisoners. State security officials in Havana's Villa Marista prison took medications brought by family members for inmates and then refused to give the detainees the medicine, despite repeated assurances that they would. Prison authorities also routinely denied religious workers access to detainees and prisoners.

The rights to adequate nutrition and medical attention while in prison also were violated regularly. In 1997 the IACHR described the nutritional and hygienic situation in the prisons, together with the deficiencies in medical care, as "alarming." Both the IACHR and the former U.N. Special Rapporteur on Cuba, as well as other human rights monitoring organizations, reported the widespread incidence in prisons of tuberculosis, scabies, hepatitis, parasitic infections, and malnutrition.

Prison guards and state security officials also subjected human rights and prodemocracy activists to threats of physical violence; to systematic psychological intimidation; and to detention or imprisonment in cells with common and violent criminals, sexually aggressive inmates, or state security agents posing as prisoners. In May in the Guamajal prison in Villa Clara, a common prisoner named Soria physically attacked political prisoner Cecilio Monteagudo Sanchez, at the instigation of prison authorities. According to witnesses, prison official Jose Luis Collado was responsible for this attack.

Political prisoners are required to comply with the rules for common criminals and often are punished severely if they refuse. Detainees and prisoners often are subjected to repeated, vigorous interrogations designed to coerce them into signing incriminating statements, to force collaboration with authorities, or to intimidate victims.

Despite international appeals for their release, after 17 months of detention without charges, the four leaders of the dissident working group – economists Vladimiro Roca Antunez and Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, engineer Felix Antonio Bonne Carcasses, and lawyer Rene Gomez Manzano – were accused of sedition in November 1998 and convicted in March 1999 after a 1-day, closed trial. On July 16, one of the four, Marta Beatriz Roque, began to refuse all solid food and threatened to begin a complete hunger strike on September 2 if the Government did not answer the appeal she filed after the trial (see Section 1.e.). However, after promising her a quick response, the Government instead transferred Roque to a government-owned safehouse where she was kept in isolation for several months.

In June in the provincial prison of Guantanamo, prison authorities placed Alexander Taureaux Balvier in solitary confinement after he complained about the prison authorities' arbitrary decision to reduce family visits, including those by his mother, to 5 minutes. On June 29, common prisoners demonstrated against the mistreatment of Taureaux, and in response, the prison authorities called in the special brigade riot police for help. The demonstration did not become violent, and no one was injured in the incident.

On July 5, in a note smuggled out of the Combinado del Este prison in Havana, political prisoner Francisco Chaviano Gonzalez described the mistreatment that he said prison officials directed at him. According to Chaviano, prison authorities confined him to his cell without allowing him to mix with other prisoners or to exercise in the open court with other prisoners. He added that this was the third time during the last 3 months that he was isolated in his cell. Chaviano speculated that this treatment was in retaliation for a letter he wrote to Fidel Castro criticizing the arbitrariness of his detention and trial. In September Chaviano reportedly again was placed in isolation after a heated conversation with a prison official.

On August 15, prison authorities in Canaleta, Ciego de Avila province, placed Luis Campo Corrales (who was sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment for piracy of a boat and another year for "disrespect") in isolation (known as a "punishment cell") for reportedly complaining about prison conditions. Witnesses reported that the cell in which he was placed previously was occupied by a prisoner infected with the HIV virus. According to these witnesses, prison authorities stripped Campo of all his clothes before confining him in the cell.

In September prison authorities in Ciego de Avila forced the parents of imprisoned journalist Joel Diaz Hernandez to submit to a strip search following a visit to their son (see Section 2.a.).

The Government does not permit independent monitoring of prison conditions by international or national human rights monitoring groups. The Government has refused prison visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) since 1989 and continued to refuse requests to renew such visits. Nonetheless, human rights activists continued to seek information on conditions inside jails despite the risks to themselves and to their prison sources.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Arbitrary arrest and detention continued to be problems, and they remained the Government's most effective weapons to harass opponents. The Law of Penal Procedures requires police to file formal charges and either release a detainee or bring the case before a prosecutor within 96 hours of arrest. It also requires the authorities to provide suspects with access to a lawyer within 7 days of arrest. However, the Constitution states that all legally recognized civil liberties can be denied to anyone who actively opposes the "decision of the Cuban people to build socialism." The authorities invoke this sweeping authority to deny due process to those detained on purported state security grounds.

The authorities routinely engage in arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights advocates, subjecting them to interrogations, threats, and degrading treatment and conditions for hours or days at a time.

In January security agents temporarily detained independent journalist Omar Rodriguez Saludes and Jose Orlando Gonzalez Bridon, president of an independent labor organization, after they had lunch with a group of visiting foreign former legislators. On January 14, police temporarily detained about a dozen prodemocracy activists in Havana to prevent them from holding a public event in honor of Martin Luther King (see Section 2.b.). According to Human Rights Watch, in late January, police detained several members of the FLDH, including Dr. Biscet, the group's leader, for 4 to 6 days. The detentions prevented the FLDH members from participating in a January 25 celebration of the first anniversary of the Pope's 1998 visit to the country (see Section 2.c.).

In February state security officials detained a number of prodemocracy activists in various parts of the country to prevent them from commemorating the anniversary of the shootdown of two civilian airplanes over international airspace by the air force in 1996 (see Section 2.b.). In late February and early March, the Government temporarily detained nearly 100 prodemocracy activists and placed others under house arrest to keep them from expressing support for the four members of the Internal Dissident Working Group during their trial in March on charges of sedition (see Sections 1.e. and 2.b.).

On July 13, the police arrested Marcel Valenzuela Salt, a member of the Organization of Fraternal Brothers for Dignity, and 5 other persons while the 6 were en route to a church in Guanabacoa to attend a Mass in honor of the 41 persons who drowned when the Border Guard sank the tugboat "13th of March" (see Section 1.a.). Police officers detained all six persons and confiscated the truck driven by Valenzuela, even though the truck's papers clearly indicated that Valenzuela's father was the owner. Despite various attempts to have the truck returned to its rightful owner, police refused to do so. The truck finally was returned to its rightful owner in November. On August 15, police prevented human rights activists, including lawyer Leonel Morejon Almagro, leader of the environmental group Naturpaz and founder of Concilio Cubano, from meeting in Lenin Park, and confiscated Morejon's car (see Section 2.b.).

On September 8, security police told a number of human rights activists not to attend the annual procession in honor of the Virgin of Charity (see Section 2.c.). On the same day, police prevented some activists from meeting to discuss the formation of a forum on civil society. On October 19, security police prevented members of various organizations from organizing the Third Millennium Forum. These organizations intended to present a unified position on various domestic issues to delegations attending the Ninth Ibero-American Summit in Havana on November 15 and 16.

On October 21, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation issued a press release alerting the international community to the growing number of human rights activists being detained for short periods. The Commission noted that at least 40 people were detained for brief periods during the previous 2 weeks. On November 10, police arrested leaders of a farmers' organization that was preparing a conference for small farmers and agricultural operatives on November 12 in Matanzas (see Section 2.b.). These arrests were carried out to prevent human rights activists from preparing themselves for meetings that they hoped to have with government leaders attending the Ibero-American Summit. Also on November 10, police told a number of activists not to leave their homes in order to prevent them from participating in a planned protest in a public park in the Lawton section of Havana. On November 3, a week before the event, the authorities detained Dr. Biscet, who had announced the planned protest march in an October 28 press conference (see Section 2.b.). At year's end, Biscet remained in jail and was under investigation for "promoting public disorder." In the days prior to a planned meeting of NGO's on November 12, authorities detained temporarily or placed under house arrest approximately 150 prodemocracy activists (see Section 2.b.). On November 17, the authorities temporarily detained Biscet's wife, Elsa Morejon. On December 9, numerous persons were detained or told not to leave their homes on December 10, when human rights activists planned to commemorate the 51st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (see Section 2.b.). The same thing happened on December 16, the day before the popular pilgrimage to the church of St. Lazarus in the town of El Rincon outside Havana (see Section 2.c.).

The Government also arbitrarily arrested and detained independent journalists (see Section 2.a.). Independent journalists were told not to cover certain meetings and were prevented physically from attending the small farmers' conference in Matanzas (see Section 2.a.).

The Penal Code includes the concept of "dangerousness," defined as the "special proclivity of a person to commit crimes, demonstrated by his conduct in manifest contradiction of socialist norms." If the police decide that a person exhibits signs of dangerousness, they may bring the offender before a court or subject him to "therapy" or "political reeducation." Government authorities regularly threaten prosecution under this article. Both the U.N. Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) and the IACHR have criticized this concept for its subjectivity, the summary nature of the judicial proceedings employed, the lack of legal safeguards, and the political considerations behind its application. According to the IACHR, the "special inclination to commit crimes" referred to in the Criminal Code amounts to "a subjective criterion" used by the Government to justify violations of the rights to individual freedom and due process of persons whose sole crime has been an inclination to hold a view different from the official view. On January 8, a Havana court reaffirmed the 4-year prison term for dangerousness imposed in 1998 on Lazaro Constantin Duran, leader of the Friends Club of an independent teachers' organization. On January 18, independent journalist Jesus Joel Diaz Hernandez was sentenced to 4 years' imprisonment for dangerousness (see Sections 1.e. and 2.a.). On July 17, a police officer threatened to arrest Merino Cabrera, a member of the Human Rights Workers' Party, for dangerousness and warned him against continuing his activities. A few days later, on July 27, Cabrera found a cardboard coffin on his front door with the words: "Rest in Peace."

The Government also used exile as a tool for controlling and eliminating the internal opposition. Amnesty International has noted that the Government had changed its tactics in dealing with human rights advocates, and that rather than arresting them and bringing them to trial, the "tendency" was to detain them repeatedly for short periods and threaten them with imprisonment unless they gave up their activities or left the country. The Government used these incremental aggressive tactics to compel Leonel Morejon Almagro to leave the country on October 19.

The Government also has pressured imprisoned human rights activists and political prisoners to apply for emigration and regularly conditioned their release on acceptance of exile. Human Rights Watch observed that the Government "routinely invokes forced exile as a condition for prisoner releases and also pressures activists to leave the country to escape future prosecution." In April the Government released independent journalist Reinaldo Alfaro Garcia, who had served 21 months of a 3-year prison sentence imposed in 1998 for "disseminating false news," on the condition that he leave the country.

Amnesty International has expressed "particular concern" about the Government's practice of threatening to charge, try, and imprison human rights advocates and independent journalists prior to arrest or sentencing if they did not leave the country. According to Amnesty International, this practice "effectively prevents those concerned from being able to act in public life in their own country."

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for independent courts; however, it explicitly subordinates them to the National Assembly of the People's Power and the Council of State, which is headed by Fidel Castro. The ANPP and its lower level counterparts choose all judges. The subordination of the courts to the Communist Party, which the Constitution designates as "the superior directive force of the society and the State," further compromises the judiciary's independence.

Civil courts exist at municipal, provincial, and supreme court levels. Panels composed of a mix of professionally certified and lay judges preside over them. Military tribunals assume jurisdiction for certain counterrevolutionary cases.

The law and trial practices do not meet international standards for fair public trials. Almost all cases are tried in less than a day; there are no jury trials. While most trials are public, trials are closed when state security allegedly is involved. Prosecutors may introduce testimony from a CDR member as to the revolutionary background of a defendant, which may contribute to either a longer or a shorter sentence. The law recognizes the right of appeal in municipal courts but limits it in provincial courts to cases such as those involving maximum prison terms or the death penalty. Appeals in death penalty cases are automatic. The death penalty ultimately must be affirmed by the Council of State.

Criteria for presenting evidence, especially in cases of human rights advocates, are arbitrary and discriminatory. Often the sole evidence provided, particularly in political cases, is the defendant's confession, usually obtained under duress and without the legal advice or knowledge of a defense lawyer. The authorities regularly deny defendants access to their lawyers until the day of the trial. Several dissidents who have served prison terms reported that they were tried and sentenced without counsel and were not allowed to speak on their own behalf. Amnesty International has concluded that "trials in all cases fall far short of international standards for a fair trial."

The law provides the accused with the right to an attorney, but the control that the Government exerts over the livelihood of members of the state-controlled lawyers' collectives – especially when they defend persons accused of state security crimes – compromises their ability to represent clients. Attorneys have reported reluctance to defend those charged in political cases due to fear of jeopardizing their own careers.

Human rights monitoring groups inside the country estimate the number of political prisoners at between 350 and 400 persons. The authorities have imprisoned such persons on charges such as disseminating enemy propaganda, illicit association, contempt for the authorities (usually for criticizing Fidel Castro), clandestine printing, or the broad charge of rebellion, often brought against advocates of peaceful democratic change.

On March 1, in a 1-day trial, a court in Havana convicted the four members of the Internal Dissident Working Group – Vladimiro Roca Antunez, Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, Felix Antonio Bonne Carcasses, and Rene Gomez Manzano – of "acts against the security of the State in relation to the crime of sedition." The four had been detained since July 1997, when they were arrested for expressing peacefully their disagreement with the Government. In 1997 the group had sought support from the international community for its concept of peaceful dissent from the Government's policies and publicly distributed a paper, "The Homeland Belongs to All," which presented a moderate response to the platform released by the Communist Party for its Fifth Party Congress. The Working Group also made a public appeal to citizens to abstain from participating in national elections (voting is not mandatory). On March 15, the government television station announced the following prison sentences for the four: 5 years for Vladimiro Roca, 4 years for Felix Bonne and Rene Gomez, and 3½ years for Marta Beatriz Roque. All four appealed their convictions. On July 16, Roque began to refuse all solid food and later threatened to begin a full-scale hunger strike, to protest the Government's lack of response to her appeal. In September she ended the hunger strike after the Government promised to respond; however, the Government did not respond to the appeals of any of the four by year's end.

Others convicted on political charges during the year included independent journalists Manuel Antonio Gonzalez Castellanos, who was sentenced on May 6 to 2 years and 7 months' imprisonment for "contempt for authority" (see section 2.a.). On January 19, a court sentenced journalist Jesus Joel Diaz Hernandez to 4 years' imprisonment for "dangerousness" (see Sections 1.d. and 2.a.).

According to human rights monitoring groups inside the country, the number of political prisoners increased slightly during the year, in contrast to 1998 when the number of political prisoners fell after the release of 99 prisoners in response to an appeal by Pope John Paul II for clemency.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

Although the Constitution provides for the inviolability of a citizen's home and correspondence, official surveillance of private and family affairs by government-controlled mass organizations, such as the CDR's, remains one of the most pervasive and repressive features of Cuban life. The State has assumed the right to interfere in the lives of citizens, even those who do not actively oppose the Government and its practices. The mass organizations' ostensible purpose is to "improve the citizenry," but in fact their goal is to discover and discourage nonconformity. Citizen participation in these mass organizations has declined; the economic crisis both has reduced the Government's ability to provide material incentives for their participation and has forced many persons to engage in black market activities, which the mass organizations are supposed to report to the authorities.

The authorities utilize a wide range of social controls. The Interior Ministry employs an intricate system of informants and block committees (the CDR's) to monitor and control public opinion. While less capable than in the past, CDR's continue to report on suspicious activity, including conspicuous consumption; unauthorized meetings, including those with foreigners; and defiant attitudes toward the Government and the revolution.

The Department of State Security often reads international correspondence and monitors overseas telephone calls and conversations with foreigners. The Government controls all access to the Internet, and all electronic mail messages are subject to censorship. Citizens do not have the right to receive publications from abroad, although newsstands in foreigners-only hotels and outside certain hard currency stores sell foreign newspapers and magazines. The Government continued to jam the U.S.-operated Radio Marti and Television Marti. Radio Marti broadcasts generally overcame the jamming attempts on shortwave bands, but its medium wave transmissions are blocked completely in Havana. The Government generally succeeded in jamming Television Marti transmissions. Security agents subjected dissidents, foreign diplomats, and journalists to harassment and surveillance, including electronic surveillance.

Human Rights Watch reported that in January authorities in Santiago notified Margarita Sara Yero of the Independent Press Agency of Cuba that she would be evicted from her home, where she had lived for 35 years (see Section 2.a.). On March 4, Mercedes Moreno, director of the New Press Agency, criticized the security forces for their intimidating tactics against her and her husband, a former political prisoner, that included the illegal entry of her home (see Section 2.a.). On June 18, a local security officer in Santiago de Cuba sent a threatening message, through a nonpolitical family member, to Rafael Oliva Reyes, who offered his house for purposes of conducting a solidarity fast with the fasters of Tamarindo 34 in Havana (see Sections 2.b. and 4). On June 24, a security agent told Alexis Rodriguez Fernandez, the national coordinator of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy, that the authorities were fully aware of his activities in Havana, such as visiting embassies and participating in the Tamarindo 34 fast, and that they were preparing a judicial case of dangerousness against him.

On August 23, security agents forcibly evicted Ramon Humberto Colas Castillo, his wife Berta Mexidor Vasquez, their two children, and his mother from their house in Las Tunas. The couple had established an independent library in their house and worked as independent journalists for the Libertad press agency (see Section 2.a.). In November authorities evicted independent journalist Nestor Baguer from his home (see Section 2.a.).

The authorities regularly search persons and their homes, without probable cause, to intimidate and harass them. State security agents searched the homes of hundreds of human rights advocates and independent journalists, seizing typewriters, small cassette equipment, personal and organizational documents, books, and foreign newspapers. The authorities harass and target acts of repudiation at both dissidents and their family members. At times those taking part in such acts of repudiation invade and damage homes, as well as physically attack occupants (see Section 1.c.). Friends and relatives of independent journalists also are subjected to harassment (see Section 2.a.).

The authorities regularly detained human rights advocates after they visited foreign diplomatic missions, confiscated their written reports of human rights abuses, and seized copies of foreign newspapers and other informational material, including copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). On November 5, security police detained Jose Aquilar Hernandez of the 13th of July movement and independent journalist Clara Morales Martinez in Havana. They were taken to a police station where they were interrogated about a planned November 10 march in the Lawton area of Havana. Security officers also confiscated copies of the UDHR that they had in their possession. They both were released the next morning.

In August the president of an independent teachers' group said that his son lost his job because of state security interference. He claimed that security officials infiltrated an agent among his friends; when police found some drugs in the friends' possession, they then tried to implicate his son. Based on this, his son, who was the only member of the family working, lost his restaurant job. On June 28, Avila Eloina Heredia Cervantes of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights in Ciego de Avila lost her job at the cafeteria of the central train station in Moron. In 1997 she had lost her job in another restaurant.

There were numerous credible reports of forced evictions of squatters and residents who lacked official permission to reside in Havana (see Section 5).

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Government does not allow criticism of the revolution or its leaders. Laws against antigovernment propaganda, graffiti, and disrespect of officials carry penalties of from 3 months to 1 year in prison. If President Castro or members of the National Assembly or Council of State are the objects of criticism, the sentence can be extended to 3 years. Charges of disseminating enemy propaganda (which includes merely expressing opinions at odds with those of the Government) can bring sentences of up to 14 years. In the Government's view, such materials as the UDHR, international reports of human rights violations, and mainstream foreign newspapers and magazines constitute enemy propaganda. Local CDR's inhibit freedom of speech by monitoring and reporting dissent or criticism. Police and state security officials regularly harassed, threatened, and otherwise abused human rights advocates in public and private as a means of intimidation and control.

In January a court in Moron, Ciego de Avila province, sentenced Jesus Joel Diaz Hernandez, director of the Cooperative of Independent Journalists of Ciego de Avila, to 4 years' imprisonment for dangerousness. Human Rights Watch reported that Diaz was accused of having met with delinquents and having disturbed the public order. He was tried the day after his arrest, making it impossible for him to prepare an adequate defense. In May a court in Holguin sentenced independent journalist Mario Gonzalez Castellanos, Cubapress correspondent in Holguin, to 2½ years in the Holguin prison known as Cuba Si, for showing disrespect to Fidel Castro.

The Constitution states that print and electronic media are state property and cannot become in any case private property. The Communist Party controls all media – except a few small church-run publications – as a means of indoctrinating the public. Even the church-run publications are watched closely, denied access to mass printing equipment, and subject to governmental pressure. On November 1, in a televised speech, President Castro expressed his displeasure with an article in the Pinar-based Catholic Church magazine Vitral, mentioning the editor by name.

All media must operate under party guidelines and reflect government views. The Government attempts to shape media coverage to such a degree that it not only continued to exert pressure on domestic journalists, but also sought to increase its pressure on groups normally outside the official realm of control, such as visiting international correspondents. Resident foreign correspondents reported an increase in governmental pressure, including official and informal complaints about articles, threatening phone calls, and lack of access to officials.

In February the National Assembly passed the Law to Protect National Independence and the Economy. This law outlaws a broad range of activities as undermining state security, and toughens penalties for criminal activity. Under the law, anyone caught possessing or disseminating literature deemed subversive, or supplying information that could be used by U.S. authorities in the application of U.S. legislation, is subject to fines and to prison terms of 7 to 20 years. While many activities between Cuban nationals and foreigners possibly could fall within the purview of this new law, it appears to be aimed primarily at independent journalists.

The new law increases the penalties and broadens the definitions of activities covered by the 1996 Cuban Dignity and Sovereignty Act, which already proscribes citizens from providing information to any representatives of the U.S. Government, or seeking any information from them, that might be used directly or indirectly in the application of U.S. legislation. This includes accepting or distributing any publications, documents or other material from any origin, which the authorities might interpret as facilitating implementation of such legislation.

No one was charged yet with violating the new law by year's end, but all but a handful of independent journalists admitted that its very existence had some effect on their activities and their reporting, with some calling its passage the most effective form of harassment of the press during the year. Many independent journalists were threatened either anonymously or openly with arrest and conviction based on the new law, some repeatedly over the months since the law took effect. The Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) reported that, following the release in January of independent journalist Lorenzo Paez Nunez after he completed serving an 18-month prison sentence for "disseminating false news," authorities repeatedly harassed him and threatened him with application of the new law. Cubapress director Raul Rivero reported that the authorities picked him up outside the Havana Libre Hotel and told him that he and Christian Liberation Movement founder Oswaldo Paya Sardinas would be the first to feel the full consequences of the law.

In February National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon told foreign correspondents that under the new law, even reporters working for accredited foreign media could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison if the information they publish is deemed to serve U.S. interests. Several times during the year, the domestic press, and even President Castro in televised speeches, specifically mentioned correspondents from international news services and publications as being particularly unresponsive to the Government's positions, and possibly serving U.S. interests.

Credible reports indicated that, after several sharp attacks in the local press, including accusations of distortion, sensationalism, calumny, and manipulation, the Government persuaded a major international news agency to replace its bureau chief in Havana by promising increased access to government officials if it did so. Two other longtime resident foreign correspondents also left under difficult circumstances.

In January state security officials ordered visiting Radio Netherlands correspondent Edwin Koopman to leave the country for activities inconsistent with his journalism visa. Apparently, activities that Koopman was conducting for Pax Christi-Netherlands came to the Government's attention, and were given as the reason for his expulsion.

In November security agents and government supporters seriously damaged a Cable News Network camera during an attack on dissidents in Dolores Park in the Lawton section of Havana. Taped coverage of the incident appeared to indicate that the cameraman was in fact the target. The cameraman was among the foreign news crews that arrived to cover a march announced to call attention to human rights problems before the Ibero-American Summit later that month. The few activists who managed to get to the park were set upon by members of mass organizations holding a progovernment picnic and rally in the same place (see Section 2.b.). International coverage of the attack led to a 6-hour speech by Fidel Castro in which he described the dissidents as criminals and their antagonists as devoted patriots.

The Government continued to jam the U.S.-operated Radio Marti and Television Marti (see Section 1.f.).

The Government continues to subject independent journalists to internal travel bans, arbitrary and periodic detentions (overnight or longer), small acts of repudiation (see Section 1.c.), harassment of family and friends, seizures of computers, office and photographic equipment, and repeated threats of prolonged imprisonment. Independent journalists in Havana reported a general decrease in harassment, but there continued to be reports of constant threatening phone calls and harassment of family members in the weeks leading up to the Ibero-American Summit in November. Outside the capital, journalists reported an increase in detentions, threats, and harassment during the same period.

In Santiago de Cuba, independent journalist Santiago Santana was detained three different times; on one occasion in September, security officials seized his camera and two tape recorders. Human Rights Watch reported that in January authorities in Santiago notified Margarita Sara Yero of the Independent Press Agency of Cuba that she would be evicted from her home, where she had lived for 35 years. The authorities claimed that she had abandoned the house, although neighbors confirmed that she resided there. On February 1, officials held a public meeting in which they criticized Yero for not voting for Communist candidates and for not participating in the local CDR; according to press reports, she received an eviction notice the following day. On March 4, Mercedes Moreno, director of the New Press Agency, criticized the security forces for their intimidating tactics against her and her husband, a former political prisoner, which included illegal entry into her home, and citing her and her husband to appear at different police stations in Havana. She also accused security agents of forcing traffic police regularly to issue traffic violations to her and her husband, with exorbitant fines.

In August in Ciego de Avila, neighbors rousted Jorge Enrique Rives, of the Patria Agency, and his family, including elderly relatives, from their beds and seriously assaulted them, while shouting revolutionary slogans. Also in August, independent journalists and private library owners Ramon Colas and Berta Maxidor, their young children (ages 9 and 13), and Colas's 73-year-old mother were evicted from their house in Las Tunas without warning, and all of their belongings were taken to a shelter many miles out of town. Security officials told Colas and Maxidor that they were occupying the house, which they had lived in for 13 years, illegally. The authorities temporarily detained Colas at that time for arguing with them.

In September the parents of imprisoned independent journalist Jesus Joel Diaz Hernandez were harassed and forced to submit to a strip search at the end of a strictly regulated visit to their son. In October unknown assailants damaged the house of Cubapress correspondent Jesus Labrador Arias in Guantanamo province by throwing stones at it in the middle of the night. On October 15, an immigration officer requested the return of the passport of Magaly de Armas, the wife of imprisoned Internal Dissident Working Group member Vladimiro Roca Antunez, shortly before she was scheduled to travel abroad to accept an award on behalf of her husband and the other three imprisoned Working Group members for a publication by the group that defended freedom of the press (see Section 2.d.).

In November the authorities detained independent journalist and activist for the blind Juan Carlos Rodriguez for 3 days, ostensibly to prevent him from covering activities related to the Ibero-American Summit. Rodriguez's wife also was called in repeatedly to her neighborhood police station and threatened. Also in November, the Government prevented independent journalists from covering a conference of small farmers in Matanzas.

In November the landlord of octogenarian Nestor Baguer, dean of the independent journalists and founder of the original Independent Press Agency of Cuba, asked Baguer to vacate his apartment after he was mentioned, along with several dozen other opposition members and foreign diplomats, by Fidel Castro in a 6-hour speech. Reportedly his landlord evicted him under pressure from members of the local CDR, who objected to living so close to a named criminal.

Many of the detentions, house arrests, and threats that occurred during the year were in conjunction with major events on the dissidents' and the Government's calendars. The authorities ordered dozens of independent journalists to remain in their homes on February 24, the anniversary of the 1996 shootdown of two civilian aircraft over international air space by the air force. The Government also detained or threatened many journalists before and during the March 1 trial of the four members of the Internal Dissident Working Group, and on March 15, the day of their sentencing (see Section 1.e.). Many of the dissidents detained and threatened prior to the Ibero-American Summit were journalists (see Sections 1.d. and 2.b.). The Government ordered several of them to return to their home provinces, including Edel Garcia to Caibarien, or ordered them not to travel to Havana at that time. The authorities detained journalists along with other dissidents during protests organized by the environmental organization Naturpaz on August 15 and September 20 (see Section 2.b.).

In Havana the authorities repeatedly detained Oswaldo de Cespedes of the Cooperative of Independent Journalists and threatened to reopen charges against him that date back to 1996. The authorities picked up Jesus Zuniga, also of the Cooperative of Independent Journalists, on his way to visit a foreign diplomatic mission, detained him for several hours, and interrogated him frequently about alleged connections with foreign radical groups.

In August officials denied permission to Raul Rivero, poet, journalist, and director of Cubapress, to travel abroad to receive a journalism prize. According to newspaper reports, when asked about keeping Rivero from traveling, Fidel Castro replied that Rivero would never leave the country. The authorities detained independent journalist Angel Pablo Polanco three times in connection with his activities with various dissident groups, and confined him to a military hospital, ostensibly for treatment of glaucoma. He subsequently was released.

During the year, the authorities retracted their previously granted permission for Mario Viera, founder of Cuba Voz, to depart the country as a refugee. In 1998 Viera's trial on charges of defaming a government official was postponed when prodemocracy activists began demonstrating outside the courthouse, but the charges against him were not dismissed.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the IAPA, Reporters Without Borders, and the Committee to Protect Journalists repeatedly called international attention to the Government's continued practice of detaining independent journalists and others simply for exercising their right to free speech.

Distribution of information continues to be controlled tightly. Access to computers is limited, e-mail is restricted tightly (see Section 1.f.), and access to the Internet virtually is prohibited, except to certain government offices, selected institutes, and foreigners. The Ministry of Interior controls Internet access.

The Government prohibits all diplomatic missions in Havana from printing or distributing publications, particularly newspapers and newspaper clippings, unless those publications deal exclusively with conditions in a mission's home country and it receives prior Government approval. Many missions do not accept the validity of this requirement, but the Government's threats to expel embassy officers who provide published materials to Cubans have had a chilling effect on many missions.

The Government circumscribes artistic, literary, and academic freedoms and is reemphasizing the importance of reinforcing revolutionary ideology and discipline over any freedom of expression. The educational system teaches that the State's interests have precedence over all other commitments. Academics and other government officials are prohibited from meeting with some diplomats without prior approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ministry of Education requires teachers to evaluate students' and their parents' ideological character, and note it in records that students carry throughout their schooling. These reports directly affect the students' educational and career prospects. As a matter of policy, the Government demands that teaching materials for courses such as mathematics or literature have an ideological content. Government efforts to undermine dissidents include denying them advanced education and professional opportunities. Fidel Castro has stated publicly that the universities are available only for those who share his revolutionary beliefs.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Although the Constitution grants limited rights of assembly and association, these rights are subject to the requirement that they may not be "exercised against the existence and objectives of the Socialist State." The law punishes any unauthorized assembly of more than three persons, including those for private religious services in a private home, by up to 3 months in prison and a fine. The authorities selectively enforce this prohibition and often use it as a legal pretext to harass and imprison human rights advocates.

The Government selectively continued to authorize the Catholic Church to hold outdoor processions at specific locations on important feast days during the year. It permitted a procession in connection with Masses in celebration of the feast day on September 8 of Our Lady of Charity in Havana for the second time in more than 3 decades. The Government also authorized other denominations to hold a few public events. In May and June, it allowed the main Protestant churches to hold a large-scale evangelical celebration across the island (see Section 2.c.). However, the Government also continued routinely and arbitrarily to deny requests for other processions and events.

The authorities have never approved a public meeting by a human rights group. On January 14, police and state security officers briefly detained about a dozen Havana dissidents to prevent them from holding a public event in commemoration of Martin Luther King at Butari Park in the Lawton section of Havana. Among the activists reportedly detained and subsequently released were Maria de los Angeles Gonzalez, Ernesto Colas, Alberto Martinez, Pablo Nelson, Juana Gonzalez, Miriam Garcia, Miriam Cantillo, Ofelia Nardo, Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, and Rolando Munoz Yyobre. State security members also prevented activists Nancy Sotolongo and Ana Maria Agramonte from leaving their homes to attend the planned event.

Beginning on February 22, state security officers detained prodemocracy activists in different parts of the country to prevent them from staging activities commemorating the February 24, 1996 shootdown of two civilian aircraft over international airspace by the air force. Security agents also warned many more activists against any public demonstrations on February 24, and warned independent journalists not to cover incidents on February 24. On February 22, police detained Dr. Biscet and Munoz Yyobre at Biscet's home after he tried to stage a demonstration outside the hospital where he formerly worked. Female workers from the hospital physically assaulted Biscet, allegedly on the orders of the hospital's administrator. On February 23, the authorities detained prodemocracy activists Manuel Preval, Guillermo Diaz, Yvette Rodriguez and Ciro Roman in Santiago de Cuba; they detained three additional activists, including independent journalist Jesus Labrador Arias, in Manzanillo. On February 24, security officers detained Marcos Lazaro Torres Leon, Lazaro Naranjo, Carlos Alberto Dominguez, Victor Alfredo Gomez, Alejandro Garcia, and Ismael Torres in Havana. There were also reports that some 10 to 12 activists may have been detained in Pinar del Rio province west of Havana. Four of the activists in Havana shaved their heads in a protest covered by British Broadcasting Corporation television.

In order to prevent dissidents from expressing support for the four members of the Internal Dissident Working Group during their trial in March (see Section 1.e.), officials detained nearly a hundred prodemocracy activists. Among those detained were Oswaldo Paya Sardinas of the Christian Liberation Movement, Jesus Yanez Pelletier and his wife Marieta Menendez, Odilia Collazo of the Cuba Pro-Human Rights Party, Illeana Sommeillan of the Support Network Group of the Four, Leonel Morejon Almagro of Naturpaz and founder of Concilio Cubano, and a number of independent journalists. All of those detained were released within a few days after the trial.

In June and July, a number of activists from different organizations carried out a 40-day liquid fast at Tamarindo 34 in Havana and at other locations, to protest the Government's violations of human rights and to call for an amnesty for political prisoners (see Section 4). The organizer of the event, Dr. Biscet, and his colleagues then attempted to organize a civic forum made up of five organizations involved in the fast. However, the Government temporarily detained Biscet and his supporters whenever they planned any action toward this end, including visits to other houses where sympathy fasts took place. The Government closed a school they established on the use of nonviolence in civic actions, and on August 14 authorities detained Biscet as he was going to Butari Park to demonstrate. A policeman hit him in the face after Biscet told him that "God loves you," while another policeman crushed a burning cigarette on his elbow (see Section 1.c.).

On August 15, police arrested Leonel Morejon Almagro, the leader of the environmental group Naturpaz, as he was leaving his house to attend a peaceful public protest planned weeks in advance that was to be conducted under a mahogany tree that was planted in Lenin Park in 1986 at the founding of the organization. The intent was to protest the Government's lack of interest in addressing environmental degradation, and in particular to focus the public's attention on the imminent construction of a new airport near Cayo Coco, which Naturpaz asserted would damage irreversibly the nearby keys. Police also arrested five other persons, including a 78-year-old woman. All were released later that day. However, police impounded Morejon's car and did not return it. Meanwhile, at Lenin Park, security forces intercepted every person that tried to go to the mahogany tree, checked their documents carefully, and then drove them to a location far away from the park and their homes. Naturpaz later estimated that the police intercepted over 100 persons in this manner.

On October 28, Dr. Biscet announced in a press conference that on November 10, the FLDH and other organizations planned to lead a nonviolent protest march from Dolores Park to Butari Park in the Lawton area of Havana to protest the holding of the Ninth Ibero-American Summit in Havana. During the press conference, the Cuban flag was displayed upside down, as an indication of opposition to the Government. On November 3, police detained Biscet and told him that he would be prosecuted for his disrespect toward the national flag; he was still in jail and his case was still under investigation at year's end (see Section 1.d.). On November 9, police detained three of his colleagues – Jose Aguilar Hernandez, Alejandro Chang Cantillo, and Marcel Valenzuela Salt. On November 10, at the planned protest site, Dolores Park, the international press witnessed several hundred members of the Communist youth organizations, including school children, having a noisy progovernment party and rally. Three dissidents tried to stage a protest but were booed, chased by the crowd, and struck several times. Security agents then took away dissidents Reynaldo Gomez Gonzalez, Juan Carlos Padura Padilla, and Pedro Castro Ponce de Leon. In a press conference later the same day, Fidel Castro implied that the clash was a spontaneous reaction by ordinary citizens to political acts that they found distasteful. Castro brought to his press conference 14 persons who were at the park and who claimed that they were provoked while enjoying a party.

On November 12, fewer than 20 individuals of the more than 90 expected to attend arrived at the house of Moises Rodriguez Quesada near Havana airport for a 1-day meeting of domestic NGO's. Although bad weather was a factor in the low turnout, the detention and house arrest of about 150 persons, including the organizers of the meeting, starting days before the event, especially of those coming from other provinces, prevented the attendance of many. However, international press coverage of the event provided the dissidents that attended a rare opportunity to brief the journalists.

On November 10, security police also attempted to prevent a meeting of the National Alliance of Independent Small Farmers, which the organizers had planned to hold in Matanzas, by arresting the organizers – Antonio Alonso Perez, Tomas Fernandez Tiher, and Felix Navarro. The group nonetheless managed to hold the meeting in the house of an independent journalist in Las Tunas, albeit with a much reduced number of participants.

On December 4, the Government allowed human rights activists to march silently, after attending a Mass, from the Church of Saint Barbara to the Church of Saint Edward, a distance of about six blocks, in the municipality of Parraga in Havana. Because of the presence of members of a rapid response brigade, police provided security to allow the march. Representatives of the international press were present and interviewed a number of the marchers. This was the first protest march ever allowed by the Government, probably because of the presence of the international press and the Government's apparent desire to avoid an incident such as the one at Dolores Park on November 10.

On December 9, numerous human rights supporters were detained or told not leave their homes in order to prevent them from publicly commemorating the 51st anniversary on December 10 of the UDHR.

The Government generally denies citizens freedom of association. The Penal Code specifically outlaws "illegal or unrecognized groups." The Ministry of Justice, in consultation with the Interior Ministry, decides whether to give organizations legal recognition. The authorities have never approved the existence of a human rights group.

Along with recognized churches, the Roman Catholic humanitarian organization Caritas, Masons, small human rights groups, and a number of nascent fraternal or professional organizations are the only associations outside the control or influence of the State, the Communist Party, and their mass organizations. With the exception of the Masons, who have been established in the country for more than a century, the authorities continue to ignore these groups' applications for legal recognition, thereby subjecting members to potential charges of illegal association. All other legally recognized "nongovernmental" groups are at least nominally affiliated with, or controlled by, the Government.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution recognizes the right of citizens to profess and practice any religious belief, within the framework of respect for the law; however, in law and in practice, the Government places restrictions on freedom of religion.

In recent years, the Government has eased the harsher aspects of its repression of religious freedom. In 1991 it allowed religious adherents to join the Communist Party. In 1992 it amended the Constitution to prohibit religious discrimination and removed references to "scientific materialism," i.e., atheism, as the basis for the Cuban State. Nevertheless, the State prohibits members of the armed forces from allowing anyone in their household to observe religious practices, except elderly relatives if their religious beliefs do not influence other family members and are not "damaging to the revolution."

The Government requires churches and other religious groups to register with the provincial registry of associations to obtain official recognition. In practice, the Government refuses to register new denominations. The Government prohibits, with occasional exceptions, the construction of new churches, forcing many growing congregations to violate the law and meet in private homes. Government harassment of private houses of worship continued, with evangelical denominations reporting evictions from houses used for these purposes.

The Government's main interaction with religious denominations is through the Office of Religious Affairs of the Cuban Communist Party. The Ministry of Interior engages in active efforts to control and monitor the country's religious institutions, including surveillance, infiltration, and harassment of religious professionals and laypersons.

In 1998 following Pope John Paul II's January visit, the country's Catholic bishops appealed to the Government to recognize the Church's role in civil society and the family, as well as in the temporal areas of work, the economy, the arts, sports, and the scientific and technical worlds. The Government continued to limit the Church's access to the media and refused to allow the Church to have a legal independent printing capability. It maintained its prohibition against the establishment of religiously affiliated schools. Nonetheless, in September local government authorities, for the second time since 1961, allowed the Catholic Church to hold an outdoor procession to mark the feast day of Our Lady of Charity in Havana. Although visibly present, state security personnel did not harass any participants or observers as happened during 1998. However, prior to the event, security police told a number of human rights activists not to attend the procession. On December 25, the Government permitted the Catholic Church to hold a Christmas procession in Havana. The Government also granted a request by church leaders to broadcast on state television the Pope's annual Christmas Day message from the Vatican. As in 1998, in December the Government also allowed Cardinal Jaime Ortega to give a 10-minute address on the national classical music station.

In 1998 the Government announced in a Politburo declaration that henceforth citizens would be allowed to celebrate Christmas as an official holiday. (The holiday had been cancelled, ostensibly to spur the sugar harvest, in 1969, and restored in 1997 as part of the preparations for the Pope's 1998 visit.) However, despite the Government's decision to allow citizens to celebrate Christmas as a national holiday, it also maintained a December 1995 decree prohibiting nativity scenes in public buildings.

The Government allowed about 15 foreign priests to enter the country during the year, but some visas were issued only for periods of from 3 to 6 months, and applications of many other priests and religious workers remained pending.

The Government continued to enforce a resolution that prevented any Cuban or joint enterprise (except those with specific authorization) from selling computers, facsimile machines, photocopiers, or other equipment to any church at other than official – and exorbitant – retail prices.

On January 6, the Government closed the Bible Institute of the United Pentecostal Church of Cuba (Apostolic) and evicted its occupants. (In 1997 the Government had declared the United Pentecostal Church illegal after it split from the Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ because it disagreed with the Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ's membership in the Cuban Council of Churches.) On February 2, the authorities also reportedly closed local church headquarters in Manquitas, Cabaiguan, and Sancti Spiritus. On October 8, security agents expelled church leader Santos Osmany Dominguez Borjas from Havana to Holguin. According to a pastor of the church, Lazaro Williams Urbina Dupont, church members decided that all their pastors must leave the country if they are to survive as a church.

In recent years, the Government has relaxed restrictions on some religious denominations, including Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses. The Cuban Council of Churches continues to broadcast a monthly 15-minute program on a national classical music radio station, with the understanding that the program must not include material of a political character. The head of the Cuban Council of Churches is a member of the government-controlled ANPP. In May and June, the Government permitted most the country's Protestant churches – both inside and outside the Cuban Council of Churches – to hold an evangelical celebration. The celebration consisted of some 18 public events across the island, 4 of which – in Baracoa, Holguin, Camaguey, and Havana, respectively – were televised nationally. The culminating event was a service in Havana on June 20, which attracted tens of thousands of persons and was attended by President Castro.

State security officials visited some priests and pastors, prior to significant religious events, ostensibly to warn them about dissidents, in an effort to sow discord and mistrust between the churches and peaceful prodemocracy activists. State security officers also regularly harassed human rights advocates who sought to attend religious services commemorating special feast days or before significant national days, including inside churches and during religious ceremonies.

Human Rights Watch reported that in late January, police detained several members of the FLDH, including its leader, Dr. Biscet, for 4 to 6 days. The detentions prevented Biscet and his colleagues from participating in a January 25 celebration of the first anniversary of the Pope's 1998 visit. On July 13, the authorities arrested Marcel Valenzuela Salt, a member of the Organization of Fraternal Brothers for Dignity, and five other persons as the group was en route to a church in Guanabacoa to attend a Mass in memory of those who died in the 1994 sinking of the tugboat "13th of March" (see Section 1.d.). On December 17, security police arrested Valenzuela and three other human rights activists – Carlos Oquendo, Jose Aguilar and Diosdado Gonzalez – who were among a crowd of persons who gathered to participate in a pilgrimage to the Church of Saint Lazarus in El Rincon. The four were arrested after they took off their shirts to show T-shirts on which were printed the words, "Release All Political Prisoners." The day before the pilgrimage, security police told some human rights activists not to attend the event.

d. Freedom of Movement within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Government kept tight restrictions on freedom of movement. The Government generally has not imposed legal restrictions on domestic travel, except for persons found to be HIV-positive, whom it initially restricts to sanatoriums for treatment and therapy before conditionally releasing them into the community. However, in recent years state security officials have forbidden human rights advocates and independent journalists from traveling outside their home provinces, and the Government also has sentenced others to internal exile. On October 8, security agents expelled Santos Osmany Dominguez Borjas, an evangelical church leader, from Havana to Holguin (see Section 2.c.). Just prior to the Ibero-American Summit, state security agents informed human rights activists in other provinces that they could not travel to Havana. For example, on November 11, authorities told Oscar Horta Medina of the Avilena Foundation for Human Rights that he could not leave Ciego de Avila; the Government also prohibited prodemocracy activists Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina and Santiago Santana from leaving the province of Santiago de Cuba.

In 1997 the Council of Ministers approved Decree 217, aimed at stemming the flow of migration from the provinces to the capital city. Human rights observers noted that while the decree affected migration countrywide, the decree was targeted at individuals and families from the poor, predominantly black and mulatto eastern provinces. In March 1998, the government newspaper Granma reported that Decree 217 had succeeded in reducing the flow of persons to the capital city.

The Government imposed some restrictions on both emigration and temporary foreign travel. In August the Government denied an exit permit to Osvaldo Alfonso Valdes, president of the Democratic Liberal Party, and to Fernando Sanchez Lopez, president of the Democratic Solidarity Party, to attend the executive committee meeting of the International Liberal Party on September 4 in Managua, Nicaragua, despite their payment of $800 in exit fees. No explanation was given for the denials. In October the Government denied an exit permit to independent journalist Raul Rivero to travel abroad to receive a journalistic award. On October 15, an immigration officer requested the return of the Cuban passport of Magaly de Armas, the spouse of Vladimiro Roca Antunez, one of the four imprisoned members of the Internal Dissident Working Group (see Section 1.e.). De Armas was scheduled to leave the country the same day to attend the IAPA's 55th general assembly to receive on behalf of the four prisoners an award for "The Country Belongs to All," a publication by the group that defended freedom of the press (see Section 1.e.).

The Government allows the majority of persons who qualify for immigrant or refugee status in other countries to depart; however, in certain cases the authorities delay or deny exit permits, usually without explanation. Some denials involve professionals who have tried to emigrate and whom the Government subsequently banned from working in their occupational field. The Government refused permission to others because it considers their cases sensitive for political or state security reasons. In July the Government issued Resolution 54, which provides for the denial of exit permits to recently graduated professionals, in particular medical professionals, until they have performed 3 to 5 years of service in their profession. There were reports that the Government also was denying exit permits to trained medical personnel who already have practiced their profession for more than 5 years, although the published regulations on the subject do not contain such a provision. The Government also routinely denies exit permits to young men approaching the age of military service, and until they reach the age of 27, even when it has authorized the rest of the family to leave. However, in most of those cases approved for migration to the United States under the September 1, 1994, U.S.-Cuban migration agreement, the applicants eventually receive exemption from obligatory service and are granted exit permits. The Government has a policy of denying exit permission for several years to relatives of individuals who successfully have migrated illegally (e.g., merchant seamen who have jumped ship overseas, and sports figures who have defected while on tour abroad).

Migrants who travel to the United States must pay a total of about $500 per adult and $400 per child, plus airfare. These government fees for medical exam, passport, and exit visa – which must be paid in dollars – are equivalent to about 5 years of a professional person's accumulated peso salary and represent a significant hardship, particularly for political refugees who usually are marginalized and have no income. In 1996 the Government agreed to allow 1,000 needy refugees to leave each year with reduced exit fees. However, after the first group of 1,000 in 1996, no further refugees have been accorded reduced fees. At year's end, 315 approved refugees remained in the country because they were unable to pay government exit fees for themselves and their families.

The Penal Code provides for imprisonment from 1 to 3 years or a fine of $15 to $50 dollars (300 to 1,000 pesos) for unauthorized departures by boat or raft. The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has stated that it regards any sentence for simple illegal exit of over 1 year as harsh and excessive. Under the terms of the May 2, 1995 U.S.-Cuba migration accord, the Government agreed not to prosecute or retaliate against migrants returned from international or U.S. waters, or from the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo, as a consequence of their attempt to emigrate illegally.

In 1994 the Government eased restrictions on visits by, and repatriation of, Cuban emigrants. Citizens who establish residency abroad and who are in possession of government-issued "permits to reside abroad" may travel to Cuba without visas. The Government reduced the age of persons eligible to travel abroad from 20 to 18 years and extended the period for a temporary stay abroad from 6 to 11 months. In November 1995, the Government announced that emigrants who are considered not to have engaged in "hostile actions" against the Government and who are not subject to criminal proceedings in their country of residence may apply at Cuban consulates for renewable, 2-year multiple-entry travel authorizations. However, during the year, the Government announced that it would deny entry permits for emigrants who had left the country illegally after September 1994. At year's end, it was not clear if the Government actually was implementing such a policy. The Constitution provides for the granting of asylum to individuals persecuted "for their ideals or struggles for democratic rights against imperialism, fascism, colonialism, and neocolonialism; against discrimination and racism; for national liberation; for the rights of workers, peasants, and students; for their progressive political, scientific, artistic, and literary activities; for socialism and peace." However, the Government has no formal mechanism to offer asylum to foreign nationals. Nonetheless, the Government honors the principle of first asylum and has provided it to a small number of persons. There was no information available on its use during the year. According to the UNHCR, there are about 43 foreign nationals living in the country and seeking asylum elsewhere. There were no reports of the forced return of persons to countries where they feared persecution.

Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change their Government

Citizens do not have the legal right to change their Government or to advocate change, and the Government has retaliated systematically against those who sought peaceful political change. The Constitution proscribes any political organization other than the Communist Party. While the Constitution provides for direct election of provincial, municipal, and National Assembly members, the candidates must be approved in advance by mass organizations controlled by the Government. In practice, a small group of leaders, under the direction of President Castro, selects the members of the highest policy-making bodies of the Communist Party – the Politburo and the Central Committee.

The authorities tightly control the selection of candidates and all elections for government and party positions. The candidacy committees are composed of members of government-controlled mass organizations such as the Confederation of Cuban Workers (CTC) and the CDR's and are responsible for selecting candidates, whose names are then sent to municipal assemblies that select a single candidate for each regional seat in the ANPP. An opposition or independent candidate has never been allowed to run for national office.

On January 11, 1998, the Government held national elections in which 601 candidates were approved to compete for the 601 seats in the National Assembly. The Government claimed that they were voted in by over 93 percent of the electorate, according to the official media. No candidates with views independent from or in opposition to the Government were allowed to run, and no views contrary to the Government or the Communist Party were expressed in the government-controlled national media. The Government saturated the media and used government ministries, Communist Party organs, and mass organizations to urge voters to cast a "unified vote" where marking one box automatically selected all candidates on the ballot form. In practice, the Communist Party approved candidates for all offices. A small minority of candidates did not belong formally to the Communist Party. The Communist Party was the only political party allowed to participate in the elections.

Although not a formal requirement, Communist Party membership is in fact a prerequisite for high-level official positions and professional advancement.

The Government rejects any change judged incompatible with the revolution and ignored calls for democratic reform. Although President Castro signed the Declaration of Vina del Mar at the Sixth Ibero-American Summit in 1996, in which government leaders reaffirmed their commitment to democracy and political pluralism, the Government continued to oppose independent political activity on the ground that the Cuban system provides a "perfected" form of democracy and that pluralism exists within the one-party structure.

An unprecedented number of foreign leaders held meetings with Cuban dissidents on the margins of the November Ibero-American Summit in Havana. Uruguayan President Julio Sanguinetti became the first Latin American head of state to meet with a dissident on Cuban soil. Other heads of state or ministers who met with dissidents were: Spanish Prime Minister Jose Aznar; Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio; Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso; Mexican Foreign Minister Rosario Green; and Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Eduardo Montealegre.

The Declaration of Havana issued at the conclusion of the Summit emphasized democracy, pluralism, and human rights. In closing remarks, several heads of state reiterated the need for greater openness in Cuba.

Government leadership positions continue to be dominated by men, and women remain underrepresented. There are very few women or minorities in policymaking positions in the Government or the Party. There are 2 women in the 24-member Politburo, 18 in the 150-member Central Committee, and 166 in the 601-seat ANPP. Although blacks and mulattos make up over half the population, they hold only six seats in the Politburo.

Section 4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

The Government does not recognize any domestic human rights groups, or permit them to function legally. The Government subjects domestic human rights advocates to intense intimidation, harassment, and repression. In violation of its own statutes, the Government refuses to consider applications for legal recognition submitted by human rights monitoring groups.

On June 7, members of several human rights organizations began a 40-day fast at Tamarindo 34 in Havana in support of respect for human rights and the release of political prisoners. The fast reportedly subsequently expanded to other locations in the country.

In its 1997 report, the IACHR examined measures taken by the Government and found that they did not "comprise the bedrock of a substantive reform in the present political system that would permit the ideological and partisan pluralism implicit in the wellspring from which a democratic system of government develops." The IACHR recommended that the Government provide reasonable safeguards to prevent violations of human rights, unconditionally release political prisoners and those jailed for trying to leave the country, abolish the concept of dangerousness in the Penal Code, eliminate other legal restriction on basic freedoms, cease harassing human rights groups, and establish a separation of powers so that the judiciary would no longer be "subordinate to political power."

The Government steadfastly has rejected international human rights monitoring. In 1992 Cuba's U.N. representative stated that Cuba would not recognize the mandate of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) on Cuba and would not cooperate with the Special Rapporteur on Cuba, despite being a UNCHR member. This policy remained unchanged and the Government refused even to acknowledge requests by the Special Rapporteur to visit Cuba. In April 1998, the UNCHR did not renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, following as yet unfulfilled assertions by the Government that it would improve human rights practices if it was not under formal sanction from the UNCHR. On April 23, the UNCHR passed a resolution, introduced by the Czech Republic and Poland, expressing concern about the human rights situation in Cuba.

In September the U.N. Special Rapporteurs on Violence Against Women and on Mercenaries visited the island, but issued no reports by year's end.

Section 5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

Cuba is a multiracial society with a black and mixed-race majority. The Constitution forbids discrimination based on race, sex, or national origin, although evidence suggests that racial discrimination occurs often.

Women

Violent crime rarely is reported in the press, and there are no publicly available data regarding the incidence of domestic violence and rape; however, human rights advocates report that violence against women is a problem. The law establishes strict penalties for rape, and the Government appears to enforce the rape law; however, according to human rights advocates, the police do not act on cases of domestic violence. In October 1998, a female religious worker was abused sexually and murdered. The Government quickly ordered an investigation and arrested one suspect. Prostitution is legal (except for prostitution by children under 17 years of age); however, pimping or otherwise benefiting from prostitution is a felony. Prostitution has increased greatly in the last few years; press reports indicate that tourists from various countries visit specifically to patronize inexpensive prostitutes. A government crackdown on prostitution beginning in late 1998 and continuing in 1999 appeared to have some effect, and fewer prostitutes (known as "jineteras") were visible in Havana and other major cities. This success was obtained through placing police on nearly every major street corner where tourists are present. Most observers believe that the Government clamped down on prostitution to combat the perception that the island promotes sex tourism.

The Family Code states that women and men have equal rights and responsibilities regarding marriage, divorce, raising children, maintaining the home, and pursuing a career. Women are subject to the same restrictions on property ownership as men. The maternity law provides 18 weeks of maternity leave and grants working women preferential access to goods and services. About 40 percent of all women work, and they are well represented in the professions.

Children

The Constitution provides that the Government protect "family, maternity, and matrimony." It also states that children, legitimate or not, have the same rights under the law and notes the duties of parents to protect them. Education is free and is grounded in Marxist ideology. State organizations and schools are charged with the "integral formation of children and youth." The national health care system covers all citizens. There is no societal pattern of abuse of children. However, child prostitution is a problem, with young girls engaging in prostitution to help support themselves and their families. Young girls have constituted the bulk of the prostitutes catering primarily to foreign tourists. It is illegal for a child under 17 years of age to engage in prostitution. The police began to enforce this law more actively in late 1998 and continued to do so during the year, as part of their crackdown on prostitution in general.

People with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination based on disability, and there have been few complaints of such discrimination. There are no laws that mandate accessibility to buildings for the disabled.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Many Afro-Cubans have benefited from access to basic education and medical care since the revolution, and much of the police force and army enlisted personnel is black. Nevertheless, racial discrimination often occurs. There have been numerous reports of disproportionate police harassment of black youths. In 1997 there were numerous credible reports of forced evictions of squatters and residents lacking official permission to reside in Havana. The evictions, exacerbated by Decree 217 (see Section 2.d.), primarily targeted individuals and families from the eastern provinces, which are traditionally areas of black or mixed-race populations.

Section 6. Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Constitution gives priority to state or collective needs over individual choices regarding free association or provision of employment. The "demands of the economy and society" take precedence over individual workers' preferences. The law prohibits strikes; none are known to have occurred. Established official labor organizations have a mobilization function and do not act as trade unions, promote worker rights, or protect the right to strike. Such organizations are under the control of the State and the Communist Party, which also manage the enterprises for which the laborers work.

The Communist Party selects the leaders of the sole legal labor confederation, the Confederation of Cuban Workers, whose principal responsibility is to ensure that government production goals are met. Despite disclaimers in international forums, the Government explicitly prohibits independent unions and none are recognized. There has been no change since the 1992 International Labor Organization (ILO) finding that Cuba violated ILO norms on freedom of association and the right to organize. Those who attempt to engage in union activities face government persecution. Workers can and have lost their jobs for their political beliefs, including their refusal to join the official union. Several small independent labor organizations have been created, but function without legal recognition and are unable to represent workers effectively and work on their behalf. The Government actively harasses these organizations. Police detained independent labor activist Jose Orlando Gonzalez Bridon of the Confederation of Democratic Workers of Cuba for brief periods in November and December 1998 and in January.

The CTC is a member of the Communist, formerly Soviet-dominated, World Federation of Trade Unions.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Collective bargaining does not exist. The State Committee for Work and Social Security (CETSS) sets wages and salaries for the state sector, which is almost the only employer in the country. Since all legal unions are government entities, antiunion discrimination by definition does not exist.

The 1995 Foreign Investment Law (Law 77) continued to deny workers the right to contract directly with foreign companies investing in Cuba without special government permission. Although a few firms have managed to negotiate exceptions, the Government requires foreign investors to contract workers through state employment agencies, which are paid in foreign currency and, in turn, pay workers very low wages in pesos. Workers subcontracted by state employment agencies must meet certain political qualifications. According to Minister of Basic Industry Marcos Portal, the state employment agencies consult with the Party, the CTC, and the Union of Communist Youth to ensure that the workers chosen deserve to work in a joint enterprise.

There are no functioning export processing zones, although Law 77 authorizes the establishment of free trade zones and industrial parks.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Neither the Constitution nor the Labor Code prohibits forced labor. The Government maintains correctional centers where it sends persons for crimes such as dangerousness. They are forced to work on farms or building sites, usually with no pay and inadequate food. The authorities often imprison internees who do not cooperate.

The Government employs special groups of workers, known as "microbrigades," on loan from other jobs, on special building projects. These microbrigades have increased importance in the Government's efforts to complete tourist and other priority projects. Workers who refuse to volunteer for these jobs often risk discrimination or job loss. However, microbrigade workers reportedly receive priority consideration for apartments. The military channels some conscripts to the Youth Labor Army, where they serve their 2-year military service requirement working on farms that supply both the armed forces and the civilian population.

The Government prohibits forced and bonded labor by children; however, the Government requires children to work without compensation. All students over age 11 are expected to devote 30 to 45 days of their summer vacation to farm work, laboring up to 8 hours per day. The Ministry of Agriculture uses "voluntary labor" by student work brigades extensively in the farming sector.

d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment

The legal minimum working age is 17 years. However, the Labor Code permits the employment of 15- and 16-year-old children to obtain training or fill labor shortages. The law requires school attendance until the ninth grade, and this law generally is respected. The Government prohibits forced and bonded child labor; however, it requires children to work without compensation (see Section 6.c.).

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The minimum wage varies by occupation and is set by the CETSS. The minimum monthly wage for a maid, for example, is $8.25 (165 pesos); for a bilingual office clerk, $9.50 (190 pesos); and for a gardener $10.75 (216 pesos). The Government supplements the minimum wage with free education and subsidized medical care (but reduces daily pay by 40 percent after the third day of being admitted to a hospital), housing, and some food – subsidized food is enough for about 1 week per month. However, even with these subsidies, the minimum wage does not provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. Corruption and black market activities are pervasive. The Government rations most basic necessities such as food, medicine, clothing, and cooking gas, which are in very short supply.

The Government requires foreign companies in joint ventures with state entities to hire and pay workers through the State. Human Rights Watch noted that the required reliance on state-controlled employment agencies effectively leaves workers without any capacity directly to negotiate wages, benefits, the basis of promotions, and the length of the workers' trial period at the job with the employer. Reportedly these exploitative labor practices force foreign companies to pay the Government as much as $500 to $600 per month for workers, while the workers in turn receive only a small peso wage from the Government.

The standard workweek is 44 hours, with shorter workdays in hazardous occupations, such as mining. The Government also reduced the workday in some government offices and state enterprises to save energy.

Workplace environmental and safety controls are usually inadequate, and the Government lacks effective enforcement mechanisms. Industrial accidents apparently are frequent, but the Government suppresses such reports. The Labor Code establishes that a worker who considers his life in danger because of hazardous conditions has the right not to work in his position or not to engage in specific activities until such risks are eliminated. According to the Labor Code, the worker remains obligated to work temporarily in whatever other position may be assigned him at a salary prescribed by law.

f. Trafficking in Persons

In February the National Assembly revised the Penal Code to prohibit trafficking in persons through or from the country and to prescribe the following penalties for violations: A term of 7 to 15 years' imprisonment for organizing or cooperating in alien smuggling through the country; 10 to 20 years' imprisonment for entering the country to smuggle persons out of the country; and 20 years to life in prison for using violence, causing harm or death, or putting lives in danger, in engaging in such smuggling. These provisions are directed primarily at persons engaging in organized smuggling of would-be emigrants from Cuba to the United States. In addition, the revised Code made it illegal to promote or organize entrance of persons into or exit of persons from the country for the purpose of prostitution; violators are subject to 20 to 30 years' imprisonment.

There were no reports that persons were trafficked in, to, or from the country for the purpose of providing forced labor or services.

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