CUBA — “In 1959, Fidel Castro established a socialist state in Cuba closely aligned with the” ideology of the Soviet Union. Castro ruled as a dictator, providing free healthcare and education but suppressing all political opposition and routinely violating human rights. Although new reforms have been implemented in Fidel Castro’s regime, Cuba’s political structure has changed very little. These 10 facts about human rights in Cuba demonstrate the country’s authoritarian system that undermines human rights.
10 Facts About Human Rights in Cuba
- Freedom of Expression: The government controls all media, which means they have the power to limit speech, press or any public information. Access to the internet is costly and limited. Due to censorship by the Communist Party, there is little reliable statistical data about the economic or political situation in Cuba. Criticism of the government is kept under control by the threat of criminal prosecution.
- Right to a Fair Trial: In the Cuban justice system there is no guarantee of due process. Cubans suspected of being political opponents can be tried without an impartial tribunal or legal representation. There is no meaningful judicial independence because the courts hold no real power. Instead, arbitrary detention, imprisonment and extra-judicial killings are employed by the government.
- Freedom to Travel: The Cuban government exploits a 1997 law that was originally designed to limit migration to Havana in order to restrict the movement of citizens within Cuba. Travel outside the country is also difficult. Despite a 2013 reform that abolished travel restrictions on Cubans who have valid passports, many are still denied the right to leave the country since the government decides who can obtain and renew passports. The state still monitors who can enter and leave the country.
- Freedom of Religion: In 2008, Cuba signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which included protection for religious freedom. However, this protection is absent in its new proposed constitution. It significantly reduces religious freedoms already promised in Cuba’s current constitution, which has been in effect since 1976. Travel restrictions and arbitrary detentions of religious leaders continue to make the practice of religion in Cuba dangerous. The Catholic Church and numerous other religious groups have repeatedly advocated for reform, but have been ignored.
- Political Freedom: Cuba’s constitution recognizes the Communist Party as the only legal political party. Free elections do not exist in the country. Any political dissent or protest against the one-party system is restricted. Political groups, home libraries and even musicians and artists who promote an alternative culture in Cuba are all considered involved in illegal activity and are treated as criminals.
- Academic Freedom: While Cuba is committed to free education for all citizens, its policies restrict academic and cultural freedoms. Religious leaders Ramon Rigal and his wife were jailed in April because they refused to send their children to government-run schools. Families are becoming increasingly concerned about the regime indoctrinating their children in socialism through the education system. Homeschooling and accredited international programs are prohibited.
- Labor Rights: The International Labour Organization has ratified conventions addressing freedom of association, collective bargaining, protection of wages and the prohibition of forced labor. However, these rules are often not enforced. “In practice, Cuba permits only one confederation of state-controlled unions, the Workers’ Central Union of Cuba.”
- Economic Freedom: Most economic enterprises in Cuba are government-owned. All professional licenses, property sales and foreign investment must be approved and are highly taxed by the state. State security routinely favors those loyal to the regime in business matters and harasses those considered dissidents. Thanks to recent reforms, Cubans are now allowed to own small businesses and generate private income. However, the economy is still heavily controlled by the military. Since 1959, the economy and living standards have declined while inequality has increased. Only favored groups have access to better housing, luxury goods and higher salaries.
- Freedom from Inhumane Treatment: Cuban law condemns the abusive treatment of detainees and prisoners, but reports of prison officials assaulting or torturing people in prison or in police custody are common. Prisons overcrowded with political prisoners are prone to unsanitary conditions and sometimes no access to medical care.
- Right to Privacy The Cuban constitution requires police to obtain a search warrant before entering homes. However, “an ambiguous exception in the constitutional provision gives the government authority over homes, mail and citizens themselves.” The Communist Party’s security and military sectors conduct secret surveillance of the activities of the Cuban public, making privacy nonexistent.
Despite these abuses, many opponents of the government in Cuba continue to risk their lives to promote democracy and human rights. The desire for a democracy movement is increasing, involving human rights organizations, independent trade unions and other institutions. In 2016, “Cuba was re-elected to the Human Rights Council for the 2017-2019 term.” In 2016, United Nations human rights investigators were allowed in the country. Although these 10 facts about human rights in Cuba demonstrate that Cuba is far from becoming a democracy, groundwork is being laid for progress in the future.
– Sarah Newgarden