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Title:  Cuba Human Rights Practices, 1995 
Author:  U.S. Department of State  
Date:  March 1996  
 
 
 
 
                               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 party is the only legal political 
entity, and President Castro personally chooses the membership of the 
select group which heads the party.  The party controls all government 
positions, including judicial offices. 
 
The Ministry of Interior is the principal organ of state security and 
totalitarian control.  The Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), directed by 
President Castro's brother Raul, exercise de facto control over this 
Ministry.  In addition to regulating migration and controlling the 
Border Guard and the police forces, the Interior Ministry investigates 
and actively suppresses organized opposition and dissent.  It maintains 
a pervasive system of vigilance through undercover agents, informers, 
the Rapid Reaction 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, severe economic problems 
have reduced the willingness of citizens to participate in the CDR's and 
thereby lessened their effectiveness.  Other mass organizations also 
inject government and Communist Party control into every citizen's daily 
activities at home, work, and school.  Members of the security forces 
committed human rights abuses. 
 
The Government continued to control all significant means of production 
and remained the predominant employer, despite some foreign investment 
and legalization of some types of self-employment.  Although the 
Government claimed 2.3 percent economic growth during the first 9 months 
of 1995, the economy remained in a depression due to the inefficiencies 
of the centrally controlled economic system, the collapse of Cuba's 
trade relations with the former Soviet bloc, and the end of the $4 to $5 
billion in annual Soviet subsidies.  Despite some indications of 
economic growth, gross domestic product is still only about two-thirds 
the 1989 level, and total foreign trade about one-fourth the 1989 level.  
The Government continued its austerity measures known euphemistically as 
the "special period in peacetime."  Agricultural markets, legalized in 
1994, gave consumers wider access to meat and produce, although at 
prices beyond the routine reach of most Cubans living on peso-only 
incomes.  The system of "tourist apartheid" continued, in which foreign 
visitors received preference over citizens for food, consumer products, 
and government services, as well as access to hotels and resorts from 
which Cuban citizens were barred. 
 
The Government's human rights record continued to be poor with 
allegations of serious abuses.  Although the Government made some 
positive gestures, including ratifying the United Nations International 
Convention Against Torture, permitting a delegation led by France-
Liberte to interview a number of political prisoners, and releasing 
several prominent political prisoners, it continued to restrict sharply 
basic political and civil rights.  These included:  the right of 
citizens to change their government; the freedoms of speech, press, 
association, assembly, religion, and movement; as well as the right to 
privacy and various workers' rights.  The judiciary is subordinate to 
the Government and to the Communist Party. 
 
Authorities continued to harass, threaten, imprison, defame, and 
physically attack human rights advocates and members of independent 
professional associations, including journalists, economists, and 
lawyers, often with the goal of encouraging them to leave Cuba.  In 
October a number of human rights groups and other nongovernmental 
organizations formed an umbrella association, known as the "Concilio 
Cubano."  The Government responded by detaining and harassing certain 
key members and obstructing meetings of the group.  Human rights 
advocates were denied the right of due process and subjected to unfair 
trials.  Political prisoners were regularly offered the choice of exile 
or continued imprisonment.  Prison conditions remained harsh. 
 
Human rights advocates and religious leaders, such as Francisco Chaviano 
and Pentecostal pastor Orson Vila, were denied the right of due process 
and subjected to unfair trials.  In March the United Nation's Human 
Rights Commission (UNHRC) once again passed a resolution endorsing the 
report of the UNHRC Special Rapporteur, which detailed Cuba's violations 
of human rights.  The Government continued to refuse the Special 
Rapporteur permission to visit Cuba. 
 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 
from: 
 
  a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing 
 
One criminal suspect died as a result of a beating received while in 
police custody.  On September 12, police in the city of Consolacion del 
Sur informed the family that Etanislao Gonzalez Quintana, detained since 
September 8 for the alleged illegal purchase of beef, had died of a 
heart attack.  However, his body showed signs of having been beaten, 
including a deep gash on his forehead and multiple bruises.  The family 
received no response to the formal complaint they filed with the police. 
 
The Government never conducted a full investigation into the Cuban Coast 
Guard's sinking of the "13th of March" tugboat on July 13, 1994, which 
caused the death of 37 people. 
 
  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, 
but members of the security forces and prison officials continued to 
beat and otherwise abuse human right advocates, detainees, and 
prisoners.  For example, Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, president of the 
Institute of Independent Economists of Cuba, received several anonymous, 
written death threats and on one occasion was visited by an unknown man 
who brandished a gun and made a gesture as if slitting her throat.  
Elizardo Sanchez Santacruz, head of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights 
and National Reconciliation, was visited on several occasions by 
individuals claiming to be relatives of political prisoners who shouted 
abuse, threatened him, tried to punch him through the window, and 
finally hurled porch chairs against the window.  Local police never 
followed up on his complaint.  This harassment is consistent with the 
pattern of abuse practiced by state security agents. 
 
Prison conditions continued to be harsh.  The Government claims that 
prisoners have guaranteed 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 used beatings, neglect, isolation, denial of medical attention, 
and other abuses against detainees and prisoners, including those 
convicted of political crimes or those who persisted in expressing their 
views.  State security officials often subjected dissidents to 
systematic psychological intimidation, including sleep deprivation, in 
an attempt to coerce them to sign incriminating documents or to 
collaborate.  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) 
found that the "serious prison conditions and other deliberately severe 
and degrading treatment meted out to prisoners by the Cuban Government 
amount to serious violations of human rights." 
 
Prison authorities used physical violence even against prisoners seeking 
medical attention.  On May 10, Leonor Zamora Fernandez, imprisoned in 
the Manto Negro women's prison, was kicked, beaten, and thrown down the 
stairs by a prison official for demanding medical attention.  She was 
then sent to a punishment cell and left for 8 days without medical 
treatment for either her new injuries, including a broken arm, or her 
original medical problem.  In September three guards at the Combinado 
del Este prison beat prisoner Victor Villar Vidot for having shouted out 
for medical attention to deal with his migraine headache. 
 
A group of political prisoners in the Kilo 8 prison in the province of 
Camaguey reported that prison authorities routinely denied political 
prisoners the right to have their sentence reduced for good behavior, as 
well as access to food, clothing, medical and dental treatment, and 
educational, sporting, and cultural activities.  They reported that 
prisoners received no salary for their work in the Abatur S.A. company 
that provides laundry services for the hotels in Camaguey province.  
Kilo 8 prison authorities also denied political prisoners requests for 
visits by the local priest. 
 
Other prisons also routinely denied prisoners their "guaranteed" rights.  
Pastor Orson Vila, serving an 18-month sentence for disobedience and 
illegal meetings in the work farm "La 40" in the province of Camaguey 
(see Section 2.c.), was denied regularly authorized passes as well as a 
special award pass due him as "best worker."  For over a year, prison 
authorities at the Kilo 5 1/2 prison in Pinar del Rio denied a family 
visit to Jose Miranda Acosta, sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment for 
alleged terrorist acts.  Only when his ailing 85-year-old father 
appeared at the prison and refused to leave did prison authorities 
permit him to see his son.  They told the father that they would not 
allow further visits because Miranda Acosta refused to wear the prison 
uniform and demanded that his rights as a political prisoner be 
respected. 
 
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 U.N. Special Rapporteur, as well as other human 
rights monitoring organizations, reported widespread incidence of 
tuberculosis, scabies, hepatitis, parasitic infections, and malnutrition 
in prisons.  Moreover, the IACHR noted that prison authorities subjected 
prisoners who protested the conditions or treatment to reprisals such as 
beatings, transfer to punishment cells, transfer to prisons far from 
their families, suspension of family visits, or denial of medical 
treatment. 
 
Political prisoners Sebastian Arcos Bergnes, Agustin Figueredo 
Figueredo, and Luis Enrique Gonzalez Ogra, released in May at the urging 
of the French humanitarian organization France-Liberte (see Section 4), 
suffered from advanced stages of cancer that, despite obvious symptoms, 
had gone undiagnosed and untreated during their imprisonment.  Omar del 
Pozo Marrero, sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment for revealing state 
secrets, was denied medical treatment despite the fact that his family 
brought all the necessary medicines and supplies to the military 
hospital for the required surgery. 
 
Prison authorities often placed political prisoners in cells with common 
and sometimes violent criminals and required that they comply with the 
rules for common criminals.  Luis Gustavo Dominguez Gutierrez, sentenced 
to 7 years' imprisonment for enemy propaganda, conducted a hunger strike 
for several weeks to protest his confinement in a cell with common 
criminals who had been harassing and threatening him.  Political 
prisoner Francisco Chaviano (see Section l.e.) undertook a hunger strike 
for several weeks in September to protest his unfair imprisonment as 
well as his treatment as a common criminal.  Omar del Pozo Marrero wrote 
several letters to government leaders demanding that they respect his 
status as a political prisoner. 
 
The Government does not permit independent monitoring of prison 
conditions by international or national human rights monitoring groups.  
However, the Government did permit the France-Liberte delegation to 
interview 24 political prisoners in the prisons' administrative 
sections.  The Government refused the delegation access to prison cells, 
kitchens, dining halls, or infirmaries (see Section 4). 
 
Effective May 17, the Government ratified the United Nations Convention 
Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, with 
certain reservations relating to the investigation and arbitration of 
complaints. 
 
  d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
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 10 days of arrest.  However, the 
Constitution states that all legally recognized civil liberties can be 
denied anyone actively opposing the "decision of the Cuban people to 
build socialism."  Authorities routinely invoke this sweeping authority 
to deny these guarantees to those detained on purported state security 
grounds. 
 
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.  Ramon 
Varela Sanchez, vice president of the Marti Civic League, has been 
detained without charges since July 31.  In addition, the Government 
regularly cracked down on groups of human rights advocates, including 
the newly formed Concilio Cubano.  Between May 13 and May 16, state 
security agents detained 17 provincial and municipal leaders of the 
Human Rights Party of Cuba for periods ranging from several hours to 
several days.  They were released pending trial on charges of enemy 
propaganda.  To prevent any organized commemoration of the anniversary 
of the death of 37 people aboard the "13th of March" tugboat, state 
security agents detained over 30 human rights advocates between July 11 
and July 13, releasing them hours or days later without charges. 
 
The Penal Code also 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 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 intimidate critics by 
threatening prosecution under this article.  Both the UNHRC and the 
IACHR condemned 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 
Cuban criminal code amounts to a subjective criterion used by the 
Government to justify violations of the right to individual freedom and 
due process of persons whose sole crime has been an inclination to hold 
a view different from the official view." 
 
Jesus Castillo, an independent lawyer who works with human rights and 
independent labor organizations, was threatened with a charge of 
dangerousness if he refused to accept work washing floors at a 
cafeteria.  The National Lawyers' Organization had disbarred him in 1984 
for "ideological deviationism," and authorities also detained him for 2 
years without charges.  On October 20, state security agents detained 
independent journalist Olance Nogueras Rofes and threatened him with 
imprisonment on the charge of dangerousness if he did not leave the 
country or apply for refugee status (see Section 2.a.).  They released 
him 5 days later but rearrested him on October 26 and held him for 
several days.  He was released pending police investigation of potential 
charges of revealing state secrets and enemy propaganda.  Nogueras had 
been investigating alleged construction and safety deficiencies at the 
Juragua nuclear power plant in Cienfuegos. 
 
The Government also used exile as a tool for controlling and eliminating 
internal opposition.  The Government regularly offered exile as the 
condition for release to political prisoners.  Rodolfo Gonzalez 
Gonzalez, Luis Alberto Pita Santos, and Pablo Reyes Martinez were all 
taken directly from prison to the airport for flights to other 
countries.  The UNHRC condemned the practice of "obligating political 
prisoners to leave the country and subjecting them to pressure while 
they are in prison to accept this condition."  For the first time, 
however, the Government permitted the unconditional release of a number 
of political prisoners, although many of those ostensibly released 
unconditionally as "special cases" were advised to begin their refugee 
processing immediately or risk reimprisonment.  Six prisoners released 
in late May following the visit of France-Liberte, including Sebastian 
Arcos Bergnes and Yndamiro Restano Diaz, were allowed to remain in the 
country. 
 
  e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
Although the Constitution provides for independent courts, it explicitly 
subordinates them to the National Assembly (ANPP) and the Council of 
State, which is headed by Fidel Castro.  The rubber-stamp ANPP and its 
lower level counterparts elect all judges.  The subordination of the 
courts to the Communist Party 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.  Cuban law and trial practices do not meet 
international standards for fair public trials.  Almost all cases are 
tried in less than 1 day. 
 
There are no jury trials.  Most trials are public; however, trials are 
closed when state security is allegedly 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 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.  The law requires that an 
appeal be filed within 5 days of the verdict. 
 
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 say that they were tried and 
sentenced without counsel and were not allowed to speak on their own 
behalf. 
 
The law provides the accused the right to an attorney, but the control 
the Government exerts over members of the state-controlled lawyer's 
collectives--especially when they defend persons accused of state 
security crimes--thoroughly compromises their ability to represent 
clients.  Observers have reported reluctance among attorneys to defend 
those charged in political cases out of fear of jeopardizing their own 
careers. 
 
Several members of the "Corriente Agramontista," an association of 
reform-minded lawyers who often defend individuals accused of political 
crimes, were either transferred to remote locations to encourage them to 
resign or were fired and disbarred.  Agramontista President Rene Gomez 
Manzano was fired on October 6 for his "disrespectful and ironical 
attitude" at the 1992 general meeting of the National Lawyers' 
Organization, as well as for having written a letter containing 
"calumnious comments about the performance of the National Executive 
Board."  Gomez' letter had criticized the financial and political 
management of the organization and had proposed the democratization of 
the organization and the reinstatement of the private practice of law. 
 
The military trial of human rights advocate and leader of the National 
Council for Civil Rights, Francisco Chaviano, on charges of revealing 
state secrets and falsifying documents, exemplified the absence of fair 
trial procedures and due process.  Chaviano, who was detained for 11 
months without charges, received notice of his indictment only days 
before his April 15 trial date.  After having dismissed his attorney in 
protest over the Government's refusal to give her access to his file or 
to conduct private interviews with him, he had only 1 day to review his 
500-page case file.  On the day of his trial, he accepted a court-
appointed lawyer.  During the 1-day trial closed to everyone except his 
immediate family, the military tribunal prohibited Chaviano from making 
any statement, calling defense witnesses, or presenting exculpatory 
evidence.  The prosecution presented no physical evidence in support of 
the charges.  Chaviano was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment; his 
appeals were subsequently denied.  During the trial, the local CDR 
amassed a group of about 50 people armed with pipes, sticks, bats, and 
stones outside the courthouse to threaten the small group of family, 
friends, and human rights advocates who had gathered there. 
 
According to Amnesty International, 600 persons were imprisoned for 
various political crimes.  Other human rights monitoring groups estimate 
that between 1,000 and 1,500 individuals--not including those held for 
dangerousness--were imprisoned on such charges as enemy propaganda, 
illicit association, contempt for authority (usually for criticizing 
Fidel Castro), clandestine printing, or the broad charge of rebellion, 
often brought against advocates of peaceful democratic change.  In a 
television interview in October, President Castro acknowledged and 
attempted to justify the existence of political prisoners in Cuba by 
stating that this was a normal practice in many other countries. 
 
  f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
Although the Constitution provides for the inviolability of one'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 
Communist Party controls the mass organizations which permeate society.  
Their 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 has both reduced the Government's ability to provide material 
incentives for their participation and forced many people 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 to a lesser 
extent 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. 
 
State security often reads international correspondence and monitors 
overseas telephone calls and conversations with foreigners.  Citizens do 
not have the right to receive publications from abroad.  Security agents 
subject dissidents, foreign diplomats, and journalists to surveillance. 
 
State security officials threatened human rights advocate Victoria Ruiz 
Labrit with having her children removed from her custody if she 
continued her involvement in the human rights movement. 
 
The authorities regularly search people and their homes, without 
probable cause, to intimidate and harass them.  In July police searched 
the homes of independent journalists Nestor Baguer and Jose Rivero 
Garcia and seized their facsimile  machines (see Section 2.a.).  In 
August state security agents seized the replacement facsimile machine 
that Baguer had received.  On October 18, state security agents in 
Camaguey spent 2 1/2 hours searching the home of Dulce Maria Suarez 
Ramirez, who provides temporary lodging for the visiting relatives of 
political prisoners detained in Camaguey province.  State security 
agents seized letters from those families, as well as personal video 
cassettes and various foreign publications. 
 
The authorities regularly detained human rights advocates after they 
visited the U.S. Interests Section, confiscated their written reports of 
human rights abuses, and seized copies of U.S. newspapers and other 
informational materials. 
 
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 insults 
against 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 object of criticism, the sentence is extended to 3 years.  
Local CDR's inhibit freedom of speech by monitoring and reporting 
dissent or criticism.  Police and state security officials regularly 
harassed, threatened, beat, and otherwise abused human rights advocates 
in public and private as a means of intimidation and control. 
 
Miguel Angel Aldana, President of the Marti Civic League, which 
regularly reports human rights violations to the U.S. media, was 
assaulted by three unidentified men in full daylight on June 15.  While 
one pinned down his arm, another took a wooden stick and beat his hand 
telling him that it was "so you can't continue writing garbage."  Police 
in the emergency room at the local hospital asked no questions when 
Aldana arrived obviously beaten and bloody. 
 
Several members of the Independent Press Bureau of Cuba (BPIC), founded 
in September by former political prisoner Yndamiro Restano Diaz, were 
detained and threatened with imprisonment if they continued their work 
as independent journalists.  Olance Nogueras Rofes was detained twice, 
each time for several days, and threatened with imprisonment if he did 
not either stop working for BPIC or leave the country (see Section 
l.d.). 
 
The Government rigorously monitored other forms of expression and often 
arrested people for crimes of enemy propaganda and clandestine printing.  
Enemy propaganda was considered to include materials ranging from the 
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to reports of human rights 
violations, to mainstream foreign newspapers and magazines. 
 
The Constitution states that electronic and print media are state 
property and "cannot become in any case private property."  The 
Communist Party controls all media as a means to indoctrinate the 
public.  All media can only operate under Party guidelines and must 
faithfully reflect government views.  No other public forums exist.  The 
Government continued to jam U.S.-operated Radio Marti and Television 
Marti, although it usually did not jam other foreign radio broadcasts.  
Radio Marti broadcasts frequently overcame the jamming attempts.  The 
Government's control often extends to the foreign press as well.  The 
Government controls access to the Internet. 
 
The Government circumscribes artistic, literary, and academic freedoms.  
Authorities denied exit permits to at least nine academics who were to 
attend the annual Latin American Studies Association (LASA) conference 
in the United States because of the content of their research.  
According to the LASA president, "to impose such restrictions on 
academic travel is an embarrassment for the freedom of education."  The 
University of Las Villas dismissed Alvaro Zamora Hernandez, a psychology 
professor, for "ideological treason" after he was returned to Cuba 
following an illegal departure attempt.  Although the university refused 
to offer him another position at an equal salary, they did continue to 
pay him his previous salary. 
 
The educational system teaches that the State's interests have 
precedence over all other commitments.  The Ministry of Education 
requires teachers to evaluate students' ideological character and note 
it in the records that students carry throughout their schooling, and 
which affect their future educational and career prospects. 
 
  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, including 
for private religious services, of more than three persons, even in a 
private home, by up to 3 months in prison and a fine (see Section 2.c.).  
The authorities selectively enforce this prohibition and often use it as 
a legal pretext to harass and imprison human rights advocates.  The 
authorities have never approved a public meeting of a human rights 
group. 
 
The Penal Code specifically outlaws "illegal or unrecognized groups."  
The Ministry of Justice, in consultation with the Interior Ministry, 
decides whether to recognize organizations.  Recognized churches, the 
Roman Catholic humanitarian organization CARITAS, the Masonic Order, 
small human rights groups, and several nascent independent professional 
organizations are the only associations outside the control of the 
State, the Party, and mass organizations.  All other legally recognized 
nongovernmental groups are affiliated with or controlled by the 
Government.  The authorities continue to ignore applications for legal 
recognition, thereby allowing the Government to threaten members of 
these groups with charges of illicit association. 
 
  c.  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 July 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.  While the Protestant Ecumenical Council praised such actions, 
the Episcopal Conference of the Roman Catholic Church replied with 
concern over the gap between the Government's rhetoric and actions.  In 
late 1993, the Government harshly criticized the Roman Catholic bishops' 
pastoral letter calling for national reconciliation and dialog.  Despite 
continued restrictions and harsh rhetoric, the Roman Catholic Church has 
observed that it has relatively more latitude in which to carry out its 
pastoral mission. 
 
Despite legal changes, religious persecution continues.  The State 
prohibits members of the armed forces from allowing anyone in their 
household to observe religious practices.  It exempts elderly relatives 
only if their religious beliefs do not influence other family members 
and are not "damaging to the revolution." 
 
The Government continued to use the Penal Code to persecute Jehovah's 
Witnesses and, to a lesser extent, Seventh Day Adventists because it 
considers them to be "active religious enemies of the revolution" for 
their refusal to accept obligatory military service or participate in 
state organizations.  The Government also harasses other churches.  
Miguel Angel Leon, a Baptist minister in Cienfuegos province, and Jorge 
Luis Brito, a member of the church, were tried in December 1994 after 14 
months in detention and sentenced to 5 years' imprisonment for enemy 
propaganda. 
 
The Government requires churches and other religious groups to register 
with the provincial registry of associations to obtain official 
recognition.  The Government prohibits, with occasional exceptions, the 
construction of new churches, forcing many congregations to violate the 
law and meet in people's homes. 
 
On May 24, Pentecostal Pastor Orson Vila was arrested, tried, and 
sentenced to 23 months' imprisonment (reduced on appeal to 18 months) on 
charges of disobedience and illegal meetings for refusing to close his 
private house of worship in the city of Camaguey (see Section l.c.).  At 
the same time, authorities closed over 80 Pentecostal private houses of 
worship in the province of Camaguey.  They charged that the private 
houses of worship were operating without official authorization.  Vila 
had followed the prescribed procedures for requesting such authorization 
but had only received responses to 16 of the 101 applications he 
submitted. 
 
Official recognition of all religious holidays ended in 1961.  At that 
time, the Government also prohibited nearly all religious processions 
outside churches and denied churches access to mass media.  Despite 
obstacles raised by the Government, church attendance has grown in 
recent years. 
 
State security officials regularly harassed human rights advocates prior 
to services commemorating special feast days or before significant 
national days.  A number of human rights advocates were warned against 
attending services at the Sacred Heart church in Havana on July 13, the 
anniversary of the sinking of the "13th of March" tugboat.  Prior to the 
September 8 celebration of the feast day of the "Virgen de la Caridad 
del Cobre," 10 members of the Maximo Gomez Human Rights Democratic Front 
in Pinar del Rio were either detained or warned not to attend the church 
service.  Sixteen members of the Jose Marti Democratic Bloc were 
detained or threatened before the September 24 celebration of the feast 
day of the "Virgen de las Mercedes." 
 
  d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
 
The Government does not impose legal restrictions on domestic travel, 
except for persons found to be HIV-positive, whom it initially restricts 
to sanitoriums for treatment and therapy before conditionally releasing 
them to the community.  However, state security officials forbade human 
rights advocates Aida Rosa Jimenez and Miguel Angel Aldana from 
returning to the provinces of Camaguey and Pinar del Rio, respectively, 
and prohibited independent journalist Olance Nogueras Rofes from leaving 
his province of Cienfuegos. 
 
The Government allows the majority of persons who qualify for immigrant 
or refugee status in other countries to leave Cuba.  However, the 
authorities delay or deny exit permits in certain cases, usually without 
explanation.  Many of the denials involve professionals who have tried 
to emigrate and whom the Government subsequently banned from working in 
their occupational field.  The Government refuses permission to others 
because it considers their cases sensitive for political or state 
security reasons.  The Government also routinely denies exit permits to 
young men approaching the age for military service, even when it has 
authorized the rest of the family to leave.  However, most of those 
cases approved for migration to the United States eventually receive 
exemptions from obligatory service and exit permits.  In midyear, the 
Government made it more difficult for individuals to leave the country 
by imposing high fees, payable in U.S. dollars, for passports, exit 
permits, and medical checkups.  As a result of these fees, almost 1,000 
approved migrants were unable to travel. 
 
The Government denied temporary exit permits to several human rights 
advocates, including Elizardo Sanchez Santacruz and Osvaldo Paya, as 
well as to eminent neurosurgeon Hilda Molina Morejon, who had hoped to 
visit her son and newborn grandson in Argentina. 
 
Unauthorized departures by boat or raft continue to be punishable by 
fines and prison terms of from 6 months to 3 years, although the 
Government agreed under the terms of the May 2 U.S.-Cuban migration 
accord not to prosecute or retaliate against rafters returned to Cuba 
from international or U.S. waters.  Although none of the returned 
rafters has been prosecuted for illegal departure, 16 of 223 returnees 
were detained at year's end on various charges unrelated to their 
illegal departure attempt.  Of these, nine were jailed on charges of 
committing common crimes, six on charges of escaping from prison or 
violating parole in connection with earlier illegal attempts to enter or 
exit Cuba, and one on charges of violating exit laws following his 
repatriation.  The Penal Code provides for imprisonment from 1 to 3 
years or a fine of 300 to 1,000 pesos for illegal departure.  The U.N. 
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has stated that it regards any 
sentence for illegal exit of over 1 year as harsh and excessive. 
 
In August 1994, the Government eased restrictions on visits by, and 
repatriation of, Cuban emigrants.  Cubans who establish residency 
abroad, and who are in possession of government-issued "permits to 
reside abroad," may travel to Cuba without visas.  The Government 
further reduced the age of people eligible to travel abroad from 20 to 
18 years and extended the period for temporary stay abroad from 6 to 11 
months.  In November the Government announced a further relaxation in 
travel requirements.  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. 
 
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."  
According to the UNHCR, no third country national sought asylum or 
refugee status from the Government in 1995.  The Government works with 
the UNHCR to process refugee and asylum claims. 
 
Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government 
 
Citizens have no legal right to change their government or to advocate 
change.  The Constitution proscribes any political organization other 
than the Communist Party.  A small group of leaders select members of 
its highest governing bodies--the Politburo and the Central Committee. 
 
The authorities tightly control all elections.  The Government estimated 
a 97 percent turnout for the July 9 elections for municipal councils.  
Most of the candidates were members of the Communist Party, and no 
candidates entered in opposition to the Government. 
 
The Government has ignored calls for democratic reform.  In an interview 
with Cable News Network television in October, President Castro 
reiterated his view that political parties would fragment Cuban society, 
and he would therefore not permit them.  The Government rejects any 
change judged incompatible with the revolution, as well as proposals by 
Cubans who seek nonviolent political change.  The Government has 
systematically retaliated against those who have peacefully sought 
political change. 
 
Though not a formal requirement, Communist Party membership is a de 
facto prerequisite for high-level official positions and professional 
advancement. 
 
Government leadership positions continued to be male dominated. 
There are very few women or minorities in policymaking positions in the 
Government or the Party.  There are three women on the Politburo.  Two 
of the 14 provincial party secretaries are women, the first chosen in 
1993.  The head of the Union of Communist Youth is a woman.  Although 
blacks and mulattos make up over half the population, they hold only 2 
seats in the 26-member Politburo. 
 
Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
The Government does not recognize any domestic or international human 
rights groups, or permit them to function legally.  The Government 
subjects domestic human rights advocates to intense intimidation, 
harassment, and repression (see Sections 1.c., 1.d., and 1.e.).  In 
violation of its own statutes, the Government refuses to consider 
applications for legal recognition submitted by human rights monitoring 
groups. 
 
The Government has steadfastly rejected international human rights 
monitoring.  In 1991 Cuba's U.N. representative stated that Cuba would 
not recognize the UNHRC mandate on Cuba and would not cooperate with the 
Special Rapporteur, despite being a UNHRC member.  This policy remains 
unchanged.  The Government consistently refused requests by the Special 
Rapporteur to visit Cuba.  The Government did allow a brief visit by the 
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in November 1994, but it did not 
honor his request that it permit the Special Rapporteur to visit in 
compliance with his U.N. mandate. 
 
As a result of an agreement between Danielle Mitterand, president of the 
humanitarian organization France-Liberte Foundation, and President 
Castro, the Government permitted a four-person delegation, headed by 
Raphael Doueb, vice president of France-Liberte, to meet with 24 
political prisoners between April 28 and May 5.  The members of that 
delegation included representatives of the International Federation for 
Human  
 
Rights, Doctors of the World, and Human Rights Watch/Americas.  The 
delegation was not permitted to conduct interviews in the prison cells 
or to inspect prison facilities.  The delegation reported that no 
prisoner had complained of physical abuse during his detention, but that 
all had complained of summary and unfair trials, prolonged pretrial 
incommunicado detention, cruel and inhuman prison conditions, and 
confinement with common criminals.  The delegation reported being 
particularly struck by the severity of the sentences imposed on 
political prisoners for nonviolent crimes. 
 
The delegation requested the immediate release on health grounds of four 
of the political prisoners interviewed, and special medical treatment 
for two others who had not been interviewed.  At the end of May, the 
Government released Agustin Figueredo Figueredo, Pedro Castillo Ferrer, 
Sebastian Arcos Bergnes, Yndamiro Restano Diaz, Ismael Salvia Ricardo, 
and Luis Enrique Gonzalez Ogra.  Omar del Pozo Marrero, one of the four 
whose immediate release had been sought, was not released (see Section 
l.c.).  The delegation presented a preliminary report on its visit to 
the Government in mid-June and issued a final report in December.  In a 
televised interview conducted during his trip to New York, President 
Castro stated that he had disagreed with the preliminary report. 
 
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 and sexual discrimination 
often occur. 
 
  Women 
 
Violent crime is rarely reported in the press, and there are no publicly 
available data regarding the incidence of domestic violence.  The law 
establishes strict penalties for rape, and the Government appears to 
enforce the law.  Prostitution has increased greatly in the last few 
years; press reports indicate that tourists from various countries visit 
Cuba specifically to patronize inexpensive prostitutes.  During its 
annual meeting, the official Federation of Cuban Women criticized 
government-sponsored advertising which promoted sex-related 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 states that the Government will 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 childhood and youth."  The national health care system covers all 
citizens.  There is no pattern of societal abuse of children. 
 
  People With Disabilities 
 
The law prohibits discrimination based on disability, and there have 
been few complaints of such discrimination.  There are no laws which 
mandate accessibility to buildings for people with disabilities. 
 
  National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities 
 
Many blacks have benefited from the social changes of the revolution.  
Nevertheless, there have been numerous instances of police harassment of 
blacks, including black foreigners and diplomats who were mistaken for 
being Cuban.  Many black dissidents also report that the authorities 
single them out for harassment. 
 
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 worker's preferences.  The law prohibits strikes; none 
are known to have occurred.  Established labor organizations have a 
mobilization function and do not act as trade unions or promote or 
protect worker rights, including the right to strike.  Such 
organizations are under the control of the State and the party. 
 
The Communist Party selects the leaders of the sole legal 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.  There has been no change since the 1992 International Labor 
Organization (ILO) finding that independent unions "do not appear to 
exist" and its ruling 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. 
 
  b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 
 
Collective bargaining does not exist.  The State Committee for Work and 
Social Security sets wages and salaries for the state sector.  Since all 
legal unions are government entities, antiunion discrimination by 
definition does not exist.  There are no independent unions. 
 
In 1993 the Government removed some of the restrictions on self-
employment imposed in 1968 and allowed people to apply for licenses to 
work in over 125 different occupations, expanded to over 160 in 1994.  
Besides adding another 20 occupational categories, in 1995 the 
Government removed its previous ban on self-employment licenses for 
university graduates.  However, university graduates cannot get self-
employment licenses for work in their professional field and must remain 
employed in their state job to qualify for a self-employment license. 
 
There are no functioning export processing zones in Cuba, although the 
new Foreign Investment Law (Law 77), promulgated on September 6, 
authorizes the establishment of free trade zones and industrial parks.  
Law 77 continued to deny workers the right to contract directly with 
foreign companies investing in Cuba.  The Government requires foreign 
investors to contract workers through state employment agencies which 
are paid in foreign currency and, in turn, pay their workers in pesos.  
Workers subcontracted by state employment agencies must meet certain 
political qualifications.  According to Marcos Portal, Minister of Basic 
Industry, the state employment agencies consult with the party, the 
Confederation of Cuban Workers, and the Union of Communist Youth to 
ensure that the workers chosen deserve to work in a joint enterprise. 
 
  c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
 
Neither the Constitution nor the Labor Code prohibit forced labor.  The 
Government maintains correctional centers where it sends people 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.  
Microbrigade workers, however, 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 which supply both the armed forces and the civilian 
population.  The ILO's Committee of Experts criticized Cuba for 
violating ILO Convention 29 on Forced Labor, based on information 
provided by the International  
 
Confederation of Free Trade Unions.  In response the Cuban state labor 
committee in 1993 eliminated "merits and demerits" from workers' labor 
records. 
 
  d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children 
 
The legal minimum working age is 17 years.  The Labor Code permits 
employment of 15- and 16-year-olds to obtain training or fill labor 
shortages.  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.  The law requires school 
attendance until the ninth grade, and this law is generally respected. 
 
  e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
The minimum wage varies by occupation and is set by the Bureau of Labor 
and Social Security.  The minimum monthly wage for a maid, for example, 
is $6.60 at the unofficial but actual exchange rate of 25 pesos to $1.00 
in November 1995 (165 pesos); for a bilingual office clerk, $7.60 (190 
pesos); and for a gardener $8.60 (215 pesos).  The Government 
supplements the minimum wage with free medical care, education, and 
subsidized housing and food.  Even with these subsidies, however, a 
worker must earn far more than the average monthly wage to support a 
family.  The Government rations most basic necessities such as food, 
medicine, clothing, and cooking gas, which are in very short supply, if 
available at all. 
 
The standard work week is 44 hours, with shorter workdays in hazardous 
occupations such as mining.  The Government also reduced the workday in 
some governmental offices and state enterprises to save energy.  
Workplace environmental and safety controls are usually inadequate, and 
the Government lacks effective enforcement mechanisms.  The Labor Code 
establishes that 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.  Industrial accidents apparently are frequent, but 
the Government suppresses such reports. 
 
(###)


[end of document]

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