Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1989

Cuba is a totalitarian state dominated by a single person,
Fidel Castro, who is Chief of State, head of Government,
leader of the Communist Party, and Commander-in-Chief of the
Armed Forces. With support from a few long-time associates.
President Castro exercises control over nearly all aspects of
Cuban life through a network of directorates ultimately
responsible to him through the Communist Party. The party is
the only legal political entity and is headed by a
self-perpetuating elite. All government positions, including
judicial offices, are controlled by the party. Elections are
held only to endorse party-approved candidates; there was one
isolated exception in 1989 (see Section 3) . Though not a
formal requirement, party membership is a de facto prerequisite
for high-level official positions and professional advancement
in most areas.
The Ministry of Interior (MININT) is the principal organ of
repression and of totalitarian control. It operates border
and police forces, orchestrates public demonstrations,
determines the legality of associations, investigates evidence
of nonconformity, regulates migration, and maintains pervasive
vigilance through a series of mass organizations and
informers. The Ministry underwent structural reorganization
in 1989 and is now under de facto control of the Revolutionary
Armed Forces (FAR) . The mass organizations attempt to extend
government and Communist Party control over each citizen's
daily activities at home, work, and school. Citizens are
exhorted to ensure ideological conformity and to report
The Cuban economy is highly centralized and managed by a group
of advisors close to President Castro. The Government
controls the means of production and is virtually the
country's sole employer. In the late 1970's, Cuba began to
use market mechanisms, but in 1986 the Government reversed
course and began the ongoing "rectification of errors"
campaign. It sought to stamp out an emerging informal private
sector while promoting antimaterialist "socialist morality."
The abandonment of the liberalization program in favor of more
orthodox Communist policies has played a major role in the
Cuban economy's recent stagnation. In 1989 this campaign of
Marxist economic orthodoxy caused sharp conflicts with Cuba's
reform-minded socialist trading partners.
Cubans do not possess equal protection under the law, the
right to freely choose government representatives, freedom of
expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, or
freedom to travel to and from Cuba without restriction. There
is no independent judiciary, due process safeguards can be and
are constitutionally circumvented, and defense attorneys face
severe disadvantages under the judicial system. Aside from
the churches, which themselves are monitored by the party,
there is virtually no institutional autonomy in Cuban
society. All media are Government-owned and remain under
tight control, and the practice of religion continues to be
discouraged. Government efforts to monopolize control over
many aspects of life remain very intrusive.
The human rights situation in 1989 worsened significantly from
the previous year. The Government stepped up repression in
marked contrast to the limited relaxation effected in 1988.
During the year the Government cracked down on human rights
groups, executed four uniformed officers without a fair trial,
and denied internationally recognized human rights monitors
permission to attend a trial of three human rights leaders.
Efforts by the United Nations Secretary General to implement a
U.N. Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) resolution to follow up
on reported abuses in Cuba had by year's end produced little
response from the Cuban Government. The only positive
carryovers from 1988 into 1989 included continued releases of
political prisoners, permission for the International
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to again interview political
prisoners, and the slight expansion of the 1988 exceptions
granted to the churches.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
      a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
FAR General Arnalio Ochoa, MININT Colonel Antonio De la
Guardia, MININT Major Amado Padron, and FAR Captain Jorge
Martinez were executed by firing squad on July 13 following a
show trial (see Section I.e.). Although the full story behind
the Ochoa/De la Guardia case is still unclear, there are
circumstantial indications that political motivation may have
played a part in making Ochoa the key figure in the case and
in sentencing him and three others to death.
Although not politically motivated, there have been some
reports of police officers engaging in unjustified use of
lethal force. In one such example, police investigating a
petty theft killed a Havana youth, Elisco Canada Coffiguez, in
June, and in another Julian Cela Cuellar was reportedly shot
to death in Havana on July 8, for allegedly verbally abusing
an arresting officer who was breaking up a street fight.
      b. Disappearance
There were no credible reports of politically motivated
disappearances in 1989.
      c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Reliable reports of prisoner abuse and beatings rose in 1989,
with a severity in some cases amounting to torture. There was
no indication that Cuban authorities undertook investigations
or disciplinary actions in response to charges of such abuse.
Punishment cells remain in regular use for disciplining
inmates, in violation of international norms. Rodolfo Frometa
and Angel Donato Martinez, two "nuevos plantados" (new
prisoners who refuse prison "reeducation"), reportedly were
held incommunicado in punishment cells in Combinado del Este
Penitentiary for more than 1 year from 1988 to 1989. In
January there were multiple allegations that guards had beaten
and placed in isolation cells several prisoners in Combinado
del Este during a protest by the so-called lancheros (persons
arrested for illegal attempts to leave the country).
Cuban Human Rights Party activist David Moya was severely
beaten in a Pinar del Rio prison for organizing protests
against prisoner mistreatment, according to the Cuban Human
Rights Party and his own reports smuggled out in August. The
beating and use of electric prods on 11 Combinado del Este
inmates in December 1988 reportedly resulted in two prisoners
being treated for cranial fractures. The prisoners were
protesting the removal of a political prisoner to a prison for
common criminals. In March and August, dozens of Combinado
del Este inmates engaged in hunger strikes and smuggled out
written denunciations of the conditions of their confinement;
these protests reportedly resulted in several severe beatings
and frequent confinement in punishment cells.
Several charges of confinement of political prisoners in
psychiatric hospitals were reported in 1989. Four dissidents
were confined in psychiatric hospitals, ostensibly for
evaluation, for periods ranging from a few days to several
weeks. None of the four reported mistreatment during their
hospital stays. One, Julio Soto Angurel, leader of the Jose
Marti Council of Independent Defenders of Human Rights and
National Reconciliation, remained at year's end in the Havana
Psychiatric Hospital, where he was confined after his arrest
on October 8.
Following his release in 1989, Cuban Human Rights Committee
member Jesus Leyva Guerra reported that security police
detained him in July 1988 and then transferred him to the
prison ward of the Gustavo Machin Psychiatric Hospital in
Santiago de Cuba. Leyva said he was forced to undergo
psychiatric "treatment" and, after he began a hunger strike,
was subjected to electroshock six times.
With a sharp drop-off in the number of outside groups
permitted to visit Cuban prisons in 1989, it was far more
difficult to appraise current conditions. Physical
improvements in prison conditions, such as in ventilation and
sanitation, that were made in 1988 before visits by
international human rights groups, apparently were largely
maintained but not expanded during 1989. Local human rights
monitors assert that punishment cells in provincial jails
featured harsher conditions of confinement.
Political prisoners released in 1989 claimed that, while
conditions remained the same for those incarcerated for
political offenses, mistreatment of common prisoners increased
during the year. There were reports of beatings of prisoners
incarcerated for attempting to leave Cuba without government
permission. These prisoners, who are treated as common
criminals, were protesting the Government's refusal to
recognize them as political prisoners. Reports smuggled out
of the prisons indicate, however, that political reeducation
of prisoners has become essentially voluntary since 1988;
therefore, prisoner protests have largely centered on general
prison conditions.
Local human rights monitors reported a notable rise in
incidents of alleged police brutality by arresting officers,
often in situations involving minor offenses. These included
the shooting of Edel Guerrero Licea and Hidelberto Figuerado
in Palma Soriano at a religious festival in December 1988, the
August 16 shooting of Iran Sanchez Hernandez (who was
attempting an illegal departure from the island), and the
shootings of a Havana youth for "resisting arrest," and a
16-year-old after a traffic infraction. In none of these
cases has there been any indication that any police official
was investigated or punished for such actions. Two other
incidents ended in death (see Section l.a.).
      d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Article 245 of the Cuban Law of Penal Procedure requires
police to file formal charges and either to release a detainee
or place him at the disposition of a prosecutor within 96
hours. Authorities are also required to provide suspects with
a defense attorney within 10 days of arrest. Despite some
signs that authorities were more concerned to follow legal
forms, Cuban procedural rights related to arrest continue to
be widely denied. Article 61 of the Constitution permits
denial of all recognized civil liberties in the case of anyone
actively opposing the "decision of the Cuban people to build
socialism." This article is implicitly invoked by Cuban
authorities who, in the past, justified lengthy detentions of
dissidents by characterizing them as "counterrevolutionary
elements .
Arbitrary arrests and prolonged detentions without trial of
dissidents increased in late 1988 and continued through 1989.
At least 18 such arrests, followed by prolonged detentions, of
dissidents took place in the weeks following the September
1988 UNHRC visit. Since then, a total of approximately 50
dissidents have been subjected to punitive actions ranging
from threats, harassment, and beatings to detentions and
imprisonment. Cuban authorities used brief detentions ranging
from several hours to several days to intimidate dissidents
without formally charging them.
For example, seven members of the Free Art Association (APAL)
were detained for months before being charged and brought to
trial in September 1989. Lazaro Cabrera Puente, Pablo Pupo
Sanchez, Juan Garcia Cruz, Gilberto Plasencia, and Ramon
Obregon had been detained since October 1988. Carlos Novoa
and Jose Mari Becerra had been arrested in January. Amnesty
International (AT) reported that Novoa had gone on a 59-day
hunger strike beginning in May to demand that he be charged
and brought to trial.
Elizardo Sanchez (President of the Cuban Commission for Human
Rights and National Reconciliation), Hiram Abi Cobas (head of
the Cuban Human Rights Party), and Hubert Jerez (head of the
Marti Committee for Human Rights) were arrested on August 6
for "disseminating false information" concerning the trial of
General Ochoa (see Section I.e.). Following their arrests,
the human rights leaders were confined in the Villa Marista
detention center for about 6 weeks before being transferred to
Combinado del Este prison. According to Sanchez, while in
Villa Marista they were each held in solitary confinement
inside windowless 10 foot by 3 foot isolation cells that were
brightly illuminated 24 hours a day for 36 days prior to their
November 17 trial.
Orlando Polo, leader of the "Green Path" ecological-pacifist
group, was arrested three times in August and September and
held without being charged for 1 week in the Villa Marista
detention center and for 2 weeks in the Havana Psychiatric
Hospital. In Villa Marista, Polo was interrogated about
unspecified charges without the benefit of an attorney.
Several more activists continued to be held at year's end
without charges. Enrique Acosta Ruiz, Sergio De la Vega
Gomez, and Lazaro Rosa Arbolez were arrested in April.
Esteban Gonzalez, Manuel Pozo and two other members of the
Pro-Amnesty Committee, a group calling for the release of
political prisoners, were arrested in September. Cuban Human
Rights Party activist Edits Cruz was taken into custody in
November. Altogether, over 25 arrested or detained activists
were still imprisoned or held without being charged at year's
Reliable reports indicated that some prisons were filling up
again in 1989 after the Government reportedly released over
8,000 criminal offenders in 1988 under the new penal code. In
1989 the authorities began a massive and sustained campaign to
prosecute economic offenders, and this may be adding to the
prison population. Reports from inside prisons indicate that
the number of offenders incarcerated for attempted illegal
departures increased in 1989 although prison sentences for the
offense remained moderate by Cuban standards. In 1988,
especially in the months leading up to the visit of the
UNHRC ' s Cuba Working Group, many persons arrested for illegal
departure attempts from the island were not jailed but were
fined and released with a severe warning.
Precise numbers of political prisoners in Cuban jails are
difficult to determine because of the release of hundreds of
prisoners over the last 2 years, differences in definitions of
political prisoners, and the Government's traditional secrecy
about the prison population. Current estimates of the number
of Cuban political prisoners range from Americas Watch's (AW)
January 1989 estimate of "several score additional Cubans to
possibly as many as a few hundred" to the Cuban human rights
activists's claims of many more. In March 1988, the
Government stated that there were 455 persons imprisoned for
crimes against state security, a category which now does not
include offenses such as illegal departure, contempt, and
offenses related to the practice of a religion, such as
conscientious objection. Another indication of the prisoner
population came from the ICRC, which reported that its
delegation in May visited 257 prisoners, including some
convicted of illegal departure, in 10 Cuban detention centers
including the Havana Psychiatric Hospital.
During the year Cuban authorities continued to release
selected political prisoners, including some on the condition
that they immediately emigrate to the United States.
According to U.S. press reports, the Government notified the
U.S. Catholic Conference in November 1988 that it would free
225 political prisoners, including 44 it had previously
labeled as too dangerous to release. Cuban authorities
subsequently did not release the entire group, although at
least 8 of the 44 "dangerous" prisoners, including "plantado
historico" Alberto Grau, were freed in 1989. There are three
remaining "plantados historicos" (long-term political
prisoners who have refused "reeducation") still in prison.
Alfredo Mustelier, one of these three who has served 20 years
of his 25-year sentence, claims that he should be released
under retroactive provisions of the 1988 Penal Code. He
undertook two lengthy hunger strikes in 1989 to protest his
continued incarceration and was gravely ill in December. The
U.N. Secretary General, members of the U.S. Congress, and many
nongovernmental organizations have asked President Castro to
review the cases of Mustelier and the other two "plantados
historicos .
Many human rights activists were arrested on April 3 in order
to forestall their planned demonstration at the Soviet Embassy
during the visit of President Gorbachev. The demonstrators,
who wanted to call for support of "glasnost" within Cuba,
received sentences ranging from 3 to 9 months.
The Cuban Penal Code retains internal exile as a sanction
against convicted offenders, but no instances of forced
removal or resettlement were reported in 1989.
With regard to forced or compulsory labor, see Section 6.c.
      e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Cuban law and trial practices do not meet international
standards for fair and impartial public trials. The
Constitution terms the courts independent, yet it explicitly
subordinates them to the National Assembly and the Council of
State (Article 122). Judges are elected by the rubberstamp
National Assembly and its lower level counterparts. The
independence of the judiciary is compromised by the de facto
subordination of the courts to the Communist Party: there is
no known case in which a Cuban court has successfully ruled
against the Government on any political or security matter.
Civil courts exist at three levels--municipal , provincial, and
the Supreme Court. All civil courts are presided over by
panels composed of a mixture of professionally prepared judges
and lay judges. There is also a system of military tribunals
which tries certain counterrevolutionary activity cases.
Defendants have a general right of appeal at the municipal
level and a conditional right at the provincial level. Cases
involving maximum prison terms or the death penalty are always
open to appeal. The Law of Penal Procedure provides that an
appeal must be presented within 5 days.
The revised Penal Code (Law No. 62) implemented in 1988
reduced the number of capital offenses and the length of
sentences in some cases. The new code did not, however,
significantly modify the previous definition of political
offenses, the punishment meted out for them, or due process
provisions for accused political offenders. Under provisions
of the revised code, defense lawyers may be excluded until an
investigation is completed, and attempted illegal departure
from Cuba remains punishable by up to 3 years' imprisonment or
a fine of up to approximately $1,000.
Political offenses, which prevent virtually any form of free
expression, remained unchanged in the revised penal code,
which retained the concept of "dangerousness" (Articles 72-89)
and vaguely defined it as "the special proclivity of a person
to commit crimes, demonstrated by his conduct in manifest
contradiction of Socialist norms." If the police determine a
person is exhibiting such behavior, the offender can be
brought before a court which may apply police surveillance,
reeducation, or therapy lasting for from 1 to 4 years. In
1989 as in 1988, the concept of "dangerousness" appears to
have been invoked rarely, if at all.
Cuban evidentiary practices do not meet generally recognized
international standards. A trial for political offenses
ordinarily consists of evidence given by the prosecution's
witnesses, who are generally employees of state security
organs. In some cases, the only evidence is the defendant's
confession, obtained without due process safeguards against
self-incrimination or coercion. There are usually no defense
witnesses, although testimony on behalf of the defendant from
a member of a Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (see
Section l.f.) may be introduced and may contribute to a
reduced sentence.
Cuban law provides an accused the right to a defense attorney,
but the latter 's impartiality and independence are compromised
by the absence of a private bar association and by ideological
controls exerted over members of the state-controlled lawyers'
collectives, especially in defending persons accused of crimes
against state security. When the legal collectives were
reorganized in 1984, some 15 percent of then-active attorneys,
including many active in political cases, were denied
readmission and thus effectively disbarred.
Government-appointed defense attorneys generally are poorly
prepared and unsympathetic towards the defendant. In 1988 the
visiting New York City Bar Association delegation observed
Cuban trials for common crimes and found the counsel
ill-prepared and unaggressive. Typically, defendants and
lawyers are afforded little time together; in some cases,
former political prisoners have asserted, clients see their
counsel only one hour before trial. Others are unable to meet
at all with their attorneys.
Observers have noted a reluctance among attorneys to defend
persons charged with political offenses. Lawyers are
discouraged from taking political cases because of persecution
suffered by those who do. Domingo Jorge Delgado, for example,
was freed in 1988 and allowed to emigrate to the United States
in 1989, after serving 8 years in prison following his defense
of a group of persons who had attempted to seek political
asylum. Former political prisoners have alleged that state
security officials apply pressure on all persons involved in
the judicial process, and that those officials, not the
courts, really decide the fate of the detainee.
Several prominent cases of dissidents illustrate how the Cuban
judicial system works in practice:
Samuel Martinez Lara, Secretary General of the Cuban Human
Rights Party, was sentenced on April 7 to 9 months in prison.
Martinez, David Moya, Roberto Bahamonde, and two other members
of the Cuban Human Rights Party were arrested on April 3 for
announcing a demonstration, which was to call for "glasnost"
in Cuba, outside the Soviet Embassy during Soviet leader
Gorbachev's visit. All were held incommunicado until their
closed trial 3 days later where, without defense attorneys
present, they were convicted of "illegal association." Moya
received a sentence of 9 months and Bahamonde a sentence of 3
months in prison. In a June 1989 report, AI criticized the
trials of Bahamonde, Martinez, Moya, and six other imprisoned
members of the Cuban Human Rights Party, stating that they
were punished because of their peaceful political and human
rights activities and that procedures in their trials did not
conform to international standards for fair trial.
Bahamonde 's and Moya ' s sentences were subseguently extended
without any semblance of due process. Two months into his
prison sentence on June 9, Bahamonde was sentenced to an
additional year for "illegal economic activities." According
to a letter smuggled out of prison, Moya was found guilty of
"contempt" at a courtroom set up in a prison dining room in
September and sentenced to a further year in prison. Martinez
was not released upon completion of his sentence on January 4,General Ochoa and 14 other top military and security officials
received few due process safeguards at their highly publicized
trial in June and July. Drug trafficking and other serious
charges were leveled against them first in the official press
OA Qnn r\ an
and then in 2 weeks of show trials. The proceedings were
influenced by the publicly stated views of President Castro
and the presentation before the military tribunal by Minister
of Defense Raul Castro, as well as official media comments
about the guilt of the accused. Defense lawyers for the
accused had little time to prepare an adequate defense,
received little court time compared to the prosecutor, and
apparently at no time did other than to ask for clemency. The
accused were sentenced on July 7, their appeal was quickly
rejected on July 9, and the Council of State confirmed the
death sentences of Ochoa and three other defendants, which
were carried out later the same day. AI , AW, and the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (lACHR) condemned
the trial's procedures and its swift aftermath.
In mid-1989, defense lawyers in two prominent cases involving
human rights activists described below were given greater
pretrial access to their clients than was available in
previous years. In neither instance, however, was the outcome
of the case notably altered in favor of the defendants as a
result of these opportunities for more extensive consultations.
Prior to the trial of seven APAL dissidents in September, some
defendants, including Carlos Novoa and Pablo Pupo Sanchez,
were released on bail and allowed regular consultations with
their attorneys. After a trial heavily laden with political
invective, according to eyewitnesses, the seven activists
received harsh prison sentences ranging from 9 to 21 months on
charges of "continued illegal association," "failure to report
a crime," and, in one case, "possession of a firearm." In the
case of defendant Juan Enrique Garcia, his attorney had
excused himself one day prior to the September trial because
the date allegedly conflicted with his vacation.
In November Elizardo Sanchez and two other human rights
leaders were tried publicly for "spreading false information"
on the Ochoa affair; representatives of AW and AI were not
permitted to enter Cuba to attend. Likewise, the Government
did not allow two U.S. journalists to appear as witnesses for
the defense. Two foreign diplomats were allowed to attend the
proceedings. All three defendants vjere granted the right to
defense attorneys, but pretrial consultations were limited.
At the trial, the accused were allowed to speak freely in
their own defense. Although the prosecutor requested the
maximum sentence (4 years) for Sanchez, he was sentenced to 2
years and the other 2 defendants were given 18 months each.
      f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
Official intrusion into private and family affairs remains one
of the most repressive and pervasive features of Cuban life.
Government or Communist Party-directed mass organizations
permeate Cuban society. The State has assumed a virtual right
of interference, even for those who do not actively oppose the
Government and its practices. Beyond promoting ideological
conformity, many of these intrusions are ostensibly aimed at
"improvement" of the citizenry.
The extensive apparatus of the MININT decides on the legality
of all private and public associations, and utilizes an
intricate system of informers, block wardens, and block
committees (Committees for the Defense of the Revolution -
CDR) to monitor and control public opinion. Police searches
are at times carried out without warrants, as occurred in the
homes of several human rights activists in 1989. Authorities
were more careful than in the past to observe the appearance
of respect for the rights of those suspected of dissent, but
Cuban courts automatically issue warrants in security cases,
thus rendering this procedural safeguard meaningless.
The authorities possess a wide range of social controls. For
example, the educational system teaches that the State's
interests have precedence over all other ties and commitments.
Teachers, selected in part for their ideological commitment,
espouse Communist Party doctrine and can sanction students
whose families question orthodox opinion. Teachers also
evaluate the political and ideological character of their
students, which is noted in records carried with each student
throughout his or her education. Cubans are also pressured to
join a variety of mass organizations, including the Union of
Young Communists, despite the supposedly voluntary nature of
these groups. Outstanding students or workers, according to
reliable reports, often find themselves coerced into
membership in such mass organizations.
CDR s are neighborhood surveillance/security committees tasked
with closely monitoring the daily lives of individual
residents. Participation in Cuba's 80,000 CDR's is in
practice involuntary in urban areas. The Government in 1988
announced the elimination of one CDR report on the beliefs of
citizens, but there is little evidence that this change
significantly altered the role of the CDR's as guardians of
social conformity. CDR's apparently continue to report
suspicious activities, such as contact with foreigners,
reception of foreign broadcasting in the home, conspicuous
consumption, unauthorized meetings, and criticism of the
Government. CDR activity, if anything, increased in 1989 as
the Government undertook a massive campaign aimed at
corruption and petty economic offenses.
Former political prisoners are often subjected to
discriminatory treatment and are relegated to menial,
intermittently available work, no matter what their education
or experience. Their children may be harassed in schools and
sometimes barred from higher or even technical education.
There was evidence that this discrimination abated in recent
years and that authorities were attempting to prevent the
grosser forms of discrimination from being exercised against
departing immigrants as well. Human rights activists report
frequent incidents of threats and harassment by government
officials. Cubans have no right to receive publications from
abroad and can expect all correspondence with foreign
countries to be carefully monitored.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
      a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Cuban authorities continue to place very extensive checks and
controls on freedom of expression. The Government does not
allow direct criticism of the "Revolution," e.g. the basic
policies and Marxist-Leninist orientation of the Government,
party or leadership. Laws are enforced against antigovernment
"propaganda," antigovernment grafitti, and slander or insults
against government officials. Local CDR's monitor and report
on expressions of dissent or criticism.
The electronic and print media are owned by the State or
party-controlled organizations and operate according to party
guidelines. No public forum exists for airing one's views
apart from the government-controlled media. In 1989 as in
previous years, the Government used the media as a vehicle to
indoctrinate the population. Cuban media content reflected
government views of events and stories tend to congratulate
the Government for internal successes, primarily economic
ones. By comparison, Cuban media coverage of Eastern European
developments was terse but straightforward.
In 1989, the Government moved to shut down new dissident
efforts to publish independent newsletters. Thirteen members
of the Cuban Human Rights Party were arrested for printing and
distributing several issues of its new bulletin Franqueza
(Openness). Manuel Gonzalez, Manuel Gonzalez, Sr., and Iris
Perez received prison sentences ranging from 6 months to 1
year for producing Franqueza. Copies of a second, unsigned
dissident newsletter. El Lente (The Lens), appeared
sporadically during the year.
Cuban censorship of foreign media in 1989 expanded to include
reform-minded Soviet publications. In August the Cuban party
leadership announced it was removing two Soviet journals.
Sputnik and Moscow News, from circulation. The Cuban
Communist Party newspaper Granma justified the journals' ban
from circulation by citing their "negative consequences" among
the Cuban populace. Periodicals from non-Communist countries
are not available to the general public, and foreign
broadcasts, apart from U.S. -based Radio Marti, are not heard
by significant numbers of people.
The Government extended its intimidation to the foreign press
on several occasions in 1989. A group of U.S. journalists
covering the July 26th celebrations reported being warned that
foreign journalists who visit Cuban dissidents or who report
about them could jeopardize their stay in Cuba and issuance of
future visas. The Reuters correspondent in Havana was
expelled from Cuba in July for publishing a report the
Government found unacceptable.
Artistic and literary freedom are circumscribed by government
control. Party and government officials carefully scrutinize
humor and irony in the arts. In 1989 one art exhibition
containing pictures which unf latteringly portrayed President
Castro was closed. A Vice Minister of Culture barred from
public display a painting which depicted Castro speaking to a
crowd whose faces were all identical to his.
Academic freedom is severely limited. Education is the
exclusive prerogative of the State, and the school system
follows Marxist-Leninist precepts as interpreted by government
guidelines. Academics can write freely so long as their work
does not conflict with any government or party policy.
      b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution does not provide for freedom of assembly or
association. Any assembly of more than three persons even in
a private home is punishable by up to 3 months in prison and a
fine. Organizers of "illicit or unrecognized groups" can
receive a sentence of up to 9 months (Article 240 of the Penal
There was no known instance in 1989 of authorities approving
any public meeting by a group not recognized by the Government,
On the contrary, the Government continued its crackdown
begun in October 1988 on dissidents seeking to hold meetings
or to organize demonstrations. During Soviet leader
Gorbachev's visit to Havana in April, at least 21 activists
were arrested in connection with a planned demonstration.
Four Cuban Human Rights Party members received sentences of
from 3 to 9 months for "planning an illegal gathering" (see
Section I.e. ).
Article 208 of the Penal Code prohibits "illegal or
unrecognized groups." The Ministry of Justice, in
consultation with the MININT, determines the legality of all
organizations. Apart from "recognized" churches and one or
two groups such as the Masonic Order which are carefully
monitored by authorities, the small, unrecognized, and thus
illegal human rights groups represent the only associations
independent of the State and the party. The authorities
continued to ignore the applications for legal recognition
made by the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National
Reconciliation and the Cuban Human Rights Committee over the
past 3 years.
Cuban citizens are expected to join party-controlled mass
organizations, such as the CDR's, the Confederation of Cuban
Workers, the Federation of Cuban Women, and the Union of
Communist Youth. Resisting membership makes persons subject
to a range of unofficial sanctions.
For a discussion of freedom of association as it applies to
labor unions, see Section 6. a.
      c. Freedom of Religion
The Government places restrictions on the practice of religion
and discriminates against believers, despite the
Constitution's recognition of the rights of citizens to
profess and practice any religious belief. Religious
believers are excluded from membership in the Communist Party
and thus from almost all executive and leadership positions,
including posts in the Government, the courts, and the
teaching profession. Persons who publicly profess their
religious beliefs may be subject to informal discrimination in
the workplace and through social pressures on their children
in school. Practicing Catholics, for instance, have a
difficult time getting more desirable jobs or being admitted
into certain fields of study.
Fidel Castro and other Cuban officials have publicly admitted
that religious discrimination exists, although they claimed it
was not authorized. Indeed, there has been a perceived slight
relaxation of official attitudes toward religion which
contributed to modest increases in both church attendance and
baptisms. Catholic Church officials noted in 1989 a growing
number of youths willing publicly to profess their faith.
The Government and Communist Party continued to maintain
restrictions and controls on the activities of organized
churches. Churches and other religious groups must register
with the Government and be "recognized." Recognized faiths
customarily are permitted to hold religious activities only
within specifically designated places of worship, but
permission was granted for services in prisons and some health
care institutions in 1989. Many Catholic and Protestant
churches have closed, and new construction has been restricted
since the Revolution. Four Protestant and two Catholic
seminaries are allowed to operate, but no other formal
religious training schools are permitted. Atheism is taught
by youth organizations. Churches have no access to official
mass media. The observance of religious holidays is
difficult, and most traditional processions are prohibited.
Christmas is a normal workday.
Despite these restrictions, relations between the Government
and recognized churches have improved since the mid-1980's.
In 1989 the Government demonstrated a greater willingness to
establish a dialogue with church leaders, and President Castro
welcomed the prospect of a future papal visit to Cuba. The
Government slightly expanded the ad hoc exceptions it granted
in 1988 to recognized churches: admission of foreign clergy
to work in Cuba, greater tolerance for religious instruction,
freedom for clergy to travel abroad, permission for the
importation of increased quantities of Bibles, and freedom to
hold conventions. While churches have been granted
exceptions, they have not been conceded "rights".
Since April, clergy have been allowed to visit prisoners who
have requested their services. The Catholic Church
established telex links among its diocesan offices and with
church officials overseas as authorized by the Government in
1988. The Seventh-Day Adventist church held a national
congress in Cuba, and foreign Adventist officials were
permitted to attend in their official capacity. The small
Jewish community was again allowed to import religious
materials, and kosher food and wine. Cuban authorities, while
clamping down on other unauthorized publications in 1989,
continued to permit limited circulation of an independent
newsletter published by a Catholic layman. The Government
allowed access to construction materials needed to rebuild
some existing churches, but provincial and local officials
have opposed certain restoration projects. In December 1988
in Palma Soriana, a parish priest, with the help of his
congregation, succeeded in restoring and reopening a small
chapel. Local party officials organized a mob to break up the
inaugural service. When the priest managed to defuse the
protest by leading the crowds outside the church in the
national anthem, he was detained by police for "proselytizing
and holding a service in public" and released hours later only
after vigorous public protest.
Members of certain faiths have suffered active persecution.
Human rights monitors reported several cases of Jehovah's
Witnesses arrested for illegal meetings and possession of
clandestine publications (i.e., Jehovah's Witnesses tracts) in
1989, including the cases of Ursulo Brito and Samuel Camacho
Hernandez (sentenced to 6 months in prison), and of Eloy Ramos
Gonzalez (sentenced to 1 year). In April police reportedly
infiltrated a Jehovah's Witnesses prayer meeting in Suri and
staged a raid on the home of Felipe Bofill where prayers where
being offered for Bofill's gravely ill son. Several persons
were arrested, tried, and convicted of charges of "illegal
meeting and possession of clandestine printing."
Other religious groups also suffer such repression; in a raid
in December 1988 reported by the Cuban Human Rights Committee,
the home of Baptist pastor Eliejar Samado Cazavus of Granma
was ransacked and religious literature confiscated. Samado
subsequently lost his job and was forced to rely on small
donations from his congregation to support his family.
      d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
There are no legal restrictions on domestic travel, but Cuban
citizens require permission both to leave and to reenter Cuba.
Opportunities for nonofficial foreign travel are severely
restricted, limited generally to elderly pensioners, church
officials, and special humanitarian cases for serious family
illness or death.
Cuban authorities strictly control emigration but in 1989
again permitted several thousand persons, including hundreds
of former political prisoners, to leave the country
permanently with no right of return. Draft-age males were
generally not allowed to depart. During 1989 the Government
continued to deny, without any explanation, exit permission to
some persons and their immediate families who had already been
accepted into immigration and refugee admissions programs of
other countries. For example, the Government has repeatedly
refused exit permission to Sebastian Arcos Cazabon, the son of
human rights leader Sebastian Arcos Bergnes.-
It is a crime to leave the country without authorization.
Persons who attempt to flee on small boats or inner tubes face
sanctions ranging from fines to 3 years' imprisonment. The
number of persons convicted of "illegal" departure reportedly
rose sharply in 1989 (see Section I.e.). Discrimination
against intending legal emigrants lessened in 1989, although
extricating a family from the web of state employment,
housing, and education remains a complex and often frustrating
process. Once emigration formalities are completed, all
family possessions and property go to the State unless
immediate relatives are able to take possession.
Cubans traveling as emigrants or refugees to other countries
have no right to return for a visit or repatriation. The
Government continued to restrict the number of persons of
Cuban origin from the United States permitted to visit their
families in Cuba to 50 persons per week under a worldwide
quota of 5,000 per year. Persons who came to the United
States in the Mariel boatlift were routinely denied
repatriation and the Cuban Government allowed no more than 10
of them per week to visit Cuba. Entry into Cuba by Cuban
Americans was suspended entirely for the last quarter of
1989. The Government reduced to $250 per trip the amount of
currency visiting expatriates can bring to family members in
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
Cuban citizens have no legal right to seek to change their
government or even to advocate this right. The only political
organization allowed in Cuba is the Communist Party. The
overlapping party and state hierarchy has remained largely
unchanged for 30 years. Members of the highest governing
bodies, the Politburo and the Central Committee, are selected
by a small group of party leaders. Although direct elections
are held to fill municipal offices, the provincial assemblies
and the National Assembly are elected indirectly. Only the
party and its affiliated mass organizations have the right to
distribute political materials or to organize electoral
meetings. All candidates must, in effect, be approved by the
Communist Party. In March, dissident Roberto Bahamonde
challenged the system and ran against the Communist PartyCUM
candidate for a municipal assembly seat in Havana. Bahamonde
lost and was imprisoned on other charges several weeks later
(see Sections l.d. and I.e.).
In December 1988, 163 European and American intellectuals
joined Cuban expatriates in signing an open letter calling for
a plebiscite on Fidel Castro's rule, following the October
1988 example of Chile. One month earlier, the Cuban Human
Rights Party had advocated a plebiscite on whether to repeal
the Constitution and convoke a constituent assembly.
Government officials rejected the call for a plebiscite and
called the comparison with Chile "absurd."
In 1989 Fidel Castro distanced Cuba from democratizing trends
sweeping through the U.S.S.R. and Eastern Europe,
rationalizing his continued unwillingness to allow greater
opportunities for Cuban citizens to participate freely in the
political system.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
Domestic human rights monitors are legally unrecognized and
lead a precarious existence dependent upon the vagaries of
government policy. The Government continued, in violation of
its own statutes, to refuse to recognize the applications for
legalization submitted in 1988 and 1989 by several such groups
(see Section 2.b.). In its 1988/89 Annual Report, the lACHR
called on the Government to recognize human rights
associations and their right to engage in their activities
freely. The three principal domestic human rights monitoring
groups are the Cuban Human Rights Comjnittee (CCPDH) , the Cuban
Human Rights Party (PPDHC) and the Cuban Commission for Human
Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) . There is a host
of smaller human rights-related groups, most notably the Free
Art Association (APAL) and the Marti Committee for Human
Rights, which appeared in 1988. In February 1989, the PPDHC,
CCDHRN, and Marti Committee for Human Rights banded together
under an umbrella group, the Coordinator of Human Rights
The Government's stepped-up crackdown on Cuba's human rights
movement was the most significant development in the country's
human rights situation in 1989. Official policy changed from
increasing limited tolerance through mid-1988 to repression
after the September 1988 visit of the UNHRC Cuba Working
Group. Since then, the Government has taken or fabricated
opportunities to harass, detain, or imprison approximately 50
activists and has, in effect, silenced many of its leading
domestic critics. Some of the arrested activists had
presented testimony to the UNHRC Cuba Working Group, although
their arrests were officially for alleged actions unconnected
with their testimony. The UNHRC delegation was assured by
Cuban authorities that the witnesses would not suffer
reprisals for their testimony. About 25 of those activists
arrested or detained, including the leaders of four of the
five human rights groups named above, remained imprisoned or
held without charge at year's end (see Section l.d.).
The atmosphere of increased openness leading up to the UNHRC
visit led some human rights activists to attempt to exercise
what they viewed as their rights to peaceful assembly and
speech. The Government responded with the pattern of arrests,
swiftly staged trials, and misdemeanor convictions which began
with the October 1988 arrest of six APAL activists and the
November 1988 arrest of PPDHC leader Tania Diaz Castro.
In 1989 the Government further clamped down as activists
continued to test the limits of its tolerance by circulating
petitions and underground publications and, in one case,
trying to organize a demonstration. Cuban authorities
appeared to follow legal procedures more scrupulously, but
imposed harsher punishments. Elizardo Sanchez's 2-year prison
term was the harshest sentence meted out to a human rights
activists in several years (see Section I.e. for details on
dissident trials). Extralegal harassment continued as well.
Several human rights activists were beaten by thugs and at
least eight others were arrested during a November 12 mass;
incorrect rumors had circulated that prayers would be said at
the mass to support hunger striking political prisoner Alfredo
Mustelier. By the close of 1989, members of the human rights
movement who were not in jail had reduced their public
activities because of government repression.
The ICRC was the only monitoring group which visited Cuba in
1989. Cuban authorities permitted the ICRC to make a second
annual visit to prisons and to monitor conditions of inmates.
The ICRC, whose findings are strictly confidential, did report
that its delegation interviewed 257 prisoners in 10 detention
centers, including the Havana Psychiatric Hospital. The
Government denied permission to representatives from AW and AI
to attend the trial of human rights leader Elizardo Sanchez.
Following its September 1988 visit, the UNHRC Cuba Working
Group submitted a 400-page report to its parent commission in
February 1989. The report detailed extensive human rights
abuses by Cuba and noted numerous outstanding questions posed
by the Working Group which Cuban authorities had failed to
answer. The UNHRC, at its 1989 session, passed a resolution
charging the U.N. Secretary General to maintain a dialogue
with the Cuban Government in order to follow up on outstanding
issues in the Working Group's report. Cuban authorities (who,
under international pressure in 1988, had invited the Working
Group to visit) made it clear in their 1989 public statements
that, notwithstanding the content of the report, they
considered international attention to Cuban human rights
practices to be a closed chapter.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Language, or Social Status
Cuba is a multiracial society with a large population of
persons with mixed racial ancestry. The Constitution
expressly forbids discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or
national origin, and there were no known incidents of direct
racial or sexual discrimination in 1989. The Family Code of
1975 equalized pay scales, eliminated sexual discrimination in
promotions, provided generous maternity leave, and gave
employed women preferential access to goods and services.
Public or official expressions of racial discrimination or
prejudice are rare. The official women's organization, the
Federation of Cuban Women, is used to mobilize women
politically rather than to advocate women's rights exclusively.
There are no official data available on the incidence of
violence against women. Neither the Government nor society
condone such violence. Cuban law establishes strict penalties
for sexual abuse or rape of women, including the death penalty
for the rape of minors or serious injury to the victim. The
Penal Code also provides lesser sanctions for sexual coercion
of women by authorities or guardians. These statutes appear
to be enforced with typical severity by the authorities,
although sexual crimes are never reported in the press.
Anecdotal evidence from human rights groups and other sources
indicates that domestic violence such as wife beating is a
problem, but a lack of statistical data makes it impossible to
gauge its true extent. Due to societal traditions many
victims of abuse are reluctant to file a report or to press
charges, so it is likely that cases of violence are
significantly underreported . Women complain of verbal
harassment in public and expected subordination at home.
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 decision and choices of workers
are subordinate to the "demands of the economy and society"
(Article 44). Strikes are not permitted under the law.
Established Cuban labor organizations are not trade unions in
any real sense and do not act as a voice for workers' rights,
including the right to strike. Labor is organized under the
control of the State and party through one umbrella group, the
Confederation of Cuban Workers (CTC) . The CTC is affiliated
with the Communist-controlled World Federation of Trade Unions
and its regional organization, the Permanent Congress of Trade
Union Unity of Latin America (CPUSTAL) . The CTC serves
primarily as an instrument of the State to enforce political
and labor discipline, to encourage productivity, to hold down
labor costs, and to save raw materials. Some CTC member labor
organizations have served as debating forums for the
consideration of a limited range of labor issues such as
worker safety and local working conditions.
The right to form an independent union is prohibited and even
discussion of such a step has been subject to punishment.
Despite increased repression of many dissident groups in 1989,
however, several embryonic labor organizing groups appeared
and discussed the need for autonomous representation of
workers' interests along the lines of the Solidarity movement
in Poland. Two of these groups, the Independent Trade Union
Movement and the Free Trade Union, claimed to have gathered
membership in workplaces in the capital region. These tiny
groups remain very much on the margins, and even the
discussion of independent unions is a dangerous form of
dissent, often characterized by authorities as a form of
"industrial sabotage." In August Havana ironworker Ricardo
Figueira Castro, a member of the CCPDH, was arrested and
charged with enemy propaganda. Figueira had unsuccessfully
sought a position in his factory's official union with the
idea of making it more responsive to workers' needs.
Nevertheless, he began to represent workers' interests
informally with management and to speak out about the need for
more independent representation with coworkers. Figueira 's
arrest soon followed.
In its 1989 report, the International Labor Organization (ILO)
Committee of Experts (COE) again challenged the trade union
monopoly granted to the CTC in violation of Convention 87 on
Freedom of Association. The Committee asked the Government to
report what steps it is taking to bring its legislation into
      b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Effective collective bargaining does not exist. The State
Committee for Work and Social Security sets wages and salaries
for the state sector. There are no known export processing
zones in Cuba. Since the CTC is an instrument of the
government policy, antiunion discrimination is not a relevant
concept except as it applies to the Government's repression of
independent union groups like those mentioned above.
      c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The Constitution and the Labor Code do not contain
prohibitions on forced labor. Workers do not have full
freedom to change jobs without official approval. Every
worker must present a work identification card in seeking a
new job. This card contains information on performance of
"voluntary" work, protection of socialist property, political
consciousness, failure to meet production goals, and
negligence. In practice, any job change remains under the
control of the authorities who grade and evaluate employee
records that form the basis of the work identity cards.
Special groups of workers on loan from other jobs known as
"microbrigades" are employed on special construction projects,
often working a 60- to 70-hour week of physical labor. Some
human rights monitors allege that workers refusing to
"volunteer" for such projects often find themselves victims of
discrimination or even risk losing their jobs. "Microbrigade"
workers, however, are reportedly rewarded with priority
listing for apartments, a very powerful incentive for
voluntary work.
Various ILO bodies have found that governmental restrictions
on the freedom to choose or change employment are incompatible
with ILO Conventions prohibiting forced labor. Most recently,
the 1989 report of the ILO Committee of Experts, cited above,
found provisions of the new labor code imposing "correctional
labor," and compulsory labor for damage due to negligence, to
be incompatible with Convention 105 on forced labor.
      d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
The legal minimum working age is 17; however, the labor code
provides for exceptions for those aged 15 and 16 to obtain
training or to fill labor shortages. There is no evidence
that authorities deviated from these rules in 1989. However,
all students above the age of 11 are expected to devote 30 to
45 days of their summer vacations to agricultural work up to a
maximum of 8 hours per day.
      e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
During 1989 Cuba's minimum wage remained at $140 per month at
the overvalued official exchange rate or about $20 in terms of
black-market buying power, plus a "social wage" consisting of
free medical care and education, along with subsidized housing
and rationed food. Even with the state subsidies, a worker
needs to earn substantially more than the minimum wage to
support a family. The value of the "social wage" in improving
living standards is diminished by the persistent shortages and
tight rationing that have become standard features of the
Cuban economy. For example, most newly married couples must
live with relatives for years before obtaining their own
housing and the supression of free farmers' markets in 1986
(following a brief experiment with market incentives)
exacerbated shortages of some foods, although caloric intake
remains high.
Maximum hours of work are 44 regular hours per week, with
shorter workdays for unusually demanding jobs such as
underground mining. Overtime is limited by law and practice,
although workers are pressured to engage in additional unpaid
"voluntary" labor. Workers receive 30 calendar days of
vacation regardless of seniority or age. Provisions for
worker safety and control of pollution generally appear
inadequate. There is a lack of effective control and
enforcement mechanisms to ensure worker safety, and industrial
accidents are apparently frequent.