Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1991

Cuba is a totalitarian state dominated 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 seeks to control nearly all
aspects of Cuban life through a broad network of directorates
ultimately answe,rable to him through the Communist Party, as
well as through the government bureaucracy and the state
security apparatus. The Party is the only legal political
entity and is headed by an elite group whose membership is
ultimately determined by Fidel Castro. All government
positions, including judicial offices, are controlled by the
Party. 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
state security and totalitarian control. It operates border
and police forces, orchestrates public demonstrations,
determines whether or not to recognize nongovernmental
associations, investigates evidence of nonconformity, regulates
migration, and maintains pervasive vigilance through a series
of mass organizations and informers. The Ministry is under the
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. Through neighborhood Committees for the
Defense of the Revolution (CDR), citizens are exhorted to
ensure ideological conformity and to report deviation.
The Cuban economy is highly centralized and managed by
President Castro and a group of close advisers. The Government
controls the means of production and is virtually the country's
sole employer. In 1991 the economy continued to decline,
particularly as a result of the accelerating deterioration in
Cuba's economic relationship with the Soviet Union, its
principal trading partner. President Castro allowed discussion
of minor adjustments to the economy during the Fourth Party
Congress in October but ultimately resisted any significant
change. The Government continues to implement its program of
stringent austerity measures known as "the special period in
peacetime," which emphasizes economic self-sufficiency at the
expense of social programs.
Cuban authorities attempt to neutralize dissent through a
variety of often nonviolent tactics designed to keep activists
off-balance, divided, and discredited by labeling them mentally
disturbed, social misfits, or hostile agents of certain foreign
countries. The Government sharply restricts virtually all the
basic human rights, including freedom of expression,
association, assembly, and movement, as well as the right to
privacy, the right of citizens to change their government, and
worker rights. MININT has among its major functions the
suppression of dissent and opposition of any kind. Just prior
to the Pan-American Games in August and during the Party
Congress in October, Cuban state security engaged in acts of
intimidation against nearly all human rights activists. Twelve
activists were detained for periods of from several hours to
several days. Four were subsequently tried and sentenced to as
long as 3 years on such charges as "contempt," "illegal
association," and "clandestine printing."
In mid-November, Cuban authorities unleashed a wave of
repression that continued through the end of the year against
human rights activists, largely through the use of "acts of
repudiation"—attacks by officially organized mobs that are
portrayed as being spontaneous public rebukes of dissident
activity. Leaders of the opposition umbrella group, the Cuban
Democratic Convergence, were targeted by such attacks after
meeting with a visiting Spanish official. In one instance, a
mob dragged the leader of the dissident group Criterio
Alternative, Maria Elenz Cruz Varela, out of her residence (see
Section 2.b.). She and four other Criterio members were later
sentenced to up to 2 years in prison for "felonious
association" and slander. Detentions of other activists
continued through December 31, including Yndamiro Restano,
leader of the opposition group Harmony Movement (MAR), and
three of its members.
In response to the passage in March of U.N. Human Rights
Commission (UNHRC) Resolution 1991/68, mandating the
establishment of a special representative to report on human
rights violations in Cuba, the Cuban Government said it would
not respect "a single comma" of the resolution. Although Cuba
was reelected to the UNHRC in June, it continued to refuse to
cooperate with the mandate and ignored letters from the special
representative requesting a visit to Cuba.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
      a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
In 1991 there were at least six cases of probable extrajudicial
killings by the security forces. A 17-year-old youth, Yoel
Reyes Torres, was killed by a policeman in the town of San
Agustin following an argument. Arnaldo Gonzales was reportedly
shot and killed by Special Brigade Agent Reinaldo Milau in the
city of Holguin. Following an investigation, Milau was
arrested. Heribeito Vega Calzadillo was reportedly
pistol-whipped and then fatally shot in the stomach by MININT
employee Julio Cruz after an argument at a recreation center.
No further information about official investigations of these
cases was available at year's end.
On January 28, the Provincial Military Court of Havana tried
police officer Isaac Guilarte Rodriguez for the fatal shooting
on September 28, 1990, of human rights activist Angel Galvan
Vanegas . According to family members who attended the trial,
only police officers were called to testify, although other
witnesses to the shooting were present. Guilarte was acquitted.
      b. Disappearance
There were no credible reports of politically motivated
disappearances in 1991.
      c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Constitution prohibits abusive treatment of detainees and
prisoners. However, beatings, neglect, isolation, and other
abuse by prison officials are often directed at those prisoners
who have been convicted of political crimes (including human
rights advocates) or are unwilling to conform. 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 present a petition to the
prison administrator. However, these purported rights are
frequently and capriciously withdrawn, particularly in the
cases of political prisoners, according to human rights
activists. There was no indication that Cuban authorities
investigated reports of abuse or took disciplinary action
against security agents responsible for such abuse.
On January 1, 14 prisoners organized themselves at Combinado
del Este Prison, calling themselves "nuevos plantados." The
"nuevos plantados," like the original plantados, refused to
wear prison uniforms and demanded political democracy and
freedom of expression. The authorities initially suspended
medical treatment for the prisoners, then separated the group
by transferring the prisoners to various prisons throughout the
country. During a February 5 visit by his mother, Orlando
Dominquez de la Coba, who has one arm, was handcuffed to a rail
and showed marks of having been beaten. Another "nuevo
plantado," Orlando Azcue Rodriguez, was kicked and beaten with
fists and hoses before being transferred from Pinar del Rio to
a Camaguay prison. Arturo Montane Ruiz and Manuel Pozo Montero
were beaten in the Ceramica Rojo Prison in Camaguay while they
staged a hunger strike over their conditions and treatment.
Reports from the prisoners related through family members
indicated that the "nuevos plantados" were beaten each time
they refused to wear uniforms.
Human rights activists and political dissidents are
systematically harassed and abused in public and private. On
Sunday, June 16, four members of the activist group MAR were
attacked and beaten with fists by 25 plainclothes policemen
after attending a mass with 52 other MAR members at a Catholic
church in the Miramar district of western Havana. On June 25,
MAR leader Yndamiro Restano was accosted and beaten by three
state security officials in plain clothes after he was denied
permission to enter what was considered to be a public trial of
two Cuban doctors charged with plotting to kill Fidel Castro.
Maria Celina Rodriguez, an activist of the Brotherhood for
Christian Rights, reported that after visiting the U.S.
Interests Section of the Swiss Embassy on August 2, she was
followed and verbally abused by five men who were apparently
from state security. As she attempted to gain the attention of
persons in the American Broadcasting Company Television Sports
compound, which was set up for the Pan-American Games, the five
men assaulted her, ripped her clothing, forced her into a car,
and took her and her infant child into custody. She was
released about August 25. She was not charged with any
offense; however, her detention included confinement in a
psychiatric hospital.
Cuban authorities utilized "acts of repudiation" to intimidate
activists and as a pretext for their arrest. Activists were
roughed up, in some cases suffering serious injury, by mobs who
chanted slogans and threw trash and other refuse at their
homes. Several were arrested "for their own protection," then
later charged and sentenced to terms in prison (see Section
      d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Article 245 of the Cuban Law of Penal Procedures requires
police to file formal charges and either release a detainee or
place him at the disposition of a prosecutor within 96 hours of
arrest. Authorities are also legally required to provide
suspects with access to a lawyer within 10 days of arrest.
These procedures are routinely denied to those detained on
state security grounds. Article 61 of the Constitution permits
denial of all constitutionally and legally recognized civil
liberties in the case of anyone actively opposing the "decision
of the Cuban people to build socialism." Cuban authorities
invoke this open-ended article and justify lengthy detentions
of dissidents on the grounds that they constitute
"counterrevolutionary elements.
Reports of arbitrary arrests of human rights activists
continued unabated, but the incidence of prolonged detention
without trial decreased in 1991. In addition, the Governinent
stepped up efforts to pressure dissidents to disavow activism
or choose between exile or long prison terms. From November
1990 through December 1991, there were over 50 detentions of
activists, a number of them held without charge. Of these,
only about a dozen came to trial. On December 20 and 26, MAR
leader Yndamiro Restano and three of the group's members were
detained. On December 31, the leader of the Humanitarian
Feminine Movement, Bienvenida Cucalo, and three of the group's
members were detained. At year's end, all remained in
detention without being charged.
Cuban authorities often use prolonged detention to prepare
false charges or to preempt meaningful activity by human rights
activists. This occurred in the case of Professor Luis Pita
Santos, who was taken into detention on October 9 after he
called for a demonstration on October 25. The Government also
preempts dissident activity by arbitrarily prolonging prison
sentences by sentencing detainees on new charges for human
rights activities allegedly committed during imprisonment. The
new charges are sometimes not announced until near the end of
the original prison term or shortly after the term ends. For
example, David Moya Alfonso and Samuel Martinez Lara were
forced into exile under threat of having to complete prison
terms that had been prolonged on the basis of new charges
brought against them during previous imprisonment. After years
of international pressure, the Government released the last two
"plantados historicos," a group of prisoners arrested in the
1960 's who refused to wear their prison uniforms or submit to
political indoctrination. Ernesto Diaz Rodriguez was released
on March 23, after 22 years in prison, and was permitted to
emigrate to the United States in April. Mario Chanes de Armas
was released on July 16, after being imprisoned for 30 years,
but at year's end had still not been allowed to emigrate. Also
released during 1991 were political prisoners Hubert Jerez
Marino, head of the Marti Committee for Human Rights, after
serving 18 months in prison for "disseminating false news";
Samuel Martinez Lara, who was freed into conditional liberty
following his trial; Pedro J. Dorta Rodriguez, after serving 11
years of a 15-year sentence; Cecilio Rodriguez Campo, after
serving 8 of 15 years; Juan Martinez Perdono, after serving 4
of 10 years; members of the Democratic Integrationist Movement
(MID) Mario Fernandez Mora and Edgardo LLompart Martinez, after
serving 18 months of 6- and 3-year terms respectively for
"rebellion"; Elizardo Sanchez, head of the Cuban Committee for
Human Rights and National Reconciliation, released into limited
freedom for the remaining 3 months of a 2-year term for
"spreading false news"; and factory worker Orlando Azcue
Rodriguez, after serving 15 months of a 3-year term for
"spreading enemy propaganda," during which he was chained to
the bars of his cell and badly beaten for staging a hunger
      e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Cuban law and trial practices do not meet international
standards for fair and impartial public trials. Although the
Constitution provides for independent courts, 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
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 qualified judges
and lay judges. There is also a system of military tribunals
which assume jurisdiction for certain "counterrevolutionary
activity" cases. Most trials are held in public; however,
closed trials are held when state security is involved.
Testimony from a member of a CDR may be introduced on behalf of
a defendant and may contribute to either a reduced or a longer
sentence. The law recognizes the right of appeal in municipal
courts. In provincial courts, some cases are appealable and
others are not. Cases involving maximum prison terms or the
death penalty are open to appeal. The Law of Penal Procedure
provides that an appeal must be presented within 5 days of the
Criteria for evidence presented in Cuban courts, particularly
in the cases of human rights activists, are arbitrary and
discriminatory. The sole evidence provided in many cases,
particularly with regard to those with political significance,
is the defendant's confession. The confession is usually
obtained under duress and without legal advice or the knowledge
of the defense lawyer. Defense lawyers often are not allowed
to meet with the defendants until the day of the trial. This
practice is so common that when an exception was made in the
case of activist Elizardo Sanchez, the authorities flaunted the
fact and advised family members that they should be grateful
for the consideration. Several other activists who have served
prison terms stated that they were tried and sentenced without
defense counsel and were not permitted to speak on their own
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. Observers have noted a reluctance
among attorneys to defend persons charged with political
offenses. Lawyers are discouraged from taking political cases
because of the persecution suffered by those who have done so
in the past. 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. Foreign
observers at trials of human rights activists report that the
behavior of defense lawyers and judges indicates that decisions
on guilt and sentencing are not made at the trials but
beforehand, though sentences can be changed in court, depending
on the defendant's cooperation during proceedings.
In 1991 the Government continued to use the judicial system to
discredit human rights activists by publicly associating them
with certain foreign governments or with violent activities.
At the trial of activist Samuel Martinez Lara, the Government
accused him of attempting the violent overthrow of the Cuban
Government and tried to link him with foreign diplomats who
were mentioned by name. Virtually every prosecution witness
was either an acknowledged employee of the state security
organization or a government informer. Trial observers
concluded that the testimony used to convict Martinez was
probably fabricated. In addition, the prosecutor verbally
abused and intimidated selected witnesses without restraint by
the presiding judge. Martinez was found guilty even though
there was no concrete information to substantiate the charge of
"rebellion" or plotting to overthrow the Government.
Foreign observers, including media representatives, were unable
to attend the November 25 trial and December 4 appeal of Maria
Elena Cruz Varela, leader of the dissident group Criterio
Alternative (CA), and other CA members who were charged with
"felonious association" and slander after she arranged a
meeting between dissidents and a visiting foreign dignitary.
Court officials said there was no room for such outsiders. The
courtroom was filled with construction workers and CDR members
who, during the proceedings, conducted "acts of repudiation"
against the defendants. Cruz was sentenced to 2 years; the
other four defendants received similar terms.
The Penal Code includes a concept of "dangerousness" (articles
72-89), defined as "the special proclivity of a person to
commit crimes, demonstrated by his conduct in manifest
contradiction of Socialist norms." In 1991 there were reliable
reports that authorities continued to intimidate activists and
dissidents by threatening them with prosecution under this
article. If the police decide that a person is exhibiting such
behavior, the offender may be brought before a court which may
call for therapy or political reeducation lasting from 1 to 4
According to reliable human rights monitors, there were
approximately 200 political prisoners and detainees in Cuba at
year ' s end.
      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 life in Cuba.
Government- or Communist Party-directed mass organizations
permeate Cuban society. The State has assumed a virtual right
of interference into the lives of its citizens, even those who
do not actively oppose the Government and its practices. These
intrusions are calculated to encourage ideological conformity
and aim ostensibly at "improvement" of the citizenry.
Government authorities possess a wide range of social
controls. 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,
emphasize Communist Party doctrine in the classroom 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. Failure to join a
party-controlled student group or otherwise not having an
acceptable record may result in denial of student or worker
access to higher education, a choice of career, or improved
employment prospects.
MININT employs an extensive security apparatus to determine the
legality of all private and public associations, utilizing an
intricate system of informers, block wardens, and block
committees (CDR) to monitor and control public opinion. The
guardians of social conformity, 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 described as voluntary; however, in
urban areas it is in fact involuntary. CDR's report suspicious
activities, such as contact with foreigners, reception of
foreign radio or television broadcasts in the home, conspicuous
consumption, unauthorized meetings, and attitudes toward the
Government and the Revolution.
In 1991, in response to growing dissatisfaction of Cubans over
the deteriorating economic situation in the country and the
Government's policies to deal with it, CDR activity intensified
as the Government heightened its campaign against
"counterrevolutionaries." In early summer, the Government
established so-called rapid reaction brigades, authorized to
act to thwart even impulsive signs of dissent that might occur
during the Pan American Games. Members are drawn from MININT
and CDR's. A large portion of the members are women and young
people trained in martial arts, who appear to be local citizens
responding against dissident activity. Members are
"voluntarily" bused from workplaces on an emergency basis to
deal with any popular discontent. These brigades were used
against activists during a demonstration attempted near the
Villa Marista Detention Center on September 6.
Cubans have no right to receive publications from abroad and
expect that all correspondence with foreign countries will be
read by state security officials. Overseas telephone calls are
monitored, and conversations to and from foreigners in
embassies and public places are reported. Well-known activists
report frequent physical surveillance by security agents, as do
foreign diplomats and journalists. In one case, state security
personnel took over a garage across the street from the
residence of one activist and installed video equipment to
monitor activities in and around his home. The authorities
regularly search activists' homes for little purpose other than
intimidation. On June 30, authorities searched the home of MAR
leader Yndamiro Restano, detained him without charge, then
freed him some 24 hours later. On July 25, an activist was
visited by state security police who showed him a doctored
photograph of him dressed in the uniform of a MININT official
and told him that they could cause him "family problems,"
presumably by using the doctored photograph to make family
members distrust him. Activists report that the use of tactics
to divide family members is a new stratagem by the authorities.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
      a. Freedom of Speech and Press
These freedoms are widely restricted. The Government does not .
allow direct criticism of the Revolution or its leaders; laws
are enforced against antigovernment propaganda, antigovernment
graffitti, and slander or insults against government
officials. Local CDR's inhibit freedom of speech by monitoring
and reporting on dissent or criticism (see Section l.f.).
The electronic and print media are owned by the State or
party-controlled organizations and operate according to party
guidelines. Cuban media faithfully reflect government views on
events and are used to indoctrinate the public. No public
forum exists for airing one's views apart from the
government-controlled media. Artistic and literary freedoms
are circumscribed by government control. Party and government
officials carefully scrutinize humor and irony in the arts.
Academic freedom is also severely limited. Education is the
exclusive prerogative of the State, and the school system
follows Marxist-Leninist precepts as interpreted by government
guidelines. Academics may write freely so long as their work
does not conflict with any government or Communist Party policy.
In June the Government responded to an appeal by 10
intellectuals for political reform by removing them from their
jobs and expelling them from the National Union of Writers and
Artists, which issued a statement that labeled them agents of a
foreign government. The Government also campaigned to
discredit the signatories and then moved to exercise greater
control over the Union. A new union leadership was installed,
with the new president subsequently named to the Politburo of
the Cuban Communist Party.
On October 7, a number of human rights activists held a joint
press conference in Havana to present suggestions for the
Fourth Party Congress that began on October 10. At least two
Spanish journalists and one Polish journalist—who, along with
more than 40 other journalists, attended the press
conference—were subsequently expelled from Cuba. On September
6, two journalists attempting to observe a demonstration by
activists were roughed up by "rapid action brigades" as the
journalists attempted to leave the area.
      b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution does not provide for freedom of assembly or
association, and those freedoms are not permitted. Any
assembly of more than 3 persons, even in a private home, is
punishable by up to 3 months in prison and a fine. According
to article 240 of the Penal Code, organizers of "illicit or
unrecognized groups" may receive a sentence of up to 9 months.
There was no known instance in 1991 of authorities approving a
public meeting of a human rights group. Human rights groups
are not recognized by the Government.
Article 208 of the Penal Code forbids the existence of "illegal
or unrecognized groups." The Ministry of Justice, in
consultation with MININT, determines whether to recognize
organizations. Apart from "recognized" churches and one or two
carefully monitored groups such as the Masonic Order, small
human rights groups represent the only associations outside the
State and the Party. Authorities continued to ignore
applications for legal recognition by the Cuban Committee for
Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) and the Cuban
Committee for Human Rights (CCPDH) . The charge of "illegal
association" is often used by Cuban authorities to harass,
intimidate, and jail activists. At least 16 dissidents have
been convicted on these charges; these charges remain pending
against 12 others, so that the authorities are able to jail
them at any time.
"Acts of repudiation," which are officially sponsored mob
gatherings outside the home of a suspected counterrevolutionary
to shout insults and paint condemnatory slogans, took place
against several political activists, including Osvaldo Paya
Sardinas, head of the ChristianOOOOement Liberation, which had
been gathering signatures in favor of a referendum to reform
the Cuban Constitution; Jose Luis Pujol, founder of the
Alternative Criteria movement; and Gonzalez Gonzalez of the
CCPDH. On November 19, Maria Elena Cruz Varela, the leader of
Alternative Criteria who had set up a meeting of dissidents
with a visiting foreign official, was forcibly removed from her
home by a government-organized crowd of 200. She was beaten
and dragged downstairs from her fourth floor apartment, which
was ransacked. The attackers stuffed CA treatises in her mouth
in an attempt to force her to eat them. Other "acts of
repudiation" took place at the homes of CA members Jose Luis
Pujol, Pastor Herrera Macuran, Gabriel Aguado Chavez, Elviro
Baro, Eliezer Aguilar, Hubert Matos Sanchez, Fernando Velazquez
and Jorge Pomar, who suffered a fractured nose and ribs and
whose wife was beaten. Several of these persons were later
tried and sentenced to terms of up to 2 years in prison for
"felonious association" and slander. On November 22, some 200
people hurled eggs, stones, and insults at the home of Elizardo
Sanchez, leader of the Cuban Democratic Convergence. The "act
of repudiation" started shortly after Sanchez and his brother
were detained by police and warned to desist from further
dissident activity. The two were released at night and forced
to return home through the crowd, which roughed them up as they
returned to their residence. In the same period, other "acts
of repudation" took place at the homes of Osvaldo Paya, leader
of the Christian movement Liberation, and Vladimir Garcia
Alderete, of the Association for Free Art.
Most meetings among activists are monitored closely, and when
the authorities interpret an agenda to include criticism of the
Government or the political leadership, they take preemptive
action to prevent the gathering, often invoking legal
prohibitions on peaceful assembly. This occurred twice in
June, the first time when human rights activists attempted to
form a coalition group, and then when a group of activists
attended a Sunday mass to publicize human rights issues.
      c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution recognizes the rights of citizens to profess
and practice any religious belief. However, the Government has
placed severe restrictions on the practice of religion and
discriminated against believers. Religious adherents 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.
Those who publicly profess their religious beliefs are subject
to informal discrimination in the workplace and through social
pressures on their children at school. The Fourth Party
Congress debated and approved the admission of religious
adherents to the Communist Party. While this new policy
recommendation is likely to have a positive effect on the lives
of Protestant adherents, it will not necessarily affect the
current Catholic Church-State relationship. On December 1, the
Catholic Bishops Episcopal Conference issued a statement which
concluded that religious believers could not in good faith join
the Cuban Communist Party because it is an "atheist and
materialist" party.
The Government and the Communist Party continue to maintain
restrictions and controls on the activities of organized
churches. Churches and other religious groups still must
register with the Government and be officially "recognized."
Authorized religious organizations are customarily permitted to
hold religious activities only at specifically designated
places of worship. Many Catholic and Protestant churches have
closed, and new construction of church facilities has been
restricted since the Revolution.
All Jehovah's Witnesses suffer discrimination for failing to
participate actively in the Revolution. However, the level of
oppression exercised against Witnesses has varied from tacit
toleration to virtual suppression of the practice of the faith,
depending on the time and place. Many Witnesses have been
imprisoned or fined for religious activities. With few
exceptions, Jehovah's Witnesses find it impossible to attend
school beyond the ninth grade, and are given menial low-paying
jobs. Witnesses are constantly watched by CDR's and often
harassed. They are detained by police for questioning, and
their homes are subject to police raids, normally, but not
always, carried out with a search warrant.
      d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
There are no legal restrictions on domestic travel. All Cubans
require permission from the Government to depart and remain
abroad. During 1991 the general age limit for foreign travel
was lowered from 45 for men and 40 for women to 20 for both
In 1991 the Government permitted several thousand persons,
including hundreds of former political prisoners, to leave the
country permanently. It also granted exit permits to several
emigrants who had been consistently refused in the past,
including Alexander Menendez and Lisette Vazquez, children of
Cuban sports figures who had defected. The Government
continued to delay or deny, without explanation, exit permits
to some persons or their immediate families who had been
accepted into immigration or refugee programs, or are dual
nationals, a status which Cuba does not recognize. These often
include relatives of asylees, such as Nydia Cartaya and her
four daughters, or professionals who are forbidden to work in
their fields because they tried to emigrate but are nonetheless
refused exit permission.
It is a crime for Cubans to depart the country without official
permission. Persons who attempt to leave by boat face fines or
prison sentences ranging from 6 months to 1 year. In 1991
discrimination against intending legal emigrants continued. A
number of complex regulations affecting the ability to work and
receive social benefits apply specifically to intending
emigrants. Once emigration formalities are completed, all
family posessions revert to the State unless relatives can
prove ownership to the authorities' satisfaction.
There is no right of repatriation. Exit permits for
unofficial, temporary travel specify that the person must
return to Cuba within 30 days, although extensions may be
obtained. Cuban emigrants must apply for permission to return
for temporary visits. Cubans who left the island prior to 1959
are usually permitted to return for temporary visits. There is
an annual limit of 10,000, however, on the number of Cuban
emigrants who, having left the island between 1960 and 1980,
are permitted to return for temporary visits. Cubans who left
the island after 1980 are generally not permitted to return to
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 to advocate such change. The only political
organization allowed in Cuba is the Communist Party. Members
of the highest governing bodies, the Politburo and the Central
Committee, are selected by a small group of party leaders.
President Castro ignored calls for democratic reform and
labeled the human rights activists who proposed them "worms"
and traitors working to undermine the Cuban Revolution. Any
change judged not to be within the Revolution is rejected, as
are proposals by Cubans who seek nonviolent political change or
open debate about the Cuban political system. The Government
has retaliated against those who have sought to change the
Government or its policies. Activist Samuel Martinez Lara was
tried and charged with rebellion or attempting to change the
Government by force. Although Martinez Lara stressed the
nonviolent nature of his group's desire to see change, the
prosecutor refused to recognize the distinction between
peaceful and violent change.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
Domestic human rights monitors are subject to varying degrees
and forms of intimidation. The Government continued to refuse,
in violation of its own statutes, to consider applications for
legal recognition submitted by several human rights groups in
1991. The three principal domestic human rights monitoring
groups are: the Cuban Human Rights Committee (CCPDH) , the
Cuban Pro-Human Rights Party (PPDHC), and the Cuban Commission
for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) . In
September two umbrella organizations, the Cuban Democratic
Convergence and the Cuban Democratic Coalition, were
formed—each by the fusion of a number of smaller human rights
The Government angrily rejects criticism of the human rights
situation in Cuba. The Cuban reaction to the passage in March
of a United Nations Human Rights Commission resolution
mandating the naming of a special representative to investigate
the human rights situation in Cuba was to state that Cuba would
not comply with "a single comma" of the resolution. In July,
when U.N. Secretary General Perez de Cuellar named Rafael Rivas
Posada to be the special envoy, the Cuban representative to the
United Nations stated that Cuba did not recognize the UNHRC
mandate on Cuba and would not cooperate with the special
representative, despite the fact that Cuba is a UNHRC member.
At year's end, Cuba maintained its refusal to cooperate with
the mandate and had ignored requests by the special
representative for a visit to Cuba to meet with the Cuban
Government and people.
No domestic or international human rights groups are recognized
by the Government or permitted to function legally in the
country. Visits by the International Committee of the Red
Cross, suspended in June 1990, were not reinstated in 1991. In
1991, however, representatives of a few foreign nongovernmental
human rights organizations were able to make unofficial visits
to Cuba.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Language, or Social Status
Cuba is a multiracial society with a majority population of
persons with black and mixed racial ancestry. The Constitution
expressly forbids discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or
national origin, but evidence suggests that some racial and
sexual discrimination does occur.
The Family Code of 1975 states that women and men have equal
rights and responsibilities regarding marriage, divorce,
raising children, maintaining the household, and pursuing a
career. The Maternity Law for Working Women of 1974 provides
18 weeks of paid maternity leave, and working women are granted
preferential access to goods and services. Approximately 39
percent of Cuban women work, and they are well represented in
the professions, although few are in positions of significant
policy responsiblity.
Cuban law establishes strict penalties, including the death
penalty, for rape. The Penal Code also provides sanctions for
sexual coercion of women by authorities or guardians. These
statutes appear to be generally enforced. Anecdotal
information from human rights groups and other sources
indicates that domestic violence and sexual assaults occur, but
lack of statistical data makes it difficult to gauge its
extent. Violent crime is rarely reported in the press. Due to
cultural traditions, victims of mistreatment are reluctant to
file reports or press charges, so instances are likely under
Information about specific incidents of racial discrimination
is not available. In general, blacks tend to be concentrated
in low-paying and low-status jobs; there are few in senior
government circles and in the top military ranks.
 Section 6 Worker Rights
      a. The Right of Association
The Constitution gives priority to state or collective needs
over individual choices regarding matters involving free
association or provision of employment; the decisions and
choices of workers are subordinate to the "demands of the
economy and society" (article 44). Strikes are not permitted
under the law, nor are any industrial actions known to have
occurred in 1991 which were treated as strikes. However, there
were reports of work stoppages in April by dockworkers in
Cienfuegos who refused to load export foodstuffs which they
believed should be kept for domestic consumption. Established
Cuban labor organizations are not trade unions in any real
sense and do not act as a voice for worker 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-dominated World Federation of Trade Unions
and plays a leading role in its regional organization, the
Permanent Congress of Trade Union Unity of Latin America. The
CTC serves primarily as an instrument of the State to enforce
political and labor discipline, to encourage productivity and
extended hours of "voluntary" labor, to hold down labor costs,
and to conserve raw materials. However, some CTC member labor
organizations have served as debating forums for the
consideration of a limited range of labor issuer, such as
worker safety and local working conditions.
Independent unions are explicitly prohibited. Even discussion
of such a step has been subject to punishment. In July local
dockworkers in Havana elected a union representative who had
not been handpicked by the Party leadership. He was
immediately fired and expelled from the CTC. In October he and
several others announced the formation of an independent union,
the General Union of Cuban Workers. A municipal court ordered
the others fired -shortly thereafter. At year's end, the
Government had not responded to the fledgling union's petition
for formal recognition, but neither had it taken any other
action against the group.
In 1991 the ILO accepted for the first time a complaint
alleging multiple worker rights violations in Cuba.
      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. Because the CTC is a government instrument,
antiunion discrimination is only a relevant concept as it
applies to the Government's repression of attempts to form
independent union groups.
      c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Neither the Constitution nor the Labor Code contains
prohibitions against forced labor. Workers do not have freedom
to change jobs without official approval. Every worker must
present a work identification card when 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, known as "microbrigades, " on loan
from other jobs, are employed on special construction projects
and have taken on increased importance in the Government's
efforts to complete tourist and other facilities that were
given priority attention, such as the Pan American Games
facilities. Some human rights monitors allege that workers
refusing to "volunteer" for such projects often find themselves
victims of discrimination or even at risk of losing their
jobs. Microbrigade workers, however, are reportedly rewarded
with priority listing for apartments, a very powerful incentive
for voluntary work.
Various International Labor Organization (ILO) bodies have
found for a number of years that governmental restrictions on
the freedom to choose or change employment are incompatible
with ILO conventions prohibiting 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 allow them
to obtain training or to fill labor shortages. There is no
evidence that authorities deviated from these rules in 1991.
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. The "voluntary labor"
of student brigades continues to be utilized extensively in the
agricultural sector.
      e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
Cuba's minimum wage is supplemented by social security
consisting of free medical care and education, along with
subsidized housing and food. However, even with these
subsidies, a worker needs to earn substantially more than the
minimum wage to support a family. Also, many common
commodities increasingly can only be obtained on the black
market economy or at prices substantially higher than the
official government-listed price. The value of social security
in improving living standards has been significantly eroded by
the chronic shortages and tight rationing that are standard
features of the Cuban economy. For example, most newly married
couples must live with relatives for several years before
obtaining housing.
The standard workweek is 44 hours, with shorter workdays for
unusually demanding jobs such as underground mining. The
Government has discontinued most routine work on alternate
Saturdays as an energy-saving measure. Provisions for worker
safety and control of pollution generally appear to be
inadequate. There is a lack of effective control and
enforcement mechanisms to ensure worker safety, and industrial
accidents are apparently frequent.