The situation of Cubans under the oppression of the Castro dictatorship does nothing but get worse day by day.
The complicity of the world’s governments, whatever their political orientations may be, is unexplainable and unjustifable.
In Cuba, Human Rights do NOT exist, liberty and justice do not exist. The oldest dynastic dictatorship in the world created the THs – “Twisted Humans” – in order to subdue and oppress the people while it assassinated Human Rights. And it seems that the dictatorship will be be given a prize in Chile for precisely that.
How much longer should we wait for the world to wake up and slow the feet of the monster that will assume the presidency of CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, created in 2011?
The acceptance of this presidency signifies worldwide recognition for the dictatorship and a stance taken by its leader before the nations of the continent and of the world.
While Raúl has done nothing but intensify repressive policies implemented by his brother—whose whereabouts today are unknown—and has just plunged the country into horrible misery, an unprecedented diplomatic “achievement” establishes him as leader of the region; meanwhile, more than 6,000 arbitrary arrests have marked a new record in 2012, along with the growth of the jailed population with an ever-increasing number not only of political prisoners but also ordinary prisoners. The surge of repression and the harassment of all sectors of the population have multiplied a hundredfold.
It’s easy to imagine the future of our continent where there are already various leaders who follow in the footsteps of the Castros, and have decided that it will be precisely one of them who leads the request that unites them today in Santiago de Chile.
Democracy is diluted even more in Latin America.
Human Rights: More than 6,000 arrests and new political imprisonments in 2012
The release of prisoners from 2010–2011 was not the end point: in Cuba there are already another 80 political prisoners with senences. Interview with the spokesperson of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), Elizardo Sánchez.
Rolando Cartaya / martinoticias.com
Since its creation in 1987, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, CCDHRN, has laid the foundation, despite its official illegality, of a solid international standing as the most diligent, systematic and objective internal source for the day-to-day of human rights on the island. Its work has been awarded with the Order of Human Rights of the French Republic, the international Human Rights Watch award, and the Freedom of Speech award from the Interamerican Press Society, among other distinctions.
In order to outline the trajectory of human rights in Cuba in the past year, martinoticias hosted a phone interview with the founder and spokesperson of the CCDHRN, the ex-university professor and ex-political prisoner Elizardo Sánchez Santacruz.
TRIPLING IN ARRESTS
MN: Practically every day that has passed since 2012 we have found out, thanks in large part to your organization, that some peaceful opponent was detained on the island.
ES: Our Commission tries to offer statistical information that we consider a useful indicator, although it does not reflect the entire reality in matters of political repression and of repression against all of society.
Thus far in 2012, the politically motivated arrests number more than 6,000 across the country, and even though we still don’t have the count from December, this figure is already greater than the 4,000 of 2011, and it triples the count of 2,000 in 2010. There is no signal that this increasing trend in the number of arrests will reverse itself anytime soon.
Besides repression against active opponents, we are worried about repression against different sectors of society, people who try to work outside the exploitative confines of the State, or to live independently from its political or administrative leaders, and who are objects of repression or exclusion for that reason. In the case of the youth, to be young in Cuba is already a grounds for suspicion for the police. This social repression manifests itself in practically every one of the municipalities of the Republic.
MASSIVE ARRESTS FOR GREETING THE POPE
MN: These arrests took a massive turn before Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Cuba.
ES: The papal visit stirred up the hopes of the people and led to many Cubans’ decision to express their desire to make major spaces of freedom and well-being available. The regime responded by doubling its oppressive efforts. The month of March, in the days leading up to the Pope’s visit, resulted in the highest single-month number of arrests out of the entire year, with 1,158 arrests confirmed.
The monthly average during the year is around 550 arrests per month. This spans the entire country, in the middle of a general climate of discontent, which includes articulated explosions of that same discontent. The focal points of major repression have been the provinces of Santiago de Cuba, Guantánamo, Villa Clara, Matanzas, Havana City, and Pinar del Río.
But we receive reports of political repression from almost every municipality of the country, because the political police are more present today than they have ever been in the history of Cuba, even in the nation’s smallest towns. That didn’t even happen in the age of colonial dominion or during the dictatorial/authoritarian regimes of the first half of the 20th century.
THE NUMBER OF POLITICAL PRISONERS RALLIES
Generally this concerns short-term arrests, so there has without a doubt been a change of tactic in the repressive design, such that now it doesn’t consist, as it once did, of ordering long prison sentences and detaining thousands of political prisoners. In fact, in 2010 and 2011, 138 political prisoners with long sentences were liberated.
Nevertheless, even though we will present the partial report in January, I can speculate that in the last six six or eight months, the number of prisoners currently convicted for political reasons has also risen to some 80. With the negotiated releases of 2010–2011, the figure had dropped to 40, and now they’re double that number.
Elizardo Sánchez, on the arrests and recovery of political prisoners in 2012
At the same time, the number of common prisoners has also begun to rise. The government suddenly pardoned around 10,000 of them at the beginning of this year, in order to be able to give a presentable number, according to some, of 57,300 common prisoners. We reject that figure: according to our estimations, common prisoners actually number between 65,000 and 70,000.
CIVIL, POLITICAL, ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS
MN: The Cuban government signed in 2008, but has not yet ratified, the Covenants of Civil and Political Rights and of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the United Nations, which obligated signing governments to work to guarantee those rights to their citizens. What has the Cuban government done to secure those rights in 2012?
ES: In the sphere of civil and political rights, the government has introduced certain changes that, like the so-called migratory reform, are of little significance: they always leave an essence of exclusion and discrimination, precisely for political reasons, and they only seek a favorable presentation of its image to the media. But here no fundamental change has occurred, neither in the political nor the legal order. What’s more, I judge that the situation of those rights has worsened, as has that of economic, social and cultural rights, which is palpable in the high level of discontent and despair among the population.
I would predict that they will improve, but for example, in the aspect of social rights — one of the foundations of the regime’s propaganda — it’s clear that the poorest Cubans face more difficulties every day, and that they are ever more poor, those citizens who could be described as needy.
The government has other priorities, it needs to support a huge apparatus of repression and propaganda and a large bureaucracy that produces nothing, so that cuts are made at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable people, as is happening with the recipients of social security.
Freedom of Expression and to Receive and Impart Information
MN: It is said that the right to express yourself and to seek, receive and impart information, enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration, it is the guarantee of all other rights, because it allows us to know their violations. Was there progress or setbacks in Cuba these rights in 2012?
ES: The situation of freedom of expression and information in Cuba is visibly the worst in Latin America, much worse than in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia, where there are governments that are allies of the Castro brothers, but that maintain minimum spaces for people to demonstrate, which are — albeit narrowly — open societies, even to international scrutiny. But that of Cuba has no name, it’s a rare month when we receive no reports of threats, harassment and repression of journalists, reporters, bloggers, people who express themselves in writing.
Calixto Martinez’s case, a reported for Hablemos Press, currently incarcerated and awaiting trial, has been the most noticeable this year, but all those working independently in this sector are subject to arrests, threats, various forms of harassment. And not just them: any citizen who openly expresses an opinion different from the official discourse, immediately unleashes repression on themselves.
Equally persistent — it is the only case in the hemisphere — is the refusal to allow the population to access the Internet. So we can not speak of a national public opinion, because it can not be defined because such an opinion is not well informed. In Cuba there is no news, just a propaganda apparatus, while independent efforts for demonstrating and reporting, such as bloggers, are seen by the government as a criminal act to be systematically repressed.
This also covers the field of art and culture, which continues to be ruled by the principle established by Fidel Castro, modeled on Mussolini — that all creation, to be acceptable, must be framed within the Revolution. It is a rule that remains in force, and a virtually insurmountable obstacle for artists and writers.
MN: Despite the change of tactics in favor of short-term detention, it is obvious that when state security fails to prevent peaceful opposition activities by warnings, summonses, threats or brief detentions, it seeks to sentence them in court.
ES: The goal is to get them out of circulation. In that sense this year the repression has been remarkable against the Patriotic Union of Cuba, UNPACU, who leads in the province of Santiago de Cuba Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia. It is an organization that is rooted in the very east of the country, and obviously the government has proposed to neutralize it. Right now there are no fewer than a dozen members of UNPACU in prison. Some have already been sentenced to prison terms of between one and four years.
Another case of blatant violation of due process is the writer and dissident blogger Angel Santiesteban. There is a negative political influence in everything that has been done against him to implicate him in crimes, including the recent sentencing to five years in prison. The hand of the political police is into the matter very clearly.
EMERGING CIVIL SOCIETY
MN: Raul Castro has called for an open discussion of ideas in order to find solutions to the country’s problems. But it seems that his call does not include all Cubans.
ES: Santiesteban, for example, belongs to a group of young alternative intellectuals, artists, lawyers, bloggers and journalists are clearly and creatively expressing their desire greater freedom around projects such as Estado de Sats, the Demand for Another Cuba, the site Voces Cubanas, etc. Last November twenty of them were beaten and arrested, and Antonio Gonzalez Rodiles, director Estado de Sats, remained hospitalized 19 days. The government has shown no mercy to them, because they are like the pearl in the crown of civil society.
But it has not stopped the harassment against veteran opponents, such as the psychologist Guillermo Fariñas, who was recently beaten on a corner of Vedado, in an obvious sting operation.
THE SITUATION IN THE PRISONS
MN: You and I agree that in the 1980s the colonial prison of La Cabaña, a rat-filled place and beatings of prisoners, appalling by any measure. But compared to what is told of current prison conditions, that could have been a golden age.
ES: The prison system conditions have only changed for the worse, because many of the prison facilities have deteriorated over the years. Food for prisoners comes primarily from excess and waste, the expired food stores of the Armed Forces or agricultural waste. In the 1980s they showed a concern for maintaining certain minimum living conditions in prison. That ended years ago. Now they imprison people and, once behind bars, leave them to fend for themselves, expecting their families waiting to ensure their survival.
But that’s not the worst, it’s their treatment. The rule in the Cuban prison system is cruel, inhuman and degrading. Right now, as we speak, they’re probably beating a number of prisoners, because that happens every day, every hour in Cuban prisons, and in Cuba there are between 150 and 200 prisons and camps for prisoners, compared with 14 in the country when the current leaders came to power.
MN: Is there physical torture in Cuban prisons?
ES: It seems that the most stark tortures have been abandoned or limited because of complaints and protests worldwide. Those applied to prisoners such as the famous “Shakira” or “swing”, tying hands and feet behind the back,looks like it was a fad a few years ago, but for now they settle for something equally unacceptable: the solitary confinement of the defendant in subhuman conditions (no light, no clothes, no mat, with a water bottle). They realize they do not need physical torture, because that torment is more than enough.
January 27 2013