Cuba: ’The Human Rights People’ / Iván García

The independent journalist Augstín López is silenced by plainclothes policemen while shouting “Long Live Human Rights.” Taken from Martí News.

Ivan Garcia, 12 December 2017 — On 28 January 1976 in Havana, Ricardo Bofull founded the Cuban Committee For Human Rights, along with Edmigio López and Marta Frayde. Forty-one years later, the independent journalist Tania Díaz Castro, in her house in Havana’s Jaimanitas neighborhood, west of the capital, surrounded by dogs and books, recalls that era.

“I joined in 1987. Bofill said that he and his small group were founded on 28 January in homage to the birthdat of the Apostle (José Martí). The place chosen was Dr. Marta Frayde’s house, in Vedado. By ironies of fate, this unforgettable and courageous woman had been a personal friend of Fidel Castro.

A short time later, almost everyone went to jail, for long years and for different accusations — invented ones — as was and is the custom of Castroism: Marta Frayde, Adolfo Rivero Caro, Elizardo Sánchez, Edmigio López, Enrique Hernández, and of course Ricardo Bofill. Thus, Fidel responded to the request of those intellectuals to review the situation of human rights in Cuba,” says Díaz Castro and adds:

“At one point, I was a kind of secretary for Bofill. In my house in Centro Habana I received eight or ten denunciations a day from citizens where the institutions of the regime had transgressed their rights. In 1987, Samuel Lara, Adolfo, Ricardo and I went to the Comodoro Hotel to meet with a UN commission, which the dictatorship authorized to enter the country, so that we could express our complaints. Spontaneously and despite the fact that repression was fierce at the time, outside the hotel more than a thousand people came to deliver their accusations.”

The journalist adds that Ricardo Bofill and Armando Valladares “were key players so that the issue of human rights violations by the regime became known around the world. They and others, planted the seed that has then germinated in hundreds of journalists, activists and independent groups in the current civil society.”

The Castro brothers’s Cuba has not changed its absurd political system and still maintains the dysfunctional planned economy. But, little by little, Cubans have been losing their fear. In any corner of the city you can hear openly anti-government comments, anti-Castro jokes and ridicule of the leaders.

Osviel, 43, an engineer, is committed to democracy and says he would like to earn a six-figure salary in a private company.

“Like most college graduates after the Revolution, I was indoctrinated. But the repeated deficiencies of the system have opened my eyes. The first time I had doubts was when I read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I realized that this government shamelessly violates some precepts that are part of individual rights. I understood that we are far from living in a democratic society. ”

Although the Republic of Cuba was a signatory on the 10 December 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the authorities on the Island consider the brochure that expresses these rights to be subversive.

The military autocracy persists in its delirious narrative that Cuba is the most democratic nation in the world. Without blushing, in the 8 December edition, an article published in the Party newspaper Granma said that “Cuba is an international symbol in the field of human rights.”

“They don’t even believe it themselves. There is a group of precepts, especially those of a political nature, which are violated in Cuba. The government thinks that by guaranteeing universal healthcare, the right to work and education it has already done its duty. But human rights go much further,” says Odalys, a lawyer.

Raúl Castro himself, in a press conference during Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba in 2016, acknowledged that “as in any part of the world, all human rights are not fulfilled here.”

On the commemoration of the 69th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Martí Noticias asked fourteen people, seven of each sex between the ages of 18 and 74, their opinions on the respect for human rights by the authorities in Cuba.

Ten responded that, in one way or another, several precepts are violated or rights that are not crimes in other countries are considered illegal. Two said it is “a US campaign” and two claimed ignorance of the matter.

Outside the survey, a Social Sciences student comments that “the most worrisome is the deficit of political rights. Cuba is one of the few countries in the world where it is illegal to found an opposition party or movement.”

For his part, a retired former military man believes that “the issue of human rights is a manipulation by the United States to attack Cuba. That is why the government should allow other parties and not imprison those who think differently. But always he who commands sets the rules of the game.”

Rigoberto, a taxi driver, is clear that “here elementary rights are violated, not only those of a political nature. For example, people from eastern Cuba who migrate to Havana are considered illegal [residents], and according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Cuban Constitution, that regulation is illegal.”

Carlos, a sociologist, mentions specific cases. “Look at the disrespect of a broad set of human rights in Cuba: until seven years ago it was illegal to buy or sell a house or car, to be a tourist in your own country, or to be able to travel freely abroad. Now others are still not being met. Cubans can not board boats with motors, create a party or found a newspaper in a legal manner.”

René, a lawyer, states that “where rights are violated the most is in the legal field. In the absence of tripartite powers, the majority of the population is defenseless against the legal machinery. Legal irregularities are numerous and people have nowhere to go to seek justice and impartiality.”

Although in recent years, I must clarify, hundreds of citizens who consider themselves harmed by legal rulings have received advice from independent lawyers or offered their testimonies to alternative journalists.

“It’s the last shuffle of the cards. When I see that the State blocks all paths, I will see an independent journalist to tell my to story online,” confesses Senén, a bank employee.

Within the expression ‘the human rights people’, ordinary Cubans include a political activist, a dissident lawyer, and a free journalist. Increasingly they go to opposition groups. For any reason. If their house falls down, or they are subject to a criminal penalty that they consider unfair, or they want to denounce embezzlement in a state company.

And the Cuba of 2017 is not the Cuba of the 1980s. For some, the Island is making no progress. For others, they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is the theory of the glass half full or half empty. According to how you perceive it.