K F P'?
HUMAN RIGHTS IN CUBA
HUMAN RIGHTS AND INTERNATIONAL
WESTERN HEMISPHERE AFFAIRS
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
HOUSE OF ]REPRESENTATIVES
JUNE 27, 1984
Printed for the use of the Committee on Foreign Affairs
U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE
WASHINGTON : 1984
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS DANTE B. FASCELL, Florida, Chairman
LEE H. HAMILTON, Indiana GUS YATRON, Pennsylvania STEPHEN J. SOLARZ, New York DON BONKER, Washington GERRY E. STUDDS, Massachusetts ANDY IRELAND, Florida DAN MICA, Florida MICHAEL D. BARNES, Maryland HOWARD WOLPE, Michigan GEO. W. CROCKETT, Ja., Michigan SAM GEJDENSON, Connecticut MERVYN M. DYMALLY, California TOM LANTOS, California PETER H. KOSTMAYER, Pennsylvania ROBERT G. TORRICELLI, New Jersey LAWRENCE J. SMITH, Florida HOWARD L. BERMAN, California HARRY M. REID, Nevada MEL LEVINE, California EDWARD F. FEIGHAN, Ohio TED WEISS, New York GARY L. ACKERMAN, New York ROBERT GARCIA, New York JOHN J. BRADY, NANCY A. AGRIS SHIRLEY DAWSON
WILLIAM S. BROOMFIELD, Michigan LARRY WINN, JR., Kansas.BENJAMIN A. GILMAN, New York ROBERT J. LAGOMARSINO, California JOEL PRITCHARD, Washington JIM LEACH, Iowa TOBY ROTH, Wisconsin OLYMPIA J. SNQWE, Maine HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois GERALD B.H. SOLOMON, New York DOUGLAS K. BEREUTER, Nebraska MARK D. SILJANDER, Michigan ED ZSCHAU, California
Jr., Chief of Staff A Staff Assistant Staff Assistant
SUBCOMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
GUS YATRON, Pennsylvania, Chairman DON BONKER, Washington JIM LEACH, Iowa
MEL LEVINE, California ED ZSCHAU, California
TED WEISS, New York GERALD B.H. SOLOMON, New York
TOM LANTOS, California PETER H. KOSTMAYER, Pennsylvania GARY L. ACKERMAN, New York
MARK J. TAVLARIDES, Subcommittee Staff Director CYNTHIA D. SPRUNGER, Minority Staff Consultant BERNADETTE PAOLO, Subcommittee Staff Consultant KERRY BOLOGNESE, Subcommittee Staff Consultant
SUBCOMMITTEE ON WESTERN HEMISPHERE AFFAIRS
MICHAEL D. BARNES, Maryland, Chairman GERRY E. STUDDS, Massachusetts ROBERT J. LAGOMARSINO, California
SAM GEJDENSON, Connecticut HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois
PETER H. KOSTMAYER, Pennsylvania DOUGLAS K. BEREUTER, Nebraska
HARRY M. REID, Nevada ROBERT GARCIA, New York STEPHEN J. SOLARZ, New York VICTOR C. JOHNSON, Subcommittee Staff Director TABOR E. DUNMAN, Jr., Minority Staff Consultant ROBERT J. KURz, Subcommittee Staff Consultant LILLIAN PUBILLONES NOLAN, Subcommittee Staff Consultant
Hon. Elliott Abrams, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Department of State .......................................................... 5
Armando Valladares, Cuban poet and former Cuban political prisoner .............. 31
Walter Thomas White, American citizen and former prisoner in Cuban jails .... 40 Carlos Ripoll, professor of romance languages, Queens College ............................ 42
Larry Cox, deputy director, Amnesty International, U.S.A .................................... 109
Holly J. Burkhalter, Washington representative, Americas Watch ...................... 113
MATERIAL SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD
Translation of an article which appeared in the Miami Herald on June 6, 1984, entitled, "A Message to J. Jackson," by Tomas Regalado ......................... 10
Reprint of an article which appeared in the New York Times on July 28, 1983, entitled, "Cuba Directs Salvador Insurgency, Former Guerrilla Lieutenant Says," by Bernard W einraub ........................................................................ 107
Letter to Hon. Dante B. Fascell, chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, from Linda S. Berkowitz, refugee programs administrator, State of Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, regarding the number of individuals with mental health problems who entered the United States during the M ariel boatlift ................................................................ 123
HUMAN RIGHTS IN CUBA
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 27, 1984
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIIRS, SUBCOMMITTEES ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS AND ON WESTERN HEMISPHERE AFFAIRS,
The subcommittees met at 10 a.m., in room 2200, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Gus Yatron and Hon. Michael D. Barnes, (chairmen of the subcommittees) presiding.
Mr. YATRON. The subcommittees will come to order. The Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Organizations and the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs meet today to receive testimony from administration officials and private witnesses regarding human rights in Cuba.
Since Fidel Castro led a successful revolutionary movement to overthrow the repressive Batista regime in 1959, Cuba has played a major, controversial role in international affairs.
Whether it is assisting guerrilla insurgencies in Central America, or sponsoring 25,000 Cuban troops to support a Marxist regime in Angola, the government of Fidel Castro contends that it is promoting justice and freedom for oppressed people throughout the world.
In putting Cuba's global activities into proper perspective it is important to understand to what extent, if any, Fidel Castro's government has effectuated meaningful democratic and social reforms in Cuba and adhered to internationally recognized standards of human rights.
The evidence suggests that the promises made to the Cuban people by the Castro Government have not been realized.
Moreover, in order to maintain its control and power over the Cuban people, -the Castro government actively engages in acts of torture and, harassment, as well as other drastic steps to suppress all forms of political dissent.
Due to the totalitarian nature of the Cuban Government, over 100,000 Cubans fled their homeland in 1980 to seek a better way of life in the United States. In this context, it is paramount not only for the Congress and the American public to understand the severity of human rights violations taking place in Cuba, but also to explore ways in which the United States can improve the quality of life for the Cuban people. However, given that the United States does not enjoy diplomatic relations with the Cuban Government, the implementation of an effective U.S. human rights policy in Cuba is unlikely.
I would like to recognize the distinguished chairman of the full Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Dante Fascell, for an opening statement.
Chairman FASCELL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I am pleased to join you and Chairman Mike Barnes of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee ranking Republicans and our other colleagues who are here, to these hearings and to commend you, both of you, all of you-and especially you, Mr. Yatron, for this hearing today which is a very important hearing on the subject of human rights. Human rights continues to be a major consideration of the Congress of the United States in our relationships with other countries arou nd the world, as well as of our Government.
I see that you have as our witness the Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, and I am delighted to welcome him here also.
We can't forget and should not forget that the current emphasis on human rights in the United States started out as a congressional initiative. I say this with no malice or in derogation of any activities of any administration.
I just simply say that as a fact in this committee, for a long time the question of human rights has been of great concern to make it an important part, not the sole part, but an important part of the foreign policy considerations of the United States. I am happy to say that it is and it ought to continue to be because unfortunately, man's inhumanity to man continues despite the best efforts of thinkers and politicians and religious leaders.
The fact is that people are abused and harassed and killed and tortured and acts of terrorism and violence continue. People's freedoms are endangered in every way, and I think it's good to remind ourselves-as you are doing here today, gentlemen, with this hearing-violations occur on the left and not only on the right and that, unfortunately this inhumanity seems to know no boundaries and certainly has no particular political ideology.
I think it's good to remind people that the Castro government is in violation of a lot of human rights and that we're going to hear from people directly in this committee on that subject and so I say again, Mr. Chairman, I commend you for your leadership and the continuing struggle on human rights and to Mike Barnes and my colleagues, Jerry and Bob, who are here for these hearings and to say that we must continue constantly, although it may seem difficult and it may be frustrating to continue to point out to ourselves and the world, if you will, through this kind of meeting that man's inhumanity to man continues and that we have a good example of it right here close to our own shores where there is a real difference of opinion, let's put it that way, with respect to how to run a government.
By the way, Castro hasn't shown me anything either economically or politically or otherwise. But whatever has been done has been done at great sacrifice-the freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of thought, freedom of activity, and if you don't believe that just come to my State and look at the smiling, happy faces of almost 1 million people who came from Cuba to the land of freedom, and I'm sure many others in Cuba would like to do the same thing if they had the opportunity.
Anything we can do to cast a light on that subject as you're doing here today is very, very important.
Mr. YATRON. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for your kind words, your support, and for your outstanding leadership of the full committee.
I would like now to recognize the distinguished chairman of the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs, Congressman Mike Barnes.
Chairman Barnes, I believe you may have an opening statement?
Mr. BARNES. Well, I don't have a formal opening statement but let me just say, Mr. Yatron, that I want to join with Mr. Fascell in commending you for organizing these hearings. My subcommittee is pleased to support your effort.
We are sometimes criticized in the Congress for putting so much focus on the human rights situation in countries that are friends of the United States and not enough emphasis on the human rights situation in countries that are not closely associated with the United States.
I suppose the reason for that is obvious and that is the principal function of this committee is to decide how much military and economic assistance the United States should provide to our friends since we're not ever asked, of course, obviously to provide assistance to our adversaries. We don't spend much time focusing on countries like Cuba but we should. We should spend more time because it's important to raise the level of understanding not only in the Congress but in the United States generally with respect to the human rights situation in Cuba and in other countries that are not friends of the United States.
I think this hearing can contribute to that and I am delighted to have the chance to join with your subcommittee, Chairman Yatron, in holding these hearings. As is the norm around here, I have about five other places I am supposed to be this morning, so if I am not able to remain to hear all of the testimony, I trust the witnesses will understand that that is no indication of lack of conviction about the importance of the subject matter, and I am very pleased to have my subcommittee follow your leadership, Mr. Yatron.
Mr. YATRON. Thank you very much, Chairman Barnes. Now I would like to call on the distinguished gentleman from California, the ranking minority member on the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs, Mr. Lagomarsino.
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and the other two Chairmen here. I want to compliment the two subcommittees for holding these hearings.
I think that all too often the impression around here is that we only pick on our friends, that we're only interested in human rights violations in countries that are generally friendly to us.
I recall a number of years ago, I offered an amendment to the foreign aid bill that required the State Department to report on human rights conditions in all countries of the world, not just those to whom we have been giving economic and military assistance.
The reason I did that, and I think the reason that my colleagues in both houses of Congress approved it and why it is now the law is that it is important to be able to point out exactly what the human rights situation is.
And all too often we were bashing our friends and the people who were not only the human rights violators, but our avowed enemies were getting away scott-free. And the public, perhaps, was not hearing as much about it as they should.
So, as I say, I certainly compliment the committee for holding this hearing today. And I want to especially welcome Armando Valladares, who can testify from vivid personal experience as to what Cuba is all about.
Mr. YATRON. Thank you, Mr. Lagomarsino.
Do any of the other members want to be recognized?
The gentleman from New York, Mr. Solomon.
Mr. SOLOMON. I thank the chairman and let me also commend both chairmen of the two subcommittees and our chairman of the full committee for holding this hearing. It is rare, indeed, that we have an opportunity to have a hearing on a Communist country.
I guess we are always afraid that the news media will start off the evening news saying, there they go again picking on the poor little Communists.
I will keep my comments brief, Mr. Chairman, so that the witnesses may have a maximum amount of time. But I would like to make two observations at the outset of this hearing. First, the Cuban experience since the revolution 25 years ago explodes many of the prevailing myths about so-called popular revolution in the Third World.
There is more to achieving a true revolution than the chanting of slogans and the setting of bonfires. There is also a necessary rebuilding process, something the Fidel Castros of this world know nothing about.
The promise of freedom and justice and prosperity that greeted the Cuban revolution in 1959 has given way to massive repression, economic chaos and the establishment of a personality cult around Castro.
The proud and vibrant Cuban people have been reduced to serfdom. Many of those people are friends of mine, personal friends. Their country has become nothing more than a vassal state under the heel of the Soviet Union.
If that is what leftist revolutionaries mean about the self-determination of oppressed people, I cannot think of any country whose people would willingly follow the Cuban model that the Castro regime in Havana has proposed, propped up by the Soviet Union to the tune of over $10 million a day. These massive subsidies make up at least one-fourth of Cuba's gross national product. So weak is the Cuban economy that even sugar is rationed.
Can you imagine that? It brings to mind the statement attributed to William F. Buckley, that if Communists were given the management of the Sahara Desert within 5 years there would be a shortage of sand.
My second observation is that the Cuban experience of these past 25 years demonstrates the inherently brutal and expansive nature of communism. No political and social system that is such a proven
failure and that sets itself up in so vicious opposition to the legitimate aspirations of human nature can remain in power for very long without resorting to violence and repression. Moreover, such a system in order to survive must expand. New territories and people must be brought under its way all in the name of freedom, justice, and self-determination, of course.
Cuba today has a larger share of its population under arms than does any other country in the entire Western Hemisphere. Many of these unfortunate young men find themselves stationed in distant outposts, particularly in Africa doing the bidding of the tyrants in the Kremlin.
Well, enough said, Mr. Chairman. I have looked forward to this hearing with great anticipation for a long time and I am anxious to hear the witnesses. I thank you for your initiative and leadership in calling a hearing on this very important matter. Thank you.
Mr. YATRON. Thank you, Mr. Solomon. Do any other members have any opening statements or comments before we begin? [No response.]
Our first witness today is the Honorable Elliott Abrams, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. Mr. Secretary, it's a pleasure to have you before the subcommittees once again.
Will you please proceed with your statement.
STATEMENT OF HON. ELLIOTT ABRAMS, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE, BUREAU OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS
Mr. ABRAMS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I generally consider it a good morning when I get to testify in front of one chairman, but to testify in front of three chairmen is a pleasure I have never before had, so I thank you all.
The history of Cuba over the last 25 years is one of the great tragedies of modern times. It is the history of a gifted and industrious people whose hopes for freedom and democracy have been cruelly and systematically denied.
It is the history of a liberal and democratic revolution which overthrew the Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista, only to be betrayed by an even more ruthless dictator. It is the history of one of the worst tyrants of our time, Fidel Castro, who promised the Cuban people he would restore democracy and respect for law and human rights, but instead established a dictatorship which has brought ruin and misery to the Cuban people. Cuba has been ruled for 25 years by one man, Fidel Castro, and a group which seized power in 1959. The Communist Party dominates all aspects of daily life, controlling the means of production and distribution of all goods and services and information, public communication, public welfare and education as well as the national defense, foreign relations and public security.
HUMAN RIGHTS ARE SUBORDINATED TO THE AIMS OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY
Under these circumstances the human rights of Cubans are systematically denied, subordinated to the aims of the Cuban Communist Party as defined by its maximum leader, Fidel Castro.
Executions to discourage political dissent, for example, which began when Castro seized power in 1959 continued throughout 1983. There are credible reports of summary executions following secret trials of civilians for alleged political offenses by military tribunals.
A member of Jehovah's Witnesses, for example, was reported to have been executed last summer in August 1983 for allegedly spreading propaganda to incite armed rebellion.
A 23-year-old student, Carlos Alberto Gutierez, was shot for belonging to a group caught painting antigovernment slogans on walls.
Cuban police commonly round up persons in nighttime arrests. Friends, neighbors, family members have no knowledge of their fate and frequently are too intimidated to ask. Usually these persons are tried and sentenced in secret, but sometimes they are interrogated and released.
In 1983 several Cuban-Americans disappeared while in Cuba visiting relatives. No information regarding their detention or whereabouts was provided to the U.S. Government nor to their relatives who inquired about them. In one case an individual was arrested and held incommunicado for 3 months. Upon being released he reported that he had been interrogated about alleged espionage and counterrevolutionary activity.
CONDITIONS IN CUBAN POLITICAL PRISONS
Conditions in Cuban political prisons are barbaric and they include the use of torture. Political prisoners who refuse reeducation are subject to particularly harsh penalties including the denial of clothing, medical attention and communication with friends and relatives outside the prison.
One former political prisoner, Jose Rodriguez Terrero, who was released last August spent 22 years in Cuban prisons including months at a time confined naked in a tiny cell called a drawer which forced the prisoner to curl up in an embryo-like position.
Also included among the forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment employed in the Cuban prisons is the placing of prisoners in a small, sealed, unventilated room and totally isolating a prisoner from other prisoners and from the outside world.
The use of psychiatry for repressive purposes has been reported by Dr. Abdo Canasi. He received a 10-year jail sentence for his expose and since his release from confinement he is denied permission to leave the country.
That is one of the numerous imports from the Soviet Union to Cuba, the abuse of psychiatry, and I think it's worth noting in view of some other events regarding Cuba today that even on the occasion of Reverend Jackson's visit to Cuba, Castro has refused to release one single political prisoner, not one.
The Cuban legal system is used to impose criminal sentences on individuals who have been in prison for political reasons including lawyers who attempt to defend political prisoners and those trying to establish free trade unions.
In January 1983 a Cuban court sentenced five persons to death for having tried to organize a solidarity-style trade union movement. Subsequently the Government of Cuba then arrested the attorneys who sought to defend the five labor organizers. Groups such as Americas Watch and Amnesty International have estimated there are over 200 political prisoners in Cuba. Other estimates put the figure at about 1,000.
Americas Watch also estimates that there are between 1,500 and 2,000 former political prisoners to whom the Cuban Government continues to deny employment.
In its 1983 report Amnesty has drawn attention to the fact that other political prisoners are refused permission to leave Cuba even when other countries are willing to give them visas.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH, PRESS, AND ASSEMBLY
Freedom of speech and freedom of the press do not exist in Cuba. Even private expression of differences with government policies is repressed by an informer network operated by the politicized block committees which are known as the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution.
Those who violate the prohibitions against criticizing the government are imprisoned. Even those suspected of potential opposition can, be incarcerated or detained in prison after the expiration of their sentences under the so-called ley de peligrosidad.
Freedom of assembly does not exist in Cuba either. No free trade unions are allowed to function. In the last year over 200 workers have been prosecuted for trying to organize strikes in the sugar and construction industries.
As I said five trade unionists were condemned to death. According to reports their sentences were reduced to 30 years after their cases became public knowledge. The Cuban Government also enforces an active antireligious policy.
RESTRICTIONS ON RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY
In the early years of the revolution the extensive Catholic educational system was destroyed by the government and hundreds of priests were expelled from the country.
Today, a network of formal and informal restrictions has the effect of limiting religious activity. The official state ideology of atheism is taught on all levels of the educational system. Specific constitutional and statutory provisions are designed to restrict religious observance and education.
Among other restrictions on religious practice are discrimination against religious believers in educational and employment opportunities, prohibition on religious media, restrictions on the construction of new churches. Political meetings and work obligations are regularly scheduled to conflict with religious observances.
Cuban law prohibits the observance of religious events when they conflict with work obligations or patriotic celebrations. The
July 26 national holiday has been promoted as a replacement for Christmas, and the availability of toys for children has been limited to the 26th of July period to the exclusion of Christmas.
Similarly, Holy Week observances are preempted by the weeklong celebration of the Battle of the Bay of Pigs.
FREEDOM OF EMIGRATION DOES NOT EXIST
Freedom of emigration also does not exist in today's Cuba. Although Castro claims that Cubans are free to emigrate and though some left Cuba, as in the Mariel exodus in 1980, the Cuban Government routinely refuses to allow citizens to leave the country.
There is a backlog of some 200,000 Cubans who have applied to emigrate. Those who opt to leave Cuba lose their jobs, their ration cards, their housing, their personal possessions.
The Cuban Government still refuses to permit the departure of some Cubans who sought asylum in the Venezuelan and Peruvian Embassies in Havana more than 3 years ago. Persons who have attempted to flee Cuba by seeking refuge in diplomatic missions have been arrested and sentenced to terms of up to 30 years.
The case of Cuban former Ambassador Gustavo Arcos Bergnes is instructive. Arcos fought and was wounded at Castro's side during the attack on the Moncada barracks. When Castro took power Arcos was named Cuban Ambassador to the Benelux countries.
In the mid-1960's he was recalled and imprisoned for 4 years for his democratic beliefs. In 1979 his son was gravely injured in a motorcycle accident in Florida. The U.S. Congress appealed to the Cuban Government to allow Arcos to visit his son. The appeal was refused. Months later Arcos was charged with attempting to leave the island without the necessary papers and was given a 7-year prison sentence.
The reverse policy, forced emigration, can be just as cruel. Suddenly in 1980 the emigration gates were opened.
During the rush that followed out of the port of Mariel, when 125,000 Cuban boat people fled to our shores, the Castro government shipped along common criminals and many of Cuba's psychiatric patients. The American Psychiatric Association denounced this action in 1980 saying it was a grossly inhumane act.
To date the Cuban Government is still refusing to take back any Marielitos including those who voluntarily seek to return.
The Cuban Constitution states that the home is inviolable. Nevertheless, no aspect of an ordinary Cuban's private life is free from government surveillance. Telephones are monitored, mail is opened and one's comings and goings are monitored 24 hours a day by the block wardens of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution.
Meetings, parties, and other activities are subject to particularly intense scrutiny. Listening to foreign radio and television broadcasts is dangerous because of this surveillance. A jamming signal to interfere with VOA broadcasts has been noted in the Havana area and presumably is used in other urban areas.
HUMAN RIGHTS MONITORING GROUPS ARE DENIED ACCESS
The Cuban Government has never allowed international groups to visit Cuba to investigate human rights conditions. Organizations such as Amnesty International and Americas Watch which have sought access to Cuban political prisoners has been rebuffed. No domestic human rights organizations are permitted to exist. Human rights activists in Cuba who are not in jail are forced to carry out their activities clandestinely and must rely upon international nongovernmental agencies for support and publicity.
If apprehended by the authorities they are subject to prosecution under article 61 of the Cuban Constitution which states that none of the freedoms which are recognized can be exercised contrary to the Constitution, contrary to the existence and objectives of the socialist state, contrary to the decision of the Cuban people to build socialism and communism.
Mr. Chairman, although apologists for Castro sometimes claim that human rights violations were necessary in order to bring about the rapid modernization of the Cuban economy, in fact, Castro's dictatorship has deprived the Cuban people of their opportunity for a better economic future.
In 1958 Cuban income per capita was the fourth or fifth highest in the hemisphere. Independent studies have repeatedly shown that per capita economic growth in Cuba now is among the lowest in the hemisphere.
If present trends continue, by the end of the century Cuba will be one of the lesser developed countries of the Americas.
SOVIET SUPPORT OF THE CUBAN ECONOMY
Castro's betrayal has also cost the Cuban people their independence. In 1959 Cuba paid its own way. Now even its stagnant standard of living can only be maintained with huge Soviet handouts$4.7 billion in economic aid alone in 1982 and $25 billion over the last 7 years.
This aid is no bargain for Cubans. In return, Cuba sends combat and backup troops to countries where the Soviets seek to establish a sphere of influence. In Angola and Ethiopia they spill their blood and that of Africans to protect left-wing dictatorships from the anger of their own people.
All told, there are some 70,000 Cubans, the so-called internationalists who serve the Soviet Union's interest in foreign lands.
One further note, Mr. Chairman, I would like to make about human rights in Cuba and that is the problem of racism. Racism is a major problem under this government and one which it is particularly appropriate to bring to light today.
I would like to submit for the record an article from last Sunday's Miami Herald by Tomas Regalado, an article about racism in the Castro regime, an article that points out, for example, that more than half the population of Cuba is black or mulatto; yet in Castro's politburo there are no blacks.
[The following was submitted for the record:]
A MESSAGE TO J. JACKSON1
(By Tomas Regalado)
Reverend Jesse Jackson, aspirant to the nomination as presidential candidate by the Democratic Party, on route or already in Havana, fulfilling "a new peace mission."
Reverend: I am writing you these lines hoping some of your advisors, aware,' as they are, of the importance of publicity, take into consideration that by taking some of the issues I am going to present here, you could get a few more seconds on the national TV networks and more space on the United States newspapers.
However, I confess I do this with not too much faith, for as you said yourself, the invitation to visit Cuba came directly from Castro, and it is sure they have prepared a very tight agenda for your visit, for after all, Havana is looking for the same thing you look, propaganda.
In addition, you shall be impressed by the presence of the tyrant, which to a certain point is understandable, if we take into consideration that when you still were "gathering with the boys" in the streets of Chicago, Castro already was the chief of a government and was insulting American presidents.
You, Reverend, should always remember you have a mission: you have made yourself the defender of black men and women. Your crusade to give this segment of the population the political power they deserve, has changed the electoral picture, perhaps forever, in the United States. You have proven you are a defender of your race, that is why I take the liberty to suggest to you use some of the time of your tight agenda to visit the Puerto Boniato Prison, in the outskirts of the City of Santiago de Cuba, to visit some of your race brothers imprisoned there.
I permit myself to suggest that at the Boniato Prison you visit Guillermo Escalada Montalvo, a humble black Cuban who as a child collected empty bottles to sell to support his family, who today is serving a 30 year sentence for fighting Communism, after having fought the previous Fulgencio Batista regime.
That you also visit the Jesus and Ramon Hernandez Cruz brothers. The first one already served a 20 years sentence, but he has not been freed yet. The second is serving a 30 years sentence. Their skin is so dark that they are affectionately called "the black beans."
That you also visit at Boniato Prison the poet Angel Pardo Mazorra, a humble black Cuban who has spent 22 years in Castro's prisons, or visit Sturmio Mesa Shuman, sentenced to 30 years in prison, or Pastor Macuran, who already served 20 years in prison, but has not been freed, many more black Cubans who are imprisoned in the island.
During your talks with Castro you may ask him why having the Island of Cuba a population of over 50 percent of blacks and colored, there is only one black in the Political Bureau of the Communist Party among its 14 members, Juan Almeida.*
You may also ask him why of the 153 members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party there are only six blacks; why there is not one single black in Castro's Council of Ministers or how many black first secretaries of the party or governors of the present 14 Cuban provinces.
During your talks you may also ask how many black ambassadors has Cuba in European or Western countries. And if you would like to enter into history, you may ask Castro why the anniversary of the death of Antonio Maceo, known to Cubans as the "Bronce Titan," one of our most outstanding liberators, is not anymore 'Memorial Day.' This case could come to the fore when you mention, for I am sure you will, that the United States Congress. has just designated the black leader Martin Luther King birthday as a 'national holiday.'
As you are concerned about all minorities, I permit myself to suggest that you ask Castro why women are not given equal opportunities in Cuba. For if women represent over 35 percent of the work force of the country, there is not a single woman in the Political Bureau, there are only 18 women in the Central Committee of the Party. Why there are not president, vice-president or secretary women in the National Assembly of the Popular Power, and why there is not one single woman as first secretary of the party in the 14 provinces of Cuba.
Of course, you as a pastor, are concerned with the religious situation in Cuba, for notwithstanding that your main purpose is to seek peace in Central America and to improve relations between Washington and Havana, your Christian heritage would prevent you from dealing with representatives of the antichrist.
' Reprinted with permission of the Miami Herald.
Consequently, we suggest you interview Archbishop of Havana Monsignor Jaime Lucas and ask him about his many years as a political prisoner in Castro's concentration camps during the 60s, or should you prefer it, with Emilio Hernandez Avalate, Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Cuba, who spent ten years in Castro's prisons.
You may ask Castro why the persecution of religious people and ask him why the socialist constitution of Cuba has an article written specially to arrest and sentence Jehova Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists. Perhaps you shall not have enough time with so many things you have to talk to Castro, to a9k the above questions. However, I would like to ask, just for the sake of it, that before you leave, you ask Castro how he is going to explain your trip to the Cuban people. Maybe you do not know it, but the Cuban government has been telling the people for 25 years that black people are discriminated against in the United States and the police let loose dogs when blacks go out on the streets, and now you arrive in a private plane, well dressed, surrounded by newspapermen and running to be a candidate to the presidency of the United States.
Mr. ABRAMS. Of the 153 members of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party in a country that is more than half nonwhite there are but 8 blacks. In Castro's cabinet, no blacks. Of the Provincial Party leaders-of Cuba's 14 provinces there are no blacks. Apparently among Castro's ambassadors to countries around the world, once again there are no blacks.
It comes as no surprise then to learn that as a result of 25 years of communist control more than 1 million Cubans-over 10 percent of the island's inhabitants have fled their homeland.
Deprived of their civil and political liberties, their national independence, their hopes for a better future, Cubans have demonstrated their dissatisfaction with the regime through the only means available to them by voting with their feet.
THE FACTS ABOUT CUBA ARE NOT REPORTED
This, in broad outline, is the state of human rights in Cuba. It is not a very pretty picture. Neither for that matter is it a new picture. The facts about Cuban repression have been available for many years now. Yet for just as many years not a few intellectuals and journalists have been systematically denying these facts.
Although I will not attempt, Mr. Chairman, to describe this disgraceful episode in detail, I can't resist giving one example of the kind of wild misinformation about Cuba which has helped to shield the Castro regime from the international censure it deserves.
I quote from a book published in 1975, long after the truth about Cuba was available, by two prominent Americans, Kirby Jones and Frank Mankiewicz, entitled, "With Fidel: A Portrait of Castro and Cuba":
Castro's Cuba is prosperous and its people are enthusiastic, reasonably content and optimistic about the future. Perhaps the overriding impression of three trips to Cuba is the enthusiasm and unity of the Cuban people. They are proud of their accomplishments and sing songs about themselves and their country that reflect this self-pride. The people work together and work hard for what they believe to be good for their neighbors and, therefore, their country.
That after 16 years of Castro's dictatorship is-Mr. Chairman, one of the reasons why I welcome the hearings you're holding today on the human rights situation in Cuba is that I hope they will serve to correct misinformation of that sort.
For too many years Castro has posed as a champion of progress, and has succeeded in concealing the oppressive, totalitarian nature
of his regime. Simply by telling the truth about Cuba we can help to expose Castro as a tyrant that he is.
At the same time by telling the truth we demonstrate our solidarity with the principal victims of Castro's regime-the long suffering and much-abused Cuban people. Thank you.
[Mr. Abrams' prepared statement follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. ELLIOTT ABRAMS, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE,
BUREAU OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS
It is a pleasure and a privilege for me to appear before this committee today to discuss human rights in Cuba. I will be as brief as possible in my opening remarks, so as to allow more time for questions.
The history of Cuba over the last twenty-five years is one of the great tragedies of modern times. It is the history of a gifted and industrious people, whose hope for freedom and democracy have been cruelly and systematically denied. It is the history of a liberal and democratic revolution which overthrew the Cuban dictator, Fulgencio, Batista, only to be betrayed by an even more ruthless dictator. It is the history of one of the greatest tyrants of our times, Fidel Castro, who promised the Cuban people that he would restore democracy and respect for law and human rights, but instead established a dictatorship which has brought ruin and misery to his people.
Cuba has been ruled for twenty-five years by one man, Fidel Castro, and a group which seized power in 1959. The Communist Party dominates all aspects of daily life, controlling the means of production and distribution of all goods, services and information, public communication, public welfare and education, as well as national defense, foreign relations and public security. Under these circumstances, the human rights of Cubans are systematically denied, subordinated to the aims of the Cuban Communist Party, as defined by its "Maximum Leader," Fidel Castro.
Executions to discourage political dissent, for example, which began when Castro seized power in 1959, continued throughout 1983. There are credible reports of summary executions following secret trials of civilians for alleged political offenses by military tribunals. A member of Jehovah's Witnesses, for example, was reported to have been executed in August 1983 for allegedly spreading "propaganda to incite armed rebellion." A twenty-three year old student, Carlos Alberto Gutierez, was shot for belonging to a group caught painting anti-government slogans on walls.
Cuban police commonly round up persons in nighttime arrests. Friends, neighbors and family members have no knowledge of their fate and frequently are too intimidated to ask. Usually these persons are tried and sentenced in secret. But sometimes they are interrogated and released. In 1983, several Cuban-Americans "Disappeared" while in Cuba visiting relatives. No information regarding their detention or whereabouts was provided to the United States government nor to their relatives who inquired about them. In one case, an individual was arrested and held incommunicado for three months. Upon being released, he reported that he had been Interrogated about alleged espionage and counter-revolutionary activity.
Conditions in Cuban political prisons are barbaric, include the use of torture. Political prisoners who refuse "reeducation" are subject to particularly harsh penalties, including the denial of clothing, medical attention, and communication with friends and relatives outside prison. One former political prisoner. Jose Rodriguez Terrero, who was released in August 1983, spent twenty-two years in Cuban prisons, including months at a time confined naked in a tiny cell called a "drawer" which forced the prisoner to curl up in an embryo-like position. Also including among the forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment employed in Cuban prisons is the placing of a prisoner in a small, sealed unventilated room, and totally isolating a prisoner from other prisoners and from the outside world. The use of psychiatry for repressive purposes has been reported by Dr. Abdo Canasi. He received a ten year jail sentence for his expose, and since his release from confinement he is denied permission to leave the country.
The Cuban legal system does not provide internationally recognized standards of due process for defendants, and is used to impose criminal sentences on individuals who have been imprisoned for political reasons, including lawyers attempting to defend political prisoners and those trying to establish free trade unions. For example, in January 1983, a Cuban court sentenced five persons to death for having tried to organize a "Solidarity-style" trade union movement in Cuba. Subsequently, Cuban authorities arrested the attorney who sought to defend the five labor organizers. Groups such as Americas Watch and Amnesty International have estimated that there are over 200 political prisoners in Cuba; other estimates put the figure at
about 1,000. Americas Watch also estimates that there are between 1,500 and 2,000 former political prisoners to whom the Cuban government continues to deny employment. In its 1983 report, Amnesty International has drawn attention to the fact that other political prisoners are refused permission to leave Cuba, even when other countries have been willing to give them visas.
Freedom of speech and the press do not exist in Cuba. All media outlets are owned by the government or party-controlled organizations and operate strictly according to Communist Party guidelines. No criticism of the policies of the government, the party, or the leadership is permitted. Artistic expression is also covered by these restrictions, which require that artistic works serve to reinforce the goals of the government. Foreign publications, except those from other communist countries, are not available. Even private expression of differences with government policies is repressed by.an informed network operated by the politicized block committees, known as the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution. Those who violate the prohibitions against criticizing the government are imprisoned, and even those suspected of potential opposition can be incarcerated or detained in prison after the expiration of their sentences under the so-called ley de peligrosidad.
Freedom of assembly does not exist in Cuba either. No free trade unions are allowed to function. The Communist Party operates a so-called "trade union" federation called the Confederation of Cuban Workers, which acts to enforce labor discipline, encourage higher productivity, and reduce labor costs, rather than to defend workers' interests. The rights to bargain collectively and to strike are not recognized. In the last year, over 200 workers have been prosecuted for trying to organize strikes in the sugar and construction industries. Five trade unionists were condemned to death. But, according to reports, their sentences were reduced to thirty years after their cases became public knowledge. The Cuban government, after at first denying the facts, has said the "terrorists" received severe sentences. At the recent conference of the World Federation of Trade Unions in Prague, the Cubans defended the sentences, explaining they were necessary to block any possible attempts to set up a Solidarity-style organization.
The Cuban government also enforces an active anti-religious policy. In the early years of the revolution, the extensive Catholic educational system was destroyed by the government and hundreds of priests were expelled from the country.
Today, a network of normal and informal restrictions has the effect of limiting religious activity. The official state ideology of atheism is taught on all levels of the educational system. Specific constitutional and statutory provisions are designed to restrict religious observance and education.
Among other restrictions on religious practice enforced by the Cuban government are discrimination against religious believers in educational and employment opportunities. Prohibition on religious media, and restriction on the construction of new churches. Political meetings and work obligations are regularly scheduled to conflict with religious observances. Cuban law prohibits the observance of religious events when they conflict with work obligations or patriotic celebrations. The July 26 national holiday, commemorating the attack on Batista's Moncada barracks in 1953, has been promoted as a replacement for Christmas, and the availability of toys for children has been limited to the 26th-of-July period to the exclusion of Christmas. Similarly, Holy Week observances are preempted by the week-long celebration of the Battle of the Bay of Pigs.
Freedom of emigration also does not exist in today's Cuba. Although Castro claims that Cubans are free to emigrate, and though some left Cuba, as in the Mariel exodus of 1980, the Cuban government routinely refuses to allow citizens to leave the country; there is thus a backlog of some 200,000 Cubans who have applied to emigrate. Those who opt to leave Cuba lose their jobs, ration cards, housing, and personal possessions. Then the emigrants are subjected to government-orchestrated mob attacks called "assemblies of repulsion" and are required to work in agriculture until they leave the island, a period that can extend indefinitely. As an example of the extent to which people will go to leave Cuba, in early 1983 three young Cubans seized a small group of American tourists in Villa Clara province and held them hostage to force the Cuban government to permit the Cubans to depart the country. The Americans were subsequently freed, and the young Cubans reportedly sentenced to death (later reportedly commuted to thirty years in prison).
The Cuban government still refuses to permit the departure of some Cubans who sought asylum in the Venezuelan and Peruvian Embassies in Havana more than three years ago. Persons who have attempted to flee Cuba by seeking refuge in diplomatic missions have been arrested and sentenced to terms of up to thirty years. According to an Agence France Press report, for example, the noted Cuban dissident, Ricardo Bofill Pages, was arrested on September 27, 1983. In April, Bofill had
sought refuge in the French Embassy, but was instructed to leave the Embassy after the French ambassador received assurances from the Cuban Vice President, Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, that he would be allowed to leave the country. Subsequently, two Agence France Press personnel who tried to interview Bofill were put under house arrest and expelled from Cuba after nine days.
The case of Cuban Ambassador Gustavo Arcos Bergnes is also instructive. Arcos fought and was wounded at Castro's side during the attack on Batista's Moncada barracks. When Castro took power, Arcos was named Cuban Ambassador to Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. But, in the mid-1960's he was recalled and imprisoned for four years for his democratic beliefs. In 1979 his son was gravely injured in a motorcycle accident in Florida. The United States Congress appealed to the Cuban government to allow Arcos to visit his son. The appeal was refused. Months later, Arcos was charged with attempting to leave the island without the necessary papers and was given a seven-year prison sentence.
The reverse policy, forced emigration, can be just as cruel. Suddenly, in 1980 the emigration gates were opened. During the rush that followed out of the port of Mariel, when 125,000 Cuban "boat people" fled to our shores, the Castro government shipped along common criminals and many of Cuba's psychiatric patients. The American Psychiatric Association denounced this action on September 28, 1980, saying it was:
"* deeply concerned about the plight of numerous recent refugees who have been identified as mentally ill. There is growing evidence that many of these Cuban citizens were bused from Cuban mental hospitals to the Freedom Flotilla to the United States. If this is the case, the transplantation of these patients constitutes a grossly inhumane act since it deprives the patients of their right to psychiatric treatment within the context of their culture and primary language."
To date the Cuban government is still refusing to take back any Marielitos-including those who seek voluntarily to return.
The Cuban constitution states that "the home is inviolable." Nevertheless, no aspect of an ordinary Cuban's private life is free from Government surveillance. Telephones are monitored, mail is opened, and one's comings and goings are monitored 24-hours a day by block wardens in the neighborhood Committee for the Defense of the Revolution. Meetings, parties and other activities are subject to particularly intense scrutiny. Listening to foreign radio and television broadcasts is dangerous because of the surveillance by CDR members. A jamming signal to interfere with Voice of America broadcasts has been noted in the Havana area and presumably is used in other urban areas.
The Cuban government has never allowed international groups to visit Cuba: to investigate human rights conditions. Organizations such as Amnesty International and Americas Watch, which have sought access to Cuban political prisons, have been rebuffed. No domestic human rights organizations are permitted to exist. Human rights activists in Cuba who are not in jail are forced to carry out their activities clandestinely and must rely upon international non-governmental agencies for support and publicity. If apprehended by the authorities, they are subject to prosecution under Article 61 of the Cuban Constitution, which states "None of the freedoms which are recognized for citizens can be exercised contrary to what is established in the Constitution and the law, or contrary to the existence and objectives of the socialist state, or contrary to the decision of the Cuban people to build socialism and communism. Violations of this principle can be punished by law."
Mr. Chairman, Although apologists for Castro sometimes claim that some human rights violations were necessary in order to bring about the rapid modernization of the Cuban economy. In fact, Castro's dictatorship has deprived the Cuban people of their opportunity for a better economic future. In 1958, Cuban income per capita was the fourth or fifth highest in the hemisphere. Independent studies have repeatedly shown that per capita economic growth in Cuba is among the lowest in the Hemisphere. If present trends continue, by the end of the century Cuba will be one of the lesser developed countries of the Americas.
Castro's betrayal has also cost the Cuban people their independence. In 1959, Cuba paid its own way. Now even its stagnant standard of living can only be maintained with huge Soviet handouts-$4.7 billion in economic aid alone in 1982, $25 billion over the last seven years. But this aid is no bargain for Cubans. For in return, Cuba sends combat and backup troops to countries where the Soviets seek to establish a sphere of influence. In Angola and Ethiopia they spill their blood and that of Africans to protect leftwing dictatorships from the anger of their own people. All told, there are some 70,000 Cubans, the so-called "Internationalists," who serve the Soviet Union's interests in foreign lands.
It comes as no surprise, then, to learn that as a result of twenty-five years of communist control, more than one million Cubans-over 10 percent of the island's inhabitants-have fled their homeland. Deprived of their civil and political liberties, their national independence, and their hopes for a better future, Cubans have demonstrated their dissatisfaction with the regime through the only means available to them-by "voting with their feet."
This, in broad outline, is the state of human rights in Cuba. It is not a very pretty picture. Neither, for that matter, is it a new picture. The facts about Cuban repression have been available for many years now. Yet for just as many years, not a few intellectuals and journalists have been systematically denying these facts. Although I will not attempt, Mr. Chairman, to describe this rather disgraceful episode in any detail, I cannot resist giving one example of the kind of wild misinformation about Cuba which has helped to shield the regime from international censure. I quote from a book published in 1975 by two prominent Americans, Frank Mankiewicz and Kirby Jones, titled "With Fidel: A Portrait of Castro and Cuba."
* * Castro's Cuba is prosperous and its people are enthusiastic, reasonably content and optimistic about the future. Perhaps the overriding impression of three trips to Cuba is the enthusiasm and unity of the Cuban people. They are proud of their accomplishments and sing songs about themselves and their country that reflect this self-pride * The people work together and work hard for what they believe to be good for their neighbors and therefore their country." Mr. Chairman, one of the reasons why I welcome the hearings your Committee is holding on the human rights situation in Cuba is that I hope they will serve to correct misinformation of this sort. For too many years, Fidel Castro has posed as a champion of progress, and has succeeded in concealing the oppressive, totalitarian nature of his regime. Simply by telling the truth about Cuba, we can help to expose Castro as the tyrant that he is. At the time, by telling the truth we demonstrate our solidarity with the principal victims of Castro's regime-the long-suffering and much-abused Cuban people.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
STATUS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN CUBA
Mr. YATRON. Thank you very much, Secretary Abrams, for a very thorough and cogent statement. Mr. Secretary, recently the committee staff met with two Cuban Pentecostal priests who claim that they are free to practice their faith and have over 9,000 Penecostal parishioners and 38 churches throughout Cuba.
Now given your comments, with respect to restrictions on religious activities, how do you account for their claims?
Mr. ABRAMS. I can't account for those claims, Mr. Chairman. I think it's simply untrue to say that there is freedom of religion in Cuba. I know that people pass through Communist countries all the time and come out with the most incredible statements.
There was recently a large group that visited the Soviet Union and somehow managed not to find religious oppression there either, but if one looks at the position of the Catholic Church before Castro took over and that is, of course, the largest denomination of Cuba and looks at it today, he has largely destroyed the power of the church.
If one looks at the high-ranking officials it is quite clear that it is not possible to advance in Cuban society and also to be a devout believer so I cannot account for that. I think it does not square with the facts.
CARE OF PSYCHIATRIC PATIENTS FROM MARIEL
Mr. YATRON. How many psychiatric patients were among the thousands of boat people who fled to the United States in 1980? What is their status, and were they given adequate medical care in Cuba?
Mr. ABRAMS. There were roughly 100 psychiatric patients, and they are still being given care because the regime, the Castro regime, has refused to enter into negotiations about their return. It is a very bad situation because as the American Psychiatric Association pointed out, these are people who are in very bad psychological trouble to begin with.
Then on a given morning to wrench them from their country, from their familiar circumstances from a place where their language is spoken and put them on boats and ship them out has worsened some of the problems.
Mr. YATRON. Were they cared for in Cuba?
Mr. ABRAMS. I think the level of care for many of these people in Cuba was very, very low. Let me ask if I could, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Ken Skoug, the Director of Cuban Affairs at the State Department to join me at the table rather than turning around when he has details which I don't.
Mr. YATRON. Sure, Mr. Skoug, go ahead, sir.
Mr. SKOUG. Good morning, Mr. Chairman. My name is Kenneth N. Skoug, Jr. I am Director of Cuban Affairs for the Department of State. Pleasure to be here, sir.
Mr. YATRON. We welcome you.
Mr. SKOUG. With reference to the mental cases, a number of the people were taken from mental institutions in Cuba and put directly on boats coming to the United States. As to the level of mental care in Cuba, I think it's difficult to make an overall evaluation.
Obviously, it's much more difficult for most of those people who did not speak English when they came here to adjust to the added shock of coming to a different country, and furthermore there's no clear indication that they were given a real opportunity of decision when they were permitted to leave the mental institution.
We can't verify that they even had an element of choice in whether they came to the United States or not.
COMPARISON OF SUPPRESSION OF POLITICAL DISSENT IN CUBA AND NICARAGUA
Mr. YATRON. Thank you. I'd like to ask one final question, and then I will call on the chairman of the full committee, Congressman Fascell. Is the Cuban method for suppressing political dissent similar to the practices that are employed by the Sandinistas in Nicaragua?
Mr. ABRAMS. I would say the answer to that is yes, and it is interesting that the Sandinistas have imported one of the most pernicious Castro devices in many of these Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, these block committees, which place government and Communist Party informers really in every block.
Their purpose is to make sure that it isn't just public political activity that is banned but that they try to listen to what neighbor says to neighbor, what parent says to child. That is, I think it's fair to say, a direct import from Castro's Cuba.
Mr. YATRON. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Chairman FASCELL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Secretary, I appreciate your testimony that you have presented to us here today with this bleak picture of a typical Communist operation. I think it's safe to say whatever progress, and I'll have to put that in quotes because that is a very debatable subject-whether it is economic, military or international adventurism-whatever progress has been made in the eyes of that government or similar governments has been at a horrible price, wouldn't you say? That price has been paid by the people in the loss of their liberty. Mr. ABRAMS. Yes, I think that's right. Chairman FASCELL. And is there anything to indicate at all on the horizon that the Castro government is going to change its ways as far as its international behavior, its effort to export subversion the way it deals with its people, its inhumanity?
Mr. ABRAMS. I don't think there's any evidence of that. If one looks at-Castro has been around now for a quarter of a century. If one takes the last few years and tries to see whether there are improvements, one looks at what Castro is now doing in Central America or the level of repression at home.
Recently, for example, the way he treated the people who tried to set up a trade union, sentenced to death-I see no evidence of improvement either in foreign policy or domestic policy.
EXECUTIONS IN CUBA
Chairman FASCELL. Seems to me I recall also and maybe one could write this off for the heat or revenge or heat of battle but I can't,,and I don't think any rational, reasonable person could, that right after Castro took over there were summary executions of political opponents to his regime in the number of 10,000 people or more without legal representation, without trial, simply-I believe the expression was "el paredon."
Am I correct in my memory that that actually occurred?
Mr. ABRAMS. I don't remember the numbers. I remember there being a substantial number of summary executions in the aftermath of the victory.
Mr. SKOUG. Yes, sir, I also was working on Cuba at that particular period. Your memory is quite right. I don't give you the precise number of people who were executed, but I think one of the things which first alienated the United States from Fidel Castro was the surprising development that people were sent to el paredon who had been his 'opponents-first his opponents under Batista and later the opponents of the Castro regime.
It was so stark because people had expected that Fidel Castro was going to be a liberator. They believed in his statements about introducing democracy in Cuba. Instead of that they suddenly found a very harsh dictatorship.
THE CUBAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY
Chairman FASCELL. They suddenly found that democratic revolution had been subverted by a single individual who had nothing but the aims of communism in his mind as far as running his country is concerned. Now that is what we've seen for the last 25 years. I have one final thought, Mr. Secretary, that you raised in your
comments about people voting with their feet and that is about 10 percent of the population of Cuba, about 1 million people have found their way happily into the State of Florida and in the United States.
They have been a remarkable success. It's been a success story both ways as you well know. That is their assimilation by the people who were here, their encouragement and their own ability because they have been tremendous producers and also in their willingness and their ability to become part of our society in every way, their economic well-being which they have earned but this country gave them the opportunity for that. They are involved in every enterprise, every profession.
They participate in politics in both parties. I wish there were a few more Democrats but they do participate and they're in the elections.
They have elected Cuban Americans to many positions at every level of government. I dare say that if the other 9 million people in Cuba ever had the opportunity to see what the Cubans have done in a land of freedom that there wouldn't be too much joy in Cuba.
How do you think they would react?
Mr. ABRAMS. I think that's quite right, Mr. Chairman, and I think one measure of that is the reaction, the emotion behind Castro's reaction to Radio Marti. I think one of the things he was afraid of was that more information about how Cubans are doing, former Cubans are doing in Florida, would get through and the impact of that on Cubans in Cuba would be very great.
Chairman FASCELL. Thank you very much.
Mr. ABRAMS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. YATRON. Chairman Barnes.
Mr. BARNES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I also want to thank Secretary Abrams for his statement and for providing some new information that we had not had presented in quite this way before. I think it's a very helpful statement.
HOLDUP IN GRANTING VISAS TO FORMER POLITICAL PRISONERS
I'd like to pursue with you the question of what the State Department can do to help some of the victims of the human rights violations that you so correctly outline. I am talking about the hundreds of former political prisoners who were apparently promised by the United States back in 1980 that they would be provided visas to come to this country but they're still waiting to receive those visas.
As you may know, Mr. Secretary, I wrote to Secretary Shultz in April of this year on this subject asking whether there is anything we can do to assist these former Cuban political prisoners who are hoping to be able to emigrate to the United States. I received a letter in May from Assistant Secretary Bennett stating in essence that the hold up here is the unwillingness of the Cubans to deal on the question of the return of some of the people who were sent over during the Mariel boatlift.
Now I understand the concern that we have and it is a real one. It's also an important issue with the Cubans, but at the same time it seems to me that we may be punishing some of the people who
have already been victimized. Perhaps there is a way that the United States can address this issue in a way that will recognize the concern of these hundreds of people who believe that they had a commitment from the United States, that they were going to be able to receive visas.
Can you give us any update on the situation and perhaps an analysis of what, if anything, might be done?
Mr. ABRAMS. Well, I think we should go back and just note the beginning of this. The beginning of this was actually before Mariel. We stopped processing preference visas and also the paroling of former political prisoners in May 1980 after a pro-Castro mob attacked a group of Cubans waiting, seeking to be admitted as refugees into the United States at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.
We've not had a normal emigration situation regarding Cuba since then and, of course, the situation was worsened by the Mariel boatlift. Since Mariel, the U.S. Government has been trying to get the Government of Cuba to take back those few people who came during Mariel who are psychiatric patients or criminals or who want to go back in any event, who wish voluntarily to return.
We wanted to have a negotiation which would include all emigration issues and which would resolve this problem. Last week it came to light that these discussions had led to a decision by Castro that maybe he would enter into such negotiations but not until after the U.S. election in November.
What we've been doing is not turning away from this problem because I think you're absolutely right, that the humanitarian problem is a very pressing one. What we have been trying to do is to take people in through third countries.
Well over 1,000 ex-political prisoners have, in fact, come in from Spain, Costa Rica, Venezuela as middle countries. That is where they get out to. Part of the problem is U.S. law, section 243(g) of the immigration law which says that if a country refuses to take back citizens of that country who are illegally here then we will suspend taking people who wish to come from there.
Now in this sense it creates an anomaly because it does, as you say, punish ex-political prisoners rather than Castro so one way we've tried to deal with the humanitarian problem is this third country route and another, of course, is negotiations.
Now the press report is that Castro has changed his mind and says, no, he doesn't need to wait until November anymore. He could enter into these negotiations now. If that report is true and that does represent Castro's view, then we would want to negotiate sooner to get him to live up to his responsibilities and to permit us to get back into this processing.
This is not a problem that is pushed under the rug at the State Department. It's something that is really right at the top of the agenda and that we have under very active consideration right now looking for a solution which is quicker and better than the one we've been using which has worked to some degree of using third country processing.
Mr. BARNES. I am sure you saw the article by Wayne Smith, the former chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, who was the individual who transmitted the commitment, at that time approxi-
lately 1,500 former political prisoners, in the New York Times on June 15.
He says in his letter the Government "has a clear commitment to process these people for entry into the United States. I know. I transmitted that commitment to them on May 2 of 1980." It goes on to describe some of the circumstances of that. He says in his letter:
The Reagan administration turned its back on these people and in so doing dishonored the word of the U.S. Government. The President often speaks of his sympathy for the Cubans living under the Castro regime. He has a strange way of showing it.
FORMER POLITICAL PRISONERS AWAITING PROCESSING IN COSTA RICA
I would simply urge that we do everything possible to honor that commitment. I am informed that there are about 1,000 former Cuban political prisoners in Costa Rica right now who are waiting processing as well as those who are in Cuba and who, as you mentioned in your testimony, are unable to get employment, et cetera, et cetera.
I just hope the United States is not in the position of compounding the violations of human rights that you've so correctly described in your testimony. It would be a tragedy if we make life worse for these poor people who have been through such misery already and I hope that those of us on the committee can work with you to find some answers.
Mr. ABRAMS. Thank you. We appreciate very much working with you. It is something that I view as a humanitarian commitment and one which we have been meeting, as I say, through third country processing and more slowly than any of us would like, and I hope that we can devise ways directly or indirectly to meet it a lot faster.
Mr. BARNES. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. YATRON. Thank you, Chairman Barnes. Mr. Lagomarsino.
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Secretary Abrams, there are interesting parallels not only between Cuba and the Soviet Union but between Cuba and Nicaragua. You mentioned several of them in your testimony. The system of CDS's, for example, is obviously imported directly from Cuba into Nicaragua.
Another interesting one is the way the revolution goes on when in both places. We see, you testified, and we have people in the room who took part in the revolution against Batista and then who found out what Castro was all about and changed and opposed him as they had opposed Batista.
We have exactly the same thing in Nicaragua going on right now with the same charge-betrayal of the revolution. I can tell you that a lot of these things have been going on for a long time as you pointed out.
In 1979, 1 was in Cuba with a congressional delegation. One of the things we did was to visit a Catholic Church. There weren't too many people there but there were some and we struck up a conversation with several of them.
One was a young man who told us he was an architect. He had applied to come to the United States. He was not doing architect work any more. He was working in the fields just as you pointed
out. That was, I will point out, in the period when there was quite a sincere attempt to build better bridges to Cuba to normalize relations.
It didn't change anything for that young man. The AFL-CIO is very active in Central America, and has done a lot of good in places like El Salvador. I gather from what you tell us this morning that they are not allowed at all in Cuba. Is that correct? Mr. ABRAMS. That's correct.
FORCED LABOR CAMPS
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. They have no operations there whatsoever. Mr. ABRAMS. That's correct.
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. Can you compare for us the forced labor camps in Cuba with those in the Soviet Union? Do we know much about that?
Mr. ABRAMS. Well, I think the first thing, of course, is the scale would naturally be much lower. I think that it's fair to say that-I stand to be corrected by Mr. Skoug-my impression would be that Castro has not made use of labor camps to the degree that they're now part of the Soviet economy.
He has tended to make use of prisons more to the exclusion of labor camps, and the Cuban economy is bailed out in a sense not by labor camps as in the Soviet Union but rather by subvertions from the Soviet Union.
Mr. SKOUG. There is use of criminal labor in Cuba, and openly admitted, but it's not clear how much of it is performed by common criminals and how many times political prisoners are forced to participate. I imagine some of the other witnesses today, however, may have some direct experience which they can pass along to you.
CHILDREN AND TEENAGERS AS POLITICAL PRISONERS
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. It's been reported that children and teenagers are kept in camps and prisons. Do you have any idea of how many and whether that is a common practice in other Communist countries?
Mr. ABRAMS. I don't think it is that common a practice to keep young teenagers in prison with hardened criminals which is something we have seen, which has been reported. I noted it in my written statement, which is a practice in Cuba.
From that point of view the Cuban practice is even worse than say the Soviet practice. Getting the numbers is very difficult and I don't have any confidence in being able to get a figure on the number of children in prison.
Mr. SiKOUG. I think it would be rather small but there are celebrated cases in Cuba where people of very tender years who were convicted of so-called counterrevolutionary activities have remained in jail. In one case a youth was sentenced to serve until he was the age of 21. I believe he's now 30 and still serving.
Where there is a counterrevolutionary element, the punishment can be particularly drastic.
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. Has the International Committee of the Red Cross asked permission to visit Cuban prisons, do you know?
Mr. ABRAMS. They've asked permission over the years and they are not now permitted to visit Cuban prisons.
ABUSES AGAINST LABOR UNIONS
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. Do you know what actions the International Labor Organization, ILO, has taken with respect to labor abuses in Cuba?
Mr. ABRAMS. The subject has been raised. The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, ICFTU, and the AFL-CIO have raised the Cuban abuses at the ILO and as I recall there is currently an investigation. These things tend not to reach very many conclusions but the subject has been discussed in Geneva.
Mr. SKOUG. Yes, the subject has been discussed, and particularly the subject of the persons who attempted to form the Solidarity type of trade unions at the end of 1982 who were arrested and sentenced in January 1983.
Curiously we understand that this case was even raised before the World Federation of Trade Unions which you know is a Communist organization meeting in Prague, and the Cubans were forced to defend their practices even before other Communist countries.
Mr. LAGOMARSINO. Thank you.
Mr. YATRON. Thank you, Mr. Lagomarsino.
The Chair would like to recommend that we recess for 10 minutes so that members can go over to the House floor and respond to the rollcall. We'll be right back to resume the hearing immediately.
[Whereupon, a short recess was taken.]
Mr. YATRON. The subcommittees will resume the hearing. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Sorry for the delay. I'd like to call on the gentleman from New York, Mr. Weiss.
Mr. WEISS. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Secretary, I'd like to return very briefly to the issue that was raised by Chairman Barnes and just as background let me recount two experiences I've had in the course of the last 6 months.
In January I was in El Salvador with a small congressional delegation. We had visited the women's political prison and seen a young woman health worker who, with her husband and two of her friends, had been working for refugee center that was run under the auspices of the archdiocese. She had been arrested because, I guess, somebody in the security forces felt that maybe they were treating people who they shouldn't be treating, although the official policy is that whether it's military or civilian, if somebody comes in wounded you should treat them.
She and the others were arrested together with their 3-year-old twins who ultimately were released at the intercession of President Magana. We were discussing the situation with President Magana and asked that since one of the European countries offered to accept them, that he try to get involved in getting those four people released. He said, "Well, you know, it's very difficult. We've tried but the security forces, you have to understand, are very suspicious about anybody intervening in those situations."
About a week later I was in Havana and I was talking to Fidel Castro about allowing a family to be reunited with the father of the family who was in the United States and on humanitarian grounds he seemed to be persuaded but he said, "You know, its very difficult. The security people are very, very difficult to deal with."
ENTRY TO THE UNITED STATES FOR FORMER CUBAN PRISONERS
Then I listen to you explain to Mr. Barnes how difficult it is to provide entry to political prisoners who had finally secured exit visas from Cuba or had in some instances gotten out and for some reason or other, in spite of the fact that everybody wants them to be able to come to the United States, there you are at the highest level of government and there is somebody out there below you, above you, around you who is creating as difficult problems for you as President Magana and Fidel Castro seem to have with their people.
What do you think ought to be done by you, by us, by whomever, to cut the redtape and allow people who everybody says ought to be allowed to leave Cuba to enter the United States to be able to do that when they have gotten permission by the Cubans to leave.
Mr. ABRAMS. First I'd have to say that there is a difference in the cases you give and the difference is that it is inconceivable that, in fact, Castro, who is the Cuban dictator cannot order anything he pleases-that is or was perfectly conceivable of President Magana.
I don't think it's credible for Castro to say that, well, the police don't take my orders or something like that.
Mr. WEISS. I am not testing it out with the delivery of the statements. I am comparing the equivalence of the statements, in essence-Mr. ABRAMS. Well, I don't think they're equivalent because I think the difference is, in part, that Castro is lying, but the substance of your question I think is an important one.
There is a solution to this and there was a solution to this 4 years ago in the summer of 1980. That was for Castro to sit down and in good faith agree in a negotiation with the United States to take back the criminals who came over at Mariel.
Mr. WEISS, You said that but as Mr. Barnes points out and as you agree, the people who are being punished in that situation are not Fidel Castro but people who have already served their time in prison, who finally have managed to get permission from the Cubans to leave, and the hangup now is not on their end. The hangup is on our end. What do we do to cut the redtape and get them in here?
Mr. ABRAMS. Well, the first thing we've been doing is stretching the redtape so that it is long enough to let people in under it and we've done that by letting people in from Spain, Colombia, and Costa Rica and more than a thousand have, in fact, gotten in in this period in which ostensibly people are not getting in.
The second thing we've been doing is trying continually to get these negotiations going with Castro and the third thing we've
been doing is trying to decide whether and at what moment it would be appropriate to, one might say, disregard perhaps section 243(g) and go ahead and continue this processing although by its strict language, section 243(g) doesn't seem to permit it.
One of the difficulties we had in this is that the counsel we received from lawyers was that it might be that we could not go on processing under section 243(g) which said flatly, you can't do it and did not, in fact, make an allowance for this kind of situation where you could have political prisoners in whom their own government would have no interest.
I hope that this agreement to negotiate, apparent agreement to negotiate by Castro is real and that we'll get someplace there. The other thing is that we are still trying to decide in meetings right now whether instead of taking the indirect route, we should go back to the direct route and give up on the possibility of negotiating successfully with Castro.
Mr. WEISS. I don't want to speak for my friend from Illinois. He will do it more eloquently than I can in any event, but I am sure that if the administration were to come to the Congress and say, listen, we have to have some discretion built in to section 243(g) so that we're not bound by a law which obviously was not intended to apply in this kind of a situation, I think Congress would be pleased to give you that kind of flexibility.
Has there been any thought to asking Congress to, in fact, provide that kind of flexibility? Have members of the Judiciary Committee been spoken to at all about this problem?
Mr. SKOUG. If I might make a comment, Sir, I'd like to repeat what was said earlier that we are very well aware of the ethical considerations in your question. We're also very much aware of the real interest of Congress in this issue.
We do have this under active consideration so as to find the most effective solution. I do want to point out, however, that if an expolitical prisoner in Cuba can be released, there are other countries which will receive those prisoners. For example, in Venezuela there is a very large and active Cuban community with which I am very personally familiar having served in Venezuela and knowing many of those people.
Many Cubans who are unable to come directly to the United States for the reasons which you have cited can go to Venezuela, assuming the Castro government will let them go.
That often isn't the case. There are political prisoners-ex-political prisoners-in Cuba who have been released and who are not permitted to leave the country. Perhaps it was in that context that Castro said to you when he said that his security people don't let people go which I agree with Secretary Abrams that this is not, in fact, the case.
Castro could let them go and obviously he doesn't want to. I am not saying this to contradict the point which you have made, and I repeat that it is under very active consideration. We will view it in the light of some of the remarks which Mr. Castro is supposed to have made to Mr. Jackson on the present trip, that he's changed his mind about not talking to us about Mariel.
We'll keep this under very active review.
Mr. WEISS. Well, I must tell you that if I were one of those who is not allowed to come in, having been made the commitment that we could, I do not feel very satisfied by the kind of response you've given.
I mean we can heap all of the justifiable blame on Castro's shoulder, but when you have situations such as this it seems to me that you ought to be working with us to find a way of removing the redtape and of easing the situation instead of citing the redtape as a justification for not resolving it.
I hope that you would so seriously consider it that you would come to Congress if you felt it was essential, although apparently there's some question as to whether, in fact, it's really essential. My understanding is that it takes a positive act on the part of the Attorney General to trigger that provision and absent that, you can grant parole in any event. But, be that as it may I just think that we have less than real cause to be proud of the way we've addressed this problem.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. YATRON. Thank you, Mr. Weiss. Mr. Solomon.
Mr. SOLOMON. Yes, Mr. Chairman. I really don't think that there is that much of a problem. It seems to me if there are true political prisoners, anti-Communists, who want to get out of Cuba and want to get into our country, I think we can get them in here and I'd be glad to entertain any particular names and assist them.
I am much more concerned about the hundreds of thousands of Cubans who have applied to emigrate out of Cuba into this country. Mr. Secretary, you mentioned that there are some 200,000there's'a backlog of some 200,000 cases and that those who opt to leave Cuba lose their jobs, their ration cards, food, housing, personal possessions simply because they don't try to illegally leave the country. They try to go through the normal procedure and obey the law and then they are discriminated against like this. I just find that really appalling.
What kind of pressures can be done to correct something like that? Let me just say this-aside from Radio Marti, what positive steps can the United States take to encourage the Cuban people to give them some hope and how can we address their plight to try to help them?
Mr. ABRAMS. I think it's very important and I think the most important way of doing that is to make sure that the facts about the Castro regime are known. I don't have the passage with me but there is a very moving statement by Mr. Valladares about the effect, for example, on prisoners in jail of hearing American groups who come to Cuba and issue the kind of statement that I read before. In his statement, he said this really hurts worse than the blows of the jailers.
I think it's very important that both here and throughout the West the facts are known and the pressure on Castro keeps coming as his own support in the West dries up so that he's not thought of as some kind of hero of the left or as some kind of great international adventurer.
We try to do that, for example, through various international bodies and international institutions where it just has not in the
past been possible to criticize Cuba or Castro, for example in the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
I think that the greatest pressure at this point would come if Castro were abandoned by the kind of supporters he's had here and abroad over the past decades.
Mr. SOLOMON. Mr. Secretary, you also mentioned the tremendous subsidy that Cuba gets directly from the Soviet Union. In addition to that we have the terrible problem of drugs being smuggled into this country, and I don't believe you touched on that.
Is there a problem as far as Cuba is concerned with drugs coming into this country? Maybe this is not the right place to be asking the question. If it isn't we'll defer it.
Mr. ABRAMS. Let me say first that there is an excellent publication which the Cuban-American National Foundation has put out on Castro's involvement in the drug trade and to which I would refer anyone interested in this subject but I wonder if I could ask Mr. Skoug to respond.
Mr. SKOUG. Well, sir, again we're aware of congressional interest in this subject and there are on record past statements by ex-Assistant Secretary Enders and more recently by Senior Deputy Assistant Secretary Michel to congressional committees addressing this particular problem.
Most of them are taken from the so-called Guillot-Lara case in which there were indictments and convictions in Florida involving the indictment of four officials of the Cuban Government for their participation in efforts to move drugs from-into the United States through Cuban waters. I would refer you to those statements as examples of this sort of activity. We don't think that this is major in the sense of the total movement of drugs to the United States.
Obviously there are many sources of drugs. All we can say is that we know that Cuba has participated in this in the past due to its interest in supplying guerrillas and revolutionaries, in the particular case at hand the M-19 in Colombia. There is no indication that this has necessarily stopped.
Mr. S OLOMON. I thank you. Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. YATRON. The gentleman from Illinois, Mr. Hyde.
Mr. HYDE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I never failed to stand in awe of our ability to have a hearing on human rights in Cuba and end up making the administration the villain in some aspect or other. Mr. Smith, who has made a career out of criticizing the administration and its attitude toward Cuba, has written a letter to the New York Times and apparently we have not been facilitating the exit from Cuba of political prisoners that have permission, the permission of the Castro regime to exit.
Now your response to that is that there have been about 1,000 of these political prisoners that have exited, emigrated to second countries or to third countries and then from these third countries to the United States so how many are left who have permission from the Castro regime to leave that are awaiting United States activity in this regard?
How many people has our intransigence affected?
Mr. SKOUG. Well, we don't have a precise figure of the number of persons who would be available if this program in Cuba were to be resumed.
One could deduct from the number who were waiting at the time and the 1,000 who have gone elsewhere and perhaps others who have gone elsewhere and stayed and did not come on to the United States that the number could be 1,000 or slightly higher plus their families.
,Mr. HYDE. So we have 1,000 people and their families who can leave any time we get our act together and they accept them. Is that correct?
Mr. SKOUG. Well, it would not be entirely clear. I think this would require revalidation of the exit permit by the Castro government. Obviously this would not be something we could be able to decide unilaterally.
Mr. HYDE. Well, I understand that. I am trying to find out if there is a problem and where the blame lies. The boatlift was in 1982. Is that correct?
Mr. SKOUG. No; it was in 1980, sir.
Mr. HYDE. 1980? And our law which forbids accepting people from one country because they won't accept people that we wish to deport from ours, that section 243(h) did you say?
Mr. SKOUG. (g).
Mr. HYDE. 243(g). That has been an inhibiting factor in facilitating the exit from Cuba of these political prisoners. Is that right?
Mr. SKouG. Well, if I may review briefly the record, sir, at the end of 1980 just before it went out of office, the last administration attempted to negotiate with Cuba the return of a number of the persons from the Mariel boatlift who were considered to be the most undesirable, that is people who had admitted serious crimes in Cuba, who were psychiatric cases or for some other reason were clearly excludable from the United States on substantive grounds, not only that they had arrived illegally but that they had done something of a nature that we could not accept them.
The Cubans said that they would talk about that. We agreed to talk about that in the context of restoring normal migration between the United States and Cuba. There were discussions in December 1980. They resumed in January 1981. It turned out that all the Cubans were willing to do at that time was take back persons from Mariel who wanted to go back.
As we know, that would be virtually nobody. There's hardly anybody who would volunteer to go back to Cuba. We were talking about people who were here illegally on substantive grounds whom we wanted to return plus whoever wanted to return.
Mr. HYDE. All right, so Cuba was not cooperative at all.
Mr. SKOUG. Cuba refused upon request to take those persons back; 243(g) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act is quite clear on this point and says when a government refuses to take back persons who upon request or unduly delays their return, normal issuance of preference immigrant visas will be suspended in that site, that is in the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.
So the situation which had started at the time of the riot outside of our Interests Section in 1980, to which Mr. Abrams referred, continued. We asked the Cubans subsequently through diplomatic
channels if there was any change in the Cuban position on this issue, that is of taking back the Mariel people we wanted to return. We were told there had not been. However, we received conflicting signals from others who said, yes, the Cubans would talk. So in May of 1983 we formally requested through a diplomatic note that we discuss this issue.
We presented them with a list of a number of undesirable persons we wanted them to take back. We said if you take them back, there will be other lists, and we will be glad to resume normal visa issuance when this has been accomplished. Mr. HYDE. All right. Well, stop right there. At this point as I get the picture, their intransigence in accepting back undesirables that they foisted on us, we're retaliating by not accepting political prisoners who are doubtless anti-Communist and would like to leave Cuba and have the permission of the Cuban Government to go. I don't see the equity there. I think we're talking chickens and horses here.
Mr. SKOUG. Insofar as you're talking about the major bargaining element, you're talking about normal issuance of preference visas. That would be the overwhelming number. That could be up to 20,000 persons a year. Cuba has a great deal of interest in the issuance of visas of those persons, and it gets a large financial reward for issuing exit permits for them and for other documents which they would need to leave the country.
In other words this was a bargaining element.
Mr. HYDE. How are you punishing Castro by not accepting these political prisoners? Isn't this causing humanitarianism suffering? Aren't you leaving people in a state of jeopardy because he won't take back? Why should he take them back?
They're a burden on his economy. He's not going to take them back. I just don't see the balance between what we want from him and what we want him to take from us.
Mr. SKOUG. Well, the balance isn't the political prisoners. The balance is the resumption of normal visa issuance and
Mr. HYDE. Then we put the political prisoners aside. That's our mistake then it would seem to me. We don't like to be critical. I don't like to join in the political lynching because the problem is much more sensitive than that but 4 years of saying the law doesn't permit it is 4 years too long. We ought to come up here with some recommendations on changing the law to provide the flexibility that is necessary to accept-if there's anybody I want in this country it's anti-Communist Cubans.
We can use all we can get if you ask me and not the insane ones and not the criminal ones but the political prisoners.
Well, I just think with due respect that we can't drag our feet. We ought to recommend some changes in that law, and we ought to accept political prisoners who are otherwise qualified to come to this country from Cuba. I grant you, we're not the haven for every political prisoner in the world and we ought not be but I don't want anyone to legitimately point to our Government as the stumbling block to getting these people to freedom.
Mr. SKOUG. As I understand you, you're distinguishing between the preference visas and the political prisoners.
Mr. HYDE. Exactly, exactly.
Mr. SKouG. That is under active consideration, sir. Mr. ABRAMS. Let me say, Mr. Hyde, we'd be glad to carry back your concern and that of other members of the committee to the Secretary.
Mr. HYDE. Very good. Thank you. I appreciate that.
Mr. YATRON. Thank you.
Mr. LEACH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would only add one footnote to what my distinguished friend from Illinois referenced. Not only would we like anti-Communist Cubans in this country, but I think the party of Lincoln would like to make it clear that they'd be invited to Dallas to listen to a convention.
Mr. HYDE. I want them first to go to San Francisco. Then they can come to Dallas. [Laughter.]
Mr. LEACH. Is that like going to East Berlin and then to the West? I am not sure. [Laughter.]
Chairman FASCELL. Well, I really can't speak for anybody on the conventions, but I want to tell you this. They'd be certainly welcome on the inside of the convention in San Francisco. I am sure they'll be on the inside in the convention in Dallas.
Mr. LEACH. Mr. Chairman, I think we in the minority would have to recognize that there will be one or two sane people like yourself in San Francisco. [Laughter.]
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Yatron, too, I hasten to add.
Mr. LEACH. Of course, of course.
Well, I frankly hope we can get on to the other witnesses but I would like to make one small point and ask a question related to it, Mr. Secretary. As I understand it, so-called workers republics pride themselves as being prolabor and they pride themselves as being equalitarian.
In Cuba we have a situation where free trade unions are not allowed and despite the fact that a visiting black Presidential candidate has been there, they have very few blacks in the administration.
Is that an accurate portrayal of the situation in Cuba today?
Mr. ABRAMS. Yes; it is. I think it's fair to say that the Communist regimes watch each other carefully and learn from each other as the Nicaraguans learn from Castro.
Castro, in a sense, learned from Poland and when people started to form something that might have been an independent labor movement, he sentenced them to death.
NUMBER OF BLACKS IN THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT
Mr. LEACH. Can you comment on the percentage of blacks in the Cuban Government?
Mr. ABRAMS. The data that came from this article in the Miami Herald indicates that they can cite statistics, no doubt, but if you look at the high levels at the real policymaking jobs like the Politburo, Central Committee, the Cabinet, who were the Provincial Party chiefs in the 14 provinces, there is a vast, vast under representation in the Politburo, in fact, no blacks. Among Cuba's ambassadors to foreign countries currently no blacks in a country that is 50 percent or more than 50 percent black and mulatto.
Mr. HYDE. Would the gentleman yield to me for a minute? Mr. LEACH. I'd be happy to yield.
Mr. HYDE. I appreciate that. You know, you've got a Cuban expeditionary force in Angola fighting black anti-Marxists over there and what Cuba gets out of it, I don't know, but if you visit Cuba, as I am sure you have, a beautiful country with beautiful people who love Americans who have everything going for them, climate, natural beauty, that country could be a jewel in the Caribbean.
Instead it is a depressed poverty State and it is geared for conflict rather than economic growth and freedom. As a great object lesson it would seem to me and you cited the statistics on the gross national product per capita, how the rate of growth is the lowest in the entire area, and it should be among the highest-how we would love to trade with Cuba.
What a holiday that would be. What a tourist haven. So many things-sports events, the beaches, but they're geared for conflict. The Communists want to fight. They're going to fight and they're going to fight the blacks in Africa and are going to fight anybody that they get a chance to to aid mother Russia, not the Cuban people.
They're geared for conflict and tragically Nicaragua is going the same route, spending all of their money on a military machine that is out of proportion for their defense needs. We are eager to do business with Nicaragua. I voted for millions of dollars for them to get started, but they're going the same way, headed for conflict, not economic growth.
It is so sad. It is so tragic and I am pleased you brought that out and I thank you for yielding the time. I just-when you start talking about the blacks and racism down there-they're over there fighting in Africa for what, just to debilitate their country even more, but serve the interests of the Soviet Union and we shouldn't let Nicaragua or Costa Rica or Honduras or El Salvador go that same route either.
We've got a duty not to let that happen. Thank you.
I thank you for letting me have the time.
Mr. LEACH. Mr. Chairman, I suspect my time has expired. Thank you.
Mr. YATRON. Thank you very much, Mr. Leach. Secretary Abrams, we want to thank you and your associate, Mr. Skoug, for being here before the two subcommittees today.
Mr. ABRAMS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. YATRON. Thank you very much.
We have a number of witnesses who will be testifying today so it will be very much appreciated if each witness would keep his or her testimony to approximately 5 minutes. That way we can allow some time for a question and answer period.
Our next panel of witnesses includes: Mr. Armando Valladares, a Cuban poet and former Cuban political prisoner; Mr. Walter Thomas White, an American citizen who served 14 months in Cuba's prisons for distributing religious literature; and Dr. Carlos Ripoll, professor of romance languages at Queens College.
Will you gentlemen and the interpreter please come forward to the witness table. Mr. Valladares will be presenting his testimony through an interpreter. Will you please proceed, sir?
STATEMENT OF ARMANDO VALLADARES, CUBAN POET AND
FORMER CUBAN POLITICAL PRISONER
Mr. VALLADARES. Good morning to all. My name is Armando Valladares. I spent 22 years in Castro's political prisons. On behalf of my fellow prisoners I want to thank you for this opportunity to describe the human rights situation in Cuba.
Since 1959 the systematic violation of human rights in Cuba has exemplified the very essence of the revolution. The suppression of all freedoms is even included in articles of the Cuban Socialist Constitution.
Those who disagree with Castro go to jail. Those who plot against the regime are tortured in the dungeons of the political police who try to extract confessions and many are executed after secret trials.
About 40,000 Cubans have been executed by firing squads. When Amnesty International asked the Government of Cuba to abolish the death penalty, Vice President Carlos Rafael Rodriguez of Cuba replied that the death penalty was necessary in Cuba.
TORTURE IS A SYSTEMATIC PRACTICE
Last April in Copenhagen the Sakharov International Committee heard the witness of former political prisoners who had been tortured in Cuba and who, could show the mutilated signs of the tortures.
At the completion of that presentation the distinguished members of the committee concluded that in Cuba torture is a systematic practice.
For 25 years Cuban political prisoners have been subjected to one of the most cruel, inhuman, and degrading prison systems that the Americas have ever known. Castro's regime has been characterized by murder, physical and mental torture; inadequate and nauseating food; lack of medical attention; a ban on visitors and correspondence; political indoctrination and forced labor; arbitrary reimposition of sentences thus illegally and indefinitely extending their time of their incarceration; solitary confinement in walled-up cells where prisoners-age and die without seeing the light of the Sun; biological and psychological experiments; blows with sticks, iron rods, chains, cables, bayonets; and humiliating treatment including nakedness.
Internal opposition has never stopped. Last year 200 peasants were arrested. In the course of their investigation the political police found out that among them was a group trying to organize an independent campesino union, and for this reason 11 campesinos were executed.
At the present time executions also extend to religious workers as in the cases of Jesus Prieto, Saul Rey, and Efren Noriegas, three Jehovah's Witnesses. They were executed for printing Biblical material.
Students are also affected. Carlos Alberto Gutierrez was recently executed because he wrote criticisms of the dictatorship on walls.
At the present time 250 prisoners have refused political rehabilitation and face very difficult situations. Since the beginning of 1981 they have been held totally incommunicado in sealed cells where they never see the light of day. They live in nakedness on the floor,
receive no medical care, correspondence or visitors, and sometimes are subjected to physical punishment and mental torture. Thirty of these prisoners have completed their original sentences, but have not been freed.
I would like to stress some of the cases of my former companions who are in deplorable states of health.
Roberto Martin Perez Rodriguez sentenced to 30 years, has already completed 25 years. He was shot in the testicles and we don't know the present status of his health.
Humberto Noble Alexander, a pastor in the Adventist Church, who completed his original sentence of 20 years 2 years ago has not been freed. I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to make a special plea to the Reverend Jackson for the release of this man, who is also black and also a pastor.
Juan Gonzalez Ruiz, a humble construction worker, is seriously ill. He has degenerative arthritis and a very bad gallbladder, but is being held incommunicado, and receives no medical care.
Ernesto Diaz Rodriguez, a poet, suffers from a bleeding gastric ulcer and is denied medical attention.
The list of chronically ill persons is very long: Marquez Trillo, Garcia Placensia, Valdes Teran, Humberto Delgado y Prado, have each suffered several coronaries. Miguel Canton, Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo, the former revolutionary commandant who fought side by side with Castro, Chanes, and Guinals are seriously ill.
Cuba today has more long-term political prisoners than any country in the Americas. These are people who have fought for democracy and for freedom, for God and for justice. For this reason and for humanity's sake, they deserve the attention and the intervention of people throughout the world so that this torture will be stopped, so that they will be freed and permitted to leave a society in which they do not wish to live.
That is why it is so important to make these realities known, to fight for the respect of human rights in Cuba, and to establish foundations such as the National Endowment for Democracy.
I must repeat that only public campaigns can save them. A few days ago the poet, Jorge Valls left Cuba after completing 20 years in jail. This was done thanks to the publication of his book in Europe and the help of the Cuban American National Foundation which has mounted a great public opinon campaign for the freedom of political prisoners.
If we can do the same for the rest of Cuba's prisoners, Castro would be forced, as he was forced in my case and in the case of Jorge Valls, to free them.
Thank you very much.
[Mr. Valladares' prepared statement follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF ARMANDO VALLADARES, CUBAN POET AND FORMER CUBAN POLITICAL PRISONER
My name is Armando Valladares. I was a political prisoner in Castro's prisons for 22 years. I would like to express my gratitude and that of my fellow political prisoners for this opportunity to tell you about the situation of human rights in Cuba. Not even the most fervent supporters of
Fidel Castro can refute the fact that a totalitarian regime has existed in my country for over a quarter of a century. It is impossible for any dictatorship, whether on the right or on the left, to remain in power without seriously violating human rights. Its own existence is evidence of the violation of human rights.
Since 1959 the violation of human rights in Cuba has been common practice; it is the essemce of the revolution.
The suppression of all freedoms is reflected even in the socialist constitution of Cuba.
Those who disagree with the government go to prison; those who conspire against the regime are tortured in the dungeons of the political police who seek information. Many are, executed after secret trials. About 40,000 Cubans have died against the execution walls within Castro's prisons. When Amnesty International requested that the the Cuban government abolish the death penalty, Cuba's Vice President, Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, responded that the death penalty was necessary in Cuba.
This past April, The International Sakharov Coimittee received testimony
in Copenhagen from Cuban political prisoners who had been tortured and could
show on their own bodies the mutilations and scars resulting from the abuse
they received. At the end of the session, the Committee concluded that
torture is practiced systematically in Cuba.
The use of torture in Cuban political prisons has been reported by the
Inter-American Commiission on Human Rights and other organizations.
Nevertheless, it has been impossible for the United Nations Commission on
Human Rights to look into the Cuban situation and the extensive documentation
that has been submitted, mysteriously disappears from its files. Yet the
Cuban government was offered a seat on the Conmmission so that Havana could
Judge the violation of human rights in other countries.
During the last twenty-five years Cuba's political prisoners have
suffered under one of the cruelest, most inhumane and degrading prison systems
known in the Americas. Castro's prison system is characterized by:
*murders and physical and mental torture;
*insufficient and rotten food;
*no family visits and a ban on relatives
sending food and mail;
*imposition of forced labor and political
*arbitrary re-imposition of sentences to
prisoners who have completed their terms,
thus illegally extending their time of
*massive round-ups of those who have been
released and the indiscriminate shipment to
work-camps in inhospitable regions;
*solitary confinement in walled-up cells
where the prisoners suffer and die without
*the use of political prisoners for
biological and psychological experiments;
*beatings with sticks, iron bars, chains,
*and the imposition of numerous indignities,
To tell you. in just a few minutes, of twenty-five years of atrocities, is indeed impossible. In summary, just let me say that from its very
beginning the government of Fidel Castro initiated its so-called revolutionary justice". implacable persecution and the promotion of community hate and terror.
At the beginning, repression and terror were applied to members of the previous regime, their families, and individuals more or less related to them. Somewhat later the same "revolutionary justice" was applied to everyone who disagreed with the government's actions, or its political, economic or social goals.
While the executions were being heard throughout the country, arbitrary persecution, illegal detention, the suspension of habeas corpus, and the violation of internationally recognized rights became common practice. The right to be informed of the charges against you, the right to have an attorney represent you without government coercion, the right to en impartial trial by regular courts, the guarantee against retroactive laws, and the protection against being tried more than once for a given crime, disappeared from the Cuban system. Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists have denounced many of these practices.
When the imposition of a political system that went against the idlosyncracy and wishes of the majority of the Cuban people, and the systematic application of terror to uphold the regime, took place, the early efforts of resistance and rebelliousness were born.
Those who were detained because of their opposition were also subjected
to repression and terror while in prison. Thus, physical and mental mistreatment of prisoners became a common practice. Those abuses extend
through the whole spectrum of violence: from physical harm, such as the loss of organs and limbs, to mental abuse resulting in insanity, to murder.
There have been prisoners who were detained and released after years of confinement without knowing the reason for their inprisonment. Others, after years in prison without trials or sentencing, have been taken out of their cells and executed.
In spite of all this terror, the Cubans have not reacted docilely to the dictatorship. Internal opposition has never ceased to exist, and, as a result, repression grows daily, although little is known abroad of Cubans who struggle for freedom.
Last year, 200 peasants were detained because they opted to burn their
crops rather than turn them over to the government. When the political police started an investigation, it was discovered that among them there was a group engaged in organizing an independent peasant union. Eleven were executed.
The case of five labor unionists sentenced to die for attempting to
organize a union patterned on Solidarity became known. As a result of international public concern, their death sentences were commuted.
Religious believers were also executed: Jesus Prieto, Saul Rey and Efren Noriegas, three Jehovah's Witnesses, solely for printing religious material. The political police argued that they were promoting an armed uprising. Students, like Carlos Alberto Gutierrez who was executed for writing anti-regime slogans, have also been victims of the official terror.
Currently, throughout the island, eleven courts pass death sentences, and those concerned about human rights smuggle out dramatic denunciations.
Ricardo Bofill, a Marxist dissident is imprisoned for a third time. This time for 12 years, for speaking with French journalists. He is accused of participating in a human rights group.
Last October 10th, Cuba's Vice President and a former Minister in
Batista's government, Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, was interviewed by Diario 16 of Madrid. He was asked about groups within Cuba concerned with human rights and unions rights. The Cuban Vice President responded that such people do exist but that their weird ideas only deserve ridicule. The Cuban government labels the wishes of the Cuban people for freedom and respect for human dignity as Weird ideas worthy of ridicule.*
Today, 250 prisoners who refuse political rehabilitation face a very difficult situation. From the beginning of 1981 they found themselves incommunicado, in sealed cells where they never see sunlight. They have been stripped and forced to live naked, sleeping on the floor, without medical care, correspondence or visits of any kind. They are subjected to corporal puni-shment and mental torture.
About 30 have completed their sentences but the government will not free them as punishment for their unwillingness to accept political indoctrination which the government sets as a precondition for their release.
I would like to highlight the cases of some of my fellow political prisoners whose suffering is aggravated by deplorable health conditions.
1. Roberto Martin Perez Rodriguez was condemned to 30 years for entering the country clandestinely. He has completed a 25-year sentence. He is one of the oldest political prisoners in the Americas. He was shot in the groin and his present health condition is unknown.
2. Humberto Noble Alexander, a Baptist pastor, completed his original 20-year sentence two years ago. He remains imprisoned, singled out for additional punishment for his religious activities while in jail. He is chronically ill.
3. Juan Gonzalez Rulz, humble mason, also gravely ill due to
degenerative arthritis and chronic infected gall bladder, is incommunicado and lacks medical care.
4. Ernesto Diaz Rodriguez, poet and fisherman, suffers from a bleeding gastric ulcer. He is refused medical treastment. He has been held incommunicado for more than 3 years.
The long list of the chronically ill includes: Marquez Trillo, Garcia
Placensia, Valdes Teran, Miguel Canton. Humberto Delgado y Prado has suffered several heart attacks. Former rebel Army commanders who fought at Castro's side, Gutierrez Menoyo, Chanes and Guin, are also on this list.
I must point out that Cuba's political prisoners were not charged with crimes resulting in death. Those who were accused of the most serious political crimes were summarily executed according to revolutionary decrees.
Another 2000 former political prisoners in Cuba are victims of
discrimination and constant government oppression. They have been turned into pariahs in their own country. They are refused decent work and some are detained periodically for harsh interrogation.
It is sad that the Cuban authorities tell them they cannot leave the country because the United States will not grant them visas. It should be remembered that during the Carter Adminstration, entry visas were denied to former political prisoners because of the Cuban government's refusal to accept the return of criminals who had been sent to the United States by the regime during the Mariel boatlift. I have never been able to understand why such measures continue to be taken against these men who have given daily evidence for more than 25 years of their love for democracy and freedom.
It is for this reason that Dr. Andres Vargas Gomez, grandson of General Maximo Gomez, one of Cuba's heroes during its War of Independence, is still in Cuba.. It is for the same reason that the poet Angel Cuadra and the Marxist dissident Rivero Caro are still on the island.
Cuba's political prisoners are serving the longest terms in the
Americas. They suffer for their belief in God, democracy and justice, the values on which free societies are based.
Because of their suffering, and on humanitarian grounds, they merit the attention and support of men and institutions everywhere; so that their tortures come to an end, they are liberated, and they are allowed to leave a society where they do not wish to live.
This is w1w I think that the creation of organizations such as the
National Endowment for Democracy are so important: to make known the Cuban
reality, and to support the struggle for human rights in Cuba.
Only an aroused public opinion could save Castro's prisoners. A few days
ago, Cuban poet Jorge Valls was released and allowed to leave Cuba after 20
years in Castro's gulag. It is no accident that he was released after the
Cuban American National Foundation helped publish, in Europe, a book of his
poems smuggled out of prison. If we could do the same on behalf of the rest
of the men and women who suffer in Castro's jails, prison farms and work
camps, as it was done-in my own case, they would be free.
Mr. YATRON. Thank you very much, Mr. Valladares, for being here -and also for your very touching statement. I know that we are all very sympathetic for the pain and suffering that you have gone through.
The next witness is Walter White. Mr. White, we look forward to hearing your statement. You may proceed.
STATEMENT OF WALTER THOMAS WHITE, AMERICAN CITIZEN AND FORMER PRISONER IN CUBAN JAILS
Mr. WHITE. Thank you. Mr. Chairman, subcommittees, ladies and gentlemen, having just flown in from California this morning and being contacted yesterday about this meeting I have a few brief remarks. A formal statement will be released in a few days.
First of all I'd like to thank Congressman Gilman who is not here today and various other Congressmen, members of the Human Rights Committee, those who fought for my release from prison from Cuba 4 years ago. My wife, my two young children thank you for cutting 22 years off of my prison sentence.
A quick brief history of my case and then my petitions. Fidel Castro, during his first 2 years of administration, systematically destroyed 140,000 Bibles according to the American Bible Society by placing them in sugar mills. The Bibles were ground to pulp. The leather covers were saved and made into purses and wallets.
The recycled material from these Bibles was used to make his Communist newspaper, the Granma. This is just one example of Castro's systematic persecution and oppression of religion in Cuba. As you may know in Cuba today there are no Christian book stores. You cannot buy Christian or religious material anywhere in Cuba.
There are no Sunday schools. Children under 18 years of age are not permitted to go to Sunday school.
Article 54 of the Cuban Constitution states that socialist state believes in the state of scientific materialism.
I was privileged to meet Armando Valladares in Combinado Deleste Prison 13 kilometers east of Havana, due to the fact that I flew with other friends at night over Cuba for 7 years and dropped a half a million leaflets laminated in mylar plastic. Those were Christian leaflets and for that, Fidel Castro-I was informed by the State Department here personally delivered and doubled our sentence of Mel Bailey, the other pilot and myself from an original sentence of 12 to 15 years to a maximum sentence of 24 years.
Due to your graces and the grace of God we were released a week before the Carter/Reagan elections. I have brought here today, to submit before you, hymn sheets that we hand-copied in prison. Other Cuban prisoners-Noble Alexander also, hand-copied these on cigarette paper.
This is a Ligeros cigarette package. On the back is one of these hymns. I brought several others on scrap paper, on rag paper. These were made and typed-they're not typed, but are copied with homemade ink and pens. Some of these pens are 15 years old.
A few weeks after we left Cuba all remaining religious materials in any Cuban cells were confiscated by Lieutenant Calsada and destroyed, a systematic destruction of these. None of these Cubans in prison today are permitted religious visits, spiritual visits from any one on the outside.
They feel as if they're totally cut off. We had to take communion in secret while we were in prison. We'd hide in the garbage elevator and go to be with the Cubans, although I was in an international section.
I'd like to, in closing, to mention Humberto Noble Alexander who Mr. Valladares also mentioned. Mr. Alexander is one of the 23 prisoners on Mr. Jackson's list in Havana today, and I am personally acquainted with all 23 of those people. I was personally in their wing. They're on the fourth floor of Building 2 of Combinato Del Este Prison in Havana, Cuba.
Noble's sentence was a 20-year sentence for preaching on original sin in the city of Matanzas. It was a regular sermon but the Communists took offense saying, "Well, if you are preaching about sin that means we' re sinners, too. You can't say that we're sinners also." He was sentenced to 20 years in 1962. His sentence was up in 1982. He remains in prison today, 2 years past his sentencing. His back has scars on it. I, have touched those scars myself. He is still my dearest friend in Cuba. The scars are from chips of concrete and lead where the -guards would fire their AK-47 machineguns into the circle of men who would be singing hymns on the prison patio to scare them. The chips of concrete would be buried in their chests and their backs-those who didn't run in fear from the molesting.
Certain Sundays when things were a little more loose in the system I was able to sneak over to the Cuban side and we would have a church service where Pastor Noble would spread a sheet over a board and that would be his pulpit. He is the most loving, kind person I've ever met. He holds hatred toward no one, but he does not agree naturally with the Communist regime in Cuba.
He was secretly ordained by ministers in prison, by five ministers he met there during the visit session. He has been in six or seven different prisons in Cuba for over 20 years.
In closing I would just like to state that there are several of my friends that are Cubans that have white hair, that have no teeth. They have kidney problems, heart problems. Of these 22 on Jackson's list they have never seen their grandchildren. Some of their grandchildren even have children. They have never seen any of them because they have been in prison for over two decades. I deeply appreciate the Congressmen this morning and this afternoon bringing up this thing about the law 243(g) of which I am really not aware of.
Anything that we can do, anything at all to put a little key in the door as you did with my case would be deeply appreciated and it would bear fruit as we sitting before you here this morning are the fruit of your labors and the grace of God in days past.
Thank you very much.
Mr. YATRON. Thank you very much Mr. White, for being here and letting us benefit from your statement. When your written statement arrives it will be included in its entirety in the record. We know you, too, have suffered and we're very grateful that you could be here with us today.
Our final witness on this panel is Carlos Ripoll. Dr. Ripoll, please go ahead with your statement.
STATEMENT OF CARLOS RIPOLL, PROFESSOR OF ROMANTIC
LANGUAGES, QUEENS COLLEGE
Mr. RiPOLL. Thank you. I would first like to thank you for inviting me here today to state my point of view regarding the present status of human rights in Cuba.
ONLY RIGHTS OF THE STATE
It is a difficult subject to address. The Government of Cuba does not, in fact, recognize individual rights, but only those of the state.
Cuba's Socialist Constitution-adopted in 1976-grants certain rights to the individual but those rights are rendered now by article 61 of the same document in which it is stated clearly that, and I quote, "None of the freedoms which are recognized for citizens may be exercised contrary to the existence and objectives of the socialist state."
The rights of man are defined in the American Declaration of Independence as those which by their very nature are inalienable.
In other words those rights pertain to every man. To subject the individual human liberties to the whims of the government like Fidel Castro's even when they claim to be working toward collective progress is inconsistent with the nature of those rights.
Almost 100 years ago Jose Marti, founder of the Cuban nation wisely warned that "Freedoms" and I am quoting "like privileges, prevail or are imperiled together. You cannot harm or strive to achieve one without harming or furthering all."
Since its foundation in 1976 by the late Elena Mederos, a champion of human rights in Cuba, I have collaborated with Of Human Rights, a Washington-based independent organization that moni-
tors violations of human rights in Cuba. I will be addressing the issues of freedom of expression and information in Cuba because, as a professor of literature at Queens College of the City University of New York, I am particularly interested in those freedoms.
Beyond that, I firmly believe that freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and the touchstone of all freedoms as it was described by the General Assembly of the United Nations at its inaugural session in 1946.
The report that I am submitting to this committee is an updated version of a report I presented last year to the Organization of American States on the same subject. The report includes a brief historical background about the struggle with which the Cuban nation through two wars of independence and 57 years of developing democratic form of government and which was forcibly stopped by the imposition of a Marxist-Leninist system upon Cuban society.
The introduction is followed by an explanation of the process through which the Cuban Government has secured absolute control over the mass media, a development directly related to the main subject of the report, which is violations of freedom of expression and information by the government of Fidel Castro.
To summarize briefly, shortly after it came to power the Castro regime ordered the confiscation of all newspapers, magazines, and radio and television stations that had served the interests of the Batista dictatorship. Later, and in more arbitrary form, the rest of the media were expropriated and nationalized until absolute government control over all means of information was achieved.
This second part of the report sheds light on the total lack of unbia ed information available to Cuban citizens and is a warning against the inevitable repetition of such events in Latin American countries if their governments shape themselves on the pattern of the Cuban revolution.
Nicaragua where severe censorship of the press began with the declaration of the state of emergency 2 years ago is a case in point. The Sandinista elements that control the Council of State recently proposed a law which, among other restrictions, would have compelled foreign and local journalists to reveal their sources of information. That would have enabled the Government to control all broadcasting.
Fortunately, only 2 weeks ago, the proposal was withdrawn under pressure from the few opposition members of the Council.
The first victim of censorship is always the press, because no totalitarian government can withstand criticism much less public denunciation of its errors and excesses.
The next victim is always the creative writer, because his mission is to question dogma. Therefore, the report continues with factual accounts and testimony about the absence of creative freedom in Cuba and about the repression to which writers are subjected.
There can be no more eloquent proof of repression in Cuba than the silence imposed on its poets and writers and the numbers among them who have sought exile in order to survive.
TWO SOURCES OF DISSIDENCE IN CUBA
There are two important sources of dissidence in Cuba today, and both could bring substantial change to the country in the future. The first source is made up of those who might be called the technopragmatists, young professionals schooled in and by the system in the last 25 years who find themselves relegated to lower and unimportant echelons in the government. These men and women are not permitted active participation in policymaking or in the running of the country.
They are, instead, angry and silent witnesses of the repeated mistakes made by the old guerrillas and Communist Party elders in every segment of the economy, the political structure and the obsessive internationalist adventures launched by Fidel Castro.
The other focus of dissidence can be found in the very ranks of Socialists, Marxists and adherents to other forms of leftist thought. These men and women reject the Stalinist practices of the Cuban Government. Most of them have been ostracized from the political process and many are harassed and even jailed.
I would like to read to you a paragraph from a letter smuggled out of Cuba. The identity of the author cannot be revealed for obvious reasons. Suffice it to say that he is a veteran Communist presently imprisoned for having voiced his opposition to the Castro government and the letter says, and I quote: If my friends and I owe anything to these last 15 years of persecution and jail, it is the possibility of evolving in a positive direction from the superfluous and radical socialist (communist) positions of former periods to the profound 'and galvanized democratic convictions we hold at the present time. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that there exists in Cuba today-this letter was received in this country last year-a potentially powerful democratic socialist movement among the Cuban intelligentsia, among the better informed sectors of our society and even in the very heart of the Cuban Communist Party, of government agencies, research centers and institutions of higher education. It is worth noting the spontaneous empathy with which our people only recently were following the democratic struggle of the Polish workers. I am convinced that in a not too distant future the pluralistic model which needs to be implemented in our country will include as part of its democratic structure a socialist component that can work on equal parity with Christians, nationalists, ecologists and the thousands of personal denominations possible, toward achieving exemplary respect for human rights and for social justice.
It is because I consider this type of dissidence so important and because it is yet another manifestation of the absence of freedom of thought which prevails in Cuba, that the last part of my report deals with the cases of Ariel Hidalgo and Ricardo Bofill.
These two young professors have recently been sentenced to long jail terms for having voiced their political opinions under present Cuban Government. These two cases reveal once again the extent to which freedom of expression and thought are absent in Cuba and the severity of the punishment inflicted upon those who dare to exercise their basic human rights.
On the basis of the information set forth in this report, one can easily conclude that there is neither freedom of information or freedom of expression in Cuba today, if we understand these freedoms to be those proclaimed in articles 18 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which state, and I quote,
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom either alone or in
community with others and in public or in private to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek,. receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
The Government of Cuba, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, continues to rule in violation of these rights.
Thank you very much.
[Mr. Ripoll's prepared statement follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF PROF. CARLOS RiPoLL, QUEENS COLLEGE OF THE CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND INFORMATION IN CUBA PRESENTATION
I would first like to thank you for inviting me here today to state my point of view regarding the present status of human rights in Cuba.
It is a difficult subject to address. The government of Cuba does not in fact recognize individual rights, but only those of the State. Cube's socialist constitution adopted in 1976 grants certain rights to the individual citizen, but those rights are rendered null by Article
61 of the same document, in which it is stated clearly that "None of the freedoms which are recognized for citizens may be exercised..,.contrary to the existence and objectives of the Socialist State."
The rights of man are defined in the Amserican Declaration of Independence as those which, by their very nature, are inalienable. In other words, those rights pertain to every man, and are not transferable.
To subject individual human liberties to the whims of illegitimate governments even when they claim to be working toward collective progressis inconsistent with the nature of those rights. Almost one hundred years ago, Jose Marti, founder of the Cuban nation, wisely warned that "Freedoms, like privileges, prevail or are imperiled together. You cannot harm or strive to achieve one without harming or furthering all."
Since its foundation in 1976 by the late Elena Nederos. a champion of human rights in Cuba, I have collaborated with "Of Human Rights," a Washington based independent organization that monitors violations of human rights in Cuba. I will be addressing the issues of freedom of expression and information in Cuba because, as a professor of literature at Queens College of the City University of New York, I am
particularly interested in those freedoms. Beyond that, I firmly believe that freedom of expression is 'a fundamental human
right and the touchstone of all freedoms," as it was described by the General Assembly of the United Nations at its inaugural session in 1946.
I recently had the opportunity to see an exhibition entitled "500 Years of censorship" at the New York Public Library. The entrance wall and the brochures given to the public bore these words of Thomas Jefferson: "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the minds of men." I believe that every free man should make the same' commitment.
The report I1 am submitting to this committee is an updated version of a report I presented last year to the Organization of American States on the same subject. The report includes a brief historical background about the struggle which touk
the Cuban, nation, through two wars of independence and fifty-seven years of developing a democratic form of government, and which was forcibly stopped by the imposition of a Marxist-Leninist
system upon Cuban society.
The introduction is followed by an explanation of the process
through which the Cuban government has secured absolute control over the mass media, a development directly related to the main subject of the report, which is violations of freedom of expression and information by the government of Fidel Castro. To summarize briefly: shortly after it came to power, the Castro regime ordered the confiscation of all newpapers, magazines, and radio and television stations that had served the interests of the Batista dictatorship. Later, and in more arbitrary fashion, the rest of the
media were expropriated and nationalized, until absolute government control over all means of information was achieved. This second
part of the report sheds light on the total lack of unbiased information available to Cuban citizens and is a warning against the inevitable repetition of such events in Latin Amierican countries if their governments shape themselves on the pattern of the Cuban revolution. Nicaragua, where severe censorship of the press began with the declaration of a state of emergency two years ago, is a case in point. The Sandinista elements that control the Council of State recently proposed a law which, among other restrictions, would have compelled foreign and local
journalists to reveal their sources of information. That would have enabled the government to control all broadcasting. Fortunately, only two weeks ago, the proposal was withdrawn under pressure from the few opposition members of the Council.
The first victim of censorship is always the Press, because no totalitarian government can withstand criticism, much less public denunciation of its errors and excesses. The next victim is always the creative writer, because his mission is to question dogma. Therefore, the report continues with factual accounts and testimony about the absence of creative freedom in Cuba and about the repression to which writers are subjected. There can be no more eloquent proof of repression in Cuba than the silence imposed on its poets and writers and the numbers among them who have sought exile in order to survive.
There are two important sources of dissidence in Cuba today, and both could bring substantial change to the country in the future. The
first source is made up of those who might be. called the "technopragmatists,"
young professionals schooled in and by the system in the last 25 years who find themselves relegated to lower and unimportant echelons in the government. These men and women are not permitted active participation in policy-making or in the running of the country. They are, instead, angry and silent witnesses of the repeated mistakes made by the old guerrillas and Communist Party elders in every segment of the economy, the political structure, and the obsessive internationalist adventures launched by Fidel Castro.
The other focus of. dissidence can be found in the very ranks of socialists, Marxists, and adherents to other forms of leftist thought. These men and women reject the Stalinist practices of the Cuban government. most of them have bean ostracized from the political process; many are harrassed and even jailed. I would like to read to you a paragraph from a letter smuggled out of Cuba. The identity of the author cannot be revealed f or obvious reasons. Suffice it to say that he is a veteran Communist presently imprisoned f or having voiced his opposition to the government. The letter says, and I quote:
"... If my friends and I owe anything to these last
fifteen years of persecution and jail, it is the
possibility of evolving in a positive direction from the superfluous and radical socialist (communist) positions of former periods to the profound and galvanized democratic convictions we hold at the present time. I can say without a shadow o a doubt that there exists in Cuba today fihe letter was received in this country
last year) a potentially powerful democratic
socialist movement among the Cuban intelligentsia,
among the better informed sectors of our society, and even in the very heart of the Cuban Communist
Party, of government agencies, research centers
and institutions of higher education. It is
worth noting the spontaneous empathy -with which
our people only recently were following the
democratic struggle of the Polish workers. I
am conviced that in a not too distant future
the pluralist model which needs to be implemented
in our country will include, as part of its democratic structure, a socialist component that
can work on equal parity with Christians,
nationalists, ecologists and the thousands of
personal denominations possible, toward achieving
-exemplary respect for human rights and for
It is because I consider this type of dissidence so important and because it is yet another manifestation of the absence of freedom of thought which prevails in Cuba, that the last part of
my report deals with. the cases of Arial Hidalgo and Ricardo Bof ill. These two young professors have recently been sentenced to long jail terms for having voiced their political opinions on the present Cuban government. These two cases reveal once again the extent to which freedom of expression and thought are absent in Cuba, and the severity of the punishment inflicted upon those who dare to exercise their basic human rights.
On the basis of the information set forth in this report, one can easily conclude that there is neither freedom of information nor freedom of expression in Cuba today, if we understand these freedoms to be those proclaimed in Articles 1B and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which state: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or in private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance ... Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
The government of Cuba, Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, continues to rule in violation of these rights.
7he love of freedom of expression and information was born in Cuba early in the 19t h century. One of the measures nost suprted by the progressive elements of the island when the Constitution of the Courts of Cadiz went into effect in 1812, was the one that annulled censorship; it said in its Article 371: "All Spaniards (Cubans were called Spaniards too) have the right to write, publish and print their political ideas without need for permission, revision or approval of any kind before publication, under the restrictions
and responsibilities established by law." It was simply another reflection
of the "Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen," which the General Constituent Assembly of Frcance had consecrated in 1789 and which stated in its section 10: "No one nay be harassed for his opinions, including religious ones, as long as his expression of it is not in conflict with the public order," and in number 11 it added: "Th1e free expression of thought and of opinions is one of the most precious rights of non. All citizens ray, in consequence, speak, write, and publish freely, except for their responsibility for the
abuse that they might make of that freedm, in the cases determined by law."
In the seime year as the Constitution of Cadiz, and also under the influence of the independence of the United States, Haiti and the greater part of the focrier colonies of Spain, the Cuban Joaquin Inf ante prepared a political code for his country, which stated in its article 90: "Cpinions shall be free, as
shell the press.! In 1851 Narciso lopez, shortly before being executed in Havana for his failed separatist effort, proclaimed in the Constitution that his "free and independent Republic" was going to state, in Article 14: "The freedos of speech and the press remains recognized and sanctioned, without any
limitation other than the rights of others and public security." Seven years
later, that article, with the eame number, together with others, was reproduced
in the "Ave Maria" Constitution of the revolutionary Cuban organization created
in New York.
The day that the Ten Year War began, October 10, 1968, the head of that
armed uprising, Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, signed a "Manifesto" in which he
..No one is unaware that Spain governs the island of Cuba with
a bloodied iron hand.. .keeping it deprived of all political, civil,
and religious freedom.. .Cubans cannot speak, they cannot write, they cannot even think... There have been innumerable ties when Spain has offered to respect their rights, but so far they have not kept their
word... The island of Cuba cannot be deprived of the rights that other peoples enjoy, and cannot consent to it being said that it only knows how to suffer... We demand the religious observance of the undeniable
rights of man, by our forming an independent nation. 6
And the Fudamental law of the Republic in ars, that of 1897, said in its
article 13: "All Cubans shall have the right to freely express their ideas.'
At the end of the war, when the American occupation came about and under the
influence of the U.S. Constitution General Leonard Wood stated in Article 10
of the "Provisional Constitution" of October 20, 1898: "The free coseaication
of thoughts and opinions is one of the inviolable rights of free nun, and all
persons can speak, write or print freely on any subject, being responsible for
The Cuban attitude with respect to the rights of man during all of the 19th
century was very clear in the teachings and works of Jose Marti. Marti wrote:
"Every tire a man is deprived of the right to think I feel a child of mine has
been murdered." On another occasion, speaking of Bolivar, San Martin and
Hidalgo, in his well-known essay "Three Heroes," he said: "Liberty is the right 10
of every man to be honest, to think and to speak without hypocrisy." And a
year before his death he wrote to General Maximo Gomez, who was to be the chief
of the War of Independence of 1895: "Respect for the freedom and ideas of others,
of even the most wretched being, is ny fanaticism. If I die, or am killed, it 11
will be because of that." On eulogizing Walt Whitman, who lived in a country
in which the freedom of information was basically respected, he recalled the effects of censorship; he wrote in that article of 1887: "He who lives under an autocratic creed is Like an oyster in its shell that sees only the prison that confines it and believes, in the darkness, that it is the world. Freedm gives the oyster wings, and the portentous battle heard inside the shell turns out, in the light of day, to be the natural motion of life-blood in the world's
From the inception of the Republic, in 1902, until the promnulgation of the Socialist Consitution of 1976, Cuba maintained in all of its constitutional texts the principle of freedas of expression and information, without Limiting it to the judgment of the ruling power. The first Constitution of the Republic, that of 1901, follows the progressive constitutional tradition of the struggles for independence, and states in its article 25: "All persons shall be able, without being subject to prior censorship, to freely express their thoughts, subject to the responsibility imposed by the la when against the 13
honor of persons, the social order or public tranquility."
The Constitution of 1940 was, without a doubt, one of the most positive legal achievements in the history of the Cuban nation because of its progressive nature, its political point of view, and the fact that it was formulated with the collaboration of representatives of the most diverse ideologies. This supreme law is sore explicit in referring to human rights and, with respect to freean of expression and freedoas of information, its article 33 Limits the executive branch in order to prevent abuses, giving the courts the authority to decide on them:
All persons shall be able, without control or prior censorship, to
freely express his thoughts in words, writing, or any other graphic or
oral means of expression, using for that purpose any or all of the
available means of expression.
Only the editions of books, pamphlets, records, movies, newspepers or publications of any nature that attack the honor of persons, the social order or public peace shall be able to he taken out of cir-
lation, after a resolution made by the uspetent legal authority keeping
in mind the responsibilities involved in the criminal act omitted.
In the cases to which this article refers, it shall not be possible
to occupy or hinder the use and enjoyment of the offices, equipment or
instruments used by the media entity involved, except in cases involving
Neither the "reforms" that were made in 1928 to the Constituion of 1901 during the government of the dictator Gerardo Machado, nor the "Statutes" imposed by Fulgencio Batista after the military coup of 1952, failed to express those rights.
What the Cuban people disliked most about the military coup led by Batista on March 10, 1952, from the legal perspective, was the iniposition of the Statutes of April 4 of that year. In open contradiction with what had been stipulated in the Constitution of 1940, the Council of Ministers was marpcered to designate the president of the Republic and to modify the Fundamental law. 'he forces opposed to the dictatorship united around the Constituion of 1940, and when Fidel Castro rose in arms on July 26, 1953, he made public statements to the following effect: "The revolution declares that it acknowledges and is based on the ideal of Marti, contained in his speeches, on the postulates of the Cuban Revolutionary Party and on the Manifesto of Montecristi.... The revolution declares its absolute and reverent respect for the Constitution that was given to the people of Cuba in 1940, and reestablishes it as the official code."15 In addition, Fidel Castro's self-defense before the courts that tried him for his attack on the Moncada army barracks was also based on the rights guaranteed in the Constitution of 1940, and his condemnation of the military regime that was in power revolved around that sane law. Years later, when leading the guerrillas of the Sierra Maestra, he announced a "Program-Manifesto" enumerating the most popular aspirations of the people, and most of them
were contain in the Constitution of 1940. The ten parts of the document are headed with thoughts of Jose Marti. 16 During the armed stage of the revolution,
frn Castro's landing in Oriente province in Cuba on Deceater 2, 1956 until Batista's flight from the country, Batista kept contitutional guarantees suspended most of the time. As a result Cubans grew to appreciate more the Constitution of 1940 and to see it as a perfect expression of opposition to the dictatorship.
From the tire that he assumed power on January 1, 1959, until he proclaimed the Fundamental law of February 7, Castro amended the Constitution of 1940 on several occasions. As happened with Batista's constitutional Statutes, Castro's fundamental Law incorporated most of the articles of the 1940 Constitution, but in both cases there were changes in matters of great importance. The article on the right to freedom of expression and information remained as it was in 18
the 1940 Constitution. In order to justify the arbitrary changes made in that Constitution, Fidel Castro reasoned thus on May 8, 1959:
Where does the Constitution come frotm From the people. Who makes
the Constitution? The people. And who are the only ones who have the
right and power to change the Constitution? The majority. Who has the
majority? The revolution. Are they going to come to talk to us of the
Constitution, those who came to greet Batista after the 13th of March and
to wish him 100 years of life? Those of us who have defended the
Constitution can talk of it. It is good to establish here that the
Revolutionary Council of Ministers, representative of the inmense
majority of the people, is the constituent power of the Republic at this time, and that if an article of the Constitution turns out to be
inoperative, too old, the Revolutionary Council of Ministers,
representative of the inmense majority of the pTcPle, transforms, modifies
changes or replaces that constitutional precept.
One year later he called the Constitution of 1940 "antiquated" and spoke of a "new Constitution," a "Socialist Constitution," as something the country needed.20 And for the purposes of preparing the new legal instrument the magazine Cuba Socialista was founded. During its publication, from September
of 1961 until February 1967, it was used to disseminate ideas on Socialist legality. Its Board of Directors was made up of Fidel Castro, Osvaldo Dortioos, Blas Roca, Carlos Rafael Rodriguez and Fabio Grobart: the upper level of the revolutionaries and old ndlitants of the Communist Party. Cuba Socialists was initiated at the end of the year of the "First Declaration of Havana," and Castro stated in its first issue that the magazine was made, "fundamentally, for the revolutionary cadres and militants, for those who are interested in developing ideologically and politically"; and that its main objectives were "to spread the experiences of the Cuban Revolution, pose and discuss the problems that the Revolution faces in different areas. To examine in the light of the scientific theory of M.arxism the different aspects of the struggle waged by the working class with the support of the peasants and the other working classes to reach Socialism." Cuba Socialists became a forum for developing ideas set forth in the "Declaration of Havana," in which the rights that the Revolution would defend had been enumerated. Among them was the right of "intellectuals, artists and scientists to struggle with their words for a better world.' 21
In a speech given by Fidel Castro at the University of lomnosov on May 21, 1963, he said that Cuba's delay in preparing a constitutional text was due to the fact that it was in the process of reorganizing society and that from that experience would come the legal instruent that was going to govern the nation.22 Telve years later the people of Cuba were given a draft of the 1976 Constitutionwhich currently governs the country. It is necessary, then, to report on the right to the freedom of expression and information in Cuba, to krncw what experiences formed the bases of the legal texts and what they say about said right.
The beginning of the revolutionary government was characterized by a series of contradictory actions and statements with respect to the objectives of the process and the paths for reaching then. The freedoms of interest in this report are no exception. For example, in a television interview on April 2, 1959, Castro stated:
T persecute the Catholic because he is Catholic, to persecute
the Protestant because he is Protestant, to persecute the Mason because he is a Mason, to persecute the Rotarian because he is a
otarian, to persecute La Marina (morning newspaper) because it may
be a newspaper with a rightist tendency, or to persecute another
because it is of a leftist tendency, one because it is radical and
of the extreme right and another of the extreme left, I cannot conceive
of, nor will the Revolution... We are doing what is democratic: respecting all ideas. When one begins by closing a newpaper, no
newspaper can feel secure; when one begins t5persecute a san for
his political ideas, nobody can feel secure.
Nevertheless, in one way or another, many independent newpapers were already threatened or had been closed as a result of protests by officials, denounciations by worker unions controlled by the government, or attacks in the official newspaper of the government, Revolucion, or of the Ccmunist Party, Hy. In the face of resistance from the uncontrolled press, a form of censorship was introduced. By making use of the influence that the authorities had over the Provincial Asssociation of Journalists of Havana, on December 26, 1959 the members of that group agreed to impose an all periodicals the obligation to include, in the form of clarifications or footnotes, criticisms of editorials or news items that were not in accord with the official government line. The newspapers Informacion and Diario de la Marina went to the Supreme Court to challenge that violation of the law, but their petition was rejected on procedural grounds. One of the magistrates, Miguel Marquez y de la Cerra, issued a private opinion which
said: "I understand that the measure taken.., with respect to the editorial opinions of newspapers, represents a moral damage... because it is or could be a limitation on the free expression of thought."24 One month later, when the newspaper Avanoe refused to publish the required clarifications, claiming the freedom of the press provided for in the Fundamental law, it was taken over violently by a group of employees who were sympathizers of the regime. The police force made no attempt to stop the attack. In fact, Fidel Castro approved of it and attacked the director, and two of the principal editors of Avance felt compelled to leave the country.
The authorities closed or confiscated other publications such as
El Crisol, Excelsior and El Mundo basing their actions on alleged links between those papers and the Batista regime. Economic strangulation was also used to control the written press: the newspaper El Pais had to close when its clients, industries and businesses, pressured by official elements, withdrew their advertisements. In view of those campaigns instigated by official or semi-official groups, only two large companies were able to survive: Prensa Libre and Diario de la Marina. on May 10, 1960, a day before a letter with the signatures of 300 workers was to appear in the latter in support of the paper's management, an armed mob occupied its offices and the police refused to provide protection. The following day the Diario, then under the control of Ccnsuist and pro-Castro elements, held a celebration of the takeover. It was a symbolic burial, at the University of Havana, of that journal which, in its 128 years of publication, had survived moments of crisis for freedom of information. The Deputy Director of Prensa Libre, Humberto Medrano, dared to publish an editorial in which he said: "It is painful to see the burial of freedom of thought in a center of culture. It is like seeing the burial of a code in a court of justice. Because what was
buried last night on the Hill (the University) was not a single newspaper. Symbolically the freedin to think and say what one thinks was buried... A sequel to that act has been announced in a comment in the newspaper Revolucicn. The title of that cement says it all: 'Prensa Lirein the footsteps of the M 7e.' hey did not have to say it. Everyone knows it."25 A few days later
a group of Ccmmunist workers and armed militia broke into the office of Prensa Libre to stop an editorial criticizing the government, and when the director refused to yield to the mob's arbitrary demands, he had to seek asylum in the Embassy of Panama. Bohemia, tbe magazine. with the largest circulation in Latin America, fell under similar circumstances, and its director who had greatly distinguished himself in the struggle against the Batista dictatorship, had to take refuge in the Embassy of Venezuela.
The same fate befll the radio and television stations. Station C4Q, the nost powerful in the country, could not have been criticized for anything other than maintaining an independent attitude. An alleged labor dispute was used to justify intervention by the Minister of Labor. With the goal of "consolidating the revolution and guiding the people, an entity called the United Front of Free Broadcasting Stations (FIDEL) was created and managed to bring the rearming radio and television stations under control. In the face of those violations of freedom of expression and information, the Inter-American Press Society, which was meeting at Montego Bay, stated on March 19, 1960: "In Cuba, where a year ago there was joy because the press had once again recovered freedom after the flight of the dictator Batista, that sane press is now seen facing seizure, confiscations and collectivization." And a few days later the president of the Society commented, referring to the attitude of the Cuban government with respect to the press: "The campaign has also brought about a state of intimidation and possible danger for the personal safety of the
directors, who are publicly denounced by government spokesmen as counterrevolutionaries because they express differing opinions that are not to the
liking of those who govern today in Cuba."26 Finally, in order to obstruct
the circulation of Anerican newspapers, their bank accounts were frozen. In
the end Cubans had access only to government controlled press and publications
fran Ccmmnist countries.
The Platform of the First Congress of the Cuban Comamunist Party is
something of a summary of the Cubanphenomenon from 1959 through 1975. The
Preambleof the Platform stated that it would be "the guiding docum ent for
all the work of the Party..., its principal ideological instrument and banner
of canombat" adn that it was going to "serve as a basis for the work of the
Central Corittee." Part 101, called "Tasks of the Ideological Struggle,"
states the following:
LThe Party considers as the principal tasks for the Ccmnunist
education of our people and internal and external ideological
-the defense of earxist-Leninist purity; the struggle against the
concepts and theories of the bourgeoisie, imperialism and its servants, pointing to the crisis in which they find themselves; to opposition to and confrontation with all manifestations of ideological diversionism through the study of the scientific ideology of the working class and
knowledge of the laws of universal development;
-disclosure of the lies in the insidious anti-Soviet campaigns, through
clarification of the role of the USSR in the world struggle for social
progress and in the creation of more favorable conditions for the
struggle of nations for their definitive liberation;
--opposition to the ideas held by the revisionists of the right who deny
the class struggle and the leading role of the working class in the Socialist revolution, and proof that they are shameless defenders of
the bourgeois order;
-the consequent combat against the political and ideological positions
of the revisionists of the left, as well as dogmatism and sectarism; pointing out the anti-Soviet leftist pseudorevol ionaries as actual
servants of imperialism and enemies of humanity.
The press, of course, in the hands of the State, turned into the best weapon
for that "ideological struggle." In dealing with the mass media, section 105
of the Platform states:
The Party shall provide systematic orientation for and attention to
the instruments of the mass msdia and shall promote the enthusiastic and
creative participation of all workers who base their opinions on the
Crarists and on the activity of the labor union movement of journalists
and writers, so as to succeed in having the radio, television, written press and film carry out more and more effectively their role in the political, ideological, cultgal, technical-scientific and aesthetic
education of the population.
As a summary of that First Congress of the Consuist Party, Fidel Castro
read a "Report" in which he said the following about radio and television:
As a vehicle for spreading the ideas of the bourgeois society in the
capitalist stage, the radio had the role of an agent selling conmercial products. The dramatized serials, with a deforming content, were used indiscriminately, with their mark of vulgarity and poor taste fostering
superstition and a low cultural level... Television, which cane after,
adopted the formulas that had proved successful in radio. It used what
was in style and sold more, and in order to make more complete the
imitation of the American television model, religious conversations,
which had had great success in the United States were included.
With the triumph of the Revolution, the stations involved with the
tyranny were sized, and the Independent Front of Free Broadcasters was
formed. The nationalization process of the radio and television was
completed later, and in May of 1962 the Cuban Radio Broadcasting
Institute was created and charged with centralizng these media in
order to serve the interests of the Revolution.29
The following year, in 1976, the Constituion went into effect. In its
Chapter IV it discusses "Fundamental Rights, Obligations and Guarantees."
With respect to freed=s of information and expression, Article 52 states in a
marked restrictive way:
Freedom of speech and the press, in accordance with the goals of
Socialist society, is recognized for citizens. The material conditions for their exercise are guaranteed by the fact that the press, the radio, television, movies and other mass media are state of social property and
cannot be the object, in any case, of private property, which insures
their use in the exc;Rsive service of the working people and the
interest of society."
Since Article 5 of the Constitution establishes that the Party is the
"vanguard of the working class and the leading force of society and the state,"31
Article 52 rust mean that freedom of information and expression can only be used
for the "exclusive service" of the Communist Party.
Cuban authorities lost no chance to leave the impression that the socialist constitution was the product of the popular will. Sad though it might be to see a nation limiting its freedom, the document would have legitimacy if it in fact had been produced to reflect the people's will, but a review of the drafting process from its inception to final approval of the constitution shows the opposite. The history of that onstitutionaltext begins in 1974, when the Council of Ministers and the Politburo of the Commnist Party selected "a small group of omrades" to prepare a draft in accordance with the indications and directives given to then.32 After the draft had been submitted to those groups and approved, it was submitted to "public and popular" discussions in
the work and educational centers, in the press, in the assemblies of mass organizations, in official circles, etc. That discussion of the document in public was, as the Minister of Justice said, to state with "rigorous exactness, 33
that each Cuban had been a coauthor of the Socialist Constitution."
In the Central Reportof the First Party Congress, Fidel Castro gave these figures with respect to popular participation;
Around 6,200,000 persons took part in the discussion of the draft...
Five and a half million voted in favor of keeping the draft without
modifications, 16,000 persons proposed different modifications and
additions that were backed by the votes of more than 600,000 participants
in the diverse assemblies. In this way, enriched by popular discussion
and perfected by the Preparatory Cramission, we have obtained the text on
which our Congress will pass judgement, and that will be sutneitted to a vote next February 15, so that it will be our people, with their free,
equal, universal and secret vote who will definitively approve the
But a comparison of the first draft with the one that was finally submitted for vote indicates that the changes are very few and of little importance, and it is to be presumed that most of them came from the review of the document made by the Concil of Ministers and the Politburo. The government only publicized the draft as it came out of the "small group of
comrades" that prepared it and the final version of the Constitution. Thus, it is not possible to determine theorigin of these changes. In all, there are about 30 modifications in meaning, always small ones (e.g. Section b, Art. 29, on describing who were Cuban citizens, originally did not include those born abroad of Cuban parents who were outside the country on official missions; and Art. 52, which deals with the freedom of information and expression, the first-- draft fitted the novie industry as one of the media controlled by the State), 10 changes to clarify ideas (e.g. in the "Preamble," on speaking of the "expbk:ation by the capitalists," the word "imposed" was added; in Art. 13, which explains conditions for the grant of asylum in Cuba, the word "literary" was added to the section dealing with persecution for "artistic activities"), 6 deletions to prevent redundancies (e.g. in Art. 38 the word "productive" was delete in speaking of work; in Art. 12e, on the principles of foreign policy, the word "national" was deleted when "the national sovereignty and independence" were mentioned), 56 grammatical, syntactic or semantic corrections (e.g. in Art. 5, in place of "towards the Cmmnist future," "tmwards a Communist society" was put; in Art. 116b "agreements adopted" was changed to "agreements made"), and 20 changes in the ordering of the articles and sections (e.g. Art 70i of the draft became 8Cm of the Constitution; articles 136 and 137 became 137 and 136 respectively.)
As always happens in the Comunist countries, the Constitution was approved by an impressive majority of the people. Fidel Castro said in his speech of February 17, 1976 that he thought that 90% of the votes would have been very high, but that since 97.7% of the votes had been favorable, he was afraid that the integrity of the voting would he questioned.35
Like all of the fundamental rights dealt with in the Constitution of 1976,
freedom of information and expression are limited by Article 61, which states:
None of the freedoms which are recognized for citizens may be exercised contrary to what is established in the Constitution and the law, or contrary to what is established in the Constitution and the law, or ontrary to the existence and objectives
of the socialist state, or contrary to the decision of the Cuban
people to build Socialism and Csmmins. Violation of this principle
is punished by law. 36
Article 52 of the Constitution specifically limits freedom-of expression;
it reads: "Citizens have freedom of speech and of the press in keeping with
the objectives of socialist society.. .The law regulates the exercise of these
Sentences of frame 3 to 12 years imprisonment were prescribed by Article 140.1B
of the Codigo de Defensa Social (Code of Social Defense), as amended by Law
1262 in 1974. 7his provision was superseded by an almost verbatim analogue,
Article 108 (1) (b) in the Penal Code which became effective in November 1979,
Article 108-1. Subject to a sanction of deprivation of freedom of
from one to eight years is he who
(a) incites against the social order, international solidarity
or the socialist State by means of oral or written propaganda, or
in any other form;
(b) makes, distributes or possesses propaganda of the character
mentioned in the preceding clause.
(2) He who spreads false news or malicious predictions liable to cause alarm or discontent in the population, or public disorder, is subject to a sanction of one to four years imprisonment.
(3) If the mass media are used for the execution of the actions described in the previous paragraphs, the sanction will
be of deprivation of freedom of from seven to fifteen years. 39
here are abundant examples of how the exercise of freedom of expression
has been punished in Cuba. F1he following describes only two, one from before
law 1262 of 1974 and another from the period after the Penal Code took effect.
In 1964, members of the Rebel Army, former omrades in arms of Fidel Castro,
and other Cubans, rose in arms against the governmnt because they felt that
the principles that inspired the struggle againstthe Batista dictatorship had
been betrayed. NewMsn Jose Carreno managed to interview one of the insurgents
in Cienaga de Zapata. Knowing that his report would not be published in Cuba, he sent it abroad under a pseudonym. nhe authorities iqprisoned Carreno, who was tried by a Revolutionary Court and sentenced to 18 years in jail. Since he refused to accept "rehabilitation" plans (indoctrination) that exist in Cuban jails, and he refused to wear the uniform for common prisoners, Carreno was naked throughout his imprisonment, and for 13 years he was not allowed visits from his family. Because of pressure exerted by the International Press Society, Carreno was released after he had served 16 years of his sen40
Amaro Gcmez Boix was a newsman who had belonged to the Cuban Broadcasting Institute. For sane tine he could not get employment because he was believed to be opposed to the regime. With nothing else to do, GCaez Boix dedicated himself to writing against the Canmunist system at home, without any intention of showing his work to anyone or of sending it abroad. For some reason that it has not been possible to determine, the State Security political police grew suspicious of him and searchedhis house in July 1978. For 45 days they kept him incmomunicado in the Security cells, and then they locked him up in an asylum for several weeks until his trial was held. Gamez Boix's sentence, which was taken out of Cuba through clandestine channels, states as follows:
Having proved that the accusedAmaro Eduardo Gacez Boix, 43 years
of age and who is described above, an individual known to be reactionary fram his statements and declarations, who several years
ago was dismissed frame his job as a journalist at the Cuban Broadcasting Institute and for that reason began to write several
literary works in which he directed his hatred at our revolution,
stating among other things that the Communist ideology is the cause of all the sorrows and sufferings of the Soviet people, that Lenin, Stalin and other Communist leaders are all the same since they are
the product of a brutal and despotic system, praises and defends
the bourgeois way of life and blames the socialist countries and
the Palestinians for the wars in Indochina, Africa, Anerica and
the Middle East, written works a great quantity of which were
taken possession in a search carried out for that purpose in the
hame of the accused by members of the Department of State Security ...That the facts that are declared to have been proved constitute
an offense against the security and stability of the nation.. .since
the accused, through the production of written propaganda, incited
against the Socialist Order and International Solidarity...
The accused Amaro Eduardo Cvez Boix is sentenced as a perpetrator of a crime against the security and stability of the
Nation to eight years' loss of liberty.. .41
(Translation from Amnesty International) ARTISTIC CREATION
The history of freedm of expression in Cuba since 1959 reflects the social
and plitical changes in the country and at times the conflict that those changes
gave rise to among writers. The struggle can be simply stated as a conflict
between the view of art as the servant of ideology and the view of ideas as wellspring of art. Underlying the first views is the belief that one has a
way to understand and improve the world. From that conviction it follows that
art should be based on the new ideology and that the artist should renounce any doubts, since they must be ill founded. khen the writer places ideas in the service of art, on the other hand, be enters an uncertain universe full
of possibilities that, in the final analysis, are the very essence of artistic creation. The first conception is that of Marxism-Leninism, of facism and all totalitarian regimes. The second is the traditional conception of art, which
the NYaxist term bourgeois. The history of literature in Cuba has reflected a confrontation between these two positions, their ups and downs, and the definitive inisosition of the first. The vicissitudes of the two positions
follow the fortunes and adversities of arxism-leninisn on the one hand, and
nationalist and humanist socialism (which characterized the revolution at.
the beginning) on the other.
With the triumph of Castro came notable activity in the area of culture
and literature. If we compare the first period after Batista's defect with
the previous years, we can note a true creative fever. It seemed as if during
the dictatorship art had been prohibited and that with the disappearance of that prohibition it was necessary to recover the time lost. A review of publication
between 1958 and 1960 reveals a marked increase in volumes published. For
example, during the last year under Batista, between reprints and new novels,
we find some 10; in the first year under Castro there is double that, and in the second year, triple. In 1958, in the theater, there were publications, and in the following two years there were more than 20 (new works and reprints) And the results in poetry were similar: in the first year of the revolution, the number of collections doubled, and in 1960 there were three times more than in 1958. What was remarkable in the new output was not only the size of the editions but also the great desire to publish the best of universal literature. In the novel for example, a range of books from the Quixote to Days and Nights of Konstantin Simonov; froman Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe to Dona Barbara by Ramulo Gallegos. And in the theater, fran Anouilh, Checkov, Brecht and Miller, to the Cubans, Vigilio Pinera, Carlos Felipe, Marcelo Salinas and
Jose Perez Cid.
One of the most important events from the literary point of view was the First Festival of the Cuban Book, in 1959, which was organized under the direction of Alejo Carpentier. Editions published for the event had a quarter of a million copies in sae cases. So, for example, there was wide circulation of Cecilia Valdes, by Cirilo Villaverde, El Pensamiento Vivo de Varona, Tradiciones Cubanas, by Alvaro de la Iglesia, an anthology by Nicolas Guillen, another of short stories and of poetry, selected by Salvador Bueno and Cintio Viter respectively, and a reprint of El Reino de Este Mundo (Mexico, 1949) by Alejo Carpentier. In that same year the first contest of the Casa de las Americas was announced. Prizes of 1000 pesos were offered for the winners in poetry, theater, the novel, short story and essay. But more interesting, from today's perspective, is the choice of judges for the contest: Carpentier, Guillen, Jorge Manach, Lino Iovas Calvo and Enrique Labrador Ruiz; before the year had ended Manach and Novas Calvo would be in exile, and later labrador Ruiz. The times were similarly reflected in the publication of certain "Declarations of Cuban Writers" which ere motivated by armed attacks
against the government. They were endorsed by Marxist writers and by others who would soon convert to Marx-ism, as well as by many who would be its victims, silenced by censorship or forced to emigrate: on the one hand, Carpentier, Juan
Marinello, Guillen, Roberto Fernandez Retamar, Jose Antonio Portuondo, Eliseo Diego, Marta Aguirre, Manuel Navarro Luna, Graziella Pogolotti, Lisandro Otero,
etc.; and on the other, Angel Gaztelu, Virgilio Pinera, Jose Lezanma Lima, Lino Novas Calvo, Guillenmo Cabrera Infante, Jorge Manach, Luis Aguilar Leon, Heberto 43
Padilla, Cesar Leante, lorenzo Garcia Vega, Severo Sarduy, etc.
The struggle between the two groups began not long after the consolidation of the revolutionary government. One group was headed by the old guard Communists; the other was led by figures who had emerged from the 26th of July 5vement and were closer to the nationalist spirit that characterized the guerrilla stage in the Sierra Maestra. In the literary field the two positions were voiced by the newspapers Hoy and Revolucion. The latter attacked the native Marxists, accusing them of dependence on ioscow and of having collaeborated with the Batista tyranny. It published a weekly review of literature called Lunes de Revolucion (that of the Ccmunists was called Hoy, DOmingo), which sought to inform Cuban readers of currents in philosophy and literature without coloring the reports with partisanship. In an article entitled "A Position," in the first number of Lunes, its editors said:
Until now all the neans of expression had turned out to have too
short a life, to be too compromised, too identified...Now the
Revolution has broken all barriers and has permitted the intellectual, the artist, the writer, to become integrated in national life, from which they were alienated...We do not have a definite
political philosophy, although we do not reject certain systems
of approaching reality and when we talk of systems we refer, e.g., to the materialistic dialectic or psychoanalysis or existencialism. However, we believe that literature and art
of course must approach life more, and approaching life more is, for us, also coming closer to the political, social and economic
phenomena of the society in which we live. 44
In an effort to ensure the protection of the Soviet Union, Castro, who had broken relations with the United States at the beginning of 1961, stated, in April of that year, that the Cuban revolution was Socialist. The Cuban Conmunists, who were the best contact with Russia, could not permit a country that had declared itself to be Marxist-Leninist to continue to have as an official newspaper an eclectic publication that included writings of Pasternak, Joyce, Campus, Hemingway, Mao and Trotsky, tether with writings by Marx and Denin, and speeches of Castro and Ernesto Guevara. Thus, the Cusminists most connected with the cultural activity of the country, Jose Antonio Portuondo and Edith Garcia Buchaca, director of the National Council of Culture, supported by Alfredo Guevara, decided to put an end to the situation. The excuse they found was an event of little importance: A brother of the person who was then director of Lunes de Revolucion had produced a short documentary on night life in Havana in certain zones in which "Bohemians" gathered. Although the film was not very objectionable from a strictly revolutionary point of view, it was a manifestation of a bourgeois art that could not be tolerated if an effort was to be made to construct a socialist society. The incident led to "Conversations" at the National Library. Under the direction of Edith Garcia Buchaca, a sort of tribunal was formed to hear the views of numerous writers and artists and especially those who were working for the newpaper Revolucion. Also present were high official of the government, such as President Osvaldo Dorticos and the Minister of Education, Armando Hart. There were announcements there of what would later bring terror to the intellectuals: the self-accusation of the surrealist poet Jose A. Baragano, for his bourgeois training in Paris and his frienship with Andre Breton; the denouncement of fellow writers by Luis Amado Blanco; and the complaint of Virgilio Pinera about the fear that writers felt over harassment by government officials. Fidel Castro ended the act with the speech known as "Ards to Intellectuals," which constitutes the first watershed in the history of freedom of expression in
the Castro period. Frequently cited bry defenders of the regime, the speech in reality is an ambiguous statement of contradictory concepts. on the one hand 46
it accepted and defended censorship, while, on the other, it mocked "the des47
potic rule of the Stalinist revolution," and suggested great breadth for expression consistent with revolutionary goals. The most frequently quoted passage of this speech is the rest ambiguous one:
..within the Revolution, everything; against the Revolution, nothing.
Against the Revolution, nothing, because the Revolution also has its
rights and the first right of the Revolution is to exist, and against
the right of the Revolution to be and exist, noo... I believe that
this is quite clear. What are the rights of the revolutionary or nonrevolutionary writers and artists? Within the Revolution, everything;
against the Revolution, no right. 49
Mhat was left unsaid was how far the Revolution was reaching, where art began to damage it. Further confusion stemmed from the fact that at that tine it was not possible to kow what the Revolution was, nor who represented it. As a result, neither of the two groups referred to above was atisfied. Lunes de Revolucion was suspended because of an alleged lack of newsprint, and the showing of P.M. was prohibited. In addition, those who had provoked the Marxists were dispersed in diplomatic posts and other activities. Rut the Marxists were not satisfied because the other faction had not been punished.
In August of .1961, at the First National Congress of Writers and Artists,
the Marxist orthodoxy began to be clearly imposed within the entity that was going to control all literary activity. The principal voice there was that of Jose Antonio Portuondo who announced what the future of letters in Cuba would be. In his "testimony" before the Conpress and in his "Final Report" he maintained the freedom of the artist as a principle but warned that, since the very development of the revolutionary process would change the tastes of the readers, so ton would the creative act have to change. Until that moment arrived, ha recommended:
..ntionalizing the egotistical ivory towers, sending the artists
to the countryside. It is not necessary to abolish the scholarships for
studying abroad, but rather to send to the interbr first the most gifted
artists and send then later to discover the world with and integrally formed national conscience. As in the case of the youths destined for Foreign Service and to be teachers, let no artist leave the country gn a scholarship without first having climbed five times the Turquino.5' In other words, frcm then on government assistance would depend on the militancy of the artist. In the Report that concluded the Congress, Portuondo stated:
Wnat is important is that the artist, creator, or critic, assimilate,
make into his own fless and blood the experiences of this new era in which
we are living. That he deeply. assimilate the new conception of reality; that he study and work; that he identify with his people, and that he then express
this new spirit in ways that cannot be given him ahead of time, like a set
square, nor that can be imposed on h by decree, but rather he has to discover;
he has to create art and literature. 1
A related development was the founding of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba, under the presidency of Nicolas Guillen. The artist's freedom was increasingly limited by official control of taste as well as access to publishing houses. The presses were in the hands of the government, and the writers received salaries fron the official entities, so if they did not adjust to the preferences of the authorities they could not see their works published.
If the government of Cuba had not had difficulties with the Soviet Union, the artistic production might not have been affected so. But international events were going to break the balance between the new revolutionaries and the old Ccaxmuists. In fact, there still remained sore rebels on the government rolls: Cabrera Infante, Charge d"Affairs in Brussels; Heberto Padilla, correspondent in Prague; Juan Arcocha, in Moscow. But in 0ctuber, 1962, when the Soviets withdrew their missiles frcm Cuba without consulting Castro, the anger in Cuban govenment circles spilled over into a degree of tolerance for freedan of expression. Again conflicts centered around the newspaper Revolucion. In order to mend the dif-
ferences between Cuba and Russia, Castro was received with great honors by ushchevwho, to show his independence,did not have himself acoipanied by Cuban Commnists. In the face of that official attitude, the novelist Juan Arcocha, correspondent for the newspaper Revolucion in Moscow, began to send to Havana series of writings that the Cammnists considered offensive to the Soviet Union. Castro reprimanded the director of the newspaper, Carlos Franqui, and Arcocha.
A new confrontation came about because of another film and the pages of Revolucion and Hoy waged the battle. After the failure of movies imported frn Socialist countries, the showing of Spanish, Mexican, Japanese and Italian films was permitted. 'Tey had little to do with the building of socialism. The particular movie in question was "La Dolce Vita," by Fellini, the showing of which was a sort of Castroite heresy against Marxist dogma in that "La Dolce Vita" was inadmissible in a society in the process of building Camunism, and with the same spirit that it had shown in 1959 and 1960, the newspaper Revolution made fun of the censors, who this time did not succeed in banning the film.
During the five following years, both factions won victories: freedom of expression gained a few points, but so did censorship. On the one hand, in 1965 Che Guevara attacked the dogmatism of the leaders of culture, who preferred Socialist realism. Speaking of the countries that had arrived at socialism, but with a clear allusion to Cuba, he said:
General culture thus truned into a taboo and the height of cultural
aspiration was declared to be a formally exact representation of
nature, this then turning into a mechanical representation of social
reality that an effort was being made to show; the ideal society,
almost without conflicts or contradictions, that and effort was
being made to create. 52
And with respect to Socialist realism, the same document asked:
Mhy try to seek in the frozen form of Socialist realism the only valid recipe? "Freedan" cannot oppose Socialist realism because
the former does not exist yet; it will not exist until the complete development of the new society is reached; but do not try to criticize all forms of art after the first half of the 19th
century from the pntifical throne of realism at all costs, since
that would mean falling into the mistake of returning to the past,
putting a straight jacket on the artistic expression of the man
who is born and built today.53
But in that same year a group of independent young writers meeting under the name
"El puente," (the bridge) was dissolved for writing hermetic poetry and living a
"dissolute and negative" life, according to official standards. In the same year,
the poet Allen Ginsberg was expelled frcm Havana. The Cuban poet Jose Mario was
arrested for his friendship with Ginsberg, and later exiled frcm Cuba. In Paris
he told reporters frm Mundo Nuevo about the questioning to which the authorities
had subjected him:
Finally I was interrogated by six man. They made me walk from one
side to another and they insulted me. They said that it did not
matter to then that I was a writer, nor that I had sutdied in the
university; that they could clean their.. .with that; that all writers
were gays and they were going to put an end to the UNEAC (Union of
Writers and ARtists of Cuba) and all places like those; that I had let
myself become corrupt and they were going to make a man of me, without little verses or any of that garbage; that literature was sanething for the lazy and effeminate that the revolution could not
The following year the Union of Writers censured Pablo Neruda for having visited
the United States, but over angry protestation of the Caummists, Fidel Castro
personally authorized the publication of Paradiso, by Jose Lezama Lima, a decadent and perverse work in the eyes of Marxist criticism because of its morose
descriptions of acts of sodany. The victory was limited, however, because edition
very small by standards in those days: only 4,000 copies were printed whereas,
when 90,000 were made of 100 Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a good 55
friend of the regime.
The greatest victory for freedom of expression in Cuba in those years came
when Carlos Frangui managed to nove the Salon de Mayo from Paris to Havana. It was an exhibition of the ost avant garde European painting and sculpture and repertory of the "intellectual colonialism" that the Ccaummmists criticize. Many intellectuals ware invited to Havana for the event with the thought that they would remain for the important Cultural Congress that was going to be held shortly afterwards. It is evident that the Cuban authorities were trying to harass the Soviet Union, or at least its representatives in Cuba, and to win friends in the intellectual commnity in Europe and America.
In these years of heresy and sane tolerance with respect to artistic creation,
there was a notable literary blossoming in Cuba, particularly in the narrative. There greatest activity occurred in the period front 1966 through 1968, and especially in 1967, when three tines more novels were produced than in the previous year. Mean iel, in the political arena, Cuba increased its guerrilla activity in Latin America, in defiance to policy set down in Mascow and by Latin American Camunist parties. Castro censured the Soviet Union for its conservative attitude in proletarian internationalism and challenged its principles for the construction of socialism, defending the thesis that socialism and Camaunism could be created simultaneously.
The high point of the Cuban novel coincided with the greatest successes in
Latin American narrative in general: in 1967 the following novels were published: La Casa Verde (The Green House) by Mario Vargas Llosa, Cien Anos de Soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude) by Garcia Marquez, Cambio de Piel (Change of Skin) by Carlos Fuentes, and Tres Tristes Tigres (Three Sad Tigers) by the already exiled Cabrera Infante. Between the publication of Paradiso, in 1966, and El Mundo Alucinante, by Reynaldo Arenas, in 1969, there appeared in Cuba Pasion de Urbano (Urbano's Passion) by Lisandro Otero, Los Animales Sagrados by Humberto Arenal, and Los Ninos Se Despiden (The Children Say Goodbye), by Pablo Armando Fernandez, scme of uwtich openly followed experimental paths in narrative structure and lan-
guage, drawing a clear line between the art they belonged to and the principles of socialist realism to which the defenders of orthodox arxism clung.
7he general tone of the time was set at a Seminar held in preparation for the Cultural Congress scheduled for January 4-11, 1967. President Osvaldo Dorticos characterized government policy as follows:
At a time when the problems of literary and artistic expression lead
to polemics, demand definitions and generate confusion, this, the theme
of the freedom of literary and artistic expression, conceived within a revolutionary spirit, has not been a question of polemics in this meeting at which writers and artists of Cuba have participated. And the
most important thing is that this has occurred here not because mechanisns of coercion have operated to limit the full expression of these
problems nor because the cultural climate of our country has been
favorable for an ideological or revolutionary disorientation of our writers and artists, but because it has been possible to produce in
these years of definitions.. .an exceptional and deep conciliation
between the concepts of the revolutionary obligation of writers and
artists. 3t is the fact that not even one voice has had to be raised
to demand that freedom of literary and artistic expression, in spite of the intergal incorporation of writers and artists into the revolutionary task.56 "
Castro's rejection of the orthodox ideas of Marxisam-leninim with respect to artistic creation and the freedom of expression was intense. In one of the Resolutions of the Congress there is talk of the "new man, the complete man... who is capable of thinking for himself... without the prejudices inherited fran previous ideologies that in some way continue to operate in same areas of Socialist
But Cuba's attitude had to change under ecom ic pressure from the Soviet Union. When it refused to tolerate the Castro heresy any longer, Castro was forced to retreat. On August 23, 1968, as a signal of the obligatory change, Castro approved the Russian invasion in Czechoslovakia. And that year, 1968, so crucial in politics, was no less critical in literature: in the UNEC contest two works with strong critical content against the governnt were awarded prizes: Fuera del juego, by Heberto Padilla, and Siete contra '_bas, by Anton Arrufat. Around the same time Virgilio Pinera's Dos vieos panicos was published. Behind its techniques of the theatre of the absurd, it in fact is a play about terror.
Other works published at the same time included Condenados de Condado, by Norberto Fuentes, a collection of short stories on a ounter-revolutionary insurrection, inner of the Casa de las Americas prize, and books of poetry with signs of complaint such as Las peguenas histories, by Raul Luis, and Poesia inmediata, by Roberto Branly, whose echoes are heard in others published after 1969: Afiche rojo, by Antonio Conte, and lenguaje de mdos, by Delfin Prats, which was withdrawn from circulation immediately after its publication.
The censors were unable to prevent the publication of the cited award-winning works by Padilla and Arrufat. As a result, the later official attacks against their authors had international repercussions. The problem arose when Padilla let it be known that he thought that a novel by Lisandro Otero, a high official of the National Council of Culture, was inferior to Tres Tristes Tigres, a novel by Cabrera Infante, who had gone into exile in London. Cabrera Infante took the occasion to make grave denunciations against the government of Cuba for its violations of the freedom of expression. The charges were the first to be heard from a writer of international prestige and with a first-hand knowledge of the Cuban situation. A magazine published in Buenos Aires in 1968, included the following statements by Cabrera on the persecution of those who became interested in his works:
...A European novelist is invited in Havana to a televised panel
on Cuban literature, with the express promise not to mention my
name... Olga Andreu, librarian, puts my novel on a list of books
recommended by that democratic library of the Casa de las Americas,
and a few days later is separated from the position and senteced to a list of surplus people, which means a terrible future because she will no longer be able to work in administrative posts and her
only choice is to ask to work as a "volunteer" in agricultural
labors... Herberto Padilla writes a eulogy dedicated to Tres Tirstes
Tigres and... in a week is fired from that official daily paper
(Granma) ...and ready to travel to Italy to see his book of poems
published, his exit permit is abruptly withdrawn, his passport
taken away and again fired. 58
In addition to explaining the subtle operation of Cuban censorship, he explained in the same article how those who earn the disfavor of the regime become non-persons. He wrote of his final trip to Cuba:
..One week after returning I knew that not only could I not write in Cuba, I could not live there either. I only told this to a friend, a
type of revolutionary non-person. This is the cycle of the non-person:
request for exit from the country; automatic loss of job and eventual
inventory of house and goods; without work there is no work card, without work card there is no ration card... 59
Cuban Mrxist intellectuals replied. Jose Antonio Portuondo, under the pseudonym
Leopoldo Avila, published his response in five articles which effectively summarize
what was to become government policy on freedom of expression in Cuba. In essence
the positions are the same as those pronounced by Portuondo at the First LREAC
Congress in 1961, where he first suggested the need to make art comitted to the
revolution. The following is an excerpt from one in that series of articles on
writers who he considered enemies of culture:
The enemies of our culture are the ones who work with zeal to keep
their art far from the popular taste and situation; those who undermine the values of the true works of our art; those who look at the
revolution from the castle of their prejudices; those who try to
convert the cuiural entities into a zone of tolerance of their extravagances...
Portuondo went on to give the following warning to Cuban writers:
With respect to those who here, inside, relive fantasies and try to frighten and confuse others with their own fears and confusions, or appear as the defenders of culture, we tell them again that that is
not the road. The only road possible is the one of intellectual
honesty which is no longer possible for sae to put one's
shoulders together next to those who with their efforts lift the
country, not aiming at masks of false defenders of the culture
that nobody is going to believe or tolerate patiently. In addition, in the future it will not be possible to stasp with the seal of art
any dirty merchandise without the people giving their opinion against
it, at least, in defense of a value that is very expensive for then
and that they have defended at a high cost: the culture of the
Official confirmation of that new attitude toward the Cuban writer and artist did
not come until the First Congress on Education and Culture, held in Havana in
April 1971. As if to prepare for what was going to happen there, terror tactics
against intellectuals increased. There was the imprisonment of Raul Alonso Olive,
an official of the government who had assisted the economist Rene Dumont, author
of the book Cuba, ;es socialist? Shortly afterwards came the arrest of Heberto Padilla, which outraged the very intellectuals who had offered their support to Cuba in 1968, and for whom Castro bad had so many words and gestures of gratitude. Padilla had done nothing sore than write independently. His book En mi jardin pastan los heroes, written from exile in Spain, relates the details of his arrest and of the torture to which the authorities sujected him in their efforts to extract a confession. The incident is just one example of the violations of freedom of expression in Cuba. According to Padilla, during his interrogation by the State Security, the official in charge of his case told him:
... before declaring war against us, you should have asked yourself if you
were afraid of bullets. You are intelligent, we do not mind saying so. But it was necessary to end this situation of the intellectuals in Cuba if we do
not want to end up like Czechoslovakia, where the writers are standardbearers of fascisn, like that Russie friend of yours, Evtushenko, who is
an anti-ccmmmist and anti-Soviet.
And Padilla's observation in retrospect is as follows:
It was the same reasoning of Raul Castro. Years before, in Prague, talking
with all those who made up the diplomatic and trade mission of Cuba, in
referring to the polemic that had arisen in the USSR with respect to
Solzenitsyn, he had said: "In Cuba, fortunately, there a few intellectuals
and those that there are are always looking for trouble." f
The interrogation ended with a physical attack on Padilla with a bound copy of his manuscript:
The Security officer took the novel from on top of the desk and began to hit it gently with his hand, and said: "Do you know what the real title of your novel
is? Can't you guess? The inconclusive novel, man, where nothing occurs, where
nothing can occur, sane few papers read in closed circuit and that will end up where they deserve, in the wastebasket, because, of what use is the fragmentary,
the incrrplete, and inconclusive? Fidel does not like this poisonous shit, the
leaders don't like it, nor the Party, nor aryone... And he grabbed the maniscrgt
with a fury until then unknown. But I didn't see, I didn't hear anything more." Recovered from the attack, after several days in a hospital, Padilla was taken to a deserted beach where they tried to convince him to publicly retract. After having been visited by Fidel Castro himself, Padilla was told by the State Security agents:
We can destroy you. We can destroy you although you know that legally we have
no ground whatsoever. You have not done anything, you have not hidden bambs,
nor have you onaitted any sabotage, nor have you dealt in black market currency;
but the Revolution will recognize all of that at the appropriate time and we
will have no misgivings about rehabilitating you, but today you represent a very dangerous tendency in the country and it is necessarY6 destroy it...
So you have onlyone possibility: to came to ters with us.
The price that Padilla had to pay for them to release him was to make a public retraction and accuse several writers of being counterrevolutionaries: his wife, Belkis Cuza, Lezara Lina, Pablo Armand FernAndez, Manuel Diaz Martinez, Cesar Lopez, Jose Yanes, Norberto Fuentes and David Buzzi.
The third landmark in the history of freedom of expression in Cuba after
1959 is the Congress of Education and Culture of 1971. It marks official acceptance of Stalinism, which has been practiced in the country since, and which was codified in the Constitution of 1976 and in subsequent legislation. The "Declaration" that was approved at the Congress disregards the pretense with respect to censorship that until then had been maintained to win respect from foreign intellectuals. The document stated:
The revision of the bases for national and international literary contests
that our cultural institutions will promote is undeniable, as isour new
analysis of the revolutionary status of the members of the juries and the
criteria for awarding prizes.
At the same time, it is important to establish a rigorous system for
the invitation of foreign writers and intellectuals which will prevent the
presence of persons whose works and ideology are in conflict with the
interests of the Revolution, specifically with thoseregarding the training of
the new generations, and who have participated in activities of frank
the cultural media cannot serve as a framework for the proliferation of
false intellectuals who try to convertsnobbism, extravagance, homosexuality and other social aberrations into expression of revolutionary art, removed
from the masses and the spirit of our Revolution.66
The "Declaration" repeats ideas that had formed part of Cuban Marxist orthodoxy from the inception of the Castro regime:
Our art and our literature will be valuable means for the education of
youth within the revolutionary morality, which excludes the egotism and aberrations typical of bourgeois culture.
Culture in a collective society is an activity of the masses, not the
monopoly of an elite, the adornment of a few chosen ones....
We are combating any attempt at foreign control in the area of ideas and
aesthetics. We do not worship those false values that reflect the structures of the societies that despise our people. We regret the pretensions of the
mafia of pseudo-leftist bourgeois intellectuals with respect to becoming the
critical conscienneof society. The critical conscience of society is the
In his closing speech at the Congress, Fidel Castro himself put an end to
controversy on matters of cultural freedom. He described those who were judging
the acts and decisions of the Revolution fran abroad as "bourgeois liberals,"
"agents of cultural colonialism," "shameless pseudoleftists," "intellectual rats"
and "CIA agents," and set down official cultural policy as follows:
For us, a revolutionary people in a revolutionary process, cultural and
artistic creations have a value in relation to their usefulness for the people,
in relation to what they contribute to man.... Our valuation is political.
There can be no aesthetic value without human content.68
And Castro goes back to the old Marxist orthodoxy, and repeats what Portuondo had
said years before:
... and to receive a prize in a national or international contest, one has
to be a true revolutionary, a true writer, a true poet, a true revolutionary.
That is clr. And clearer than water... Only revolutionaries will be
The last landmark in the history of freedom of expression in Cuba after 1959
was the First Congress of the Cuban Cmnunist Party, held in 1975, the resolutions
of which summarized the experience of previous years and established future policies
and legislation. The Resolution on "Artistic Creation" concluded as follows:
Art in socialism presupposes, as a condition for its development, a
high ideological and technical quality and the new, vision of the world that
socialism brings with it; not the servile imitation of the cultural heritage, but rather its revaluation and continuity.... Socialist society requires fran
art thatit contribute to the education of the people through aesthetic
It is necessary to foster and stimulate the systemtic study of MarxisnLeninism among writers and artists, to increase the possibility fur them to
becme familiar with and delve deeply into the real problems of the construction of socialism in our country, for them to penetrate the essence of the social phenanmna with their creative work, so that qey will contribute
effectively with their works to socialist construction.
7he same Resolution sets down norms for the creation of socialist realism: themes based on immediate problems addressed fran a camitted position that will be easy
. Artistic creation should reflect the problems of social and individual
life and the tensions inherent in the process. n dealing with such conflicts one does so from the perspective of the proletarian class, with firmness and
ideological clarity, with one's energy and total intransigence towards the
manifestations of the ideology of the past and with one's defense of the
interests of the people.71
The Resolution on Artistic and Literary creation explicitly denies the right to freedom of expression and information, since it prohibits the dissemination of ideas that conflict with socialism and praises support only for art that embodies official dogma:
The First Congress of our Party feels that the Revolution...has the duty
to reject any effort to use the work of art as an instrument or pretext
for spreading or legitimizing ideological positions averse to socialism...
Our Party... fosters an art and literature in which the socialist humanism
that is at the heart of our Revolution is present as an encouraging support.72
As was to be expected, the resolutions adopted in the Party platform were embodied with the same spirit in the Constitution of 1976. Although more condensed, they too express the limits placed on freedom of expression. Part (d) of Article 38 states: "Artistic creation is free whenever its content is not contrary to the Revolution. The forms of expression in art are free." But, in fact, because of the political and propaganda value that is expected in art, as was made clear in the platform, even that freedom in artistic form is subject to the obligation to create a functional art that
will serve the interests of the government. In addition, that formal freedm, like all the others enumerated in the Constitution, is limited by Article 61, which wes earlier cited in reference to freedom of information. Article 61 makes it clear that "none of the freedoms recognized for citizens may be exercised against what is established in the Constitution and the laws, nor against the existence and ends of the Socialist State, nor against the decision of the Cuban people to build socialism and Communism."73
Since the adoption of the Constitution, Cuban government policy with respect to freedom of expression and information has been kept within those precepts. At the
Second Congress of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba at the end of 1977, the resolution on the Draft Pegulations of the Literature Section suggested that the function of that group was to "foster creation and the spreading of literature that through its ideological content and aesthetic quality contributes to the education and spiritual enrichment of the people. As a result, literature, like all other artistic activity, demands a study of Marxis-Leninism so that the creative work produced by the trained artist will reflect social problems 'with the greatest
depth'." In the closing speech at this last UNEAC Congress, the Cuban Minister
of Culture stated that the principles set forth in the First Party Congress Platform and in the Constitution with respect to artistic activities were going to 75
have validity "for a long historic period." Thus in 1980, the deliberations of the Second Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba on freedom of information and expression revealed no substantive policy change. Mhe only development noted was the need to "use in a more and more effective way the means of cultural information, diffusion and promotion to facilitate an active and enriching presence of art in 76
material production, given the economic constraints at the time."
Any study of human rights in Cuba based solely on written law must necessarily give an incomplete picture of reality. In practice, the legal system in Cuba is based on Camunist Party dictates since, according to the Constitution, the Party 77
is "the supreme guiding force of society and the State." Therefore, this report on the freedom of expression and information must include testimony from those who have witnessed the regulation of cultural life in Cuba. Of the statements rede by writers who have recently left the country, two are offered here as examples: Reinaldo Arenas, a young novelist persecuted in Cuba for "ideological diversionisn" and sentenced arbitrarily to a year in prison, and Cesar Leante, author of eight books that have been translated into several languages, once National Advisor of the Ministry of Culture, who defected in Madrid at the end of 1981 when he was going from Havana to Bulgaria to represent the govenment
of Cuba. At a recent Congress of Dissident Cuban Intellectuals held at Columbia
Unviersity, Arenas described with these words the situation of intellectuals on
...Everyone insulted, abused; everyone censured; everyone "confessed";
since if there is something that a person in a Ccrnunist country cannot go without it is confession. One must confess and "receive uommunion" at thep1Jicestation, at the place of work, on the block, or, if we are more stubborn, in the dark solitary confinement cell where
not even the babbling and cackling of the "progressive" writers of
the West will resolve anything. We confess not only what we have done,
but also what the State indicates that we should confess. And what a way of indicating, convincing! ...in a miniscule, hermetically sealed
booth with boiling solutions frozen now; with blows, now in the stomach,
nowin the face; with kicks, now in the head, now in the back. After
these tactics and other more effective ones, how are we not to confess our guilt, counter-revolutionaries, traitors, how are we not to accuse
ourselves, inform on ourselves? Some of us go to prison for a year,
aswasry case; others, for three, like Daniel Fernandez; others, for
eight, like Rene Ariza; others, for 30, like Miguel Sales; others are
shot, like Nelson Rodriguez. And others are put in front of a movie camera and are coerced into making their confessions public. And of course, they are also shot, because after having served a year or 30
we are in any case liquidated. But it is not a matter of serving a sentence, it is a matter of ever after being a sentenced person, a
walking corpse, a zombi who tist naturally show his love of the Maximum Leader incessantly.78
Arenas went on to explain the workings of Cuban censorship thus:
... It would be almost naive to analyze the repression only in terms of the people the system has decided to sentence to prison or shoot. More
subtle, more sinister, more inmoral, more impossible to verify and more
terrible, is the repression of silence, of compulsion, of threats, of
daily extorsions, the unceasing official menace, the fear unleashed
through the perfect mechanisms that make of man not only a repressed
person, but also a self-repressed one, not only a censored person, but
a self-censored one, not only one watched over, but one who watches
over himself, since he knows the system has taken it upon itself to let him know that the censorship, the vigilance, the repression, are not simple psychological manias or fantasies of persecution, but rather
sinister apparatuses, ready to silently strike us without the free world
(the other doesn't count here) even managing to know for certain what
happened to us.79
Cesar Leante has explained his decision not to return to Cuba and thus to renounce the privileges that he had enjoyed because of his high post in the Ministry
of Culture in Havana. In an interview that was published by the press of several
countries, Leante stated:
.It was unbearable to continue in that country. There is the ghost
of Wensorship, first in its interior stage: self-censorship, which consists of assuming the fallacy that any criticism of the system is a way of helping the enW, and, therefore, that temptation must be repressed.
Then comes the exterior censorship, plain and simple, for a reader who,
out of fear, is ill intentioned, alsost superstitious and ends up seeing
criticism where it does not exist. Not even a literature that is
generally aooepting (of the regime) is permitted. It has to be totally
accepting.. .All intellectuals in Cammunist society must be totally
integrated, since the intellectual is considered an "ideological cadre,"
or in other words, a structural part of the system. This is true not only with respect to writers. It is true with respect to professors,
artists, newmen, all those in contact with the media. 8
And with respect to literary production in Cuba, he added:
This oppressive atmosphere has inevitably resulted in the asfixiation of literature itself... This does not mean that the Revolution is hindering literary production in a quantitative sense. Today more books
ere being published, but only those which suit the government, and this
suitability is measured by zealous officials specialized in detecting shadcvzs in the midst of the radiant unconditionality that is expected
The punishments that Leante suffered and that are currently being suffered
by writers imprisoned in Cuba are additional evidence of the lack of freedom of
expression and information in the country. Armando Valladares, the invalid poet
who spent 22 years in jail, and who managed to obtain his release due to the intervention of President Francois Mitterrand, has revealed the extremes to which
the Cuban authorities go in order to prevent the publication abroad of dissident
literature. In statements made in a French television interview, he said:
They did not respect the old age of my mother and took her out of her house to make statements against me. And they even forced her
to write a letter saying that everything they were doing against
ma was just. If s did ot do so they said that they would throw
my sister in jail.
And during the same interview the poet's mther herself said that during her
last four years in Havana, she, her daughter and her husband were harassed
by government agents, wh-o forced them to grant interviews to Spanish and
Mexican writers to whom they had to declare their solidarity with the government of Cuba and denounce her son's rebelliousness. She added, "They told
all the neighborhood not to visit us because were were Valladares' family.
Security officials took us to several interrogations. Every time sane docucent on his books and poetry appeared, they would cose to the house and accuse 83
us of having conspired."
WO MXIST DISSIDEN'ISM; CASE S'IUDES Ariel Hidalgo
Castroism is more concerned today with dissidence among Cuban Marxists than it is with dissidence among other groups. This is so because same socialists and Marxist theoreticians have begun to analyze Cuban reality using the tools of historical materialism and have come to the conclusion that what exists in Cuba is not true Socialism but rather a totalitarian state burdened
by a bureaucracy that has brought the economy to a standstill and has suffocated the interests of the working class.
Ariel Hidalgo is serving an eight year term in Cambinado del Este prison,
havana, for possession of "enemy propaganda." Under Cuba's Penal Code anyone who "writes, distributes or possesses" anything that "incites against social order, internal solidarity or the socialist State" is subject to that maximum
sanction. Many of the regime's past and present political prisoners have been sentenced under the same subversive, whether it stems from religious beliefs or atheist materialism. Hidalgo spent the first fourteen months of his incarceration in solitary confinement and is still being kept incamunicado and denied the right of correspondence. Hidalgo comes from a family of revolutionaries, and sane of his relatives enjoy the privileges of power in Cuba today. The following is a biographical note published in one of his books, Origins of the Worker Movement and
Socialist Thought in Cuba (1976):
Ariel Hidalgo, born March 29, 1945 in Antilla, province of Oriente,
where he lived until 1959, when he moved to Havana. In 1960 he began his undergraduate studies, which he abandoned to begin studying music
theory and to train to become a secretary. In 1972 he published an
article, 'The First Cuban Socialist', in El Caiman Barbudo. Other historical investigative works followed, some of which form part of this volume. Furthermore, he has published material in the journals
Oclae, Casa de las Americas and Verde Olivo, and four of his scholarly
works have been accepted in national events organized in connection with the Youth Seminar on Marti Studies. Today he is professor of Socioeconcmics at the Manolito Aguiar Workers' College, and he is studying for a
degree in History at the University of Havana. He is a member of the Saiz Brothers Brigade, the Writers and Artists Union of Cuba, and the
Provincial Camission on Marti Youth Seminars. 85
Two years before publishing Origins of the Worker Movement, Hidalgo became known to the Spanish-speaking world with his essay "Marti and Imperialist Neocolonialism", which appeared in Casa de las Americas, and in 1977 he received the "Premio David" for literature in Cuba and another prize from the University of Panama, for an essay on the Central American isthmus. His writings generally follow principles of Marxist historiography; they interpret facts from the perspective of dialectic materialism with emphasis on the eoonany and class struggle. But for all his orthodoxy and patterned rigor of his analysis, Hidalgo also wrote about contradicitons in the Cuban system. He also seems to have voiced criticism of arbitrary official acts in his classes at the Workers' College.
One day in April of 1979 he opposed an "act of repudiation" against a student who had asked permission to emigrate (These acts are public humiliations instigated by the authorities). As a result, he was dismissed from his teaching position and barred from continuing his studies. Like so many other pariahs in Cuba, he had to fall back on construction work but continued his studies in the evenings. In 1981 he decided to write an essay on the contradictions in Cuban socialism that has lead to creation of a nel exploiting class. He was completing the essay when the State Security Police got hold of a copy and arrested him for its possession. Fortunately, the manuscript was saved and through clandestine channels reached his sister, Giselda, in New York.
"The State", which is the title of Hidalgo's work, begins with an
exposition of Marxist ideas on class exploitation in society, the "machine destined for the exploitation of one class by another", in Lenin's words.
Applying the theory to Cuban reality, Hidalgo finds that the State "elects its functionaries in the name of the proletariat", and these very same functionaries, "in their way, in the name of the State, control the neans of production." If the workers had true political power, Hidalgo concludes, all would go well, but it is the Communist Party that controls the country, and according to a 1978 study cited by Hidalgo, since 95% of the Party nxrbers are State administrators there is a "managerial ruling class" in Cuba. On the other hand, the "Poder Popular" (Popular Power), which otherwise might guarantee a workers' democracy, is in fact impotent against the controlling bureaucracy--a new class totally divorced from the interest of the proletariat. Workers' Assemblies similarly are useless because they have become a mere democratic facade, formal rituals devoid of substance. Hidalgo ends his analysis noting that ownership of industry by the people is a "mere sophism, and workers' control of the State a mere slogan."
For the young Marxist historian, the power that the managers have acquired in Cuba is today more powerful than that of the State itself. The State can remve functionaries from office, but it cannot move against the class that today is formed by the managers and administrators. According to Hidalgo, "Frankenstein, the State, has created a monster that it can no longer control." "Socialism has become a sociolisno" (from the Spanish "socio", colloquial for "buddy") in which the privileged wheel and deal with the goods they manage. He cites this example: "Manager A, from a construction oanpany, goes to Manager B, from a beverage capany, and asks that he 'fix him up with' ten cases of a certain beverage. B delivers the cases, which represent part of the capany's surplus production. For A those cases have a use value, but for B they have an exchange value, for he knows that later on he will be able to acquire one thousand construction blocks for a weekend home, a product that A also 'fixes' with part of the company's surplus."
Hidalgo recalls that Yarx himself warned that "man's exploitation by man is
not always tied to private property. Regarding this reality, Hidalgo goes
on to say:
The people, above all the youth, see an ever greater separation
bebteen a socialist theory that proclaims the equality of classes and
wall-being and a reality increasingly plagued by economic penuries
and social inequality. .. 7he administrators of all important business
and enterprises in Cuba enjoy privileges that the working class is denied.. How does one explain the existence of the lavish hoes of
these functionaries with their luxurious furnishings, their pantries bulging with foods, their yachts, automobiles and sumptuous parties,
while theniajority of the workers must resign themelves to coping
with deprivation under the guise of "proletarian austerity"? Foreign delegations are shown model schools and hospitals which are generally utilized by the families of the upper echelon; for every one of those
centers there exist dozens more in wretched conditions which are
utilized primarily by the children of the workers.
It is 'in the face of this panorama," comments Hidalgo, that the worker
produces less and increases the cost of production, because the manager "robs
what is supposedly earmarked to be turned into social works."
The enrichent of "managerial rule" has reached such proportions, says
the manuscript, that the young "interpret socialist misery as a result of
the failure of the system," which is also seen as "a collective simulation
of loyalty owing to the totalitarianism of a State that controls all spheres
of the society in the mama of the rights of an entire people."
Ariel Hidalgo than goes beyond exposing the injustices of Cuban Socialism
and the abuses of those who are unlawfully in power or who belong to that
poerful bureaucratic class that robs from the worker. He proposes remedies
for the problem and prophesies:
In countries where there is managerial rule, the workers, under
the leadership of an ideological and revolutionary minority, have to rise up at the sounding of the new herald in order to expropriate the
superpower, that exclusive and universal exploiter, the State. To the
pusillanimous; to those who believe that every sacrifice is in vain;
to those who see htman evolution as the vicious cycle of Sisyphus, we
say: history does not stop. The sun of freedomn may be eclipsed at each
sunset, but it rises all the more radiant with each dawn.
So ends this extraordinary study, perhaps the first written by a Cuban Marxist that would be printed abroad to reveal to the world the reality of Stalinist totalitarianism in Cuba.
The Camunist Manifesto, by Karl Marx, in 1848, begins with these words: "A spectre haunts Europe, the spectre of Ccrzmiism." One century later, upon seeing the dissentions created by Stalin, the Polish author Edda Werfel paraphrasing Marx said: "A spectre haunts Europe, the spectre of humane socialism." The horrors of Stalin had moved the world, and many politicians and intellectuals of the left realized that "Marxist-Leninism" was no more than a doctrine with ideas from Marx and Lenin, invented to impose the will of a minority that formed the Soviet State. What claimed to be a "democratic centralism" had become a kind of bureaucratic centralism in which an elite acted as the great, all-pow.erful national conscience that rules the great proletariat masses.
The hopes for a direct democracy to resolve the political and economic matters of the country had disappeared, and there was no evidence of the gradual reduction of State monopoly to which an authentic Cammunist should aspire.
Dr. Bofill was a member of the Cuban Commnist Party and a professor of Marxist philosophy at the University of Havana until his arrest in 1967. His arrest was the result of his association with the so-called "Microfaction", a dissident group of Marxist intellectuals and professionals, same in high government positions, which cast doubt on Castro's methods of implanting socialism in Cuba. They tried to disseminate their ideas, which were firmly rooted in Marxist orthodoxy, and as a result they were arrested and sentenced to long prison terms. Speaking at the beginning of 1968 to the Central Committee of the Party, the Chief of the Armed Forces, aul Castro, spoke of the
"existence of a current of ideological opposition along Party lines, that does not cone from eney ranks but rather fran the ranks of the Revolution itself, fran people operating from supposedly revolutionary positions." And referring specifically to Professor Bofill and his friends, Raul Castro adde-"This whole resentful group maintained a constant and ill-intended critical position on what the Revolution is accomplishing.. .Some of the opinions expressed by Bofill.. .were of this kind: that the methods used to remove Anibal Escalante from the National Directorship had not been the most proper; that Che had left Cuba because of disagreements with Fidel, and other things similar to these. This Bofill belonged to the Integrated Revolutionary Organizations." Dr. Bofill was sentenced to twelve years in prison.
Another charge against Professor Bofill was possession of papers analyzing the errors that the government was cmritting in administering the country. he analysis was not intended for any enemy organization but rather was prepared for submission to the Bbassies of friendly Socialist countries in Havana. Although the government of Cuba has sought to give the impression that the criticism voiced by the Microfaction was insignificant, in fact it was that criticism from the Cuban Marxist dissident group that precipitated
Soviet pressure on the Castro regime to accept the Kremlin line in political, econanic, and international matters. Ironically, that sort of heresy within Castroism ended when the members of the Microfaction were sentenced.
Upon finishing five years of his sentence, Bofill was released from prison but was forbidden to practice his profession and required to work
in various government enterprises. Men the exodus of 120,000 Cubans f ran the Port of Mariel took place in 1979, Bofill was forbidden to leave. In the
following year he was arrested again, this time for his efforts to emigrate, and he was sentenced to five years in prison. Released after serving two years, he was denied the right to work unless he renounced his desire to leave the
country. He refused to agree and was constantly followed and watched. In 1983 the Sorbonne invited him to give a course on the Means of Social CzimMLication in latin Aerica, but the Cuban government again denied him permission to travel.
Faced with this situation, Professor Bofill decided to tell his story to
t wo French journalists who were visiting the island. The journalists were arrested and expelled from Cuba, and Professor Bofill went to the French Bmbassy in Havana to ask for political asylum. The ambassador spoke with Cuba's
Vice-President, Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, who gave his word that Bofill's case would be resolved and that he would be allowed to leave for France. On that promise, Bofill left the refuge of the French Embassy. He was arrested again only a few days later and soon after was sentenced to twelve years in prison.
Professor Bofill's wife, Maria Elena, a resident of the United States, has received his denunciation of the Cuban government through clandestine channels. She has asked me to make it public. The following are various paragraphs transcribed from that heretofore unpublished document.
The Human Rights Situation in Cuba
"Among the basic guaranties spelled out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, perhaps no other fundamental precept is under greater threat. in Cuba than the Right to Life. Over the past twenty-five years there have
been massive and systematic executions after illegal trials presided over by special tribunals that provide no legal guaranties. As a result, the Right to Life of every citizen is constantly in danger. In fact the country has been under a virtual state of Yrtial Law since 1959i anyone can be arrested without a legal trial or hearing, accused of spying for the C.I.A., of terrorism, of assault, or of any other charge fabricated by the Cuban Security Police,