AT THE CROSSROADS
The Visit of Pope John Paul II & Opportunities For U.S. Policy
LA PATRI fs DETOD
Committee on Foreign Relations
Staff Report of the
U.S. House of Representatives
Committee on International Relations
Congre m of te eaniteb tatet 15lagabigtun, 3 20515
LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL
March 4, 1998
The Hon. Jesse Helms, Chairman Committee on Foreign Relations United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
The Hon. Benjamin Gilman, Chairman Committee on International Relations U.S. House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Helms & Chairman Gilman:
Attached is a staff report prepared by Roger Noriega and Marc Thiessen of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff, and Caleb McCarry of the House International Relations Committee staff, on the Visit of Pope John Paul II to Cuba. The data and observations contained in this report were compiled during a ten-day investigation trip to Cuba, from January 21 to January 31, 1998.
The report provides a comprehensive analysis of the current situation in Cuba, as well as detailed discussion of the impact of the papal visit, and the ensuing opportunities for the U.S. policy makers to help the Cuban people gain their freedom. The report also addresses the performance of the U.S. Interests Section, and other foreign missions in Havana (particularly the European Union), and contains a number of policy recommendations.
We hope this report will be helpful to you as Congress considers how to respond to the Pope's historic pilgrimage to Cuba.
Richard Ga on James W. Nance Staff Director Staff Director Committee on International Relations Committee on Foreign Relations
Cover Photo: Young Cuban, after Pope's Havana Mass, holds placard declaring "The Homeland Belongs to All."
Perhaps the most striking and little-noted moment of Pope John Paul II's visit to Cuba took place during the Holy Father's open air Mass in Havana's "Plaza Jose Marti."
As the Pope began his homily, he thanked Cardinal Jaime Ortega for his
welcoming remarks, to polite applause from the audience of one million Cubans. He then thanked the Cardinals and Bishops who had traveled from all around the world, and all the bishops of Cuba again, to polite applause. He thanked the priests and the religious men and women who had come out in such numbers to greet him again, applause.
Then, he acknowledged the civil authorities, thanking "The President of Cuba, Dr. Fidel Castro Ruz," who was seated in the front row, for his cooperation with the papal visit.
Silence. With their silence, one million Cubans
We looked around had just committed the largest "acto de from our spot in the middle repudio" in the history of the Cuban of the throng of one million. revolution against Fidel Castro. Over the loudspeakers, we
heard tinny applause coming
from the VIP section up front. But all around us, average Cubans stood silent. People looked first at their shoes, then each other. And then they began to snicker, as they suddenly realized what they had just done. With their silence, one million Cubans had just denounced the regime; one million Cubans had just voted with their hands against Fidel Castro's rule; one million Cubans had just committed the largest "acto de repudio" (act of repudiation) in the history of the Cuban revolution.
The moment soon passed, and it was barely noted in the press coverage of the Holy Father's visit. But it spoke volumes to us.'
1. This was not an isolated incident. Several Catholic bishops told us the same thing had happened the day
before during the Pope's Mass in Santiago de Cuba, when the Holy Father welcomed Cuban Vice President
Raul Castro to total silence from the crowd the same crowd that had just given a standing ovation to Santiago's Archbishop, Pedro Meurice, after he had delivered bold welcoming remarks in which he had
Land of Myths
Cuba is a land of many myths. One myth holds that Fidel Castro remains personally popular, using the U.S. embargo to stir up Cuban nationalism and, thus, solidify popular support for his regime. Everything we saw during our 10-day stay in Cuba indicates otherwise.
Neither the Cuban regime nor Fidel Castro himself enjoy any discernable depth of public support. Quite the opposite: the very mention of Castro's name evoked reactions of anger or fear from most Cubans we met. Indeed, most Cubans dare not speak his name, instead stroking imaginary beards to refer to him silently.
And Castro has not succeeded, despite four decades of indoctrination, in
engendering anti-American sentiment among the Cuban people. Wherever we went, we were welcomed with open arms by average Cubans. At every encounter, we introduced ourselves as staffers from the U.S. Congress, and, in two of our cases, specifically as staffers for Senator Jesse Helms (a household name in Cuba, thanks to relentless government propaganda). We expected to encounter at least some hostility. To our surprise, not one single Cuban we met over a 10-day period reacted to us with anything other than friendliness (except for the stiff regime functionaries who met us in formal meetings).
Fidel Castro rules by fear,
intimidation and deprivation.
Cuba is a nation with some of the
warmest, kindest people we have
ever encountered. It is also the 41 most brutal police state any of us
had ever visited. A few dissidents
and independent journalists struggle for space, but they are
routinely harassed and
intimidated. Even among ordinary
Cubans, we heard story after story
of mothers, fathers, sisters, and
brothers who had been jailed or Pope John Paul II has planted the seeds of liberation in Cuba. The Pope is greeted by one million Cubans had lost jobs for the slightest before Mass in Jose Marti Plaza in Havana on January 25. expression of "counterrevolutionary" sentiment. There is virtually no functioning civil society in Cuba practically no independent institutions of any kind.
And yet, this culture of fear is showing signs of cracking. Even while expressing hesitation or fear of reprisals, many Cubans were indeed willing to risk talking to us. Some did so openly, almost defiantly. One man declared he was not afraid to be seen with us because, he said, "I am a free man in my heart and in my mind!" Others we met on the street or at Masses asked us to visit them later at more private locations. One mother, a devout Catholic, told us she did not dare baptize her two children (now fully grown, and, to her dismay, atheists) for fear of religious persecution. Today, she hangs a large painting of Jesus Christ in her living room.
Seeds of Liberation
Indeed, one of the lasting effects of Pope John Paul II's visit may well be a
breakdown in this culture of fear. The Pope's message "Be Not Afraid" struck a chord with many Cubans we met. (As one Cuban told us triumphantly, "He (the Pope) can say
what he wants,
and they can't The Pope has planted the seeds of liberation touch him." ) in Cuba. The challenge to the Cuban people and The Church is to those Americans who wish to help them seen by many as is to find ways to cultivate those seeds. a safe haven, an
oasis of freedom.
Indeed, we have heard that other Christian denominations are more active and independent than ever since the 1959 revolution, as Cubans seek spirituality. This increasingly independent community of faith could serve as the nucleus for "civil society" that does not now exist.
The extent to which a civil society social, political, cultural, and religious
institutions is established in Cuba will determine whether the inevitable end of the Castro era is peaceful or violent. Cuba is, quite literally, in a race against time to build a civil society. The Pope's visit may be the watershed event that sparks this process.
Just as he did in Poland, and dozens of other dictatorships he has visited, Pope John Paul II has planted the seeds of liberation in Cuba. Now, the challenge to the Cuban people and those American policy makers who wish to help them is to find more creative and proactive ways to cultivate those seeds.
This was the purpose of our visit to Cuba: To witness the pilgrimage of John Paul II, to assess the impact of his visit on Cuban society, to assess the work of the
U.S. Interests Section and other foreign missions in supporting democratic change, and to find ways for Americans to do more to help the Cuban people capitalize on the opening created by the historic papal visit.
We spent 10 days roaming through Fidel Castro's tropical gulag. We visited three major cities Havana, Camaguey, and Santiago de Cuba and attended two of the four papal Masses (the "youth mass" in Camaguev and the final Mass in Havana). We drove more than 13 hours back and forth across the Cuban countryside, stopping along the way to speak with average Cubans. During the course of our travels, we were welcomed into numerous private homes by random Cubans we met, both on the street and at the various papal Masses.
In this way, we met with a wide swath of Cuban society, including ordinary Cubans, political dissidents, the families of political prisoners, independent journalists, doctors, relief workers, Vatican and Cuban church officials, independent restaurant Every ordinary Cuban we owners, university professors, and even street hustlers. We also spoke with foreign diplomats metdwaskeagepos and Western reporters based in Havana as well as word back to the powers several Cuban government officials. that be in America about the true conditions of
In fact, the only segments of Cuban society their existence. we were unable to meet with were members of the military and political prisoners themselves in both cases because the Cuban government denied specific requests for such meetings.
Virtually every ordinary Cuban we met was eager to send word back to the
powers that be in America about the true conditions of their existence. They urged us to "go home and tell the truth about this place." That is what we have attempted to do in this report. What follows are our impressions from our many official and unofficial meetings, and policy recommendations based on our observations of the Cuban reality. We hope these observations and recommendations will be useful as Congress works to respond to the Pope's visit and to help the Cuban people win their freedom.
Roger Noriega, Marc Thiessen & Caleb McCary March 2, 1998
Fidel Castro's revolution is not surviving, it is dead, and Castro has little popular support. The most striking image of our visit was the spontaneous repudiation of Castro by one million Cubans who refused to applaud him at the January 25th papal Mass in Havana. At both Masses we attended (in Havana and Camaguey), the crowds took advantage of these unprecedented assemblies and their large numbers by responding to virtually any call for change or criticism of the regime with loud, sustained, and often raucous applause. There is great hunger for change in Cuba. And, Castro must be conscious of his unpopularity. His invitation to the Pope was a desperate bid for legitimacy that will backfire as more Cubans overcome the fear that keeps the regime in power.
Castro retains power solely by force, fear, and deprivation. While the hunger for change in Cuba is palpable, there is also enormous fear. Most Cubans told us they felt powerless to bring about change because the regime uses imprisonment, exile, and murder to strangle dissent. The delegation heard dozens of stories from ordinary Cubans of abuse and recriminations they or their loved ones had suffered for alleged "counterrevolutionary" activity.
There is no functioning "civil society" in Cuba. The lack of a civil society increases the likelihood that the inevitable post-Castro transition could be violent or the resulting government undemocratic. The state deals harshly with dissident groups and has permitted virtually no independent institutions political, economic, or cultural to exist on the island.
The Pope's visit has begun to undermine the culture of fear that grips Cuba, creating a historic opportunity for change. The Roman Catholic Church and its affiliated charities represent the only national, independent institution in Cuba today. Pope John Paul II's visit has created an unprecedented opportunity for the Church, its relief agency Caritas, and other denominations to claim greater space in Cuban society. The Catholic Church can serve as an umbrella to protect and nurture a budding civil society, but realizing this potential will require much more boldness on the part of the Cuban Church and of the friends of a free Cuba in the United States and around the world.
Castro uses his position as the nation's sole employer as a weapon to maintain social control. In Cuba's statist economy, virtually everyone works for the state, at wages set by the state (earning one-tenth the average wage in Haiti). The regime keeps most Cubans on a starvation diet, using of termination of state employment as a weapon to discourage dissent.
Castro manipulates the supply of food and medicine to siphon hard currency out of private hands and into state coffers. Cubans do not complain that there is no food and medicine on the island. Rather, they complain that such items, which are widely available, can only be purchased in dollar stores, putting them our of reach of most Cubans. We saw pharmacies stocked with medicines, markets full of meats and fresh produce, and stores overflowing with bread all available only for U.S. dollars. (In the case of the best dollar clinics and pharmacies, which cater exclusively to foreign tourists, even Cubans with dollars are excluded.) Indeed, Castro is so brutal in his quest for hard currency that he sells Cuban-made products to his own citizensfor U.S. dollars. Castro then uses these dollars to fund the state security apparatus, which keeps the people in line and the regime in power.
Castro's statist policies have impoverished Cuba. Most ordinary Cubans we spoke with blamed the Marxist-Leninist economic system, not the U.S. embargo, for their daily hardships. Virtually all of those who said the U.S. embargo should be lifted said they felt this way because it would take away Castro's excuse; but they added that it would not change their access to food and medicines.
Castro is seeking, and is prepared to profit from any relaxation of the U.S. embargo. Castro uses the U.S. embargo as a scapegoat for Cuba's problems, but he is desperate to have it lifted to reap the financial and propaganda benefits. (While some argue that Castro's tyranny would be washed away by free trade, those doing business in Cuba today are actually attracted by Castro's ability to coerce labor; therefore, they have a stake in the regime's survival.) On February 2, Castro publicly endorsed an initiative in the U.S. Congress (sponsored by Rep. Esteban Torres, D-Calif. and Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn.) to loosen the embargo "as a step in the right direction." A senior Cuban official privately referred to the Torres initiative as "our bill." The Cuban government is prepared for any loosening of the U.S. embargo, having placed hard-liners at choke-points in the economy (employment services, commercial services, sugar industry, telecommunications, etc.) so that it can reap the benefits of any relaxation while controlling any liberalizing effects.
Despite the lifting of the U.S. embargo on medical sales to Cuba in 1992, the Cuban government finds excuses not to purchase such supplies from U.S. companies, and it lies to the people about the reason for medical shortages. Castro lost an excuse for the lack of medicine in 1992, with the passage in the United States of the Cuban Democracy Act. Yet, in meetings with dozens of Cuban doctors, health care providers, and relief workers, virtually none of these people was aware that the Cuban government can purchase medicine and medical equipment from the United States. Most told us that the regime blamed medical shortages on the U.S. "blockade;" they expressed disbelief when we told them that this part of the embargo had been lifted six years earlier. (In fact, U.S. officials have told us that they have approved dozens of licenses the vast majority of applications for medical sales to Cuba since 1992.)
We challenged two senior Cuban government officials Vice Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio and Vice Minister of Health Ramon E. Diaz Vallina to provide us a list of all medicines and medical equipment that they say Cuba has been unable to buy from the United States so that we could investigate why licenses had not been granted. Despite repeated requests, Cuban officials failed to provide such a list, leaving the distinct impression that, (a) there is no list, or (b) they prefer the problem to the solution. The fact is, the regime opts not to buy sufficient supplies of medicine from the United States or anywhere else.
Jockeying for power in post-Castro Cuba has already begun. During a surprise meeting with the delegation, National Assembly President Ricardo Alarc6n discussed the post-Castro transition with startling candor. He downplayed the significance of Fidel Castro's reference to his brother, Raul, as his successor at the July 1997 Fifth Party Congress. When asked whether Vice President Raul Castro would serve out the remainder of Fidel Castro's term if he succeeded him under the constitution, Alarc6n replied that the president serves at the pleasure of the National Assembly and could be removed at any time. He also referred to Raul Castro as a "brother of lesser historical significance." Several sources told us that Raul Castro would not last long as a successor, because he lacks charisma and is despised by the military as a person of notoriously poor moral character. For his part, Alarc6n left us with the distinct impression that jockeying to succeed Fidel Castro is well underway and that he is interested in the job.
Castro may be "leading his prisoners along with an unloaded gun." The vaunted internal security apparatus appears to be threadbare. Although police agents were well in evidence during the papal Masses in Camaguey and Havana (they were the dour men in new sneakers and floral shirts), the infamous block committees ("Committees for the Defense of the Revolution," CDR) appeared moribund in many of the neighborhoods we walked through. One former CDR president actually a fierce critic of the regime explained that many neighbors merely go through the motions to satisfy party militants. However, the perception of an omnipresent security apparatus, and the routine, shameless use of brute force keeps the population in fear and in line.
Increased humanitarian donations would provide relief to needy Cubans and undermine the regime's excuses. Americans, particularly Cuban exiles, provide more aid to Cuba than the rest of the world combined. These donations have the indirect affect of undermining the deprivation that Castro uses to control the population. We discussed with dissidents, ordinary Cubans, and relief workers proposals to increase U.S. aid to needy Cubans
- possibly including U.S. government assistance through the Church or other independent groups. This idea was greeted with almost universal enthusiasm. We believe that such increased donations would respond to the Pope's visit, help the relief groups expand their influence, deliver aid to those who cannot afford to buy food and medicine, and neutralize Castro's excuses while maintaining the embargo on the regime.
Most diplomatic missions in Cuba are doing little or nothing to support political dissidents or to defend human rights. We found no evidence to back up the Clinton Administration's repeated assertions that the European Union (E.U.) has increased activities in support of human rights and democratic change in Cuba. To the contrary, dissidents told us that most foreign missions do little to support them. In fact, with the change of governments of France and the United Kingdom, some diplomats told us they anticipate an even less robust implementation of the E.U.'s Common Position on Cuba.
Foreign investors in Cuba employ virtual "slave labor" and provide massive cash subsidies directly to the regime. Foreign investors do not hire or pay Cuban workers directly; they get their workers through "CUBALSE," a government agency run by the Ministry of Interior. Investors pay the regime enormous sums (as high as $10,000 per worker), but the regime pays the Cuban workers a few hundred Cuban pesos (virtually worthless in Cuba's dollar economy) and pockets the difference.
Cuban doctors say that the regime employs a policy of coercive abortion to eliminate "social risk pregnancies." Cuba has the highest abortion rate in the Western Hemisphere as high as 40 percent and several doctors confirmed that Cuba has a state policy of coercing abortions from certain categories of women. One doctor told us that all pregnant women younger than 20 and older than 35, who already have three children, who are from poor or rural families, or who have genetically determined illnesses (such as sicklecell anemia, diabetes, and even hypertension), are categorized as "social risk pregnancies" and coerced into induced abortions. One doctor told us that they "use lots of underhanded techniques," including lying to women about birth defects, to coerce abortions.
Cuba has become a major destination for sex tourism, as women (including doctors, lawyers, and teenagers) turn to prostitution to survive. The drive to survive in Cuba's failed state-run economy has led many Cuban women and girls to prostitution, which in turn has become a major tourist attraction. While prostitution is rampant in many poor countries, what is unique about Cuban prostitution is that it encompasses professional women often doctors and lawyers who are forced to sell their bodies to foreign tourists, because they cannot earn enough through their professions to feed their families. Cuba is also a favored destination for pedophiles seeking teenage prostitutes. The Cuban government, which cracks down on all forms of so-called "counterrevolutionary" behavior, turns a blind eye to prostitution because it attracts tourists and helps vacuum up tourist dollars.
Castro maintains a blockade on information available to the Cuban people about the outside world. By controlling access to all information on the island, the regime attempts to blame the nation's problems on "North American aggression" and sows fear of change. Broadcasts by Radio Marti are jammed but are heard by many Cubans. Still, Cubans have little access to independent news and information. Nevertheless, the regime has
failed to convince Cubans that the embargo is the cause of their suffering, engender hatred of America or Americans, or produce visible support for the regime.
The United States should maintain its policy of economic and political isolation of Castro. Fidel Castro, like most dictators in history, responds only to pressure or force. The Clinton Administration should be pressed to enforce the U.S. embargo more vigorously to deny Castro hard currency, which is the only thing that keeps him in power today. Any relaxation of the U.S. embargo particularly the short-term results of lifting the U.S. tourist travel ban would serve as an important new source of hard currency to the regime and provide Castro with a major political victory.
We recommend a coordinated campaign to channel increased humanitarian assistance directly to needy Cubans. This program would contribute to several important goals, including:
E Provide food and medicine to the Cubans most in need those who cannot possibly
afford to buy these necessities thus undermining the deprivation that the regime
uses as a means of control;
0 Strengthen those institutions delivering the aid by giving them resources to expand
their reach, thus nurturing a civil society;
0 Undermine the regime's policy of denying dissidents work and access to basic
0 Neutralize Castro's propaganda that blames the U.S. embargo for Cuba's hardships.
Increased aid should be delivered through the Church and other genuinely independent nongovernmental organizations, subject to monitoring. This program should emphasize donated food and medicine and could include material support purchased with U.S. government funds. Legislation should be proposed to authorize: (1) direct humanitarian flights (not passenger flights) to transport aid from the United States to Cuba; (2) use of U.S. government funds for these humanitarian activities; and (3) the issuance of general licenses for NGO's delivering this aid directly to the people.
Such a campaign should encourage private individuals and groups to donate material. And private businesses particularly members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others pushing Congress to lift the embargo with grand humanitarian rhetoric should be challenged to donate food and medicine to needy Cubans who cannot possibly afford to buy it. The success and impact of this program also would depend on a stepped up effort to
communicate its objectives to the Cuban people as well as safeguards to prevent its manipulation by the Cuban regime.
We recommend an information campaign in the United States and Cuba if Fidel Castro continues to refuse additional humanitarian aid to the Cuban people. Castro has thus far rejected such humanitarian donations, in speeches on February
3 and February 24. If he continues to do so, the U.S. government should mount an information campaign to explain to the Cuban people that Castro is denying them food and medicine.
We recommend that the U.S. government do a better job explaining the facts behind Castro's denial of food and medicine to Cubans. Specifically, the State Department and White House take a proactive step of writing each Member of Congress and communicating with foreign governments and the media to inform them of the facts behind the supply of food and medical supplies in Cuba.
The United States should press the Cuban government to provide us a list of the medicines that they seek to purchase from the United States. The United States should disprove the Cuban government's excuse that the U.S. licensing requirements prevent it from obtaining needed medical supplies. We recommend a campaign to inform the Cuban people and U.S. drug companies that U.S. law allows the sale of medicines and medical equipment to Cuba. If necessary, Congress should earmark funding for the Treasury and Commerce department offices responsible for processing such licenses so that Castro cannot point to artificial barriers.
We recommend that the U.S. government work with friends in the international community, and with private organizations, to increase communication with the Cuban people. The United States must find new ways to reach the Cuban people to overcome the climate of fear that allows Castro to cling to power. We must devise and implement new programs to provide a steady, repetitive diet of accurate, unvarnished, and balanced information. We should maintain adequate funding for Radio Marti and Television Marti, which should emphasize unbiased news reports so that Cubans can rely on them as a trustworthy alternative to Castro's propaganda machine. The Administration should treat support for democracy and human rights groups as a higher priority. U.S. grantees should seek more creative ways to channel their informational materials directly to the Cuban people.
We strongly urge additional investigation into the policy of coerced abortions that is apparently practiced by the Cuban regime. If this practice is indeed as widespread as we were told by Cuban doctors, we strongly urge pro-life organizations particularly the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has expressed concern about U.S. policy toward Cuba to raise their voice to condemn this state policy.
The U.S. Interest Section should take greater care in monitoring the cases of potential political refugees and pressing for "exit permits" for Cubans holding U.S. visas. We recommend that USINT routinely cross-reference human rights reports and articles with its case files in order to record new abuses in order to ensure prompt and just consideration of asylum applications. We also recommend that USINT be allowed to initiate a pilot program to interview persons in Cuban prisons for the purposes of considering refugee applications; such a program is not uncommon in the world. We believe this would be a logical component of a robust in-country processing program to prevent a person particularly one with primafacie case who is in ill-health from languishing in Cuban jails.
We recommend that Congress hold hearings on the Clinton Administration's failure to enforce U.S. law. Congress should scrutinize: (1) the President's repeated suspensions of Title III of Helms-Burton (by which he denies Americans the right to sue foreign companies exploiting their stolen property in Cuba); and (2) the weak enforcement of Title IV, which is the responsibility of the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs. We also recommend that the authors of "Helms-Burton" be prepared to support a challenge in U.S. courts of the President's repeated suspensions of the right of action under Title III, inasmuch as such decisions cannot be justified within the intent of Congress.
We recommend that Members of Congress announce that, in light of the woefully inadequate support for democratization in Cuba by the European diplomats in Havana, there is no good faith upon which to base continued E.U.-U.S. "Helms-Burton" talks. (These talks are aimed at getting Europeans to sanction "trafficking" in confiscated properties in exchange for a modification of Title IV of "Helms-Burton," which denies U.S. visas to foreigners trafficking in stolen U.S. property in Cuba.) Cynical Europeans who are willfully violating their own "Common Position" on Cuba cannot be trusted to abide by an agreement with the United States. American labor leaders and diplomats should encourage European trade unions to press European companies to either respect workers' rights in Cuba or abandon their ventures there.
Regarding Title IV enforcement, we believe the State Department should immediately notify suspected "traffickers" in stolen U.S. property in Cuba that they will forfeit their U.S. visas unless they prove that they are not using American property. State Department officials have reversed the burden of proof in roughly 40 "trafficking" cases currently under review, making it more difficult to sanction foreign companies under Title IV. The Department should abide by its own regulations and enforce this sanction promptly and fully. We recommend that the U.S. Interests Section in Havana assign an officer to be responsible for investigating violations of the U.S. embargo and to generate and document cases of "trafficking" in stolen U.S. property. The Treasury Department's enforcement office should be assured additional resources so it can take more proactive measures to target activities by front companies of "specially-designated" entities (Appendix J) as well as investment funds that generate indirect financing for ventures in Cuba.
FIDEL CASTRO RETAINS POWER BY FORCE, FEAR, & DEPRIVATION.
During our 10-day tour of Cuba, we were struck by the palpable fear that is part of the everyday lives of the Cuban people with whom we met in various settings, circumstances, and cities. Two Eastern
European diplomats told us in separate
meetings that Cuba today is reminiscent of Two Eastern European diplomats the Soviet Union under Josef Stalin (a each told us that Cuba today is significant remark, coming from those reminiscent of the Soviet Union whose countries lived under Stalinism). under JosefStalln. One cited the state's use of "terror" to tinder Josef Stalin. control the population. In just the last
three years, Castro has moved swiftly and brutally to squelch any organized dissent: He cracked down on the group "Concilio Cubano" in February 1996 to preempt a mere meeting of reform-minded Cubans, and, he arrested the leaders of the "internal dissident working group" in July 1997 for seeking international attention for their nascent movement.
Suspected dissidents are branded enemy agents and treated to "actos de repudio" (acts of repudiation), in which security agents incite mobs into brutal attacks. Although there is no large opposition organization, per se, it is important to note that on virtually a daily basis courageous dissidents, acting alone or in small groups, risk life and limb to speak the truth against the regime. It is extraordinary that these defiant acts are rarely if ever reported in the mainstream U.S. media. (See Appendices A, B, and C for reports of recent human rights violations.)
Fear and 'Mutual Control'
In meetings and casual conversations initiated on city streets, most Cubans
were afraid to even utter Fidel Castro's name. Instead they stroke their chins silently to symbolize the comandante's beard. In Spanish, they refer to "el" (him) when speaking of the government not as an institution, but as a man. A Cuban employee of the U.S. Interests Section even censors his chats with a long-time coworker "because neither one of us knows who the fink is."
Routinely, common Cubans would whisper to us in their own living rooms; one sent her mother out of the room to minimize the risks associated with having a candid conversation with us. They used gestures to silently describe the costs of the
slightest dissent: literally choking their throats or clutching or crossing their wrists to depict possible arrest.
A family in Camaguey invited us into their home and, even after we identified ourselves as staff members of the U.S. Congress and the famous "Senator Helms," engaged us in a friendly debate on U.S. policy. But, only when we rose to leave did the head of the family worry aloud if he would lose his A stranger approached meager wage if his neighbors raised questions one of us discreetly to say, about our extended conversation, or if the "I don't know whoyou children studying in the living room, sir, butyou're being accidentally said something to their classmatesfare, about our visit. followed by the 'secret police.
One woman we met in a private
restaurant told us she "hated" the United States for "doing nothing" to end Castro's regime. She boldly described the unjust arrest of her two sons for separate, peaceful acts of defiance. But, even this proud and outspoken woman choked back her angry words after strangers walked into the restaurant and sat down at a nearby table.
A bright, outgoing man in Camaguey said he was not afraid of speaking with us, saying, "I am a free man in my heart and in my mind." But he preferred not to dine at our hotel, "because they know who you are."' Indeed, a stranger approached one of us discreetly to say, "I don't know who you are, sir, but you're being followed by the 'secret police.'
Two young men approached us in Havana's Plaza de Armas to ask if we needed directions to a good restaurant. When they discovered we were Americans, one asked in halting English, "Are you socialists or capitalists?" After hearing our response, they shook our hands enthusiastically. One said that he was receiving money from his mother in the United States, who insisted that he study English rather than work. He added that the simple fact that he was not working meant that the "chief of sector" in his hometown could have him jailed for "peligrosidad" a catch-all charge of "dangerousness." As he crossed his wrists to demonstrate arrest, we immediately warned him to be careful because we were probably being watched. Both boys turned on their heels and scurried away quickly, glancing back with anxious smiles as they rushed into the crowd.
Another woman we met at one of the papal Masses invited us to her home rather than talk to us in the presence of Cuban strangers. Indeed, on several occasions undercover police pressed in around us to overhear conversations of Cubans who approached us at that Mass. One Cuban estimated that 3,000 secret police were dispersed in the crowd at the papal Mass in Santiago; another speculated that the number was much higher. Still another Cuban told us that plain-clothes Ministry of Interior agents were "tailing" foreign camera crews, eavesdropping and putting themselves in the line of sight of the Cubans being interviewed.
The ambassador of an Eastern European country described this widespread fear as part of a system of "mutual control." Rather than rely merely on paid police agents, the regime demands individual Cubans to "inform" on their neighbors. Another diplomat explained that through a sophisticated cross-referencing system, the regime is able to determine which co-worker, neighbor, or classmate reported an act of dissent and, more importantly, which did not.
We note that, although police agents
were well in evidence during the papal We have doubts as to what Masses we attended in Camaguey and the rank-and-file of Havana, the vaunted internal security Cuba's stratified military apparatus appears to be threadbare. The would be willing to do infamous block committees ("Committees to suppress widespread unrest for the Defense of the Revolution," CDR) _I appear moribund in some neighborhoods through which we walked. (One former CDR president actually a fierce critic of the regime explained that many neighbors merely go through the motions to satisfy party militants.) All of the police watch booths along the stretch of the primary national highway between Havana and Camaguey were unattended. Police cars (mostly Russian Ladas) are in a state of disrepair. However, the perception of an omnipresent security apparatus, and the routine, shameless use of brute force keeps the population in fear and in line.
Clearly, the Castro brothers believe they can count on the internal security machine and military to put down any widespread unrest. (We have doubts as to what the rank-and-file of Cuba's stratified military would be willing to do to suppress widespread unrest.) If and when large numbers of Cubans lose their fear of the decrepit regime that enslaves them, it is predictable that some may choose to test this proposition.
Political Dissidents and 'Prisoners of Conscience'
Castro holds 3,000 to 4,000 political prisoners, according to Freedom House; Amnesty International places the number of "prisoners of conscience" at around 600. During the papal visit, Vatican officials reportedly presented a list of several hundred prisoners to the Cuban government to petition for their release. This month, Cuban authorities announced the release of dozens of prisoners on the Vatican's list of more than 270 prisoners claiming that over 100 had already been liberated for humanitarian reasons. Experts tell us that less than one-third of the freed persons are genuine prisoners of conscience. Moreover, it is unclear whether these dissidents will be reintegrated into Cuban society, as the Pope requested. We have heard reports that dozens of the roughly 70 to 100 genuine prisoners of conscience would be forced into exile. Government officials have been clear that those who are allowed to remain in their homeland will not be allowed to resume their dissident activities. The Communist Party organ, Granma, stated on February 13:
The Revolution is generous, but is also firm. There will be no impunity by
enemies of the fatherland or by those who wish to destroy Cuba. To defend the people, their independence, their revolution, and their security and social
achievements is the primary and most sacred duty of all Cuban patriots.2
Cuban Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina made clear that the prisoner release was not intended as a move to broaden political rights in Cuba, stating publicly that "the pardon was not done with the intention of stimulating internal dissent activities."3 Regardless, the fact remains that hundreds or thousands of political prisoners remain in Cuban jails.
Systematic Repression "None of the freedoms which
Article 62 of the Cuban constitution are recognized for citizens can states, "None of the freedoms which are be exercised contrary to ... recognized for citizens can be exercised [the] decision of the Cuban contrary to ... [the] decision of the Cuban people to build socialism people to build socialism and communism." and communism. According to the State Department's 1997 Article 62, Cuban constitution human rights report on Cuba, "The
2. Ministry of Foreign Relations Communique printed in Granma, February 13, 1998.
3. "Cuba: Freeing Inmates Is No Open Door for Dissent," Miami Herald, February 17, 1998.
authorities routinely invoke this sweeping authority to deny due process to those detained on purported state security grounds.... The authorities routinely engage in arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights advocates, subjecting them to interrogations, threats, and degrading treatment and conditions for hours or days at a time."4 (See Appendix C.)
An Amnesty International Report5 issued during the papal visit underscores the continued systematic violation of human rights, stating, in part:
In the past few months at least 24 government critics have been imprisoned as
prisoners of conscience. Most have been convicted but some are still awaiting
trial. Some have been charged with offences against state security, such as
"propaganda enemiga," "enemy propaganda," while others have been charged
with offences against authority, such as "desacato," "disrespect," "difamacidn,"
"defamation, "desobediencia," "disobedience," or "resistencia," "resistance," or
other kinds of common law offences. In some cases, the charges are believed to have been fabricated in order to discredit them or their organization. Trials in
political cases generally fall short of international fair trial standards,
particularly with regard to access to defense counsel.
4. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1997, Report Submitted to the Committee on
International Relations, U.S. House of Representatives, and the Committee on Foreign Relations,
U.S. Senate, by the Department of State, January 1998.
5. See Appendix B for the entire text of Amnesty International Report, AMR 25/01/98, "New Cases
of Prisoners of Conscience and Possible Prisoners of Conscience," which states, "Amnesty
International is concerned at a recent increase in the number of critics of the Cuban Government
who have been brought to trial and imprisoned because of their peaceful attempts to exercise their
rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. Over the past two or three years,
hundreds of members of unofficial groups of different kinds, including human rights defenders,
have been detained for short periods and threatened with being brought to trial if they do not give
up their activities or go into exile.... During this period, the detainee is often subjected to
psychological pressures, including threats against his own physical integrity or that of members of his family, and coerced into signing false statements or agreeing to leave the country. In cases
tried in municipal courts, the hearing can take place within a day or so of arrest and, while in
theory being permitted to appoint a defense lawyer, the detainee often does not have the
opportunity to do so in practice. Lawyers who take on the defense of political prisoners often face
reprisals themselves for having done so...."
LIBER TAD -- Cubans at the Papal Mass in Havana remember 600 prisoners ofconscience in
Castro's prisons. Some experts report that as many as 3,000 to 4,000 political prisoners languish
injails, some without ever being charged ofcrimes.
'Internal Dissident Working Group'
We petitioned formally to visit dissidents Martha Beatriz Roque, Felix Bonne Carcasses, Rene Gomez Manzano, and Vladimiro Roca Antunes, who were arrested last July and have since been held in prison without charges. The Cuban government did not respond to our formal request, and a verbal request made directly to National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon was rebuffed.
The State Department described this case in its 1997 human rights report on Cuba (Appendix C), "In May and June, the group sought international support for its political positions and nonviolent dissent from the Government's policies. The working group also made a public appeal to citizens to exercise their legal right to abstain from participating in upcoming national elections. It held two well-attended press conferences with foreign journalists. During the second press conference, the group presented 'The Homeland Belongs to All,' a paper that outlined a moderate response to the platform document of the Cuban Communist Party's fifth party congress.
The Department's report continued, "On July 16, state security agents
launched coordinated raids against the working group members' homes and took the four members to police stations. State security officers searched their homes and seized books, papers, correspondence, and personal articles such as typewriters and computers.... At year's end, there were still no indications whether the Government would put the group on trial on charges of disseminating enemy propaganda."
We met with a representative of the dissident working group, who has also been detained on at least three occasions in the last eight months and pressured to testify against the leaders of the group. According to Amnesty International, Rafael Garcia Suarez, Horacio Casanova, Odilia Collazo Valdes, Ruben Martinez Armenteros, Nancy Gutierrez, and Alfredo Ruiz, members of the Support Committee of the dissident working group, have been subjected to short-term detentions, house searches, restriction on movement, and threats of imprisonment.
'Agreement for Democracy'
On the eve of the papal visit, 17 political organizations on the island joined 30 exile groups in signing an "Agreement for Democracy" that outlines the obligations of a "provisional or transition government" in Cuba. [See Appendix D for full text of the agreement, including signatories]. Among the measures prescribed are: "universal, direct, and secret voting;" "general amnesty for the liberation of all political prisoners;" "independent, impartial, and professional judiciary;" "freedom of press, of association, of assembly, of peaceful demonstration, of profession, and of religion;" protection against "arbitrary expulsion from their homes as well as against all forms of detention, search, confiscation, or arbitrary aggression;" "immediately legalize all political parties and other organizations and activities of civil society;" etc.
We met with a representative of the "Varela Project," which proposes political reforms for "the improvement of society" and "to open spaces for the free and responsible participation of citizens in the political and economic life of society." This project, named for early 19th century Cuban independence leader (and candidate for sainthood) Fr. Felix Varela, is unique in that it proposes a series of legal reforms within the framework of the current constitution. Among the reforms contemplated under the Varela Project are the right of freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and freedom of association.
For example, on December 10, 1997, Cuban citizens under the Varela Project presented a petition to the National Assembly of People's Power requesting a revision of Cuba's electoral law to allow the direct participation of citizens in nominating candidates for public office. In other words, this project tests the vaunted notions of "direct democracy" about which Fidel Castro routinely brags.
Under current practice, candidates for public office are nominated by exclusive "candidate committees" and "municipal assemblies." Cuba's voters have the choice
of confirming each or all candidates or returning a blank ballot; "no" votes are not accommodated. The Varela Project's petition to the National Assembly asserted that, "The Electoral Law obstructs the constitutional right of the citizens to elect and be elected, with regard to election of delegates of the provincial assembly and of the National Assembly.... In these cases, it is not the people that nominate." The Varela Project requested that, "the National Assembly (conduct) an immediate review and transformation of the Electoral Law so that it does not obstruct the rights consecrated in the Constitution and guarantees the exercise of popular sovereignty."
The government ignored this petition. Sham elections were held in January in which 98.5 percent of Cuba's eligible voters were said to have participated, merely confirming the nominated candidates in a process Fidel Castro rationalized as a "united vote." Citizens were escorted to the polls. One Cuban told us that a "ballot" was brought to her home for her infirm mother, who was required to fill it out. Leaders of the Varela Project told us their efforts will continue.
THE VISIT OF POPE JOHN PAUL II WILL
UNDERMINE WIDESPREAD FEAR THAT HAS KEPT MOST CUBANS
FROM TAIUNG THE FIRST STEPS TOWARD CHANGE.
The visit of Pope John Paul II may be the most important single contribution to breaking the climate of fear in Cuba. The papal Masses we attended in Camaguey and Havana were vivid evidence that
believers and non-believers alike are
hungry for the Pope's message of "peace, The visit of the Pope hope, and truth." Multitudes stood for may be the most important hours in the scorching sun for the single contribution to services to commence. (In Havana breaking the climate of fear overcast weather brought relief from the in Cuba heat.) Well over 10 percent of Cuba's
population attended one of the four
Masses (in Santa Clara, Camaguey,
Santiago, and Havana); the atmosphere of the Pope's pilgrimage grew to a crescendo at the Havana mass.
We heard from some experts that the Pope's visit has launched a psychological revolution, although no one predicted radical short-term change. One diplomat told us that this is the first exposure to different ideas that Cubans have enjoyed since the
1960's, although he opined that the Pope had watered down his message too much out of concern for how the regime would react. Despite the efforts of the regime to manipulate the Pope's message, that diplomat predicted that the Cuban people will gradually become more conscious of their strength and the Church will "broaden its space and freedom of action."
Some observers have noted that Cuba's clergy have been too timid in the past in confronting the regime. More boldness on their part could prove crucial. Others noted an ongoing change in the attitudes and activities of the Catholic Church in recent decades that have drawn it closer to the people than it was in the past, when it was considered a "foreign" church by many Cubans. One Church elder described three successive, long-term steps toward normal Church-state relations:
'Be Not Afraid' A Cubanfamily at the Mass in Havana pore over a book of the Pope's writings that we distributed to eager pilgrims during our visit.
tolerance; forgiveness; and reconciliation. However, he also told us that he expected reprisals from the state for some of the liberties taken during the papal visit, saying, "there have always been reprisals."
A senior Cuban government official with whom we spoke could only bring himself to describe the papal visit as "peaceful, normal, organized, and orderly." Indeed, in the weeks since the Pope's visit, the regime has taken no irreversible steps toward reform or liberalization, neither toward the Church nor society in general. We were told that just one day after the Pope had left Cuba, university students were being admonished that "it is forbidden to repeat the words of the Pope."
We cannot overstate how important it is that the international community hold the Cuban regime accountable for allowing or denying the Catholic Church more space. (We cite the Catholic Church, without prejudice to other faiths, because it is the largest, most independent, national institution in Cuba today.) Moreover, we believe that friendly governments should seek opportunities to actively help the Cuban Catholic Church and other denominations to expand their reach and to become stronger and more independent.
Castro has attempted to put a positive spin on the Pope's visit, stating on
Cuban television before the Holy Father's arrival that the Pope was finished with his critique of communism and is now taking on capitalism. Many U.S. news organizations spent most of their time focusing on the U.S. embargo. Indeed, when we met a well-known reporter from a
major TV network at the Mass in
Camaguey, we asked if his network "I wish for our brothers and sisters was covering the event live. "No," he on that beautiful island replied, "we're just here to get the that thefruits of thispilgrimage soundbyte of the Pope denouncing will be similar to the fruits of that the embargo."6 pilgrimage in Poland."
For his part, the Pope was not Pope John Paul II, after his Cuba trip the least bit ambiguous about the
goals of his Cuba trip. Upon his return to Rome, he told his general audience in the Vatican on January 28, "I wish for our brothers and sisters on that beautiful island that the fruits of this pilgrimage will be similar to the fruits of that pilgrimage in Poland," referring to his June 1979 visit to his Polish homeland that many credit as sealing the fate of the communist dictatorship. Despite "Marxist, materialist, and atheist" ideology, Cuban culture retained its "Christian inspiration," the Pope said.7
We are shocked by the revisionism of the papal message by some in the media that began before the Pope departed Cuba, and which has continued in earnest by Castro himself since the visit. One theme played in the international media is that Cubans did not understand the Pope's sophisticated or elliptical messages.
Perhaps it is the media that did not comprehend the pontiff's message. But we stood among hundreds of thousands of Cuban pilgrims, the vast majority of whom strained to hear each of the Pope's words, occasionally admonishing their neighbors to mute their cheers lest they miss his next declaration. The crowds applauded feverishly with each mention of "freedom," "respect for human rights," and ''truth."
6. Washington Times reporter Tom Carter observed in a February 23 article, "For years, getting
permission to report in Cuba has been coveted like a brass ring, visas awarded only to reporters
deemed reliable by the Cuban government. And, some reporters, hoping to make return trips,
purposely tailor their coverage so as not to offend anyone in government."
7. "Pope Likens Cuba Trip to Poland Stay," Victor L. Simpson, Associated Press, January 28, 1998.
Papal Mass Tens oj thousands of Cubans attended the papal youth mass in the central Cuban town of Camaguey on January 23.
According to an analysis by the Center for a Free Cuba, Pope John Paul II's statements referred to "Jesus Christ" or "God" 129 times, "truth" 74 times, "freedom" 53 times, "Fidel Castro" or "president" 4 times, and "embargoes" once.8
Archbishop Pedro Meurice of Santiago de Cuba made particularly blunt remarks during the papal Mass on January 24:
A growing number of Cubans have confused our nation with a single party, our
country with the history lived in recent decades and our culture with an
ideology.... The Church...achieved its greatest splendor and Cuban voice in the
1950s. Later, as the fruit of state-sponsored ideological confrontation with
Marxism-Leninism, it once again was impoverished of resources and clergy but
not of the Holy Spirit....
Our nation lives here and it lives in the diaspora. Cubans suffer, live, and hope here, and also suffer, live, and hope abroad. We are one people, plying all the seas, we will continue to seek a unity which will never be the fruit of uniformity but of a common
soul that shares our diversity....
The poorest among us are those who do not possess the prized gift of
8. "What Did the Pope Say in Cuba?" statement of Center for a Free Cuba, Washington, D.C.,
January 28, 1998.
Since 1991, the Catholic relief organization "Caritas" has been operating in Cuba; the Caritas agencies are decentralized, independently affiliated with each of Cuba's Catholic diocese. (Caritas officers have won praise for their role in helping to organize the mammoth logistical arrangements of the papal visit.) Caritas carries out humanitarian relief, institutional development, and public outreach projects. The delegation met with Caritas leaders and volunteers in Havana and Santiago and visited a senior citizen day care center and free pharmacy in Havana.
successfully made space for its work in Cuban society, filling space left vacant by the government by providing a variety of social services. Among the services Caritas provides through a network of 4,000 volunteers nationwide are aid to diabetic children, the elderly, pregnant women, and lepers. Caritas also operates "soup kitchens" and pharmacies to dispense donated medicines to persons who lack the money to fill
CARITAS At a private Caritas senior citizens center we visited in Havana, a volunteer doctor coaxes an elderly man to dance in a group activity designed to encourage exercise and alertness. This center prepares hot meals for shut-ins and distributes free medicines.
prescriptions. And Caritas played an unprecedented role in facilitating the delivery of humanitarian supplies donated in large measure by Miami's exile community in the wake of the Hurricane Lili disaster.
Caritas has also leaped at any opportunity to nurture the tiny private sector in Cuba. Operating completely independent of the Cuban government, Caritas carries out self-help income-generating projects, and agricultural projects to help the handful of Cuban farmers who own title to their land9.
9. According to Caritas officials we spoke with, about five percent of Cuban farmers own title to
their land. They are required to give 60 percent of their produce to the government, but are free
Caritas also receives donations of medicine and distributes them to clinics, pharmacies and hospitals. (The organization has been granted access to these facilities to verify and control these donated goods.) However, Caritas leaders in Havana note that it is impossible to meet all of the needs of the hospitals. Caritas also has expressed willingness to monitor U.S. medical sales to Cuba if the government chooses to make such purchases.
The U.S.-based Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is one of the organizations that supports Caritas, donating over $10 million worth of medicine, food, clothing, and other aid since 1993. According to CRS, Caritas is the direct consignee of all donations and uses its national infrastructure of volunteers to directly oversee the delivery of donated goods. Caritas officials who met with the delegation praised CRS for their able assistance, noting that their effectiveness is rooted in the fact that they are absolutely apolitical.
CASTRO'S STATIST POLICIES HAVE WRECKED CUBA, & HE
MANIPULATES THE SUPPLY OF FOOD & MEDICINE TO CONTROL THE
PEOPLE & VACUUM U.S. DOLLARS INTO HIS COFFERS.
In the 30 years Fidel Castro was receiving a $5-6 billion annual Soviet subsidy, shortages of basic goods were common and Havana was crumbling around his ears.'0 It should come as no surprise that he is failing miserably in his attempts to retool the economy to compensate for the lost Soviet aid. His reform half-measures (i.e., foreign "The state organizes, directs, investment liberalization, farmers markets, etc.) have produced little more than fodder and controls the economic life for U.S. academics eager to tout his resilience. of the nation...." At the current meager rate of two percent Article 16, Cuban constitution annual growth, Cuba's economy will recover its 1989 levels around the year 2009. In fact, Castro keeps Cubans on a "starvation diet" so most of them must spend their day simply trying to survive rather than challenging the regime.
to sell the remaining 40 percent. Caritas has been active in nurturing these entrepreneurs.
10. Compared to that massive Soviet subsidy of Cuba, the combined U.S. economic assistance to all
of two dozen countries in the Western Hemisphere exceeded $2 billion in only seven of the last
Marxism-Leninism Has Impoverished Cuba
The Cuban constitution makes clear where the responsibility lies for the
economic conditions of the island and the welfare of everyone on it. Article 16 states plainly, "The state organizes, directs, and controls the economic life of the nation according to a plan that guarantees the programmed development of the country...."
According to a State Department report issued in January (Appendix E), "Cuba was a relatively advanced country in 1958, certainly by Latin American standards and, in some areas, by world standards. The data appear to show that Cuba has at best maintained what were high levels of development in health and education, but at an extraordinary cost to the overall welfare of the Cuban people. These include access to 'basics' such as adequate levels of food and electricity, but also access to consumer goods, the availability of which have increased significantly in other Latin American countries in recent decades.
The report continues,
"It is true that Cuba's infant
mortality rate is the best in
Latin America today, but it
was the best in Latin America
and the 13th lowest in the
world in pre-Castro Cuba.
Cuba also has improved the
literacy of its people, but
Cuba had an excellent
educational system and
impressive literacy rates in
Farmers Market One of Castro'sfamous reforms the "On the other hand," farmers market allows Cubans to pay for home-grown
the report states, "many products in US. dollars. Cubans who can afford to depend on economic and social these markets, to supplement the meager rationing system. indicators have declined since
the 1959 revolution. Pre-Castro Cuba ranked third in Latin America in per capita food consumption; today, it ranks last. Per capita consumption of cereals, tubers, and meat are today all below 1950's levels. The number of automobiles in Cuba has fallen since the 1950's the only country in Latin America for which this is the case. The number of telephone lines in Cuba also has been virtually frozen at 1950's levels.
Cuba once ranked first in Latin America and fifth in the world in television sets per capita. Today, it barely ranks fourth in Latin America and is well back in the ranks globally."
One respected Cuban told us that the years of Soviet support "had failed to create a basis for development." He observed that the loss of that aid "left public health services, schools, and factories operating at a minimal level." He explained further that Castro's repression and the failed economy have driven many of the most talented and productive Cubans to leave the country.
It is also clear to us that the welfare of the Cuban people takes a back seat to the security apparatus. For example, the Cuban military consumes roughly four percent of the country's gross domestic product, twice that of South American countries that are facing armed insurgencies, border conflicts, or both. Cuba's roughly 235,000 men under arms (active duty and reserves) is 2.1 percent of the population more than three times that of Colombia, a country which is fighting a well-funded narcoterrorist insurgency.
Comparison of Cuban Military Expenditures
Country Military Expenditures as Size of Armed Forces** Size of Armed Forces
a Percentage of GDP* (Includes Active and as a Percentage of Reserves) Total Population
Cuba 4.0% 235,000 2.1%
Chile 3.5% 139,700 1.0% Colombia 2.8% 207,000 0.6% Ecuador 2.1% 157,100 1.3% Guatemala 0.8% 79,400 0.7% Mexico 1.5% 475,000 0.5% Peru 1.9% 313,000 1.3%
SOURCE: World Factbook 1997, Central Intelligence Agency
** SOURCE: The Military Balance 1996/97, International Institute for Strategic Studies
Virtually all Cubans who have jobs (either with domestic or foreign enterprises) work for the state and their wages are set by the state. The average monthly salary of
200 pesos translates to about $2.20 per week, or just over a nickel an hour. By comparison, Bangladeshis make an average of 31 cents an hour; Haitians, 49 cents; Salvadorans, $1.38; and Canadians $9.88. The Cuban Institute of Independent Labor Studies has calculated that workers on the average 200 peso salary must labor 116 hours to purchase one kilogram of powdered milk, 70 hours for one kilogram of chicken, 13 hours for one light bulb, and 500 to 1,700 hours for a pair of shoes."
In light of the pathetic picture painted by these data, it is shocking that Forbes magazine's 1997 list of the "World's Richest People" reports that Fidel Castro is as wealthy as U.S. magnate (and, occasional Castro host) David Rockefeller: $1.4 billion. Forbes attributes Castro's wealth to "nickel, sugar, investments."
In Cuba, foreign investors do not hire or pay Cuban workers directly; they must go through a government employment agency, CUBALSE. Investors pay the regime enormous sums (often
as high as $10,000 per
worker per year). The regime "The Cuban government in turn pays the Cuban has used the exploitation of working people workers a few hundred and the absence offreedom of association Cuban pesos (virtually as a lure to attract investors..." worthless in Cuba's dollar AFL-CIO Report, February 1995 economy), and pockets the
difference. Under this
system, foreign investors in Cuba are taking advantage of what amounts to slave labor, while providing large cash subsidies directly to the Cuban government.
The delegation recounted to Vice Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio how shocked average Cuban families were when we told them how much foreign investors pay the government per worker (because they knew how little the workers are paid). De Cossio not only confirmed this practice, he defended it, claiming that the government uses the money "to import powdered milk" for children. (We did not ask him what had happened to all the cows in Cuba's agricultural economy.'2)
11. All of these date are extracted from the publication, "Update on Foreign Investment in Cuba:
1996-97," by Maria C. Werlau, p. 24.
12. "The cattle industry finds itself in a 'terminal' crisis, lacking feed, urea, fertilizers, protein
supplements, agricultural machinery, etc.... Cattle biomass continues to fall, and deaths from lack of food and water will continue to rise. The country's cattle herd, which barely reaches 4 million
The American labor movement has been a leader in shedding light on what at least one U.S. labor leader calls "slavery" in Cuba. A report of the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD) observed, "The growing number of partnerships between foreign investors and Cuban government agencies has not improved the lot of workers or provided them with greater autonomy. Instead the Cuban government has used the exploitation of working people and the absence of freedom of association as a lure to attract investors, often to the detriment of workers in neighboring countries."
Continuing to quote from the AIFLD report, "According to workers in the tourist industry, the salaries for their services are paid by the foreign firm to the contracting agency in dollars. The agency, in turn, pays the workers in Cuban pesos at the artificially low official exchange rate. The result, workers say, is a massive transfer of workers' wages to the Cuban government, while workers and their families face growing hunger and poverty."13
Former Polish President Lech Walesa, who led a workers' uprising to overthrow a Communist regime, issued a statement after the Pope's visit calling on "the labor movement around the world to mobilize its resources, just as it was done in support of Polish Solidarnosc and the Polish workers, to express their support for Cuban workers and to monitor labor rights" on the island."
We saw food and medicine readily available in stores in the three cities we visited; however, in most cases, these stores accepted only U.S. dollars. In many instances, we witnessed Cuban-made products being sold for dollars. Selling food in dollar stores forces Cubans to surrender hard currency to the regime. Even one of the famous "farmers markets" that we visited in Havana charges U.S. dollars for chicken, pork, vegetables, and other home-grown products. We also found a bakery in Havana selling locally baked bread for U.S. dollars.
head (compared with 7.7 million head in 1966) is heading toward extinction in a few years, since the lack of feed does not permit its reproduction." Cuba Monthly Economic Report, DevTech
Systems, Inc., December 1997.
13. "Foreign Investment in Cuba: Oiling the Machine of Repression," AIFLD Report, February 1995.
14. "Statement of Solidarity and Cooperation," February 20, 1998, at Center for a Free Cuba,
Dollars Only Cubans depend on farmers markets for staples like vegetables, pork, and chicken, but they are forced to pay dollars in this Havana market we visited.
explained to us that their lives are spent struggling to earn pesos in order to buy dollars so that they can purchase basic staples. One Cuban told us: "We survive by selling anything we can get our hands on." In fact, Cuba is a country rife with corruption. While the regime spares no effort to crush dissent, people within the regime steal anything they can from the state to sell on the black market. A number of Cubans lamented to us that communism has turned everyone into thieves. For example, people steal beer and sell it for lower than retail prices. Stolen and knock-off cigars are available on the black market at a fraction of the retail price. The regime apparently tolerates this because, in the end, it provides relief to low-level loyalists and soaks up the hard currency generated in the underground economy through its dollars stores.
By charging dollars for the most common necessities and even domestically produced goods, the regime is able to collect hard currency into its coffers. One owner of a paladar (a small privately operated restaurant) explained that she spent her life "gathering dollars from foreigners to give them to Fidel."
American Humanitarian Aid
No country does more to assist the people of Cuba than the United States.
Americans have provided $2.4 billion in licensed humanitarian donations since 1992, not including an estimated $200-300 million in family cash remittances per year.
American Humanitarian Donations to Cuba Since Passage of the Cuban Democracy Act, October 23, 1992 through July 31, 1997 (in thousand U.S. dollars)
Yr Total Parcels Meds. Clothes Food Educ. Shelter Misc. 92 28,017 28,000 17 0 0 0 0 0 93 559,787 527,024 12,219 8,750 3,161 7,016 1,410 207 94 517,497 475,683 39,197 352 2,131 133 0 0 95 526,264 401,989 113,773 2,337 3,759 3,529 425 451 96 538,611 511,710 20,954 2,318 3,436 64 128 0 97 207,068 161,925 42,560 501 810 322 850 100 Tot 2,377,244 2,106,331 228,719 14,260 13,298 11,065 2,813 758 (SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Export Administration, August 4, 1997)
Initiative to Increase Humanitarian Donations to Undermine Castro's Control
In an effort to counter the regime's policy of denying food and medicine as a means of control as well as to strengthen the Catholic Church, Senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) endorsed an initiative to increase the delivery of humanitarian aid including U.S. government aid directly to needy people in Cuba through nongovernmental organizations such as Caritas. This initiative was announced by the Cuban American National Foundation on January 29, 1998.
Just four days later, on February 2, Fidel Castro rejected this proposal to
increase humanitarian aid while leaving the U.S. embargo in place. "How can Cuba accept humanitarian aid from those who daily stick deeper and deeper the killer knife to impede our economic and social development," Castro remarked in a marathon four-hour television address on February 2. We note that Castro has done something that not even the North Korean dictatorship has been willing to do: Refuse humanitarian donations to his needy countrymen.
However, Castro did endorse legislation introduced in the U.S. Congress by
Representatives Esteban Torres (D-Calif.) and Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) to weaken the U.S. commercial embargo. Castro called this bill "a step in the right direction" and described it as "a noble and well-intentioned effort that deserves recognition and respect." During our visit, a senior Cuban official referred to the Torres legislation as "our bill." (A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn.)
Rather than weaken the embargo, which would do nothing to ensure more food for Cubans, we believe it is preferable to increase material aid directly to those who need it but cannot buy it.
Such an initiative is an
appropriate response to the Rather than weaken the embargo, which visit of Pope John Paul 11, would do nothing to ensure more food for which will help nurture a civil Cubans, we believe it is preferable to society by strengthening increase material aid directly independent, nongovern- to those who need it but cannot buy it mental institutions in Cuba.
Increased U.S. donations
delivered directly to needy Cubans through the Church possibly including U.S. food aid would place the blame for Cuba's problems squarely on Castro's shoulders while keeping the embargo on the regime firmly in place.
Some Cubans suggested to us that, while lifting the embargo would benefit Castro, it was worth it because lifting the embargo would "take away his excuses." This proposal takes away his excuses, while maintaining the embargo. If Castro refuses to allow delivery of donated food and medicine from America, it will be clear to all Cubans who is responsible for their suffering. And if Castro does allow these donations reach the Cuban people, then we will be strengthening the Church and undermining Castro's policy of control-through-deprivation.
THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT FAILS TO PURCHASE ADEQUATE MEDICAL
SUPPLIES, AND CASTRO USES 'SHORTAGES' AS A CYNICAL PROPAGANDA TOOL.
Cuba has a centralized, socialist medical establishment. With the exception of a handful of octogenarian physicians who have kept pre-revolutionary private practices, all doctors, nurses, and administrators work for the state. They are poorly
paid at the peso equivalent of $20 per month. They also endure shortages of medicines and equipment that breaks down for lack of spare parts. We came away with the impression that many health care professionals in Cuba are dedicated to their work. However, the state's commitment to their work is very much in doubt.
Policy of Neglect
Cuban officials are adamant in blaming the deteriorated state of health care in Cuba on the U.S. embargo, which they refer to as a "blockade." As outlined below, the information gathered during our visit strongly suggests that the Castro regime's stated commitment to Cuban health care is hollow. Like everything else in Cuba today, medical care is being sacrificed by Fidel Castro in order to make a buck and to win a Pyhrric victory in his propaganda war against the American embargo.
We discovered that the Castro regime has opted not to purchase some medical products and has even impeded the delivery of some medical donations. Cubans privately acknowledge that the current widespread shortages of medicines can be traced back to the loss of the huge Soviet subsidy in the late 1980's. Today, hospitals need almost every type of medicine and medical supplies (not just U.S. products). We conclude that the chronic medicine shortages are due to the fact that the state either lacks sufficient resources to buy these items, does not treat the purchase of such goods as a priority, or both. Worse yet, during out visit we discovered three separate examples in which U.S. Catholic bishops and a U.S. congressman organized the donation of millions of dollars worth of American medicines, only to have Castro turn them down.
Comparison of Medical Imports, 1993-1995 (in million U.S. dollars)
Country 1993 1994 1995 3-yr Total 3-yr Total, per capita Cuba 29.8 29.1 38.9 97.8 $8.89 Bolivia 20.4 23.5 28.5 72.4 $9.41 Costa Rica (est.)90.0 98.4 103.5 291.9 $83.40 Guatemala 79.9 90.7 106.0 276.6 $23.93 (SOURCE: United Nations Trade Data System. Population data from CIA World Factbook 1997.)
In 1995, Cuba imported $2.8 billion in goods, spending only $40 million (less than 1.5 percent of all imports) on medicine and medical equipment for its 11 million
citizens. That same year, the Dominican Republic spent $208 million on medical imports for its 7.5 million citizens.'5 The preceding table compares Cuba's medical imports to those of several other Latin American countries. These data show that Cuba imports about one-tenth of the value of medicines per capita as Costa Rica (which, besides Cuba, runs the most socialized health care system in Latin America). Indeed, in the 1994-95 period, Cuba imported a mere $70 million worth of medicine, while it actually exported $235 million worth of medicines from its biotechnology industry in that same period.'6 These figures confirm our conclusion that Castro's desperate need for hard currency is the sole reason that average Cubans lack adequate medical supplies. (See Appendix F.)
The Regime Exploits Myth of an American Embargo on Medicines
The Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 allows the sale of U.S. medicines and
medical equipment to Cuba. Pharmaceutical companies must merely obtain licenses through the Treasury Department to ensure that the delivery of such goods will be monitored so that they will not be reexported by Cuba or used for psychological torture. (For example, the Catholic Church group Caritas can conduct such end-use monitoring.) The Treasury Department has approved 40 of 42 license applications since 1992. One unusually knowledgeable Cuban with whom we spoke in Havana cited several specific cases in which licenses have been granted and/or end-use monitoring has been arranged, but the Cuban government chose not to purchase these U.S. goods.
All of the two dozen Cuban All of the two dozen Cuban doctors doctors with whom we met during with whom we met seemed our visit seemed genuinely surprised genuinely surprised to learn from us to learn from us that Cuba has been that Cuba has been able to able to purchase U.S. medicine since
1992. There is reason to doubt the
Castro regime's interest in buying
American-made medical supplies. When we asked several Cuban physicians if they would be ever specifically request needed American medicines or equipment through the Ministry of Public Health, they said "no." One doctor was very blunt: "No one
15. "The U.S. Embargo and Healthcare in Cuba: Myth Versus Reality," U.S. Department of State fact
sheet, August 5, 1997. An excerpt of this fact sheet appears in Appendix F.
16. According to the U.S. Department of State fact sheet, "The U.S. Embargo and Healthcare in
Cuba: Myth Versus Reality," Cuba exported $110 million worth of medical supplies in 1994 and
$125 million in 1995. An excerpt of this fact sheet appears in Appendix F.
would dare ask that. You'd be connecting yourself with the United States. They'd tell you are making counter-revolution."
Cuban officials complained that the U.S. licensing requirement is bureaucratic and causes unreasonable delays in sales to the island. Officials of the U.S. Interests Section told us that licenses are usually issued within a week; these officials have repeatedly invited their Cuban counterparts to notify them if any urgent shipment must be expedited. (With respect to unreasonable delays, it is interesting to note that one well-informed person told us that Cuban customs authorities have taken upwards of one month to clear some donated medicines.)
Upon our return, about 20 minutes of research led us to the simple Commerce Department guidelines and one-page application for selling medical supplies to Cuba (Appendix G). The Treasury Department accepts a simple letter requesting a license.
Calling Their Bluff
On repeated occasions during our visit, we challenged officials of the Foreign Ministry and the Vice Minister of Public Health to give us a list of medicines that they have been unable to purchase from the United States, because of delays or refusals by the U.S. government to grant licenses. We offered to inquire why licenses were delayed or denied. However, the Cubans authorities failed to provide such a list before our departure and have not produced such a list since our return. In the words of one U.S. official in Havana, "The Cuban government prefers the problem to the solution."
Vice Minister of Public Health Ramon E. Diaz Vallina also showed us several letters, most of which were four or five years old, from European pharmaceutical companies declining further sales to Cuba because their companies were bought by Americans. We challenged him to show us letters from the Cuban government to these companies correcting this misperception, or any communications to the U.S. Interests Section seeking help to explain the law. Vice Minister Diaz did not respond.
Foreign Ministry officials, in response to our insistence that the sale of
medicines and medical equipment is allowed under current U.S. law and our offers to help facilitate licenses, immediately changed the subject to inquire if the United States would be willing to extend credits for medical purchases. It is clear that the shortages of medicines and medical supplies available to Cubans are caused almost exclusively by Castro's refusal to assign adequate hard currency for this purpose.
As a matter of state policy, simple prescription medicines are sometimes available only to foreigners or to those who can pay dollars for these necessities confirming our theory that shortages
are due to the fact that the regime As a mailer of state poicy, selfishly guards hard currency for itss l c.m i own priorities. A tour of a peso drug simple prescription medicines store in Havana turned up a are sometimes available laboratory marketing local herbal only toforeigners or to remedies, while over-the-counter those who can pay dollars medicines are sold primarily in dollar for these necessities. stores.
In short, the regime treats foreigners and party officials with commercial
medicines while forcing homeopathic pseudo-medicines on ordinary Cubans. The country's top two clinics, the "Cira Garcia" and "Villa Tarara," are off-limits to ordinary Cubans even if they can pay in dollars. This fact irritates ordinary Cubans.
We dropped by the aging "Johnson's" pharmacy in Old Havana, which
specializes in "natural medicines" for use by Cubans. The clerk told us that some items infrequently donated by the European Union, notably condoms, are also distributed from this store, but more sophisticated medicines are not available. At another peso pharmacy, a clerk explained that foreigners have access to such medicines at a separate pharmacy. When we asked what type of medicines that facility stocked, she said she did not know because, as a Cuban, she is not even allowed to enter that pharmacy. When one of us asked why a pharmacist could not enter a pharmacy, she replied with resignation, "We don't make those decisions, sir."
Heath-Care for Dollars and 'Medical Apartheid'
The best medical care in Cuba today is available only to ranking party officials and to foreigners who pay in dollars. Dr. Hilda Molina's story illustrates how the Castro regime has sacrificed the country's health care system in its lust for hard currency.
Dr. Molina was the founding director of the International Center for
Neurological Restoration, a Havana facility noted for its treatment of Parkinson's disease. A one-time member of the National Assembly of People's Power, Dr. Molina
was also a dedicated medical professional who worked to create a world-class facility for treating neurological disorders. She was a trusted member of the Communist Party who was allowed to travel to the United States to lecture on her Center's findings. Originally, the Neurological Center operated 136 beds for Cuban patients.
In 1992, Dr. Molina told us, she
reluctantly followed the instructions of thedr datolina was Ministry of Public Health to set aside 20 bedsfor ordered to evict her foreign patients paying in dollars. This step produced $7 million annually, which provided from their beds and enough money to cover the Center's operating dedicate all of the expenses and return a profit to the regime. Center's beds (Incidentally, Dr. Molina told us, this flagship exclusively to foreigners neurological center never suffered from a lack of paying in dollars. medicines or equipment.)__ _
On February 26, 1994, Dr. Molina was ordered to evict her Cuban patients
from their beds and dedicate all of the Center's beds exclusively to foreigners paying in dollars. When she refused, she was told that she was a "counterrevolutionary." Dr. Molina handed the Ministry officials the keys to the Center, and she resigned her position, Party membership, and seat in the National Assembly in protest. In her words: "The Center was like a child that I had to raise by myself and when she reached the age of 15, they came to rape her."
Apparently, many members of the original staff subsequently left the Center some as rafters trying to reach the United States. Although the facility has deteriorated to "mediocrity," and beds go empty, the regime still refuses to treat Cubans at the Center. Dr. Molina has become a dissident and suffers raids and harassment from the state security apparatus her phone service has been interrupted and her computer confiscated. Molina has founded an independent medical school and attempted to raise the consciousness of her profession; she told us that Cuban doctors "had never even heard of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;" when she gave them copies they concluded it was a "subversive document." She is not allowed to leave the country to visit her family and is told that her "brain belongs to the government."
Dr. Molina, who the regime once hailed as a product of the Revolution, now scorns a medical system in which the "dollar is an idol."
Effects of the End of the Soviet Subsidy
In 1991, the Soviet Union ended its $5-7 billion annual subsidy to Cuba. The Soviet Union's largess toward Cuba for serving as a political and strategic base 90 miles from the continental United States included transfers of hard currency. During our visit, a number of physicians told us that the Cuban state used some of this hard currency to buy medicines from Germany, Great Britain, Italy, and Japan. We were told that prior to the end of this massive subsidy, there were no widespread shortages of medicines in Cuba. In fact, Cubans became accustomed to easy access to medicines and, as occurs in many Latin American countries, developed the bad habit of "selfprescribing" medication.
Culture of Mediocrity
Cubans, like people in other Communist societies, are active black marketeers. There is a culture of stealing from the state which affects the health sector as well. One professional told us that linens delivered to a hospital will invariably show up on the black market within a week. There is also an active black market in medicines, presumably originating from the well-stocked dollar clinics for foreigners. There is also culture of mediocrity which pervades Cuban society, including its medical profession. One professional pointed out that university professors, for example, allow poor students to pass lest they themselves fail to respond to the state-set quotas.
THE REGIME USES COERCION TO ENCOURAGE ABORTIONS
AMONG POOR, RURAL CUBANS AND OTHERS WHO FALL INTO A CATEGORY OF 'SOCIAL RISK.'
Cuba has the highest abortion rate in the Western Hemisphere 40 percent. In short, for every 10 live births, Cuban doctors induce 7 abortions.'7
A doctor told us of a widespread practice of coercing abortions in women who are younger than 20 and older than 35, have more than three children, are single, are from poor or rural families, or suffer from genetically determined illnesses (such as diabetes, hypertension, sickle-cell anemia, etc). This physician told us that such
17. The State Department cited this number in its fact sheet, "Excerpt of Zenith and Eclipse: A
Comparative Look at Socio-Economic Conditions in Pre-Castro and Present Day Cuba,"
February 9, 1998.
persons fall into a category of what are called "social risk pregnancies." A "committee of specialists" is expected to pressure them to terminate their pregnancies. This doctor explained that doctors would "use lots of underhanded techniques"-- such as tricking the mother into thinking that the fetus was deformed or diseased in order to coerce a pregnant mother into getting an abortion.
We were also told that doctors are
expected to encourage abortions in these Cuba has the highest social risk groups, and these specialists meet abortion rate in the Western on a weekly basis to compare statistics on how many "social risk pregnancies" had been Hemisphere 40percent. coerced into abortions. "If the mothers do not In short, for every 10 live have an abortion, the doctors are not meeting births, Cuban doctors induce the objective of the program," the doctor said; 7 abortions. and if any physician "refused to be part of the program, they would be suspended or lose their pay." The doctor was not aware of any physician who is resisting this program.
In a characteristically cynical charade that demonstrates that the Pope's antiabortion message cut to the bone, Fidel Castro spoke out against abortion in his February 25th "inaugural address" to the National Assembly, saying, "We don't like abortion. Abortion should not be used as an anti-birth method." U.S. media carried Castro's sanctimonious declarations without mentioning his pro-abortion policies.
As early as the mid- 1980's, Sergio Diaz-Briquets shed light on this use of "therapeutic" abortions in the Cuban state's bid to reduce infant mortality. Diaz-Briquet posed a series of troubling, prescient questions in a 1986 journal article on the Cuban health care system. "If in fact, 'therapeutic' abortions can contribute to infant mortality declines," he asked, "how have countries like Costa Rica and Panama, where even abortions for medical reasons are illegal (although many are performed anyway) been able to reduce infant mortality nearly as much as Cuba?"
Diaz-Briquet continued, "Another interesting question follows from the above. In a county where the prevalence of induced abortion is so high and pressures to reduce infant mortality so prevalent, is induced abortion used as a medically justifiable intervention in other situations? Cuban physicians frequently note maternal and child
18. Sergio Diaz-Briquets authored, The Health Revolution in Cuba. His quotes here are drawn from
his article, "How to Figure Out Cuba: Development, Ideology, and Mortality," from Caribbean
Review, Spring 1986.
health is negatively affected by births to veryyoung or very old women, or to women who have had many children. It follows abortions might be frequently performedfor preventive needs. If so, abortion further contributes to infant mortality decline." [Emphasis added]
CASTRO MANIPULATES THE U.S. EMBARGO ISSUE
TO SERVE HIS ENDS IN AND OUT OF CUBA
Castro uses the embargo as a scapegoat for Cuba's problems, but he is eager to have it lifted for the financial and propaganda benefits. However, we question the logic of some Cubans that lifting the U.S. embargo would hurt Castro by denying him an excuse for scarcities. The fact is, on February 2, Castro publicly endorsed an initiative in the U.S. Congress to loosen the embargo "as a step in the right direction." Also, the regime has begun to place hard-liners at choke-points in the economy (employment services, commercial services, sugar industry, telecommunications, etc.) so that it can reap the benefits of any loosening of the U.S. embargo.
It is important to note that the repressive arm of the regime will be among the first beneficiaries from any increased trade. The Armed Forces and Interior Ministry operate farms, tourist hotels, and other enterprises to generate hard currency and to be able to care for their own (including paramilitary personnel) and to provide an efficient means of producing staple products rather than depend on the vagaries of other state-run enterprises.
Tourism is a safe bet for Castro: He tolerates the relatively small return on his investment because the proceeds go almost exclusively to the state and because he can easily contain any liberalizing
effects. Thus, the Cuban state
continues to build tourist hotels in Tourism is a safe betfor Castro: Havana and at beach resorts, despite the proceeds go almost exclusively the fact that occupancy rates rarely to the state and he can exceed 50 percent. (Typically, easily contain any liberalizing effects. package tours take foreigners to
isolated tourist enclaves that are offlimits to Cubans greatly limiting the social interaction that outsiders claim as a benefit of such travel.) For Cubans, this sort of parasitic tourism is a cruel trap.
Cuba expert Maria C. Werlau explains the high-cost of tourism to the Cuban economy and its people. "The tourism industry was officially reported as Cuba's largest dollar earner in 1996.... 1996 net revenues are noted inconsistently by different sources reports range from 26 percent to 30-35 percent. Yet, if tourism generated net revenues of 26 percent, this would represent a mere $338 million, which is low given the size of the population and the needs of the economy." Werlau notes that Cuba's tourism industry is highly dependent on foreign imports (70-80 percent) to provide quality services to satisfy foreign tastes.
Werlau also reports that, while the number of tourists increased 19 percent in the first quarter of 1997, gross earnings rose only 7 percent; in fact, Cuba reported a loss of $3 million in the first four months of 1997. A low repeat rate (10 percent) suggests that Cuba must dedicate even more resources to upgrade its services and facilities to remain competitive.'9 Such capital investment would reduce tourism's net profitability even further in the short-term.
Unfortunately for the Cuban people, tourism has generated very few direct jobs (perhaps 70,000 in a workforce of 4.5 million). Also, because an estimated 70 percent of hotel rooms are located outside of Havana in isolated resorts, the multiplier benefits for the general population are quite limited.
Tips are an important source of income for some lucky Cubans. (A Cuban we encountered who worked at a beach resort was candid, describing Canadian and European tourists as tightwads). Still, the state has managed to rob Cubans of even this source of hard currency, requiring employees to surrender up to 75 percent of their tips to be converted to pesos at the official exchange rate.
"'We eat very badly.
The drive to survive in a failed state- There are no vitamins. run economy has led many Cubans to We are beautiful prostitution, which has, in turn, become a because we are dying. tourist attraction for unscrupulous Cuban doctor/prostitute Canadian, European, and Latin American in New York Times Magazine tourists. While prostitution is rampant in many poor countries, what is unique in
Cuba is that it encompasses professional women doctors and lawyers who are forced to sell their bodies to foreign tourists, because, in Castro's economy, they
19. "Update on Foreign Investment in Cuba: 1996-97," Maria C. Werlau, p. 23.
cannot earn enough through
their professions to feed their
families. According to a
February 1 article in the New
York Times Magazine,
"Prostitution, which as
scarcely visible (if only for
security reasons) five years
ago, is pandemic now: the
tourist hotels are filled with
Cuban teenagers reddening
their lips with children's
Waiting for the Pope -- In the center of this crowd are two The New York Times Canadian tourists embracing young Cuban prostitutes, waiting in Magazine article's author Old Havana for the Pope's motorcade to pass. recounts this exchange with a
Cuban doctor/prostitute: "'What is the secret of Cuban beauty,' I ask.... The doctor says, "'We eat very badly. There are no vitamins. We are beautiful because we are dying.'
The magazine quotes Tom Miller, author of Trading with the Enemy: A Yankee Travels Through Castro's Cuba, as saying, "I don't think many Americas go to Cuba with sex as their primary reason, as Mexicans, Spaniards, Bahamians and Italians do." According to the New York Times, "The Spanish Embassy in Havana runs a matchmaking service. Cuban girls bring their photos to the embassy to be forwarded to Spanish men wanting to meet Cuban women. Other Europeans have got the word on Cuba's latest export, but for the Spanish, something more is involved. They would like to recapture Cuba, once their colony, woman by woman."
The Internet is abuzz with Cuba as a destination for sex tourism. One particularly callous review notes, "You can pick a different girl each night.... Sometimes the girl needs to go home during the day, because she has a child to take care of, but she may want to come back later. The best time to go to Havana seems to be during the last week of June, July, and parts or maybe all of August.... Schools have
20. "Picking the Flowers of the Revolution," by Andrei Codrescu, The New York Times Magazine,
February 1, 1998.
recess, and high school girls from Oriente come to Havana to make a buck during the summer."2' (Emphasis Added)
Another Internet entry reports, "The whole island is a brothel, possibly the
cheapest one in the world. It is right now the most popular sex travel destination for Germans and Spaniards, who arrive in chartered flights...."
The state uses Cuban youth to attract tourists and to vacuum up tourist
dollars. We are compelled to state it plainly: For the love of money, Fidel Castro has become a pimp for Cuba's schoolgirls. Moreover, a Cuban physician confirmed that the incidence of venereal disease has increased sharply. In point of fact, the health of young Cubans is being consciously sacrificed by the regime for hard currency. The existing American travel ban is, at least, an obstacle to allowing some U.S. citizens to partake in such predatory tourism and, therefore, could spare us the hatred of a generation of Cubans.
FIDEL CASTRO'S LONGEVITY AND ABILITY TO TRANSFER POWER TO A SUCCESSOR IS BEING QUESTIONED BY REGIME INSIDERS.
The legacy of Castro will be that of a ruthless dictatorship that wrecked a
healthy economy, enslaved millions of people, courted nuclear holocaust, and caused the death of thousands of innocent
people. Today, the revolution is dead and the regime is bankrupt, reduced to a Raul Castro would not last long survival strategy in which it bullies Cubans because he "lacks charisma into abject poverty and subjugation. It and is despised by many in the strikes us as grotesque, therefore, that military as a person of some in the regime believe that they stand notoriously poor moral character. to "inherit" Castro's power or can preserve ny his threadbare regime.
Nevertheless, Ricardo Alarcon, president of the National Assembly, is among those regime insiders who have begun to position himself for a post-Castro transition, publicly and privately acknowledging interest in serving as Cuba's president. During a brief impromptu meeting with us, Alarcon downplayed the significance of Fidel Castro's recent reference to his brother, Raul (First Vice President of the Council of
21. "World Sex Guide," December 12, 1997, from the Internet.
State and Defense Minister) as his successor during the recent Fifth Party Congress. Alarc6n told us that President Castro had only repeated what was in the Cuban constitution that the first vice president succeeds the president. When asked whether Raul Castro would serve out the remainder of Fidel Castro's term under such a transition scenario, Alarcon replied that the president serves at the pleasure of the National Assembly, and could be removed at any time. He also referred to Raul Castro as a "brother of lesser historical significance." Alarcon left the distinct impression that jockeying for position to succeed Fidel Castro was well underway, and that he is interested in the job.
One Eastern European diplomat predicted that the transition would be "rigid" if Raul Castro and military hard liners assume the leadership in a post-Fidel era. Several sources note that Raul Castro would not last long as a successor because he "lacks charisma" and is despised by many in the military as a person of notoriously poor moral character.
Although some of Castro's cronies are so out of touch with reality that they are musing about succession scenarios, we believe that a much more likely chain of events will produce a brief interregnum that may provide them sufficient time to escape into exile. It is clear that the regime has already begun to crumble around Fidel Castro. We predict that those who are dreaming about succeeding him will instead find themselves washed away by a swift, perhaps violent, transition.
CASTRO MAINTAINS A BLOCKADE ON INFORMATION AVAILABLE TO THE CUBAN PEOPLE AND TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD ABOUT CUBA.
Blockade on Information on the Island
In the 1950's, Cuba had 58 daily newspapers of differing political hues and ranked eighth in the world in number of radio stations, according to a recent State Department report (Appendix E). Today, the Cuban state has absolute control on the content of all of the few newspapers and radio and television stations that remain on the island. Cuba has a handful of national and weekly publications, all organs of the state or Communist Party; the only independent publications in the country are the diocesan bulletins of the Catholic Church, which have very limited distribution.
The Castro regime's Department of State Security takes extraordinary
precautions to restrict access to information. Foreign tourists have ready access to U.S. television (particularly Cable News Network), however the vast majority of
Cubans can never see such broadcasts; satellite dishes are prohibited. Internet links are strictly regulated, limited to government officials or trusted academics. Electronic mail messages are monitored and subject to government censorship.
Although Castro brags about his country's literacy rate (which was relatively high even in 1958), his regime takes great pains to deny any but approved written material to the people; for example, the Cuban government has formally accused American diplomats of "distributing enemy propaganda" for merely discarding a copy of the Miami Herald in a public place.
The government constantly tries to Most Cubans we met cited jam the signals of Radio Marti and Radio Marti as the only source Television Marti, particularly in Havana. of outside information. (TV Marti is converting to UHF signals in The government constantly an effort to make Cuban jamming more tries to jam Radio Marti difficult.) Most Cubans with whom we and Television MartL met cited Radio Marti as the only source of outside information; others mentioned Voice of America. Cubans we met said they preferred straight, unbiased news programming rather than hard-edged commentary. (Radio reception depends on climate; driving between Camaguey and Havana we briefly heard a private Miami radio station.)
Sowing Fear of Change
Virtually all of the news available to Cubans is controlled by the regime. In a technique that one Eastern European diplomat characterized as "Stalinist" "primitive propaganda," events in Cuba are distorted to exaggerate the achievements of the revolution and to blame any problems on external aggression. The United States particularly, the exile community is misrepresented by the regime as a threat to the well-being of average Cubans by "foreign conquerors." News of the outside world is twisted to be universally negative; events in the former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries are distorted into cautionary tales of a democratic transition. Cubans are told that they will lose their homes, education, and health care under a democratic transition.
Controlling Information About Cuba
Castro made a veiled threat to international journalists covering the Pope's Cuba visit, saying in a January 12 speech, "We will observe how they do their work,
with what level of objectivity, and if they publish any detail unfavorable to the revolution." Indeed, the regime excluded a number of journalists from Cuba during the papal visit because their coverage had displeased the regime, including David Adams of the St. Petersburg Times;
any reporter from the Miami Herald;
three Argentine journalists whom Persons who speak to independent Castro called "mercenaries"; and Pers n o foeig jounalist Newsweek correspondent Peter Cuban orforeign journalists Katel." Some observers told us that riskprosecution andjail some international reporters based Independent Cuban journalists in Cuba practice self-censorship in who report on events for publication order to prevent their ouster from outside the island are repressed. the island for reporting information
that offends the regime." Others
have noted that the presence of the CNN bureau has emboldened reporting of other journalists in Cuba.
Persons who speak to independent Cuban or foreign journalists risk
prosecution and jail. The delegation met with the wife of Dr. Desi Mendoza, who is serving an eight-year prison term for speaking to international reporters about an outbreak of hemorrhagic dengue in Santiago (see pages 55-56).
Independent Cuban journalists who report on events for publication outside the island are repressed vigorously. We met with an independent journalist who was detained last fall by State Security officials, who confiscated the reporter's typewriter as well as files and books; the journalist reported that Cuban authorities have detained him several times and warned him that he faced imprisonment if he did not cease his activities. In another case, the State Department's 1997 human rights report on Cuba notes, "On May 31, four men attacked independent journalist Joaquin Torres at his home in Havana; the men then led an act of repudiation against him as police stood by without intervening."
22. The Committee to Protect Journalists, in its January 20 letter to Castro, noted that denial of
Cuban visas to journalists was a violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human
23. See reporter Tom Carter's article on foreign press coverage of Cuba (quoted in footnote No. 6 on
page 21), The Washington Times, February 23, 1998.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, chaired by Walter Cronkite, highlighted additional cases in a January 20 letter24 to Fidel Castro:
Bernardo Arevalo Padron, correspondent with Linea Sur 3 news agency in
Cienfuegos, was sentenced to six years in prison on October 31, 1997, for "lack
of respect" of Castro and Carlos Lage, a member of the Council of State, for a
story about meat being transported by helicopter to Havana from a town
whose inhabitants went hungry;
* Lorenzo Paez Nunez, of the Cuba's dissident Independent News Bureau, was
convicted of defamation on July 12 and sentenced to an 18-month prison term
after he published a story about police misconduct in Pinar del Rio;
* Jorge Luis Arce Cabrera faces imminent arrest because of his independent
reporting; he has been detained 23 times and beaten three times since 1994.
He has been falsely accused of assaults after being attacked twice in October by
a retired employee of the Ministry of Interior.
We met with several diplomats to discuss ways in which to intensify
international support for the Cuban people. However, it is clear to us that the United States is alone in the world in what it is willing and able to do to overcome the blockade of information that Castro maintains on the Cuban people. We applaud efforts being undertaken by USINT in Havana. For security purposes, we will not discuss these initiatives here. However, we will continue to encourage all U.S. government agencies to step up efforts to open direct channels of information to the Cuban people in order to promote an end to the dictatorship.
VERY FEW DIPLOMATIC MISSIONS IN HAVANA HAVE MADE A SERIOUS EFFORT ON HUMAN RIGHTS.
Dissidents with whom we spoke singled out the diplomatic missions of the
United States, Spain, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands as the most helpful to the cause of democratic reform and defense of human rights in Cuba. In the words of
24. Letter from William A. Orme, Jr., Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, to
Fidel Castro, January 20, 1998. Amnesty International denounced these and other cases in its
August 1997 report, "Renewed Crackdown on Peaceful Government Critics."
one dissident, "They are willing to help us without wanting anything in return." We are proud to note that dissidents singled out the USINT human rights officer, Tim Brown, for his professionalism and dedication.
Several European diplomats told us that the E.U.'s collective activities are
"reduced to the lowest common denominator" hardly an auspicious commitment. In light of the election of left-of-center governments in France and the United Kingdom, one European envoy told us that he anticipated an even less robust implementation of the E.U.'s Common Position. A Havana-based European diplomat also told us that the policy of engagement championed by the Canadians today had already been tried by the Spanish two to three years ago and hadfailed miserably. "'Constructive engagement' proved to be wrong," he said.
The failure of all E. U. diplomats to nionalothou ggt uopnattend a dissident briefing last June Union adopted a "common
position" on Cuba over a year ago, had the effect of declaring "open the prominent dissidents we met season on these courageous activists. told us they have received very
little support from the E.U.25 We
met with a representative of the "internal dissident working group," whose leaders were jailed last July (and are being held without charges to this day) after inviting E.U. diplomats to a briefing the week before. Most dissidents and others agree that the failure of all E.U. representatives to attend that briefing had the effect of declaring "open season" on these courageous dissidents. A recorded conversation on July 7 between leaders of the "internal dissident working group" captures their fear and frustration at being abandoned by the Europeans and other embassies in Havana:
Ruth Montaner (activist supporter in Miami): What countries were there
[at the briefing]?
25. "The European Union Common Position on Cuba," No. 72/96, December 3, 1996, states, in part,
"The objective of the European Union in its relations with Cuba is to encourage a process of
transition to pluralist democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.... The
European Union considers thatfull cooperation with Cuba will depend upon improvements in human rights andpoliticalfreedom. The European Union will intensify the present dialogue with the Cuban authorities and with all sectors of Cuban society in order to promote respect for
human rights and real progress towards pluralist democracy....".[Emphasis added]
Dissident Leader Martha Beatriz Roque: No one other than [U.S. Principal
Officer Michael] 1ozak and [U.S. officer] Tim Brown. No one else was
Montaner: Why not?
Roque: Well, we think because of pressures. This is a lack of respect.
Because I think that all of these countries are defenders of human rights....
All of these countries ask us what we are going to do to solve our problems,
and none of them showed up there....
[Later in the same call] Dissident leader Felix Bonne Carcasses: We're
hurt by the countries that did not attend.
Pedro Llabre: Some people were missing, no?
Bonne: Many, many, many. We're grateful to (U.S.) Ambassador Kozak
(sic) and Tim Brown -- that they were there.
Llabre: What other countries were there?
Bonne: Not a single other.... These diplomats tells us to do this or that,
and now we can say to them, "But it is like this with you: when we try to
get you to move, you don't move."
Business as Usual
Last April, France signed a bilateral accord on the protection and mutual
promotion of investments with the Cuban government. At the time, French trade minister Franck Borotra reassured the Castro regime that "France and the European Union will continue to fight the 1996 Helms-Burton law." We note that Air France inaugurated its first direct Paris-to-Havana Concorde route, which regime officials said was crucial to "promote travel to Cuba from European nations, including Britain, France, and Germany." About 40 representatives of large French companies, including the automakers Peugeot and Renault, met Fidel Castro in Havana on April 17, inaugurating several joint ventures and announcing a $16 million renovation of a Cuban electric power station near Santiago de Cuba.26
In December 1997, Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Patrizia Toia traveled to Cuba to sign a cooperation agreement in the tourism sector, an agreement for exchange of air transportation services, and a joint declaration on the elimination of double tariffs in bilateral trade. Toia stated, "In addition to the agreements that
26. "France Snubs U.S. on Cuba Trade Issue," LatinoLink News Services, April 25, 1997.
were signed today, we created the foundations for future work." She cited "a lively bilateral dialogue based on a common interest in resolving concrete problems to do with trade, investment, and culture."27
Last November, German Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Helmut Schaefer traveled to Cuba. He failed to criticize Cuba's human rights record but, rather, attacked U.S. policy. He also
noted that "a large number of
German businesses" were Europe's cynical "business as usual" interested in Cuban ventures and policy is motivated by the mere pennies speculated that his government to be made in Castro's Cuba today. could extend financial guarantees to
those businesses this year.
Schaefer was quoted in the German media as saying that "Castro's charisma has not diminished," and that he has remained "an idealist. "28
Further compelling evidence of the E.U.'s determination to press forward with investment in Cuba is a "call for proposals for a project to promote the development of economic links between European and Cuban small and medium-sized business," which was published in the January 27, 1998, edition of the Official Journal of the European Communities. The journal explains that the purpose of the project, inter alia, is to "promote business relations between Europe and Cuba" and to "encourage European investment in Cuba," including a "seminar with Cuban authorities to discuss ways of attracting investment in Cuba by European" businesses.
In sum, the E.U.'s performance has been little talk and even less action. We believe that the initiatives described above are in violation of the letter and spirit of the E.U.'s stated policy of conditioning relations with Cuba on "improvements in human rights and political freedom." What is shocking to us is that this cynical "business as usual" policy is motivated by the mere pennies to be made in Castro's Cuba today. Moreover, we predict that the short-term advantages being sought by Europe's amoral investment strategy will evaporate as a representative government takes over in Havana and moves to repudiate "sweetheart" deals with the Castro regime.
27. "Agreements Signed During Italian Minister's Visit," Radio Havana, December 25, 1997.
28. "Germany: Official Criticizes U.S. Embargo Against Cuba," DDP/ADN, Foreign Broadcast
Information Service, November 23, 1997; "Germany Wants Cuba Embargo Lifted," Agence
France Presse, November 22, 1997
We believe that the Clinton Administration's unjustifiable "suspension" of
U.S. law has served as a "green light" to the Europeans. The Administration's policy of ignoring Helms-Burton to placate the E.U. has won them only contempt. Rather, this cynical Administration strategy has merely ceded the moral high ground to unscrupulous Europeans.
THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION SHOULD ENFORCE U.S. LAw.
US Interests Section
In our meetings with USINT officials it became apparent that enforcement of the U.S. embargo is not a priority. One senior officer even said that he thought that the President's waiver of Title III of the Libertad Act ("Helms-Burton") somehow suspended the prohibition on activity in Cuba by American subsidiaries confusing two entirely unrelated provisions of U.S. law. In addition, it is clear that USINT personnel are not proactive in seeking and documenting cases of "trafficking" in stolen U.S. property despite their in situ presence, instead, merely taking action in response to infrequent tasking cables from the Department's "Helms-Burton" enforcement unit.
Suspending Title III of the Libertad Act
Title III of the Libertad Act creates a right of action in U.S. courts for
Americans to sue foreigners "trafficking" in their stolen property in Cuba. President Clinton has repeatedly suspended this
provision, abusing very narrow "waiver" authority provided by Congress. While The President's repeated the President has publicly stated that he suspensions of Title III of the intends to continue suspending Title III Libertad Act have made a indefinitely as a means of quelling mockery of U.S. law. European criticism of the law, he
putatively bases his decisions on
international efforts to support democracy in Cuba. For example, his January 16 suspension statement reads, in part:
In the past 18 months, we have worked with our allies and friends
to support concrete measures that promote peaceful change in
Cuba. The international community is more united behind the cause of freedom in Cuba, and Fidel Castro is more isolated than
ever before.... The E.U. and its member states have strongly urged
the Cuban government to release imprisoned dissidents and stop the harassment of those who seek peaceful democratic change.29
As we have illustrated in the preceding pages, the claim that the "international community" has made any meaningful effort to bring about change in Cuba is absolutely without foundation. The President's repeated suspensions of Title III make a mockery of U.S. law, and could invite a legal challenge from Americans whose right to sue is being arbitrarily denied.30
Failure to Fully Enforce Title IV of the Libertad Act
Title IV of the Libertad Act denies U.S. visas to persons "trafficking" in
property stolen from U.S. nationals in Cuba. The Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs has apparently changed the standard for sanctioning companies under this law. Under regulations drafted and published by the State Department, the standard for determining "trafficking" was established as "facts or circumstances ... that would lead the Department reasonably to conclude" that a company was covered by Title IV." The process established by the Department contemplates an "advisory letter" to warn a suspected foreign trafficker that he will forfeit his U.S. visa unless he provides information within 45 days to refute the Department's findings.
The Department has been reviewing two to three dozen companies, apparently being aware of "facts or circumstances" that lead them "reasonably to conclude" that trafficking is taking place. In these cases, we believe that the Department's own
29. Letter from the President to Senator Jesse Helms and Representative Benjamin A. Gilman,
January 16, 1998.
30. The Statement of Managers filed with the conference report on H.R. 927, the Libertad Act (P.L.
104-114) states with respect to the "suspension" authority (subsection 306(b) of the Act), "The
formula included in the conference substitute requires the President to determine two separate and
distinct matters before suspending the right of action: first that suspension 'is necessary to the
national interests of the United States,' and second that suspension 'will expedite a transition to democracy in Cuba.'... In particular, the committee believes that it is demonstrably not the case that suspending the right of action will expedite a transition to democracy in Cuba, inasmuch as suspension would remove a significant deterrent to foreign investment in Cuba, thereby helping
prolong Castro's grip on power...."
31. "Guidelines for Implementing Title IV of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act,"
(Federal Register, Vol. 61, No. 117, June 17, 1996).
guidelines compel officials to send an advisory letter to these companies, shifting the burden of proof to the companies to demonstrate to the Department's satisfaction that they are not trafficking under Title IV.
Despite numerous inquiries from the Congress, the Department has never justified its sluggish enforcement of Title IV. We are left to conclude that the Executive Branch is pulling its punches under the law in order to placate European governments whose companies have engaged in joint ventures with the Castro regime.
CUBANS WITH U.S. VISAS AND POLITICAL REFUGEES SHOULD BE
ALLOWED TO EMIGRATE WITHOUT DELAY.
We met with U.S. consular and refugee officials to discuss the backlog of
Cubans who have been granted U.S. visas but have not received Cuban exit permits and to raise specific cases in which refugee applications have been denied.
Lottery for Immigrant Visas
USINT conducted "lotteries" in 1994 and 1996 to create a pool of immigrant visa applicants to meet the obligations under the May 1995 migration accord to grant 20,000 immigrant visas annually to accommodate the "safe, legal, and orderly departure" of Cuban emigrants; 438,000 Cubans have applied under these two lotteries. Another such lottery is planned for October 1998 to replenish the pool of qualified applicants.
Lottery winners are not automatically deemed eligible for immigration to the United States; they must otherwise qualify under U.S. law, be 18-35 years old, and have at least two of the following characteristics: three years work experience, high school education, or family in the United States. According to USINT, about 70 percent of lottery winners eventually qualify for immigrant visas.
Lottery winners are notified by "certified mail" through the Cuban postal
service. (USINT personnel said they were aware of 10 alleged cases of harassment of lottery applicants, which have been protested formally to the Cuban government.) Lottery winners must complete visa applications. Once a U.S. immigrant visa is issued, the person normally has four months within which he or she must enter the United States; this presents a problem for a relatively few persons who have been unable to obtain a Cuban exit permit within that period of time. For eligible refugees in need of special assistance, the State Department will lend them money to travel;
the Department also funds programs operated by Catholic Relief Services and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency to assist refugees who need assistance for the first six-months to resettle in the United States.
Immigrant Visas and Refugee Paroles for Cubans
Category FY 1995 FY 1996 FY 1997 Family Members of American and Lawful Perm. Resident 5,672 2,620 2,866 Family members of American with non-current petitions 4,919 238 0
Parole of Family Members of Visa Holders* 3,387 1,427 622 Lottery Winners 2,250 3,000 3,408 Family Members of Lottery Winners 3,148 4,490 5,296 Fiances of Americans 79 94 68 Refugees 6,998 3,831 3,639 TOTAL 26,453 15,700 15,899
*Onetime figurefor a backlog in preference cases (i.e. applicants in various categories related to resident aliens and relatives ofAmerican citizens other than spouse, parent, or child such as siblings). These cases were treated as paroles. (SOURCE: US. Interests Section, Havana)
Cubans who receive U.S. visas are required to obtain an exit permit in order to leave the country. (The Cuban government will not issue such "exit permits" to professionals, such as physicians.) The fee for this transaction is $600, paid in U.S. currency or travelers check: $400 for a required medical examination, $50 for a passport, and $150 for the "exit permit." (Medical examinations must be obtained through the public health service or a "private" physician who has had a medical license since before the revolution.) Under an agreement reached with the Cuban government, the fee for the "exit permit" and medical examination is supposed to be reduced by half for up to 1,000 destitute persons annually.
USINT has sent 10 separate diplomatic notes to the Cuban authorities to request exit permits for individuals who have not received them after considerable delay. Of the 265 cases raised in these notes, 203 (77 percent) have since received their exit permits and have traveled to the United States. However, as ofJanuary 29,
1998, 62 persons had yet to receive their exit permits from Cuban authorities, suggesting that the government is violating the spirit of its agreement in such cases.
USINT has sent four separate diplomatic notes to the Cuban authorities to
request a discount in the exit fees for eligible persons. Of the 1,446 cases raised, 583 (40 percent) have traveled under the discounted fees; 403 (28 percent) traveled without the discount; and 460 (32 percent) have not yet traveled. It should be noted that the Cuban government has not granted the discounted fee to any prospective traveler since September 1996, suggesting that the government is violating the spirit of its agreement in such cases.
According to USINT, there is about a 75 percent denial rate in applications for non-immigrant visas. In calendar year 1997, 23,368 persons applied, 6,219 (27 percent) were issued and 17,149 were refused. Typically, about half of the successful applicants wish to visit family in the United States, and the others plan to participant in seminars or exchange programs. (The denial rate in the U.S. consulate on the border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, averaged 32 percent in the last three years.)
In-Country Refugee Processing
According to the U.S. Interests Section, nearly 35,000 Cuban refugees have been admitted to the United States under its in-country refugee processing program since 1987. About 4,000 Cubans were admitted under this program in 1996 and 1997. Since October 1994, INS has maintained a permanent office in Havana to process refugee cases.
Priority attention is accorded to former political prisoners; persecuted religious minorities; human rights activists; forced labor conscripts during the 1965-68 period; persons deprived of their livelihoods or discriminated against for their political or religious activities; and others who have a credible claim under the Refugee Convention. Refugees must be able to demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, in accordance with the 1967 UN Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, which was incorporated into the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act in 1980.
The process works in the following manner: (1) An applicant contacts USINT and completes and submits a questionnaire; (2) American caseworkers review the
questionnaires, interview worthy applicants, and refer "eligible" cases to the INS officer for a decision; (3) INS officer interviews "eligible" persons, and the INS makes a decision on the application; (4) Refugees approved by the INS must obtain a medical examination and an "exit permit" from the Cuban government.
USINT personnel reported that they take into account a number of factors to determine if an applicant meets the statutory requirement of having "a well-founded fear of persecution." The process employed by USINT systematically takes into account the number of times a person has been questioned by the police, house searches, loss of telephone service as a form of harassment, detentions, formal police warnings, actos de repudio, denial of job or self-employment license, physical injury, denial of medical care, loss of a good job, etc. Interviews are conducted by U.S. citizen professionals; decisions are made according to strict Department of Justice standards by a full-time, experienced INS officer.
We raised a number of cases of Cubans whose refugee applications had been denied. In most of these several cases, the U.S. officers were unaware of recent instances of repression that each of these persons had suffered, some of which had been reported recently in the media or by Amnesty International. In each instance, the U.S. officials noted that "cases are never closed" and were eager to take additional information into account in order to weigh these refugee applications further. We respect the good faith efforts of these officers, but we recommend that USINT be granted additional personnel to ensure that instances of repression do not escape the attention of the refugee unit.
An Example: The Case of Dr. Desi Mendoza
We met in Santiago de Cuba with a family member of Dr. Desi Mendoza Rivero, who was president of the Independent Medical College and district coordinator of "Concilio Cubano." In February 1997, Dr. Mendoza told journalists of the outbreak of hemorrhagic dengue, noting that 15 persons had died of internal bleeding after treating themselves with aspirin for this type of dengue fever. Dr. Mendoza was arrested on June 25, 1997, for distributing "enemy propaganda" (including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) and for speaking to journalists about the dengue epidemic.
According to Mendoza's family, the regime reacted angrily to Mendoza's
warnings in the international press due to the potential impact on foreign tourism. (After Mendoza's arrest, the government recognized the epidemic, which killed over two dozen people.) In December, Mendoza was tried for distributing false
information; he was convicted and sentenced to an eight-year prison term. His relative told us that Dr. Mendoza has been jailed with hardened criminals and that he suffers from hypertension and renal problems. Amnesty International declared Dr. Mendoza a "prisoner of conscience" in its August 1997 report on the regime's crackdown on peaceful dissidents.12
Mendoza's relative told us that his family has been subjected to harassment, including interruption of telephone service (if Mendoza's name is mentioned in private conversations) and an acto de repudio organized by the neighborhood Committee for the Defense of the Revolution. We were told that state security agents had searched Mendoza's home and confiscated publications he had obtained from the U.S. Interests Section, including magazines and pamphlets on democracy and a market economy. We raised Mendoza's case with USINT officials who are reconsidering his application for refugee status; Mendoza's application has been denied on two occasions prior to his conviction.
Cubans Working in the Consular Section
We raised the concern that Cuban citizens were processing refugee and
immigrant visa applications. USINT officials assured us that Cuban citizens do not interview or make decisions regarding such applications and are supervised at all times by American personnel. We were told that these 20 Cuban citizens are necessary to assemble applications to ensure that all of the required forms and supporting documents are ready for review by U.S. officers.
32. "Renewed Crackdown on Peaceful Government Critics," Amnesty International, August 1997,
The staff delegation expresses its profound gratitude to Michael Kozak, Principal Officer of the U.S. Interests Section, and each member of his staff who provided invaluable support to our visit.
We also acknowledge the assistance of the State Department's Office of Cuban Affairs for its support for our trip and for thorough and timely publications on the situation in Cuba, many of which are cited at length herein. We also thank the Center for a Free Cuba for its outstanding contributions to our efforts. We acknowledge that much of the material contained herein is corroborated by the Center for a Free Cuba as well as Amnesty International, which have done extraordinary work in documenting the repression of the Castro regime.
Cuban state security reportedly uses electronic eavesdropping and physical
surveillance against Americans. On at least one occasion, a Cuban stranger warned us during our visit to Camaguey that we were "being followed by the 'secret police."' We were admonished on many occasions to treat all conversations "as if they were public." Therefore, we suspect that Cuban authorities followed us to each of our meetings and may be privy to our private conversations. However, we have chosen not to identify some of the Cubans with whom we met to deny the regime the excuse to persecute innocent Cubans for merely meeting with us. Also, in certain cases, we have chosen not to include some of our observations and recommendations in this public document.
OVERVIEW OF SCHEDULE OF SFRC STAFF DELEGATION TO CUBA
Wednesday, January 21 (Arrive at 7:00 PM)
Dinner with Principal Office Michael Kozak and Cuban Affairs Coordinator Michael Ranneberger at Kozak's residence (joined by Congressman Charlie Rangel)
Thursday, January 22
Depart Havana for Camaguey (6 /2 hour trip) Cross country trip; briefing by Caribbean Affairs Director Vince Mayer) Informal Meetings with local residents
Friday, January 23
Attend Papal Mass
Series of informal meetings with local residents Meeting with Camaguey Provincial Assembly of People's Power Secretary General Yolanda Gutierrez and International Relations Director Arsenio F. Morfa Mestril Walking tour of Camaguey; impromptu encounters with Cubans
Saturday, January 24
Return to Havana (6 hour ride) Impromptu meeting with sugar cane workers Reception hosted by Principal Officer for U.S. Church delegates and various U.S. media
Sunday, January 25
Attend Papal Mass, Plaza of the Revolution, Havana Luncheon with William F. Buckley
Monday, January 26
Briefing with Deputy Chief of Mission John Boardman; Consul General Ron Kramer; Consul Phil Linderman; Refugee Unit Chief Ellen Cosgrove; and INS Chief Ben Aguirre
Tour US Interests Section consular section
Meeting with Public Affairs Officer Doug Barnes and Judith Bryan Luncheon with Economic and Political Section Meeting with Spanish Charge Javier Sandomingo Nunez Meeting at Ministry of Foreign Relations with Vice Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio; North American Affairs Officer Rafael Dausa; Gustavo Reyes; et al Meeting with political dissidents
Tuesday, January 27
Briefing and Tour of Oconological Hospital with Vice Minister of Public Health Ramon E. Diaz Vallina; Dr. Alberto Cespedes; Director; Dr. Lorenzo Anasgosti; Dr. Leticia Fernandes; and Idalvier Infante; Dr. Nelson Verdecia Ramos; Dr. Jorge Rodriguez Machado
Briefing and Tour of William Soler Children's Hospital with Vice Minister of Public Health Ramon E Diaz; Dr. Diana Martinez, Director; Dr. Felipe A. Cardenas; Dr. Juana Rosa Lopez, Sub-Director; Dr. Jose Ballastero; Dr. Porfirio Idel; Ruben Rodriguez Gavaldro; et al
Meeting at National Assembly of People's Power with Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon (unannounced drop-by)"; Deputy Julio Espinosa; International Relations Committee Assistants Miguel Alvarez Sancez and Silvio Castro Fernadez Dinner with Independent Journalist
Wednesday, January 28
Travel to Santiago de Cuba (by plane) Meeting with Archbishop Pedro Meurice of Santiago de Cuba Meeting with Church Relief Agency (Caritas) Sub-Director Carlos Amador; Eda Emma Pasto Perez; Osvaldo Morales; and Laura Sague Meeting with relative of prisoner of conscience Dr. Desi Mendoza Return to Havana
Thursday, January 29
Briefing and Tour at CNN Havana Bureau, with Lucia Newman
33. Alarcon dropped by, unannounced, at a briefing at the National Assembly. After the meeting, the
Cuban state-run news organ, Prensa Latina, reported that Alarc6n said erroneously that the staff delegation had substantive discussions regarding the U.S. embargo on Cuba. As a result, the staff
delegation issued a public correction and cancelled two unrelated briefings sought by the Cuban
Briefing and Tour at US Interests Section Refugee Section, with Ellen Cosgrove and Ben Aguirre
Meeting with Czech Embassy Representatives Jan Vytopil and Natalia Pribikov Interview (Marc Thiessen) with VOA Reporter Bill Rogers Meeting with Dissident Physician Hilda Molina
Friday, January 30
Meeting with Dr. Rolando Suarez, Director of Havana Church Relief Agency (Caritas); Maritza Sanchez; Jose Ramon Perez Tour Caritas projects in Havana Meeting with Papal Nuncio Benjamino Stella Meeting with Roman Catholic Cardinal Jaime Ortega Meeting with Polish Ambassador Jan Janiszewski Roundtable and Background Briefing for Foreign Journalists including Vincenc Sanclemente (Spanish Television); Pascal Fletcher (Financial Times); Denis Rousseau (Agence France-Presse)
Saturday, January 31
Tour Museum of the Revolution Depart Havana for Washington
"CONTINUED REPRESSION IN CUBA"
Excerpts of Statement by Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart Floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, February 24, 1998 (from Congressional Record)
I will use this opportunity to update my colleagues about recent arrests and acts of repression against dissidents and independent journalists in Cuba.... It is very telling that despite the repression, despite the great obstacles faced by the internal opposition, that internal opposition is an ever growing,... is actively working to achieve a transition to democracy and freedom in that long-suffering island.
I have before me just a very incomplete list of obvious and direct human rights violations, and I would like to read out the names of just a few of these incidents that have come to my attention in recent months:
On July 23, Pascual Escalona, a well-known human rights activist, was charged with dangerousness and arrested.
July 24, Aguilleo Cancio Chong, President of the Cuban National Alliance, was arrested by Cuban State Security and subjected to intense interrogation and threats.
On July 24, Pascaul Escalona Naranjo was sentenced to one year's imprisonment on a charge of dangerousness. It is believed that the charge stems from his and his wife's advocacy of freedom of expression for Cuba through the Agencia de Prensa Independiente, the Cuban independent press agency.
On July 25, Ramon Morejon Castillo's house was searched from 7 in the morning until 12 noon and he was later arrested. Morejon Castillo is not a member of any opposition group but was arrested 2 years ago under the charge of suspicion of sabotaging Cuban elections. He is still imprisoned in the Villa Marista state security center.
On July 28, Raul Rivero, head of the Independent Press Group, Cuba Press, was detained. He was detained again on August 12.
On July 29 Luis Lopez Prendes, reporter with the Independent Press Bureau, was arrested after speaking with members of the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists.
July 31 Rafael Fonseca, Yordys Garcia, Juan Rodiles, Carlos Herrera, Jackelin Caballero and Dr. Walter Estrada, members of the Cuban Democratic Youth Movement, all from Guantanamo, were warned by State security not to show themselves in public while delegates of the XIV World Youth and Students Festival were visiting Guantanamo. In spite of this, a peaceful rally demanding the release of Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina was held and broken up by State security.
Also in July 1997, date unknown Reinaldo Soto from the Cuba Press was sentenced to 5 years in a maximum security prison. He was found guilty of distributing enemy propaganda to foreign states.
Also July 1997, date unknown, Heriberto Leyva Rodriguez, vice president of Youth for Democracy, was convicted of contempt for the authority of the Santiago courts, based on his testimony given at the hearing of Garcia de la Vega, another member of Youth for Democracy.
July 1997, date unknown, Lorenzo Paez Nunez, a journalist with the Habana Press Agency, was sentenced to 18 months for, 'contempt and defamation of national policy,' based on allegations that he reported on police abuses.
August 2, Juan Carlos Herrera was arrested and kept in isolation for 2 days for attempting to contact foreign delegates at Cuba's youth festival who were in Guantanamo at the time. He was told by Manuel Ceballos, who was in charge of interrogation, that he would be charged with disorderly conduct and enemy propaganda because he had a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights when he was arrested. He was released when the delegates left Guantanamo.
August 2, Mauri Chaviano Mesa, executive with the Cuban National Alliance, was arrested in Santa Clara and submitted to interrogations, harassment and threats by State security.
August 12, Raul Rivero, President of the Cuba Press was detained by Cuban officials. The agents confiscated materials from his domicile, and after hours of detention he was released.
August 14 Raul Rivero, was again detained on charges of possessing enemy propaganda. His house was searched without warrant.
August 15, David Norman Dorm, Director of International Affairs for the American Federation of Teachers here in the United States, visiting Cuba, was deported allegedly for contacting the internal opposition on behalf of the Freedom House Cuban Rights organization here in the United States.
August 15 Maritza Lugo Fernandez, vice president of the Thirtieth of November Party, was arrested for informing foreigners about human rights abuses in Cuba. She started a hunger strike when informed that she would be tried by a military court.
August 19, State security agent known as Pepin and other agents in an act of continuing psychological torture, went to the home of Professor Reinaldo Cosano Allen and told him to gather his belongings because he was being arrested.
August 20, Zohiris Aguilar, activist and president of the Popular Democratic Alliance, ADEPO, was detained by Cuban State police without being given cause. Her husband Leonel Morejon Almagro, lawyer and founder of Concilio Cubano, well known human rights umbrella group, was also questioned by police. Police threatened to take away their child to be raised by the State unless they ceased their activities advocating free and fair elections.
August 20, Nery Gorotiza Campoalegre, executive of the Cuban National Alliance, was detained by State Security Agent Pepin, interrogated and threatened for 24 hours.
August 20, opposition activist Sergio Quiro, secretary for Leonel Morejon Almagro, was arrested. While being interrogated and threatened, State security agents played audio tapes with phone conversations opposition members had with international human rights support groups.
August 21, Roberto Gonzalez Tibanear, who had been deported from Sweden to Cuba early in 1997, was arrested. His defense lawyer was given 48 hours to prepare his case. The charges against him were instigation and contempt.
August 21, Vicente Escobar Barreiro, director of the Cuban Unionism Studies Institute and a leader of the Cuban Workers Council, an independent union, was called in for questioning by the Singular Vigilance System. The Singular Vigilance System is one of the many repressive organs of the Cuban dictatorship.
August 23, Odilia Collazo, while traveling in a car with her husband, was rammed by a government-owned bus and received severe life-threatening injuries. In addition to being President of the Cuban Pro Human Rights Party, Collazo had just assumed the Presidency of the Dissidents Task Force Support Committee after the task force members, well known dissidents, Vladimiro Roca, Felix Bonne Carcasses, Dr. Rene Gomez Manzano and economist Marta Beatriz Roque, were incarcerated the previous month.
Throughout the month of August 1997, Jesus Chamber Ramirez, sentenced to 10 years in prison for enemy propaganda and disrespect against government authority, was regularly denied family visits because he insisted on being treated as a political prisoner rather than as a common prisoner. He was tried and sentenced to an additional 4 years for demanding better conditions with yet another trial still pending.
August 1997, date unknown, Luis Mario Pared Estrada, a leader of the Thirtieth November Party, Frank Pais, was convicted of dangerousness and sentenced to one year in prison.
September 8, three leaders of the Democratic Federation of Workers in Cuba, Ana Maria Ortega Gimenez, Nacional Coordinator; Gustavo Toirac Gonzalez, Secretary General; and Ramon Gonzalez Fonseca, Secretary of Transportation were arrested. Jose Orlando Gonzalez Brindon, President of the organization was placed under house arrest.
September 9, Cuban State police arrested the President of the Democratic Solidarity Party, Hector Palacio Ruiz, for commenting on Castro's lack of mental stability in an interview with a German journalist. We certainly could do an entire special order on Castro's lack of mental stability.
September 10, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Antunez, Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina, and Francisco Herodes Diaz Echemendia were beaten by over 30 guards in the prison where they were being kept and still are today on charges of enemy propaganda, attempted sabotage and acts against State security.
September 10, Raul Ernesto Cruz Leon, a citizen of El Salvador, was arrested and charged with being a material author of seven hotel bombings in Cuba.
September 13, Lazaro Fernandez Valdez and Rodolfo Valdez Perez were detained at their homes after attending a mass given by Cardinal Jaime Ortega. They had shouted, Long live Cardinal Ortega.
September 15, Cecilio Monteagudo Sanchez, member of the Democratic Solidarity Party, was charged with enemy propaganda and detained. He allegedly distributed a flyer encouraging people
to boycott voting in the one-party election run by the regime.
September 16, U.S. citizen Walter Van de Veer, who had been arrested in Cuba in August of 1996, was tried as a high risk mercenary, and on that date was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
September 23 Alexander Hernandez Lago, reportedly a contributor to Vitral, an officially sanctioned religious magazine, was beaten in his home by police for allegedly failing to pay a utility bill of 41 pesos. Lago then protested by wearing a placard in public stating we are fed up with so much arbitrariness and injustice, Human Rights, Article 19, Respect Them, for which he was arrested.
September 24, Cecilio Ruiz Rivero, member of the Association for Struggle Against Injustice, was arrested and charged with disrespect, assault and resistance.
September 24, Efrain Rodriguez Santos, member of the Club Pueblos Cautivos de Cuba, Captive Towns of Cuba Club, because there are entire towns in Cuba that are in effect prisons, and that is a subject that we will have to treat in detail at some point. Efrain Rodriguez Santos, member of the Captive Towns of Cuba Club was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment on charges of disrespect of Fidel Castro. He allegedly shouted from his home's balcony, Down with Fidel Castro.
September 27 Maritza Lugo Fernandez, was convicted of bribery for allegedly attempting to convince a prison guard to give prisoners belonging to the Thirtieth of November Party a tape recorder.
October 23, 11 members of the Pro Human Rights Party of Cuba, PPDH, were convicted of associating to commit criminal acts and disobedience after conducting a hunger strike to protest the government's detention of another PPDH member, Daula Carpio Mata. Sentences ranged from I year of house arrest, Maria Felicia Machad, to 1 1/2 years in prison camp for Jose Antonio Alvarado Almeida, Ileana Penalver Duque, Roxana Alina Carpio Mata, Lilian Meneses Martinez, Arelis Fleites Mendez, Marlis Velazquez Aparicio, Ivan Lema Romero, Danilo Santos Mendez, Vicente Garcia Ramos, and Jose Manuel Yera Meneses.
October 29 Luis Lopez Prendes, with the Bureau of Independent Journalists, was severely beaten for speaking to Radio Marti by phone.
October 29, Daula Carpio Matas of the Pro Human Rights Party, PPDH, was sentenced to 16 months in the prison work camp for her outspoken criticism of an earlier trial. She was initially arrested on charges that she verbally criticized a prison doctor at the trial of a fellow PPDH member.
November 11, Orestes Rodriguez Urrutinier, acting President of the Followers of Chibas Movement, Movimiento Seguidores de Chibas, was brought to trial on charges of enemy propaganda and sentenced to 4 years imprisonment.
November 18, Dr. Desi Mendoza Rivero, this is amazing, President of the Santiago de Cuba Independent Medical Association, was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment for, quote, 'using the mass media to spread enemy propaganda,' end quote. Rivero accused the regime on Radio Marti of covering up the extent of danger, he is a physician speaking, of covering up the extent of danger to the public during an epidemic of dengue fever and of not taking sufficient measures to control the epidemic.
November 28, Bernardo Arevalo Padron, director of the Independent Press Agency Linea Sur Press, was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment for enemy propaganda.
December 17, Ileana Penalver Duque, was sentenced to 18 months correctional work without internment, ordered to report to work despite physical illnesses from which she is still suffering, including memory and vision disturbances and loss of feeling in her legs, ordered to report to work.
January 9, Jose Angel Pena, president of the Pro Human Rights Party Chico Oriental, was detained for visiting activist, Silvano Duarto.
January 15, Frank Fernandez Lobaina, president of the union, the National Union of Opposition Members, UNO, was arrested for signing The Agreement for Democracy, which is an incredible document that the opposition has come together and not only drafted, but agreed to the opposition in Cuba and outside of Cuba. He spoke on its behalf on January 14 publicly, and he was arrested the next day, January 15.
January 1998, date unknown, numerous people were arrested at papal services during the Pope's visit, the 4-day trip, which was a marvelous visit where the Cuban people had a ray of hope for 4 days with the visit of that incredible, not only one of the greatest figures of this century, but of the millennium and leader of the Catholic Church, John Paul, II. Numerous people were arrested at the papal services for speaking to foreign journalists or holding up pro democracy signs or other activities that bothered the dictatorship.
I personally witnessed two young women who were filmed by Univision and CBS Telenoticias, and none of our networks here in the English language or especially CNN, I did not see any of those networks show that film that they had access to because I saw it on Univision and Telenoticias, two young women being dragged away for holding up a sign that said, Down with the dictatorship of the Castro brother. That is during the papal masses.
February 17, dictatorship prosecutors requested a 15-year sentence in prison for the vice president of the Association for Struggle Against National Injustice Reynaldo Alfaro Garcia. His crime, speaking out for the release of political prisoners.
February 18, the regime announced that Benito Fojaco, Israel Garcia, Jose R. Lopez, Angel Gonzalez and Reynaldo Sardinas will be tried for acts against the security of the State....
February 1998 Jose Miranda Acosta, considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, was previously sentenced to 15 years in prison even though a Mexican national who was charged along with him served 9 months before being released. Numerous human rights advocacy groups have called for his immediate release because of his extremely delicate health condition. The regime is denying him medical treatment as a form of torture. Jose Miranda Acosta was included in the list of prisoners that the Catholic Church gave to the regime for release, but Castro has refused to release him as he has refused to release countless others.
Just before coming to the floor this evening, I received notification, I had been told that numerous internal opposition groups within Cuba were planning to attend a mass this evening around 6 o'clock commemorating the 24th of February, the massacre of the four Brothers to the Rescue, their murder
2 years ago.
Well, about 20 of them made it to the church in Havana. Over 20 of them apparently made it to the church. When they left the church after the mass, just about a little over an hour ago, they started walking toward the waterfront. They were met by 80 state security gestapo types, and apparently they have been arrested.
What they wanted me to know and to say was that it does not matter if they are arrested, it does not matter how many of them are thrown in the dungeon, they will continue fighting peacefully until freedom and democracy are restored to Cuba. And they wanted me to make a point of the fact that it does not matter how many of them are thrown in the dungeon, the fight will continue, and that every day there are more and more members of the internal opposition and members of the pro-democracy movement in Cuba.
The fact that the Cuban people's hands are tied at this point and that they are unarmed does not mean that they will not triumph. It does not mean that they will not continue fighting until freedom is achieved....
Amnesty International Report (AMR 25/01/98)' Cuba: New Cases of Prisoners of Conscience and Possible Prisoners of Conscience January 1998 (http://www.amnesty.org/ailib/aipub/l998/AMR/22500198.htm)
Amnesty International is concerned at a recent increase in the number of critics of the Cuban Government who have been brought to trial and imprisoned because of their peaceful attempts to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. Over the past two or three years, hundreds of members of unofficial groups of different kinds, including human rights defenders, have been detained for short periods and threatened with being brought to trial if they do not give up their activities or go into exile. A few have resorted to exile in the face of such pressures but until mid-1997, with a few notable exceptions, the threats made against those who had been released and remained in the country had not been carried out. However, in the past few months at least 24 government critics have been imprisoned as prisoners of conscience. Most have been convicted but some are still awaiting trial. Some have been charged with offences against state security, such as "propaganda enemiga", "enemy propaganda", while others have been charged with offences against authority, such as "desacato", "disrespect", "difamaci6n", "defamation, "desobediencia", "disobedience",, or "resistencia", "resistance", or other kinds of common law offences. In some cases, the charges are believed to have been fabricated in order to discredit them or their organization. Trials in political cases generally fall short of international fair trial standards, particularly with regard to access to defence counsel. In cases of crimes against state security, which are tried in provincial courts, the defendant can be held for several weeks or months with little or no access to a lawyer. During this period, the detainee is often subjected to psychological pressures, including threats against his own physical integrity or that of members of his family, and coerced into signing false statements or agreeing to leave the country. In cases tried in municipal courts, the hearing can take place within a day or so of arrest and, while in theory being permitted to appoint a defence lawyer, the detainee often does not have the opportunity to do so in practice. Lawyers who take on the defence of political prisoners often face reprisals themselves for having done so (see below).
Amnesty International believes that there are several hundred prisoners of conscience serving sentences in Cuban prisons. It is impossible to give a precise figure because the authorities do not make such information public and human rights monitoring, by either domestic or international human rights monitors, is severely limited. In fact, several of those in detention have been imprisoned because of their efforts to disseminate information about alleged human rights violations.
Some of the information provided in this document updates cases referred to in Cuba: Renewed Crackdown on Peaceful Government Critics, AMR 25/29/97, August 1997. The majority of the 150 people whose arrest was reported in the earlier document were released, usually after a few days or weeks and mostly without formal charge. However, in most cases they were warned that charges would be brought against them in the future if they did not give up their activities and some have been subjected to further short-term detention and harassment (see below) A few, including Aguileo Cancio Chong, president of the unofficial Partido Acci6n Nacionalista (PAN), National Action Party, released in November 1997 and Alberto Perera Martinez, president of the unofficial Comit6 Paz, Progreso y Libertad, Peace, Progress and Liberty Committe, released in
'Copyright notice: The copyright for this document rests with Amnesty International.... You may not alter this information, repost or sell it without permission. If you use this document, you are encouraged to make a donation to Amnesty International to support future research....
September 1997, were held for between three and six months before being released, apparently without charge. At least one of those who had been detained Hector Peraza Linares, a journalist working for the independent press agency Habana Press, Havana Press was effectively forced into exile after being held for three months, from 23 June until 23 September 1997, by State Security in Pinar del Rio. During that period he had no access to a lawyer. He was only released after paying a fine and agreeing to leave the country under threat that if he did not do so, he would be brought to trial on state security charges. On 15 December 1997 he left Cuba for Spain.
Several others of those mentioned in the earlier document were only released after they had paid a fine. It was not clear what the legal basis for the fine was in most cases. For example, Blanca Nieve Cruz Rivera, president of the unofficial Frente Civico Humanitario Frank Pais, Frank Pais Civic Humanitarian Front, who had been detained on 11 July 1997 was only released on 29 September 1997 after payment of a fine. Earlier reports had indicated that she was facing a possible state security charge. Others who were reportedly released on payment of a fine were Heriberto Leyva Rodriguez, of the unofficial Movimiento Cubano J6venes por la Democracia, Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy, who was released shortly after his arrest on 13 July 1997 despite having been expected to face trial on a charge of "disrespect", and Maximo Robaina Hernandez, a member of the unofficial Frente Civico Pro Derechos Humanos Miximo G6mez, Maximo G6mez Civic Front for Human Rights, who was detained between 23 June and 24 September 1997 in San Juan y Martinez, Pinar del Rio.
Amongst those who have faced further short-term detentions and continuing threats of
imprisonment are: Juan Carlos Chavez Ruiz, of the unofficial Movimiento Cubano Reflexi6n, Cuban Reflection Movement, who was reportedly summoned by police on four occasions between September and November 1997; Maria de los Angeles Gonzalez Amaro, of the Agencia de Prensa Independiente de Cuba (APIC), Cuban Independent Press Agency, who was detained briefly in November 1997; Librado Linares Garcia, secretary general of the unofficial Movimiento Cuban Reflexi6n, Cuban Reflection Movement, who was detained three times in September and October 1997; and Luis L6pez Prendes, a journalist working for the Bur6 de Periodistas Independientes de Cuba (BPIC), Bureau of Independent Journalists of Cuba, who was detained briefly in November 1997.
PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE
Amnesty International believes that the following 24 prisoners are prisoners of conscience, detained solely because of their peaceful attempts to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, and is calling for their immediate and unconditional release:
Ana Maria Agramonte Crespo, See footnote 1, president of the unofficial Movimiento Acci6n Nacionalista, National Action Movement, remains imprisoned at the Centro de Reeducaci6n de Mujeres de Occidente, Women's Re-education Centre in Havana (the main prison for women nicknamed "Manto Negro"). She was arrested on I May 1997, Labour Day, after reportedly refusing to obey a police order to stay at home that day. She was tried on 16 May 1997 and sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment, charged with "disrespect" and "resistance".
Reinaldo Alfaro Garcia, See footnote 2, vice-president of the unofficial Asociaci6n de Lucha Frente a la Injusticia (ALFIN), Association for Struggle against Injustice, and a member of the executive of the unofficial Partido Solidaridad Democritico (PSD), Democratic Solidarity Party,
was detained on 8 May 1997 after reportedly calling for an amnesty for political prisoners. He is being held at the Combinado del Este Prison, Havana province, and is said to be awaiting trial on a charge of "enemy propaganda".
Bernardo Ardvalo Padr6n, the director of Linea Sur Press, an independent press agency based in Cienfuegos, was detained by State Security on 14 August 1997 in Aguada de Pasajeros and released three days later to await trial. Initial reports indicated that he was to be tried on a charge of "defamation", reportedly on the grounds that he had insulted various government officials, including President Fidel Castro, in his articles. However, at his trial on 28 November 1997, he was sentenced to six years' imprisonment for "enemy propaganda", which was confirmed on appeal. He is reportedly serving his sentence in Ariza Prison, Cienfuegos province.
Felix A. Bonn6 Carcas6s, See footnote 3, a former university professor and member of the Grupo de Trabajo de la Disidencia Interna para el Anilisis de la Situaci6n Socio-Econ6mica Cubana, Internal Dissidents' Working Group for the Analysis of the Cuban Socio-Economic Situation, was arrested on 16 July 1997, along with three other members of the group. As of December 1997, he was being held in Guanajay Prison, Havana province, where he is awaiting trial on charges which are believed to include "enemy propaganda" and possibly others. He is reportedly suffering from heart problems and diabetes.
Daula Carpio Mata, the provincial delegate of the unofficial Partido Pro Derechos Humanos en Cuba (PPDHC), Party for Human Rights in Cuba, for Villa Clara Province was first arrested on 7 August 1997 in Santa Clara on a charge of "atentado", "assault", on the grounds that she had verbally intimidated a prison doctor at the trial of fellow PPDHC member and prisoners of conscience Israel Feliciano Garcia, See footnote 4 in late July 1997. She was released pending trial and told to remain at home. On 9 October 1997 she was unexpectedly re-arrested and taken to Guamajal Women's Prison, Villa Clara province, to await trial. She was subsequently tried on 29 October and sentenced to 16 months' "correctional work with internment". Her sentence was ratified on appeal on 8 December 1997. Reports indicate that the prison doctor, who was one of the prosecution witnesses, may have been pressurized by State Security to testify against her. Amnesty International believes that, from the information available, there is no credible basis for the charge against her and that it was brought solely to prevent her from carrying out her peaceful political and human rights activities. She was ordered to present herself at a work centre on 12 December. She did not do so, reportedly for health reasons. She had been fasting since mid-October (see case of Roxana Carpio Mata and others below) and was said to be suffering from sharp pains in her ears and a constant headache. On 16 December she was taken from her home to Guamajal Womens' Prison, despite showing the police a doctor's note recommending she take complete rest. As of early January 1998, she was continuing her fast, reportedly consuming only coffee and water.
Roxana Carpio Mata, sister of Daula Carpio Mata (see above). When Daula Carpio was rearrested on 9 October 1997, a group of twelve PPDHC members who were gathered together at the home of IvAn Lema Romero (see below) in Santa Clara, started a fast in protest at the arrest. Their action, which involved consuming only liquids, attracted public attention because it coincided with the state funeral of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, See footnote 5, whose remains had recently been returned to Cuba from Bolivia, and many foreigners, including journalists, were in the town for the event. On 14 October police entered the house and at different times arrested 12 people, including the mother, sister and 15-year-old daughter of Daula Carpio Mata. On 23 October ten of them were brought to trial in the Santa Clara municipal court (the other two detainees, including Daula
Carpio's daughter, had been released). They were charged with "asociaci6n para delinquir", "associating with others to commit a crime", and "disobedience". Amnesty Internatinal believes that the action against them was taken solely to prevent them from peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression. Roxana Carpio Mata was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment, confirmed on appeal, and initially sent to Guamajal Womens' Prison, Villa Clara province, where she continued her fast. On 20 November she was transferred to hospital where it was discovered that she was pregnant. She then reportedly gave up her fast and was returned to the same prison.
Ricardo de Armas Hernandez, provincial delegate of the unofficial Partido Pro Derechos Humanos en Cuba, Party for Human Rights in Cuba, in Matanzas, was sentenced in July 1997 to six or nine months' imprisonment after being convicted on a charge of "disrespect". He had been arrested on 14 May 1997 and taken to Agiica Prison, Matanzas. In September 1997 he was reportedly beaten up by two common law prisoners. He may have been released since then but this has not yet been confirmed.
Pascual Escalona Naranjo, See footnote 6 was arrested on 14 June 1997 in Manzanillo, Granma province, released and re-arrested on 22 July 1997. He was brought to trial on 24 July 1997 on a charge of "peligrosidad", "dangerousness", See footnote 7 and sentenced to one year's imprisonment. Amnesty International believes that the charge was brought against him in reprisal for his own activities in defence of freedom of expression and association as well as the activities of his wife, Mirta Leiva, who is a correspondent for the Agencia de Prensa Independiente de Cuba (APIC), Cuban Independent Press Agency.
Radames Garcia de la Vega, See footnote 8, vice-president of the unofficial Movimiento Cubano J6venes por la Democracia, Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy, was arrested on 30 April 1997 in Palma Soriano, Santiago de Cuba province. He was sentenced on 17 June 1997 to eighteen months' "correctional work with internment", after being convicted of "desacato a la figura del Comandante en Jefe", "disrespect towards the Commander in Chief' (i.e. President Fidel Castro). Initially he was permitted to remain at home because of ill health but in mid-July he began his sentence at Prisi6n Correccional Pepe Blanca, Gota Blanca Reformatory, in Palma Soriano.
Vicente Garcia Ramos. One of twelve PPDHC members who were arrested on 14 October 1997 in Santa Clara. See the case of Roxana Carpio Mata above for background. He was sentenced to 18 months' "correctional work with internment", confirmed on appeal, which he is serving in Villa Clara Provincial Prison. He is believed to have stopped his fast.
Rend G6mez Manzano, See footnote 9, a lawyer and founder of the independent lawyer's group Corriente Agramontista, Agramontist Current, and a member of the Grupo de Trabajo de la Disidencia Interna para el Anilisis de la Situaci6n Socio-Econ6mica Cubana, Internal Dissidents' Working Group for the Analysis of the Cuban Socio-Economic Situation, was arrested on 16 July 1997, along with three other members of the group. At the time of writing he is being held in Aguica Prison, Matanzas province, awaiting trial on charges which are believed to include "enemy propaganda".
Ivan Lema Romero. One of twelve PPDHC members arrested on 14 October 1997 in Santa Clara. See the case of Roxana Carpio Mata above for background. He was sentenced to 18
months' imprisonment, confirmed on appeal. He started his sentence in Guamajal Prison but was later transferred to Manacas Prison, Santa Clara, Villa Clara province, where, according to reports received in early January 1998, he was continuing his fast and had been transferred to the prison infirmary.
Jose Manuel Llera Benitez. One of twelve PPDHC members arrested on 14 October 1997 in Santa Clara. See the case of Roxana Carpio Mata above for background. He was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment, confirmed on appeal, which he is serving in Las Grimas Prison, Placetas, Villa Clara province. As of mid-December, he was still fasting and was said to be suffering from pains in his joints, vomiting and dizziness. Reports indicated that prison officials had unsuccessfully tried to get common prisoners to provoke him by offering them extra privileges. As of early January 1998, he had reportedly been transferred to a punishment cell for refusing to work while in prison but was continuing his fast.
Adel Sigfredo Martinez Armenteros, member of the national executive of the unofficial Partido Democratico 30 de Noviembre "Frank Pais", Frank Pais 30th November Democratic Party, was arrested on 12 September 1997 in Havana and taken to the Fourth Police Unit. His mother was told the same day that he would be released on bail within three days if she paid 1,000 pesos, a large amount of money in Cuba. However, on 15 September she was told that it had been decided to bring him to trial next day at Cerro municipal court on a charge of "disrespect". He was sentenced to six months' imprisonment which he is believed to be serving in Unit 1580 (also kown as "El Pitirre") in San Miguel del Padr6n, Havana.
Dr Desi Mendoza Rivero, See footnote 10, president of the Colegio M6dico Independiente de Santiago de Cuba, Santiago de Cuba Independent Medical Association, was detained on 25 June 1997 in Santiago de Cuba, after making statements, which were disseminated by foreign media, about an epidemic of dengue fever in Santiago de Cuba which, according to him, had caused several deaths. He reportedly accused the authorities of covering up the true extent of the epidemic and of not taking sufficient measures to control it. He was brought to trial on 18 November 1997, charged with using the mass media to spread "enemy propaganda", and sentenced to eight years' imprisonment. He is serving his sentence in Boniato Prison, Santiago de Cuba province.
Cecilio Monteagudo Sanchez, a member of the unofficial Partido Solidaridad Democritica, Democratic Solidarity Party, in Camajuani, Villa Clara province, was detained on 15 September 1997. He was due to be brought to trial on 25 November 1997, charged with "enemy propaganda" on the grounds that he wrote a leaflet calling on people not to vote in the local elections that were due to be held in October, but the hearing was adjourned. The prosecution are believed to be seeking a sentence of six years' imprisonment. He is believed to be held in La Pendiente Prison, Santa Clara, Villa Clara province. Also due to be tried in the same case is journalist Juan Carlos Recio Martinez (see below). As far as Amnesty International is aware, the trial has not yet taken place.
Lorenzo Paez Nufiez, See footnote 11, president of the unofficial Centro No Gubernamental para los Derechos Humanos "Jose de la Luz y Caballero", Jose de la Luz y Caballero NonGovernmental Centre for Human Rights, remains imprisoned at Guanajay Prison, Havana province. He was detained on 10 July 1997 in Artemisa, Havana, and tried the following day, together with Dagoberto Vega Jaime (see below). Both were charged with "disrespect" and "defamation" because of his attempts to disseminate to contacts in the USA information about allegations of human rights
violations. Lorenzo Piez, who is also a correspondent for Libertad, Freedom, an independent press agency which is part of the Bur6 de Periodistas Independientes de Cuba (BPIC), Bureau of Independent Cuban Journalists, was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment.
Hector Palacio Ruiz, See footnote 12, president of the unofficial Partido Solidaridad Democratico (PSD), Democratic Solidarity Party, and member of the national coordinating council of Concilio Cubano, Cuban Concilium, See footnote 13, was arrested on 9 January 1997 following an interview with a German television station in which he criticised the Cuban Government and referred to declarations made by President Fidel Castro at the Sixth Ibero-American Summit in Chile in November 1996. On 4 September 1997 he was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment for "disrespect" towards President Fidel Castro. He had been serving his sentence in Combinado del Este Prison, Havana, but on 29 December 1997 was transferred to Melena del Sur Prison in Havana province.
Vladimiro Roca Antunes, See footnote 14, a specialist in international economic relations and member of the Grupo de Trabajo de la Disidencia Interna para el Anilisis de la Situaci6n Socio- Econ6mica Cubana, Internal Dissidents' Working Group for the Analysis of the Cuban Socio-Economic Situation, was arrested on 16 July 1997, along with three other members of the group. All four are awaiting trial on charges which are believed to include "enemy propaganda". At the time of writing he is being held in Ariza Prison, Cienfuegos province, and is said to be suffering from high blood pressure.
Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina, See footnote 15 is president of the unofficial Movimiento Cubano J6venes por la Democracia, Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy. He was arrested on 8 April 1997 and brought to trial for "disrespect", and "resistance", after criticising the Fourteenth Youth and Student Festival that was to be held in Cuba later in July and August. He was sentenced to eighteen months' imprisonment which he is serving in Combinado de Guantanamo Prison. After going on hunger strike at the time of the youth festival, he was sent to a punishment cell. In September he was reportedly badly beaten by guards on two occasions and again sent to a punishment cell for an unknown period of time. He subsequently went on hunger strike again for a short period but appears to have since given up his protest. After not receiving any family visits for four months, he was permitted a one-hour visit from his father on 25 December 1997.
Orestes Rodriguez Urrutinier, acting president (presidente interino) of the unofficial Movimiento Seguidores de Chivas, Followers of Chivas Movement, in Santiago de Cuba, was arrested in June or July 1997. He was brought to trial on I1 November 1997 on a charge of "enemy propaganda" and sentenced to four years' imprisonment which he is serving in El Manguito Prison, Santiago de Cuba.
Efrain Rodriguez Santos, a member of the Club Pueblos Cautivos de Cuba, an unofficial group working for peasants who were evicted from their land during the 1960s, was arrested on 12 July 1997 at his home in a rural community called Ram6n L6pez Pefia in San Crist6bal, Pinar del Rio province, after reportedly shouting out from his balcony ";Abajo Fidel!", "Down with Fidel", and other statements which were critical of the government. He was reportedly drunk at the time of the offence. He was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment on 24 September 1997, accused of "desacato a la figura del Comandante Fidel Castro", "disrespect to Commander Fidel Castro". The sentence was ratified on appeal in October 1997. His place of detention is not known.
Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, See footnote 16, an economist and member of the Grupo de Trabajo de la Disidencia Interna para el Anilisis de la Situaci6n Socio-Econ6mica Cubana, Internal Dissidents' Working Group for the Analysis of the Cuban Socio-Economic Situation, was arrested on 16 July 1997, along with three other members of the group. All four are awaiting trial on charges which are believed to include "enemy propaganda". In December she was transferred from the Centro de Reeducaci6n de Mujeres de Occidente, Womens' Reeducation Centre, Havana, to the Marianao Military Hospital, where she was reportedly being treated for breast lumps. It is not clear whether she is still in hospital at the time of writing.
Dagoberto Vega Jaime, See footnote 17, an activist of the unofficial Centro No Gubernamental para los Derechos Humanos "Jose de la Luz y Caballero", Jose de la Luz y Caballero NonGovernmental Centre for Human Rights, is serving a one-year prison sentence in Guanajay Prison, Havana province. He was detained on 10 July 1997 in Artemisa, Havana, and tried the following day, together with Lorenzo Paiez Nifez (see above). Both were charged with "disrespect" and "defamation" because of their attempts to disseminate to contacts in the USA information about allegations of human rights violations.
POSSIBLE PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE
Amnesty International is monitoring the following cases in order to determine whether those concerned are or may become prisoners of conscience:
Juan Escandell Ramirez is a lawyer who works for an independent lawyers' organization called the Corriente Agramontista, Agramontist Current. He has defended several dissidents, including prisoner of conscience Hector Palacio Ruiz (see above), and is currently representing Felix Bonne Carcass (see above). He has been threatened with imprisonment on several occasions in the past. After he had been briefly detained in February 1996 during the crackdown on Concilio CubanoSee footnote 18, he said that he had been told by State Security that they were intending to invent a case against him. In September 1997, he was accused of "acoso sexual", "sexual harassment" after a woman who had been visiting his office in San Antonio de los Bafios went to the police. On 8 October 1997, he and his wife, Yanet Pico Camaraza, were summoned to the military counter-intelligence headquarters in Rancho Boyeros, Havana, and told that he was under investigation for having written an anonymous letter to an army major inciting him to take action against the government. On 20 October 1997, the couple were summoned to the headquarters of the Departamento Thcnico de Investigaciones (DIT), Technical Investigations Department, in Havana, where they were interviewed by two State Security officials. After one official referred to the alleged incident of sexual harassment, the other said that he was there because he wanted the couple to sign official warnings about statements they had been giving to foreign news media. In September, Yanet Pico Camaraza was briefly detained on suspicion of trafficking in marijuana but released without charge. Neither are in detention at the time of writing and so far no further action has been taken against them, though investigations of the alleged charges are believed to be continuing Amnesty International believes that, on the basis of the information so far available, there is no credible evidence for the accusations against Juan Escandell Ramirez. It believes that he and his wife are being targetted because of his work in defence of political prisoners.
Alexander Herndndez Lago was detained on 23 September 1997 when police went to his home in Pinar del Rio, reportedly without a warrant, to arrest his mother because she had failed to pay a bill of 41.5 pesos for water and sewage supplies. Police reportedly forced their way into the house
and beat both him and his mother. He then went into the street with a placard saying "Ya estamos cansados de tanta arbitrariedad e injusticia, Derechos Humanos, Articulo 19, iResp6tense!", "We are fed up with so much arbitrariness and injustice, Human Rights, Article 19, Respect them!". He was then handcuffed, reportedly beaten again, and taken, together with his mother, to Police Unit No. I in Pinar del Rio. He was released on 100 pesos' bail two days later. He was due to be tried on 24 November 1997, accused of "disrespect" and "assault". The outcome of the trial is not yet known and it is not clear whether he is at present imprisoned. Alexander Hernandez Lago is reportedly a contributor to Vitral, an officially-sanctioned religious magazine published by the Centro de Informaci6n Civico-Religioso, Centre for Civic and Religious Information,
Maritza Lugo Fernindez, See footnote 19, a member of the national executive of the unofficial Partido Democritico 30 de Noviembre, 30 November Democratic Party, was arrested on 15 August 1997. She was subsequently brought to trial on 5 September 1997 and sentenced to two years' imprisonment, charged with "cohecho", "bribery", on the grounds that she bribed a prison guard to smuggle money and a tape recorder into Unit 1580 Prison (also known as "El Pitirre") for another political prisoner. Following her trial she was being held under house arrest in order to recuperate from a hunger strike carried out while awaiting trial in the Women's Re-education Centre in Havana. It is not clear whether she is currently in prison. Amnesty International believes that she may have been targetted because of her peaceful political activities. Her brother, prisoner of conscience Osmel Lugo Gutierrez, who is vice-president of the same group and was arrested in May 1996, is serving a prison sentence of two years and six months for "disrespect". Both were reportedly summoned by immigration officials in May 1996 and offered the possibility of leaving the country even though they had not sought permission to do so.
Luis Mario Paredes Estrada, secretary of the unofficial Consejo Unitario de Trabajadores Cubanos (CUT), Unitary Council of Cuban Workers, and a member of the Partido Democritico 30 de Noviembre Frank Pais, Frank Pais 30th November Democratic Party, in Manzanillo, Granma province, was arrested on 4 September 1997 and was going to be tried the next day for "dangerousness" However, after he went on hunger strike, the hearing was postponed and he was released until 8 September when the trial took place. He was sentenced to one year's imprisonment. He is believed to be serving his sentence in Las Mangas Prison in Granma province. It is not clear what the precise basis for the charge was but, from the information so far available, Amnesty International believes that he may have been targetted because of his peaceful political activities.
Cecilio Ruiz Rivero, a member of the unofficial Asociaci6n de Lucha Frente a la Injusticia (ALFIN), Association for Struggle Against Injustice was reportedly brought to trial on 24 September 1997 and convicted on charges with "disrespect", "assault" and "resistance". He is imprisoned in Quivicin Prison, Havana province, but the precise length of his sentence is not clear. He had been arrested on 14 July 1997. He had served a previous sentence of three years' imprisonment for "enemy propaganda". Amnesty International is seeking further information about the reasons for his current conviction.
OTHER CASES OF CONCERN TO AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
Amnesty International believes that the following six PPDHC members, who were detained on 14 October 1997 together with prisoner of conscience Roxana Carpio Mata and others (see above) after they began fasting in protest at the arrest of Daula Carpio Mata, were arrested in order to prevent them from peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of assembly, association and
expression. At the time of writing, most of them are not believed to be in detention. However, the organization believes that the charges against them should be dropped and that their sentences should be annulled.
Jose Antonio Alvarado Almeida. He was sentenced to 18 months' "correctional work with internment", confirmed on appeal, but has not started his sentence. On 22 November 1997, he was hospitalized and placed in intensive care after reportedly suffering a heart attack. On 3 December he was discharged from hospital to his home where he has continued his fast. He is said to have lost about 50 pounds [23kg] in weight. He was told to report to Villa Clara Provincial Prison on 23 December but is believed not to have done so. As of early January 1998, he was again reported to be hospitalized in an intensive care unit but was still continuing his fast.
Ardlis Fleites Mendez, wife of former prisoner of conscience Israel Feliciano Garcia, See footnote 20. She was sentenced to 18 months' "restricted liberty" and a fine. She is no longer fasting.
Maria Felicia Mata Machado, the mother of prisoners of conscience Daula and Roxana Carpio Mata (see above). She was sentenced to 18 months' "restricted liberty" and a fine. She is no longer fasting.
Liliain Meneses Martinez. She was sentenced to 18 months' "trabajo correccional sin internamiento", "correctional work without internment", confirmed on appeal, but has not started her sentence. She is said to be suffering from dizziness, dry lips and an abnormally rapid heart rate (taquicardia) as the result of her fast which she is continuing. She was told to report to a work centre on 23 December despite having been informed earlier by the director that there was no work for women there. In late December, she was reportedly hospitalized briefly but as of early January had returned home where she was continuing her fast.
Ileana Pefialver Duque. She was sentenced to 18 months' "correctional work without internment", confirmed on appeal, but has not started her sentence. She is still fasting and is said to be suffering from memory and vision disturbance, loss of feeling in her legs and to have lost a lot of weight. She was told to report for work at the Ovideo Rivero Agricultural Production Centre on 17 December and warned that, if she continued to present medical certificates stating she was too ill to work, her sentence would be changed instead to one of imprisonment. In late December, she was reportedly hospitalized briefly but as of early January had returned home where she was continuing her fast.
Danilo Santos Mendez. He was sentenced to 18 months' "correctional work with internment", confirmed on appeal, but did not start it immediately. He continued his fast and was said to be suffering from abdominal pain and exhaustion and to have lost a lot of weight. However, as of early January 1998, he was believed to have ceased his fast. It is not clear whether he has now started his sentence.
Footnote: I See Cuba: Renewed Crackdown on Peaceful Government Critics, AMR 25/29/97, August 1997, for full details.
Footnote: 2 idem.
Footnote: 3 idem.
Footnote: 4 Israel Feliciano Garcia had been sentenced in early 1997 to five months' imprisonment after refusing to pay a fine imposed on him for attending a meeting of Concilio Cubano in 1996. A few days before he was due to be released, a new charge of "disrespect"
was brought against him. At his trial in July 1997, he was sentenced to an additional three months' imprisonment. He has since been released. Footnote: 5 Heroe of the Cuban Revolution who had been killed by the Bolivian army in Bolivia in 1967.
Footnote: 6 See Cuba: Renewed Crackdown on Peaceful Government Critics, AMR 25/29/97, August 1997, for full details.
Footnote: 7 A section of the penal code entitled "The Dangerous State and Security Measures", under which a person can be imprisoned for up to four years if s/he is considered to have a special proclivity to commit crimes and may be about to commit an offence. See "Cuba: Hundreds Imprisoned for Dangerousness", AMR 25/01/94, February 1994, for further details.
Footnote: 8 idem.
Footnote: 9 idem.
Footnote: 10 idem.
Footnote: 11 idem.
Footnote: 12 See Cuba: Prisoner of Conscience Hector Palacio Ruiz sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment, AMR 25/35/97, 2 October 1997, for further details. Footnote: 13 Concilio Cubano is a forum of some 140 unofficial groups which was set up in October 1995. As a result of attempts to organize a national meeting in February 1996, scores of people were detained and several of the most prominent leaders imprisoned. See Cuba: Government Crackdown on Dissent, AMR 25/14/96, April 1996, and Cuba: Dissidents Imprisoned or Forced into Exile, AMR 25/29/96, July 1996, for further details. Footnote: 14 See Cuba: Renewed Crackdown on Peaceful Government Critics, AMR 25/29/97, August 1997, for further details. Footnote: 15 idem. Also Cuba: Ill-treatment of Three Political Prisoners in Combinado de Guantanamo Prison, AMR 25/44/97, 8 December 1997. Footnote: 16 See Cuba: Renewed Crackdown on Peaceful Government Critics, AMR 25/29/97, August 1997, for further details. Footnote: 17 idem.
Footnote: 18 See footnote 12.
Footnote: 19 idem.
Footnote: 20 See footnote 4.
Excerpt of U.S. Department of State Cuba Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1997 Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998 (http://www.state.gov/www/global/human-rights/1997_hrpreport/cuba.html)
Cuba is a totalitarian state controlled by President Fidel Castro, who is Chief of State, Head of Government, First Secretary of the Communist Party, and commander in chief of the armed forces. President Castro exercises control over all aspects of Cuban life through the Communist Party and its affiliated mass organizations, the government bureaucracy, and the state security apparatus....
The Ministry of Interior is the principal organ of state security and totalitarian control. Officers of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), which are led by President Castro's brother Raul, have been assigned to the majority of key positions in the Ministry of Interior in recent years. In addition to the routine law enforcement functions of regulating migration, controlling the Border Guard and the regular police forces, the Interior Ministry's Department of State Security investigates and actively suppresses organized opposition and dissent. It maintains a pervasive system of vigilance through undercover agents, informers, the rapid response brigades, and the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR's)....
The Government continued to control all significant means of production and remained the predominant employer, despite permitting some carefully controlled foreign investment. Foreign employers continue to contract workers through state agencies, which pay the workers extremely low wages while receiving large hard currency payments....
The Government's human rights record remained poor. It continued systematically to violate fundamental civil and political rights of its citizens. Citizens do not have the right to change their government. There were several credible reports of death due to excessive use of force by the police. Members of the security forces and prison officials continued to beat and otherwise abuse detainees and prisoners. Prison conditions remained harsh. The authorities routinely continued to harass, threaten, arbitrarily arrest, detain, imprison, and defame human rights advocates and members of independent professional associations, including journalists, economists, and lawyers, often with the goal of goading them into leaving the country. The Government used internal and external exile against such persons, and political prisoners were offered the choice of exile or continued imprisonment. The Government denied political dissidents and human rights advocates due process and subjected them to unfair trials. The judiciary is completely subordinate to the Government and to the Communist Party. The Government infringed upon citizens' right to privacy. The Government denied citizens the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association. It limited the distribution of foreign publications and news to selected party faithful. The Government kept tight restrictions on freedom of movement, and some religious activities were restricted. The Government was sharply and publicly antagonistic to all criticism of its human rights practices and sought to thwart foreign contacts with human rights activists. Discrimination against women and racial discrimination often occur. The Government severely restricted worker rights, including the right to form independent unions.
In April the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) again passed a resolution endorsing the report of the UNHRC Special Rapporteur, which detailed Cuba's human rights violations. For the fifth consecutive year, the Government refused the Special Rapporteur permission to visit Cuba.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There were no reports of politically motivated killings by government officials. However, there were several credible reports of death due to the excessive use of force by the national police; government sanctions against the perpetrators were typically light....
In October 1996, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued its final report on the Government's July 13, 1994, sinking of the "13th of March" tugboat which killed 41 persons, including women and children. The IACHR concluded that the Government violated the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man and found the Government legally obligated to indemnify the survivors and the relatives of the victims for the damages caused; at year's end, the Government had not yet done so.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Constitution prohibits abusive treatment of detainees and prisoners, but there were instances in which members of the security forces and prison officials beat and otherwise abused human rights advocates, detainees, and prisoners....
The Government continued to subject those who disagree with it to "acts of repudiation." At state security instigation, members of state-controlled mass organizations, workmates, or neighbors are obliged to stage public protests against those who dissent from the Government's policies, shouting obscenities and often causing damage to the homes and property of those targeted; physical attacks on the victims are not uncommon. Police and state security agents are often present but take no action to prevent or end the attacks....
Prison conditions continued to be harsh. The Government claims that prisoners have rights, such as family visitation, adequate nutrition, pay for work, the right to request parole, and the right to petition the prison director. However, police and prison officials often denied these rights and used beatings, neglect, isolation, denial of medical attention, and other forms of abuse against detainees and prisoners, including those convicted of political crimes or who persisted in expressing their views. There are separate prison facilities for women and for minors.
The IACHR reported that prison authorities subjected prisoners who protested their conditions or treatment to reprisals such as beatings, transfer to punishment cells, transfer to prisons far from their families, suspension of family visits, or denial of medical treatment....
The rights to adequate nutrition and medical attention also were violated regularly. The IACHR described the nutritional and hygienic situation in the prisons, together with the deficiencies in medical
care, as "alarming." Both the IACHR and the U.N. Special Rapporteur, as well as other human rights monitoring organizations, reported the widespread incidence in prisons of tuberculosis, scabies, hepatitis, parasitic infections, and malnutrition....
The Government does not permit independent monitoring of prison conditions by international or national human rights monitoring groups. Human rights activists continued to seek information on conditions inside jails despite the risks to themselves and to their prison sources. On September 5, a military tribunal sentenced human rights activist Maritza Lugo to 2 years of house arrest for "bribery," for having attempted to smuggle a tape recorder into a prison in order to obtain direct testimony from inmates.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The Law of Penal Procedures requires police to file formal charges and either release a detainee or bring the case before a prosecutor within 96 hours of arrest. It also requires the authorities to provide suspects with access to a lawyer within 7 days of arrest. However, the Constitution states that all legally recognized civil liberties can be denied to anyone who actively opposes the "decision of the Cuban people to build socialism." The authorities routinely invoke this sweeping authority to deny due process to those detained on purported state security grounds.
The authorities routinely engage in arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights advocates, subjecting them to interrogations, threats, and degrading treatment and conditions for hours or days at a time....
The Penal Code also includes the concept of "dangerousness," defined as the "special proclivity of a person to commit crimes, demonstrated by his conduct in manifest contradiction of socialist norms." If the police decide that a person exhibits signs of dangerousness, they may detain the offender, bring him before a court, or subject him to "therapy" or "political reeducation." Government authorities regularly threaten citizens with prosecution under this article. Both the UNHRC and the IACHR condemned this concept for its subjectivity, the summary nature of the judicial proceedings employed, the lack of legal safeguards for the accused, and the political considerations behind its application....
The Government also used exile as a tool for controlling and eliminating the internal opposition. Amnesty International noted that the Government had changed its tactics in dealing with human rights advocates, and "rather than arresting them and bringing them to trial, the tendency was to repeatedly detain them for short periods and threaten them with imprisonment unless they gave up their activities or left the country."...
The Government has also pressured imprisoned human rights activists to apply for emigration and regularly conditioned their release on acceptance of exile. On several occasions, state security officers facilitated passes to prisoners to come to the capital for the express purpose of initiating exit procedures with foreign diplomatic missions.
Amnesty International expressed "particular concern" about the Government's practice of threatening to charge, try, and imprison human rights advocates and independent journalists prior to arrest or sentencing if they did not leave the country, which it said "effectively prevents those concerned from being able to act in public life in their own country."...
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Although the Constitution provides for independent courts, it explicitly subordinates them to the National Assembly (ANPP) and the Council of State, which is headed by Fidel Castro. The ANPP and its lower level counterparts elect all judges. The subordination of the courts to the Communist Party--which is designated in the Constitution as "the superior directive force of the society and the state"--further compromises the judiciary's independence.
Civil courts exist at municipal, provincial, and Supreme Court levels. Panels composed of a mix of professionally certified and lay judges preside over them. Military tribunals assume jurisdiction for certain "counterrevolutionary" cases.
The law and trial practices do not meet international standards for fair public trials. Almost all cases are tried in less than a day. There are no jury trials. While most trials are public, trials are closed when state security is allegedly involved. Prosecutors may introduce testimony from a CDR member as to the revolutionary background of a defendant, which may contribute to either a longer or shorter sentence. The law recognizes the right of appeal in municipal courts but limits it in provincial courts to cases such as those involving maximum prison terms or the death penalty. Appeals in death penalty cases are automatic. The death penalty must ultimately be affirmed by the Council of State.
Criteria for presenting evidence, especially in cases of human rights advocates, are arbitrary and discriminatory. Often the sole evidence provided, particularly in political cases, is the defendant's confession, usually obtained under duress and without the legal advice or knowledge of a defense lawyer. The authorities regularly deny defendants access to their lawyers until the day of the trial. Several dissidents who have served prison terms report that they were tried and sentenced without counsel and were not allowed to speak on their own behalf. Amnesty International has stated that "trials in all cases fall far short of international standards for a fair trial."
The law provides the accused with the right to an attorney, but the control that the Government exerts over the livelihood of members of the state-controlled lawyers' collectives--especially when they defend persons accused of state security crimes--compromises their ability to represent clients. Attorneys have reported reluctance to defend those charged in political cases out of fear of jeopardizing their own careers....
According to Amnesty International, some 600 persons were imprisoned for various political crimes. Other human rights monitoring groups estimate that 800 individuals--not including those held for dangerousness--were imprisoned on such charges as disseminating enemy propaganda, illicit association, contempt for authorities (usually for criticizing Fidel Castro), clandestine printing, or the broad charge of rebellion, often brought against advocates of peaceful democratic change. In an October 1995 television interview, President Castro acknowledged and attempted to justify the existence of political prisoners in Cuba by stating that this was a normal practice in many other countries.
f. Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
Although the Constitution provides for the inviolability of one's home and correspondence, official surveillance of private and family affairs by government-controlled mass organizations, such as the CDR's, remains one of the most pervasive and repressive features of Cuban life. The State has
assumed the right to interfere in the lives of all citizens, even those who do not actively oppose the Government and its practices. The mass organizations' ostensible purpose is to "improve" the citizenry, but in fact their goal is to seek out and discourage nonconformity. Citizen participation in these mass organizations has declined; the economic crisis has both reduced the Government's ability to provide material incentives for their participation and forced many people to engage in black market activities, which the mass organizations are supposed to report to the authorities.
The authorities utilize a wide range of social controls. The Interior Ministry employs an intricate system of informants and block committees (the CDR's) to monitor and control public opinion. While less capable than in the past, CDR's continue to report on suspicious activity, including conspicuous consumption; unauthorized meetings, including those with foreigners; and defiant attitudes toward the Government and the revolution.
The Department of State Security often reads international correspondence and monitors overseas telephone calls and conversations with foreigners. The Government controls all access to the Internet, and all electronic mail messages are subject to censorship. Citizens do not have the right to receive publications from abroad, although newsstands in foreigners-only hotels and outside certain hard currency stores do sell foreign newspapers and magazines.... Security agents subject dissidents, foreign diplomats, and journalists to harassment and surveillance, including electronic surveillance.
The authorities regularly search people and their homes, without probable cause, to intimidate and harass them. State security agents searched the homes of hundreds of political dissidents, human rights advocates, and independent journalists, seizing typewriters, personal and organizational documents, books, and foreign newspapers.... The authorities regularly detained human rights advocates after they visited foreign diplomatic missions, confiscated their written reports of human rights abuses, and seized copies of foreign newspapers and other informational material....
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Government does not allow criticism of the revolution or its leaders. Laws against antigovernment propaganda, graffiti, and insults against officials carry penalties of from 3 months to I year in prison. If President Castro or members of the National Assembly or Council of State are the object of criticism, the sentence can be extended to 3 years. Charges of disseminating enemy propaganda (which includes merely expressing opinions at odds with those of the Government) can bring sentences of up to 14 years. Local CDR's inhibit freedom of speech by monitoring and reporting dissent or criticism. Police and state security officials regularly harassed, threatened, and otherwise abused human rights advocates in public and private as a means of intimidation and control....
Amnesty International, the Inter-American Press Society, Reporters without Borders, and the Committee to Protect Journalists repeatedly called international attention to the Government's continued practice of detaining independent journalists and others simply for peacefully exercising their right to free speech.
The Government rigorously monitored other forms of expression and often arrested persons for the crimes of disseminating enemy propaganda and clandestine printing. In the Government's view,
enemy propaganda includes materials such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international reports of human rights violations, and mainstream foreign newspapers and magazines.
The Government prohibits all diplomatic missions in Havana from printing or distributing publications, particularly newspapers and newspaper clippings, unless those publications deal exclusively with conditions in the mission's home country and receive prior government approval. It also infringed on diplomatic pouch privileges to seize allegedly subversive materials....
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Although the Constitution grants limited rights of assembly and association, these rights are subject to the requirement that they may not be "exercised against ... the existence and objectives of the socialist State." The law punishes any unauthorized assembly of more than three persons, including for private religious services, even in a private home, by up to 3 months in prison and a fine. The authorities selectively enforce this prohibition and often use it as a legal pretext to harass and imprison human rights advocates....
The Government denies citizens the freedom of association. The Penal Code specifically outlaws "illegal or unrecognized groups." The Ministry of Justice, in consultation with the Interior Ministry, decides whether to give organizations legal recognition. The authorities have never approved the existence or a public meeting of a human rights group....
c. Freedom of Religion
In recent years, the Government has eased the harsher aspects of its repression of religious freedom. In 1991 it allowed religious adherents to join the Communist Party. In 1992 it amended the Constitution to prohibit religious discrimination and removed references to "scientific materialism," i.e., atheism, as the basis for the Cuban State. Nevertheless, the State prohibits members of the armed forces from allowing anyone in their household to observe religious practices, except elderly relatives if their religious beliefs do not influence other family members and are not "damaging to the revolution."....
The Government continued to enforce a resolution preventing any Cuban or joint enterprise from selling computers, fax machines, photocopiers, or other equipment to any church. It also maintained a December 1995 decree completely prohibiting nativity scenes and prohibiting Christmas trees and decorations in public buildings, except those related to the tourist or foreign commercial sector. In 1996 the Government had held the semi-annual ANPP session on Christmas eve and Christmas day to manifest its nonacceptance of religious holidays. (Official recognition of all religious holidays ended in 1961.) However, in December President Castro allowed Christmas to be recognized as a holiday as a one-time exception, as a special good will gesture in honor of the Pope's scheduled visit....
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Prior to 1997, the Government generally had not imposed legal restrictions on domestic travel, except for persons found to be HIV positive, whom it initially restricts to sanitoriums for treatment and therapy before conditionally releasing them to the community. However, state security officials forbade some human rights advocates and independent journalists from traveling outside their home
provinces, and the Government began to sentence others to internal exile....
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
Citizens do not have the legal right to change their government or to advocate change. The Constitution proscribes any political organization other than the Communist Party. While the Constitution provides for direct election of provincial, municipal, and National Assembly members, the candidates must be approved in advance by mass organizations controlled by the regime. In practice, a small group of leaders, under the direction of President Fidel Castro, select the members of the highest policymaking bodies of the Communist Party--the Politburo and the Central Committee....
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The Government does not recognize any domestic human rights groups, or permit them to function legally. The Government subjects domestic human rights advocates to intense intimidation, harassment, and repression. In violation of its own statutes, the Government refuses to consider applications for legal recognition submitted by human rights monitoring groups.
In its annual report the IAHRC examined recent measures taken by the Government and found that they "do not comprise the bedrock of a substantive reform in the present political system ... that will permit the ideological and partisan pluralism implicit in the wellspring from which a democratic system of government develops." The IAHRC recommended that the Government provide reasonable safeguards to prevent violations of human rights, unconditionally release political prisoners and those jailed for trying to leave the country, abolish the concept of dangerousness in the penal code and eliminate other legal restrictions on basic freedoms, cease harassing human rights groups, and establish a separation of powers so that the judiciary would no longer be "subordinate to political power."...
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
Cuba is a multiracial society with a black and mixed-race majority. The Constitution forbids discrimination based on race, sex, or national origin, although evidence suggests that racial and sexual discrimination occur often.
Violent crime is rarely reported in the press, and there are no publicly available data regarding the incidence of domestic violence. The law establishes strict penalties for rape, and the Government appears to enforce this law. Prostitution has increased greatly in the last few years; press reports indicate that tourists from various countries visit specifically to patronize inexpensive prostitutes. Despite the Government's tight control over society in general, episodic government statements and efforts to crack down on prostitution appear to have little lasting effect. Most observers believe that the regime tolerates or tacitly encourages prostitution in order to boost its tourist industry, and the police appear to make arrangements with the prostitutes that allow them to function largely without interference. In November the Dutch NGO Pax Christi released in book form a 1996 report on the
human rights situation in the country. It noted that sex tourism was thriving and that it was tolerated by the Government as yet another way to attract hard currency to the island. NGO representatives interviewed Cubans who described their country as "a brothel more than ever, only now it's for tourists from other countries."...
The Constitution calls on the Government to protect "family, maternity, and matrimony." It also states that children, legitimate or not, have the same rights under the law and notes the duties of parents to protect them. Education is free and is grounded in Marxist ideology. State organizations and schools are charged with the "integral formation of children and youth." The national health care system covers all citizens. There is no societal pattern of abuse of children, other than in the area of prostitution where young girls (between the ages of 13 and 20) form the bulk of the large number of prostitutes who cater to foreign sex-tourists.
People With Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination based on disability, and there have been few complaints of such discrimination. There are no laws that mandate accessibility to buildings for people with disabilities....
Many blacks have benefited from the social changes of the revolution, and much of the police force and army enlisted personnel is black. Nevertheless, there have been numerous reports of disproportionate police harassment of black youths....
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The Constitution gives priority to state or collective needs over individual choices regarding free association or provision of employment. The "demands of the economy and society" take precedence over an individual worker's preferences. The law prohibits strikes; none are known to have occurred. Official labor organizations have a mobilization function and do not act as trade unions, promote worker rights, or protect the right to strike. Such organizations are under the control of the State and the party.
The Communist Party selects the leaders of the sole legal labor confederation, the Confederation of Cuban Workers (CTC), whose principal responsibility is to ensure that government production goals are met. Despite disclaimers in international forums, the Government explicitly prohibits independent unions and none are recognized. There has been no change since the 1992 International Labor Organization (ILO) finding that independent unions "do not appear to exist" and its ruling that Cuba violated ILO norms on freedom of association and the right to organize. Those who attempt to engage in union activities face government persecution. Workers can and have lost their jobs for their political beliefs, including their refusal to join the official union. Several small labor organizations have been created, but function without government recognition and are unable to represent workers and work on their behalf The Government actively harasses these organizations.
The CTC is a member of the Communist, formerly Soviet-dominated, World Federation of Trade Unions.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Collective bargaining does not exist. The State Committee for Work and Social Security (CETSS) sets wages and salaries for the state sector. Since all legal unions are government entities, antiunion discrimination by definition does not exist....
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Neither the Constitution nor the Labor Code prohibit forced labor. The Government maintains correctional centers where it sends people for crimes such as dangerousness. They are forced to work on farms or building sites, usually with no pay and inadequate food. The authorities often imprison internees who do not cooperate. The Government employs special groups of workers, known as "microbrigades," on loan from other jobs, on special building projects. Microbrigades have become more important in the Government's efforts to complete tourist and other priority projects. Workers who refuse to volunteer for these jobs often risk discrimination or job loss. However, microbrigade workers reportedly receive priority consideration for apartments. The military channels some conscripts to the Youth Labor Army, where they perform their 2-year military service working on farms that supply both the armed forces and the civilian population. The Government prohibits forced and bonded labor by children and enforces this prohibition effectively.
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
The legal minimum working age is 17 years. The Labor Code permits employment of 15- and 16-year-olds to obtain training or fill labor shortages. All students over age I1 are expected to devote 30 to 45 days of their summer vacation to farm work, laboring up to 8 hours per day. The Ministry of Agriculture uses "voluntary labor" by student work brigades extensively in the farming sector. The law requires school attendance until the ninth grade, and this law is generally respected. The Government prohibits forced and bonded child labor and enforces this prohibition effectively (see Section 6.c.).
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The minimum wage varies by occupation and is set by the CETSS. The minimum monthly wage for a maid, for example, is $8.25 (165 pesos); for a bilingual office clerk, $9.50 (190 pesos); and for a gardener $10.75 (215 pesos). The Government supplements the minimum wage with free medical care and education, and subsidized housing and food. Even with these subsidies, however, a worker must earn far more than the average monthly wage to support a family. Corruption and black market activity are rampant. The Government rations most basic necessities such as food, medicine, clothing, and cooking gas, which are in very short supply....
January 14, 1998
AGREEMENT FOR DEMOCRACY
We recognize as the fundamental principle of the new Republic that Cuba is one and
independent, whose sovereignty resides in the people and functions through the effective exercise of representative multi-party democracy, which is the government of the majority with absolute respect for the minority.
All governments must respect the sovereignty of the people, therefore, at the end of the current tyrannical regime, the provisional or transition government shall be obligated to return sovereignty to the people by way of the following measures:
(1) Guarantee the people's participation in the decisions of the nation through the exercise of
universal, direct, and secret voting to elect its representatives, and the right to seek public
(2) Immediately issue a general amnesty for the liberation of all political prisoners, including those
who have been sentenced for fictitious common crimes, and cancel the pending political cases against Cubans In exile, so as to facilitate their return to the homeland and their reintegration
into the national society.
(3) Organize an independent, impartial, and professional judiciary.
(4) Recognize and protect the freedom of expression, of the press, of association, of assembly, or
peaceful demonstration, profession, and religion.
(5) Protect the Cuban people from arbitrary expulsion from their homes as well as against all
forms of detention, search, confiscation or arbitrary aggression, and from violation of their
correspondence, documents and other communications, and defend all Cubans' rights to
privacy and honor.
(6) Immediately legalize all political parties and other organizations and activities of civil society.
(7) Refer to the Constitution of 1940, when applicable, during the transition period and convoke
free elections with the supervision of international organizations within a time period not greater than one year, for a Constituent Congress which will establish a Constitution and
which, during its existence, shall have authority to legislate as well as to oversee the executive.
Having thus achieved democratic legitimacy, it shall call general elections in accordance with
the provisions of the Constitution.
(8) Recognize and protect the freedom of economic activity; the right to private property; the right
to unionize, to bargain collectively and to strike; the Cuban people's right to genuine
participation In their economic development; access to public health and education, and initiate
the reestablishment of civic values in education.
(9) Take immediate steps to protect Cubans environmental security and protect and rescue the
(10) Propitiate and guarantee the professionalism and political neutrality of the Armed Forces and create forces of public order whose rules of conduct shall adjust to the principles of this
Cuba shall resurrect from its own ashes, but it is the sacred obligation of all Cubans both within the oppressed Island and in diaspora to place our hands on the plough without looking backwards but rather into the deepest part of our hearts, to convert those ashes into fertile seeds of love and creation. Now, as 100 years ago, our national aspiration remains the construction of a Republic based on the formula of triumphant love:
WITH ALL AND FOR THE GOOD FOR ALL
INITIAL SIGNATORY ORGANIZATIONS IN THE CUBAN DIASPORA OF THE AGREEMENT FOR DEMOCRACY:
ACCION CIVICA CUBANA, Jose Luis Pujol ACCION DEMOCRATICA CUBANA, Juan Carlos Acosta AGENDA CUBA, Pedro Solares ALIANZA CUBANA, Jose Perez Linares ALIANZA DE JOVENES CUBANOS, Ana M. Carbonell ASOCIACION INTEGRAL MAMBISA, Pedro Luis Ferro COORDINADORA INTERNACIONAL DE EX-PRISIONEROS POLITICOS CUBANOS,
Guillermo Rivas Porta
COORDINADORA SOCIAL DEMOCRATA, Lino B. Fernandez COMITE CUBANO PRO-DERECHOS HUMANOS, Ricardo Bofill CUBAN AMERICAN VETERANS ASSOCIATION, Andres Garcia CUBA INDEPENDIENTE Y DEMOCRATICA (CID), Huber Matos DIRECTORIO REVOLUCIONARIO DEMOCRATICO CUBANO, Juan Jose Fernandez de Castro and
EX-CLUB (ASOCIACION DE EX-PRISIONEROS Y COMBATIENTES POLITICOS CUBANOS), Rolando Borges EX-CONFINADOS POLITICOS DE LA UMAP, Francisco Garcia FREE CUBA FOUNDATION, John Suarez FRENTE NACIONAL DEL PRESIDIO POLITICO CUBANO, Ruflno Alvarez GRUPO DE TRABAJO DE LA DISIDENCIA INTERNA, Ruth C. Montaner HERMANOS AL RESCATE, Jose Basulto M.A.R. POR CUBA, Silvia Iriondo MOVIMIENTO DEMOCRACIA, Ramon Saul Sanchez MUNICIPIOS DE CUBA EN EL EXILIO, Robert Pereda MOVIMIENTO 30 DE NOVIEMBRE, Israel Abreu MUJER CUBANA, Estela Ross MUJERES LUCHADORAS POR LA DEMOCRACIA, Maria Marquez PARTIDO INDEPENDENTISTA CUBANO, Alberto Martinez Echenique PRESIDIO POLITICO HISTORICO CUBANO CASA DEL PRESO, Luis Gonzalez Infante PUENTE DE JOVENES PROFESIONALES CUBANOS, Dr. Nicolas Gutierrez LA ROSA BLANCA, Rafael Diaz-Balart
UNIDAD REVOLUCIONARIA, Gabriel Marquez UNION LIBERAL CUBANA, Carlos Alberto Montaner
INITIAL SIGNATORY ORGANIZATIONS IN CUBA OF THE AGREEMENT FOR DEMOCRACY
ACCION DEMOCRATICA, Luis Ramon Rodriguez Hernandez COMISION CUBANA DE DERECHOS HUMANOS JOSE MARTI EN LA REPUBLICA DE CUBA, Prof Amador Blanco
COMITE CUBANO PRO-DERECHOS HUMANOS, Gustavo Arcos Bergnes CONSEJO NACIONAL POR LOS DERECHOS CIVILES EN CUBA, Jorge Omar Lorenzo
GRUPO DE TRABAJO DE LA DISIDENCIA INTERNA, Jesus Yanes Pelletier spokesman
for Marta Beatriz Roque, Vladimiro Roca, Feliz Bonne Carcasses and Rene Gomez
MOVIMIENTO ACCION DEMOCRATICA, Luis R. Hernandez Rodriguez MOVIMIENTO CUBANO REFLEXION, Librado Linares MOVIMIENTO CUBANO JOVENES POR CUBA, Heriberto Leiva Rodriguez MOVIMIENTO NACIONAL DE RESISTENCIA CIVICA PEDRO LUIS BOITEL, Berta
NATURPAZ, Leonel Morejon Almagro ORGANIZACION FEMINISTA INDEPENDIENTE, Cecilia Zamora Cabrera PARTIDO ACCION NACIONALISTA, Aguileo Cancio Chong PARTIDO DEMOCRATICO 30 DE NOVIEMBRE FRANK PAIS, Rafael Ibarra Roque PARTIDO PRO DERECHOS HUMANOS AFILIADO A LA FUNDACION ANDREI SAJAROV, Delegacion de Villa Clara, Israel Feliciano PARTIDO SOLIDARIDAD DEMOCRATICA, Delegacion de Villa Clara, Mercedes Rutz UNION NACIONAL DE EX-PRESOS POLITICOS CUBANOS, Delegacion de Villa Clara,
Omar Pernet Hernandez
UNION NACIONAL DE OPOSITORES, Frank Fernandez Loveira
Excerpt of Zenith and Eclipse: A Comparative Look at Socio-Economic Conditions in Pre-Castro and Present Day Cuba
Released by the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs, February 9, 1998 (http://www.state.gov/www/regions/ara/economicconditions.html)
SUMMARY AND INTRODUCTION
An enduring myth is that 1950's Cuba was a socially and economically backward country whose development was jump-started by the Castro government. In fact,
according to readily-available historical data, Cuba was a relatively advanced country
in 1958, certainly by Latin American standards and, in some areas, by world
The health care system is often touted by many analysts as one of the Castro
government's greatest achievements. What this analysis ignores is that the revolutionary
government inherited an already-advanced health sector when it took power in 1959.
Cuba's infant mortality rate of 32 per 1,000 live births in 1957 was the lowest in Latin
America and the 13th lowest in the world, according to UN data. Cuba ranked ahead of France, Belgium, west Germany, Israel, Japan, Austria, Italy, Spain, and Portugal,
all of which would eventually pass Cuba in this indicator during the following decades.
Today, Cuba remains the most advanced country in the region in this measure, but its
world ranking has fallen from 13th to 24th during the Castro era, according to UN
Data. Also missing from the conventional analysis of Cuba's infant mortality rates is its
staggering abortion rate -- 0.71 abortions per live birth in 1991, according to the latest
UN data -- which, because of selective termination of "high-risk" pregnancies, yields
lower numbers for infant mortality. Cuba's abortion rate is at least twice the rate for the
other countries in the table below for which data are available....
Cuba has been among the most literate countries in Latin America since well before the
Castro revolution, when it ranked fourth. Since then, Cuba has increased its literacy rate from 76 to 96 percent, which today places it second only to Argentina in Latin
America. This improvement is impressive, but not unique, among Latin American
countries. Panama -- which ranked just behind Cuba in this indicator during the 1950's
-- has matched Cuba's improvement when measured in percentage terms....
Rationing has been a staple of Cuban life since the early 1960's. During the early 1990's, Cuba's food consumption deteriorated sharply, when massive amounts of Soviet aid were withdrawn. On its own without Soviet largesse and abundant food
imports, Cuban agriculture was paralyzed by a scarcity of inputs and poor production
incentives resulting from collectivism and the lack of appropriate price signals. In pre-Castro Cuba, by contrast, food supplies were abundant. The 1960 UN Statistical yearbook ranked pre-Revolutionary Cuba third out of I1 Latin American countries in per capita daily caloric consumption. This was in spite of the fact that the latest available food consumption data for Cuba at the time was from 1948-49, almost a decade before the other Latin American countries' data being used in the comparison. Looking at the same group of I11 countries today, Cuba ranks last in per capita daily caloric consumption, according to the most recent data available from the UN FAO Indeed, the data show Cuba with a poorer food supply situation than even Honduras....
LATIN AMERICA PER CAPITA FOOD CONSUMPTION (CALORIES PER DAY)
MEXICO 2420 3135 ARGENTINA 3100 3110
BRAZIL 2540 2834 URUGUAY 2960 2826 CHILE 2330 2769 COLOMBIA 2050 2758 PARAGUAY 2690 2560 VENEZUELA 1960 2442 ECUADOR 2130 2436 HONDURAS 2260 2359 CUBA 2730(A) 2291
(A) FOR 1948-49.
SOURCE: UN FAO FOOD BALANCE SHEETS
A closer look at some basic food groups reveals that Cubans now have less access to cereals, tubers, and meats than they had in the late 1940's. According to 1995 UN FAO data, Cuba's per capita supply of cereals has fallen from 106 kg per year in the late 1940's to 100 kg today, half a century later. Per capita supply of tubers and roots shows an even steeper decline, from 91 kg per year to 56 kg. Meat supplies have fallen from 33 kg per year to 23 kg per year, measured on a per capita basis....
Telephones are another case in point. While every other country in the region has seen its teledensity increase at least two fold -- and most have seen even greater improvements -- Cuba's has remained frozen at 1958 levels. Today, Cuba has only 3 telephone lines per 100 people, placing it 14th out of 20 Latin American countries surveyed in 1994 and far behind countries that were less advanced than Cuba in this measure in 1958, such as Argentina (today 14 lines per 100 inhabitants), Costa Rica
(13), Panama (11), Chile (11), Venezuela (11 ), and several others.
Cuba also has not kept pace with the rest of Latin America in terms of radios per capita. During the late 1950's, Cuba ranked second only to Uruguay in Latin America, with 169 radios per 1,000 people. (Worldwide, this put Cuba just ahead of Japan.) At
that time, Argentina and Cuba were very similar in terms of this measure. Since then, the number of radios per capita in Argentina has grown three times as fast as in Cuba. Cuba also has been surpassed by Bolivia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, and Brazil in this indicator. Today, Cuba ranks just above average for Latin American countries....
Post 1959 Cuba falls short in areas of industrial production once prioritized by Soviet client states, such as electricity production. Although Cuba has never been a regional leader in public electricity production per capita, its relative ranking among 20 Latin American countries has fallen from eighth to 1Ith during the Castro era. In fact, in terms of the rate of growth for this measure, Cuba ranks 19th of 20 countries in the region, with only Haiti showing less accelerated development.
Cuba is the only country in Latin America whose production of rice has fallen since 1958, when it ranked fourth in the region in production of this staple. Two of the countries ranking ahead of Cuba in rice production in 1958 -- Colombia and Peru -have since seen their rice production grow by more than three fold. Cuba's Caribbean neighbor, the Dominican republic, has increased its rice production by four fold since 1958. Perhaps even more telling are Cuba's yields per hectare in rice production. Whereas the Dominican Republic has increased rice yields from 2100 kg per hectare in 1958 to 5400 kg per hectare in 1996, Cuba's yields today are only 2500 kg per hectare, a negligible increase from the 2400 kg per hectare registered in 1958, according to UN FAO data....
FOREIGN TRADE AND BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
Cuba's exports have not kept pace with other countries of the region. Of the 20 countries in the region for which comparable IMF data are available, Cuba ranks last in terms of export growth -- below even Haiti. Mexico and Cuba had virtually identical export levels in 1958 -- while Mexico's population was five times Cuba's. Since then, Cuba's exports have merely doubled while Mexico's have increased by almost 130-fold, according to IMF statistics. Cuba's exports in 1958 far exceeded those of Chile and Colombia, countries which have since left Cuba behind. The lack of diversification of Cuba's exports over the past 35 years also is remarkable, when compared with other countries in the region....
LATIN AMERICA: TOTAL EXPORTS (MILLION USD)
Average Annual Growth
1958 1996 (PERCENT)
MEXICO 736 95991 14 PANAMA 23 2722 13 ECUADOR 95 5243 11 COSTA RICA 92 3826 10 CHILE 389 15396 10 BRAZIL 1243 47747 10 PARAGUAY 34 1282 10 HONDURAS 70 2469 10 ARGENTINA 994 23794 9 COLOMBIA 461 10437 9 GUATEMALA 103 2330 9 PERU 291 5854 8 BOLIVIA 65 1216 8 URUGUAY 139 2397 8 VENEZUELA 2319 23149 6 ELSALVADOR 116 1020 6 NICARAGUA 71 621 6 DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 136 886 5 HAITI 48 181 4 CUBA 732 1831 2
SOURCE: IMF DIRECTION OF TRADE STATISTICS.
As the numbers above imply, Cuba had a very favorable overall balance of payments
situation during the 1950's, contrasted with the tenuous situation today. In 1958, Cuba
had gold and foreign exchange reserves -- a key measure of a healthy balance of
payments--totaling $387 million in 1958 dollars, according to IMF statistics. (That
level of reserves would be worth more than 1.9 billion USD in today's dollars.) Cuba's
reserves were third in Latin America, behind only Venezuela and Brazil, which was
impressive for a small economy with a population of fewer than 7 million people.
Unfortunately, Cuba no longer publishes information on its foreign exchange and gold
It is no exaggeration to state that during the 1950's, the Cuban people were among the
most informed in the world, living in an uncharacteristically large media market for such
a small country. Cubans had a choice of 58 daily newspapers during the late 1950's,
according to the UN statistical yearbook. Despite its small size, this placed Cuba
behind only Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico in the region. By 1992, government controls
had reduced the number of dailies to only 17...
Excerpt of Fact Sheet: The U.S. Embargo and Healthcare in Cuba: Myth Versus Reality Released by the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs, August 5, 1997 (http://www.state.gov/www/regions/ara/fscubahealthcare_970805.html)
"Our country has gone from preventive medicine...to sophisticated medicine, and today we have things that
no one else has." Fidel Castro, March 1997.
There is substantial misunderstanding and misinformation about the present state of
healthcare in Cuba, including the accusation, which is not true, that it is U.S. policy to
deny medicine or medical supplies and equipment to the Cuban people.
The healthcare available to the average Cuban has deteriorated because the Cuban
Government has directed its increasingly scarce resources elsewhere. While not
providing basic medical needs to its people, the Cuban Government has developed a
closed, parallel healthcare system for the Communist Party elite, foreign "health
tourists," and others who can pay for services in hard currency.
The Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 permits the exports of medicine, medical supplies,
and equipment to Cuba by American companies and their subsidiaries, provided
appropriate end-use monitoring arrangements are in place. Since 1992, the U.S. has
approved 36 of 39 license requests for medical sales. Thirty-one (31) licenses were for
the commercial sales of medicines, medical equipment, and related supplies to Cuba.
Five (5) licenses were for travel to Cuba by representatives of American
pharmaceutical companies to explore possible sales. During the same period, the U.S.
has licensed over $227 million in humanitarian donations of medicines and medical
equipment. This total does not include the millions of dollars in medicines sent to Cuban
nationals in the form of gift packages from groups and individuals in the U.S....
Healthcare in Cuba: "Medical Apartheid" and Health Tourism
Not everyone in Cuba receives substandard healthcare. Senior Cuban Communist
Party officials and those who can pay in hard currency have access to first-rate medical
This situation exists because the Cuban Government has chosen to develop a two-tiered medical system--the deliberate establishment of a kind of "medical
apartheid"--that funnels money into services for a privileged few, while depriving the
healthcare system used by the vast majority of Cubans of adequate funding.
Following the loss of Soviet subsidies, Cuba developed special hospitals and set aside
floors in others for exclusive use by foreigners who pay in hard currency. These
facilities are well-equipped to provide their patients with quality modern care. Press
reports indicate that during 1996 more than 7,000 "health tourists" paid Cuba $25
million for medical services.
Cuba's "Medical Technology Fair" held April 21-25, 1997 presented a graphic display of this two-tier medical system. The fair displayed an array of both foreign and Cuban-manufactured medicines and high-tech medical equipment and services items not available to most Cubans. The fair showcased Cuban elite hospitals promoted by "health tourism" enterprises such as SERVIMED and MEDICUBA.
Members of the Cuban Communist Party elite and the military high-command are allowed to use these hospitals free of charge. Certain diplomatic missions in Havana have been informed that their local employees can be granted access privileges to these elite medical facilities--if they pay in dollars....
In 1994, Cuba exported $110 million worth of medical supplies. In 1995, this figure rose to $125 million. These earnings have not been used to support the healthcare system for the Cuban public. In fact, tens of millions of dollars have been diverted to support and subsidize Cuba's biomedical research programs--money that could have been used for primary care facilities.
Another means of earning foreign exchange at the expense of providing healthcare to ordinary Cubans is the government's policy of exporting its doctors to other countries. Three hundred Cuban doctors are in South Africa alone. In the early 1990's, Cuba reportedly planned to have 10,000 physicians abroad by the turn of the century.
A group of Cuban doctors who recently arrived in the United States said they were "mystified" by claims in a recent report of the American Association for World Health (AAWH) that the United States embargo is to be blamed for the public health situation in the country.
According to these doctors, "we... can categorically and authoritatively state that our people's poor health care situation results from a dysfunctional and inhumane economic and political system, exacerbated by the regime to divert scarce resources to meet the needs of the regime's elite and foreign patients who bring hard currency."
Referring to the growing disparity between healthcare provided to ordinary Cubans and that offered to tourists and high ranking Communist party members, the Cuban doctors noted that they "wish that any one of us could provide tours to foreign visitors of the hospitals Cira Garcia, Frank Pais, CIMEQ, and Hermanos Ameijeiras, in order to point out the medicines and equipment, even the bedsheets and blankets, reserved for regime elites or dollar-bearing foreigners, to the detriment of our people, who must bring their own bedsheets, to say nothing of the availability of medicines."
This statement is supported by the latest available trade figures for Cuba (1995). Cuba's imports totaled $2.8 billion, yet only $46 million--only 1.5% of overall foreign purchases--was spent on medical imports for its 11 million people. In comparison, the Dominican Republic, Cuba's neighbor, spent $208 million on medical imports for its
7.5 million citizens in 1995.
U.S. Sales of Medicines and Medical Supplies to Cuba
The U.S. embargo does NOT deny medicines and medical supplies to the Cuban people. As stipulated in Section 1705 of the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, the U.S. Government is authorized to issue licenses for the sale of medicine and medical supplies to Cuba. The major requirement for obtaining a license is to arrange for end-use monitoring to ensure that there is no reasonable likelihood that these items could be diverted to the Cuban military, used in acts of torture or other human rights abuses, or re-exported or used in the production of biotechnological products. Monitoring of sales can be performed by independent non-governmental organizations, international organizations, or foreign diplomats.
Since 1992, 36 of 39 license requests have been approved for U.S. companies and their subsidiaries for sales of medical items to Cuba. Thirty-one (31) licenses were for the commercial sale of medicines, medical equipment, and related supplies to Cuba. Five (5) licenses were for travel to Cuba by representatives of American pharmaceutical companies to explore possible sales. Licenses have included such items as a liquid chromatography gradient programmer with pump and cable kit; Pentaspan (pentastarch); lab columns; filtration gels and expendables; T 380A IUDs; IMAP (fluspirilene); Thalamonal (fentanyl citrate); Depo-Provera contraception injection; Prostin VR pediatric sterile solution (alprostadil); syringes; an Ortho cytron absolute flow cytometer; catheters; medical diagnostic kits; and fine chemicals for medical and scientific research. The total dollar figure for these licensed transactions was at least $1,665,909. The Department of Commerce declined three requests for licenses. These exceptions to the general policy of approving commercial medical sales with appropriate end-use monitoring occurred in 1993 and 1994.
Moreover, the U.S. embargo on Cuba affects only U.S. companies and their subsidiaries and other companies whose products contain more than 10% U.S. content. Other nations and companies are free to trade with Cuba. Should Cuba choose not to purchase from the U.S., it can purchase medicine or medical equipment from other countries. Such third country transactions only cost an estimated 2-3% more than purchases from the U.S. as a result of higher shipping costs.
The Cuban Democracy Act encourages the donation of humanitarian supplies to the people of Cuba, including medicine, food, and clothing.
Since the passage of the Cuban Democracy Act, the U.S. has become the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to Cuba. Much of the humanitarian assistance by U.S. non-governmental organizations consists of medicines and medical equipment. The U.S. Government has licensed more than $227 million in humanitarian donations of medicines and medical supplies to Cuba over the last four years.
U.S. humanitarian assistance has been distributed throughout the island, including to medical clinics. Monitoring is not required for donations of medicines for humanitarian purposes to non-governmental organizations in Cuba. During 1996 and through July of 1997, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) had issued 68 licenses for delivery of humanitarian goods to Cuba and 44 for humanitarian needs
assessments. During the same period the Department of Commerce approved 123 licenses for humanitarian donations; none were denied.
In addition, it is believed that the single largest source of medicines used in Cuba today is the large volume of gift packages sent to Cuban nationals by organizations and individuals living in the U.S. These gift packages are estimated to be worth millions of dollars annually....
Technical Information for License Requests
License applications are required for financial transactions related to travel and the shipping of commodities, whether humanitarian donations or commercial sales. Applications for travel licenses are submitted to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in the Department of the Treasury. License applications for commercial sale and humanitarian shipping of medical supplies are submitted to the Bureau of Export Administration, Department of Commerce. However, overseas subsidiaries of U.S. companies that require a license to sell medicine to Cuba must apply to OFAC. Please note that OFAC has a Fax-On-Demand Service with complete information, which can be reached at (202) 622-0077.
Please send Department of Commerce applications to:
Office of Exporter Services PO Box 273
Bureau of Export Administration Department of Commerce Washington, DC 20230
Phone: (202) 482-4811; fax: (202) 482-3617
Please send OFAC applications to:
Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control Department of the Treasury 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW-Annex Washington, DC 20220
Phone: (202) 622-2480; fax: (202) 622-1657