|What is the Human
Rights Situation in Cuba?
The United States government has consistently
condemned Cuba for human rights abuses. However, the rest of the
world finds the U.S. stance increasingly less credible. In fact
in May 2001 Washington was voted off the United Nations' Human Rights
Commission for the first time since its founding in 1947, in large
part because of what UN member nations see as U.S. hypocrisy and
double standards regarding human rights.
Nearly all of the U.S. governments charges
against Cubas human rights record are simply untrue. Cubans
are not jailed or persecuted for criticizing their government
a visitor to Havana will find Cubans on most any street corner in
free and lively debate about their governments mistakes and
shortcomings. At the same time, the vast majority of Cubans fully
support the Revolution and would defend it to their death.
Contrary to Washington's effort to portray Cuba
as 'closed society', access to Western media including Miami
radio stations and CNN is common in Cuba, as is open contact
with Western visitors. What's more, Cubans are far more educated
about and interested in world events than most people in the U.S.
Among themselves U.S. government officials acknowledge
the weakness of their charges of human rights abuses by Cuba. In
1994, Cuba presented to the world press a secret document sent by
the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana (the U.S. Interests Section,
or USINT) to the State Department. The document admitted that most
Cubans seeking asylum "apply for refugee status as a means
to escape the deteriorating economic situation and not because of
a current fear of persecution or harassment" and that U.S.
officials had "witnessed repeated incidents of fraud"
by alleged human rights activists.
The document continued, "Young man caught
in illegal exit attempts since the economic downturn in 1989 (collapse
of the socialist bloc) have tended to submit applications as human
rights activists. Human rights leaders have told USINT officers
that they know that most of their members joined only to take advantage
of the refugee program." The document concluded that, although
more and more of the applications for political asylum were denied
because their claims of human rights abuses were fraudulent, this
higher rate of refusal "has on the sideline the advantage of
hopefully resulting in a higher level of activity by the [human
It's true that Cubans don't have exactly the
same range of civil liberties that the United States guarantees
on paper (if not in practice) to its citizens. But Cuba has been
a nation under siege for more than forty years. After all, the world's
most powerful and bellicose nation has been doing its utmost to
destroy the Cuban Revolution utilizing every known form of warfare
including the threat of nuclear incineration. Additionally, the
Northern Colussus has used its infinite supply of one weapon
money to encourage individual Cubans to betray their own
country. For Cuba not to always be on guard against these attempts
to return it to U.S. domination would mean suicide for the nation
and murder for its citizens.
In any case, the notion that human rights are
limited to formal civil liberties is unacceptable to Cuba and most
of the world. Freedom of the press even if limited to a handful
of mega-corporations means little if the population is illiterate,
not to mention starving and ravaged by fatal diseases. No nation
in the world exceeds Cuba's achievements in eradicating illiteracy
and homelessness, nor has more doctors per capita ... with medical
care being free.
Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights states that "Everyone has the right to a standard of
living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of
his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and
necessary social services, and the right to security in the event
of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other
lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control."
The Cuban Revolution is first and foremost dedicated
to implementing this principle. This is precisely why the government
of the United States is set on destroying it ... under the utterly
cynical banner of "human rights."
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|Is Cuba a Terrorist
On May 21, 2002, the U.S. State Department published
its latest list of "terrorist states" which includes
Cuba. Does the U.S. government have a good case for considering
Cuba to be terrorist?
The first piece of "evidence" that
Cuba is terrorist cited by the State Department is that Cuba condemned
the United States indiscriminate military attacks against
Afghanistan, which resulted in the deaths of untold numbers of innocent
people, including children and hospital workers. (Afghanistan is
not on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.)
The other "evidence" cited: members
of the Basque separatist group ETA live in Cuba (fact: this is the
result of an agreement between Spain and Cuba, in no way a case
of "harboring terrorists"); Cuba has provided support
to members of the Colombian groups FARC and ELN (fact: Cuba has
served, at the behest of the Colombian government, as a facilitator
in the peace process between that government and these groups);
a member of the Irish Republican Army who was arrested in Colombia
on suspicion of providing explosives training to the FARC had lived
for a few years in Cuba (fact: he had been there, as the State Department
itself acknowledges, as Sinn Feins official representative
for Cuba and Latin America); there is, in the State Departments
words, a "strong possibility" that Cuba harbored Chilean
terrorists (fact: the government of Chile thoroughly investigated
these allegations and found no foundation for them); and, finally,
"numerous U.S. fugitives" are living in Cuba (fact: the
U.S. government has refused to enter into an extradition treaty
with Cuba, so there is no mechanism for seeking the return of these
people to the United States).
In addition, though this is not mentioned in
the State Department document, members of the Bush administration
have recently made reckless claims that Cuba has been developing
technology to produce biochemical weapons and exporting it to other
"terrorist nations." Their reasoning: since Cuba engages
in biomedical research to manufacture such products as hepatitis
vaccines, it has the capability of producing biochemical weapons.
There is not, in fact, a shred of evidence that Cuba is doing so
or even has any intention of investigating how it could do so.
The truth is that Cuba, itself long a victim
of terrorist attacks launched from within the United States (and
often with the backing of the U.S. government), strongly denounces
terrorism in any form. Immediately after the September 11 attacks
in the United States, Cuba condemned the attacks and offered to
aid the U.S. people in any way it could, including offering landing
rights and medical care. In a speech on September 22, Cuban President
Fidel Castro gave assurances that "the territory of Cuba will
never be used for terrorist actions against the American people
and we will do everything within our power to prevent such actions
against that people." He described terrorism as "a dangerous
and ethically indefensible phenomenon, which must be eradicated,"
and said that Cuba wants "to cooperate with all countries in
the total eradication of terrorism."
So why does the U.S. government continue to bring
charges of terrorism against its small island neighbor?
Branding Cuba as terrorist is just one more tactic
in the economic and political war that the U.S. government has been
waging against that country for more than forty-three years. Actually,
the United States set its sights on Cuba more than a century ago;
up until the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, Cuba was virtually
a U.S. colony, its people and natural resources ruthlessly exploited
for the aggrandizement of wealthy U.S. citizens and corporations.
Powerful U.S. interests saw the Revolution as robbing them of what
was rightfully theirs and they have been punishing the Cuban
people for it ever since. Calling Cuba terrorist gives them even
more excuses to continue and strengthen the crippling economic blockade.
It also allows them to impose further punishments on the Cuban people,
such as the automatic denial of visas to Cubans who wish to visit
the United States even for scientific or cultural exchanges.
Deliberately denying an entire nation access
to food and medicines for purely political reasons, as the U.S.
blockade does to Cuba, is by any definition itself an ongoing act
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|Why Does Cuba
Have Only One Political Party?
The Communist Party in Cuba plays a very different
role from that of political parties in the United States and other
Western nations. It is not an electoral party; candidates for political
office in Cuba do not run on party tickets, and one does not have
to be a member of the Communist Party to run for office.
Instead, the Communist Party of Cuba plays a
leadership role, with the purpose of unifying the Cuban nation in
the work of preserving its independence and sovereignty and providing
a better life for all of its people.
The Cuban idea of one party for one nation has
deep roots in Cuban history. José Martí, who died
in 1895 fighting to free Cuba from Spanish colonial rule, saw the
need for the people of Cuba to put aside partisan differences and
unite as a nation if they were going to achieve true independence
and chart their own historical course.
Later, though Cuba did win its independence from
Spain, it was to come under the domination of the United States.
Though elections were held, and there were multiple political parties,
the function of those parties was to grab political power for certain
sectors of the privileged elite. The multiparty era saw much corruption
and violence as the parties fought each other for power. The vast
majority of the Cuban people were effectively excluded from participation
in the electoral process and had no voice in the governing of their
The leaders of the struggle to finally free Cuba
from colonial domination saw the urgency of once again uniting all
the people to work together as one nation. In 1961, two years after
the revolution took power, the three major groups that had worked
to overthrow the U.S.-dominated Batista dictatorship formed the
Integrated Revolutionary Organizations. The new Communist Party
of Cuba was created in 1965.
This single party became the main factor in leading
the people to win political power for themselves The goal of the
Communist Party in Cuba is not to seize power for a particular organization
but to ensure that the people have power in their own hands and
that neocolonial interests cannot again take it from them. The party
monitors the progress of the nation in achieving its goals of social
equality, meeting the needs of all the people in such areas as health
care, housing, and education, and preserving its sovereign right
to make it own decisions free of outside interference. It then makes
proposals for how these goals can better be reached.
The party in Cuba makes decisions through a process
of lively debate. In fact, there are more political differences
within the Communist Party of Cuba than there are between the Republican
and Democratic parties in the United States.
Thus, in Cuba, the Communist Party is seen as
an expression of the unity of the people, in keeping with the Cuban
notion that they are one people and therefore need one political
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|Is There Religious
Freedom in Cuba?
Although in the early years of its revolution,
Cuba was officially an atheist state, in 1992 it was declared a
"secular" nation: while it affirms the right of Cubans
to engage in religious practice, there is a separation between church
and state. Cubas constitution states that the Cuban government
"recognizes, respects and guarantees religious freedom"
and provides that "Discrimination because of race, skin color,
gender, national origin, religious beliefs and any other form of
discrimination harmful to human dignity is forbidden and will be
punished by law."
Though religion has never played the same role
in Cuba as it has in other countries of Latin America and the Caribbean,
many Cubans are involved in religious instititutions. At latest
count, there were 1,143 protestant churches, 413 missions, 832 ministers,
and 206 seminary students in Cuba, as well as Catholic churches,
Jewish synagogues, and Afro-Cuban religions.
The historical tension between church and state
in Cuba stemmed from a number of factors, from the Spanish conquistadors
forceful imposition of Catholicism on the native peoples and African
slaves, to the later support of the Catholic Church for the large-landowner
system and its opposition to socioeconomic reform, to the involvement
of three Spanish priests in the Bay of Pigs invasion. In recent
years, however, the church has showed increasing support for the
government and the socialist objectives of the revolution, though
not for the agenda of the Communist Party. And in 1995, the Latin
American Council of Churches approved a resolution in favor of lifting
the U.S. blockade against Cuba, describing it as unjust and anti-Christian.
It was because of the historical factors mentioned
above that in the early years of the revolution, atheism was a requirement
for membership in the Cuban Communist Party. Since then, however,
the party has rethought its position on religion and is now open
to "all believers sharing its noble, patriotic, supportive,
human and social objectives." Practitioners of various religious
faiths are now members of both the Communist Party and the national
government of Cuba.
Contrary to reports that have been widely circulated
in the United States, Cubans were never prohibited from celebrating
religious holidays, particularly Christmas. It was simply that in
1970, the Cuban government decided to suspend Christmas as an official
national holiday along with New Years Day (which is
also the anniversary of the revolution) as an official national
holiday. In December of 1970, at the beginning of that years
sugar harvest, 90 million tons of sugarcane had to be hand-cut,
as Cuba then had no sugar-harvesting machines, and it was felt that
the country could not afford to interrupt the work even for a day.
Now Cuba has the benefit of mechanization to reduce the amount of
manual labor required for harvesting, and Christmas is once again
considered "a holiday for Christians and non-Christians, believers
and non-believers alike."
Most Cubans see no contradiction between
religious belief and the socialist nature of their revolution. Fidel
Castro himself has said, "Where do the contradictions between
Christian teachings and socialist teachings lie? Where? We both
wish to struggle on behalf of humanity, for the welfare of humanity,
for the happiness of humanity."
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|Does the Rest
of the World Share the U.S. Policy Toward Cuba?
The United States stands virtually alone in its
hostile position toward Cuba. Cuba has diplomatic relations with
more than 150 nations and is engaged in joint economic ventures
with many of those. For example, Cuba is involved in trade, technical,
or economic exchanges with 14 countries in Western Europe, 27 countries
in Latin America and the Caribbean, and more than 50 countries in
Africa and Asia. And Cuba is a member of a number of international
organizations, including the Latin American Economic System, the
Association of Caribbean States, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization
of American States, and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The United States immediate neighbors to
the north and south Canada and Mexico have full diplomatic
and trade relations with Cuba. While most United States citizens
are barred by U.S. law from traveling to Cuba, that island nation
is a favorite tourist destination for people from those countries.
Every year since 1992, the UN General Assembly
has voted to condemn the U.S. policy toward Cuba. In November 2000,
that vote was 167-3, with only Israel and the Marshall Islands siding
with the United States. And even Israel has normal trade and diplomatic
relations with Cuba, including investments and joint economic ventures.
Also in November of 2000, 4,664 delegates from
118 nations met in Havana to show their support for the Cuban Revolution
at the Second World Meeting of Friendship and Solidarity with Cuba
(that number was up from 3,000 delegates from 109 countries in 1994).
Most of those delegations included elected public officials, and
a number of the delegations officially represented their countries
Cuba has been selected for special recognition
by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) this year because
of the extraordinary progress it has made during the last decade
in creating model programs in sustainable development. UNEP has
selected Cuba as the site for the Third International Convention
on Environment and Development.
Recognition of Cubas achievements extends
even to members of such powerful and influential institutions as
the World Bank. In April of 2001, World Bank President James Wolfensohn
praised Cuba for doing "a great job" in providing for
the social welfare of the Cuban people. Wolfensohns remarks
reflect a growing appreciation in the Bank for Cubas social
record, despite recognition that Havanas economic policies
are virtually the antithesis of the "Washington Consensus,"
which has dominated the Bank's policy advice and its controversial
structural adjustment programs for most of the last twenty years.
Some senior Bank officers even go so far as to suggest that other
developing countries should take a very close look at Cubas
Most nations of the world look to Cuba as an
example of what even a small, relatively poor country can do to
improve the lives of its people. Virtually all of them firmly support
Cubas right to chart its own course as a sovereign nation
without outside interference. The United States is becoming increasingly
isolated in its attempts to dictate the path and the future of its
tiny neighbor to the south.
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