REPORT OF THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION
OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN SEVERAL COUNTRIES
Under its mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights,
the IACHR has been reviewing the status of human rights in the countries of the
hemisphere and has drawn up special reports on some of them. These reports have been prepared on the Commission's own
initiative, or on instructions from an organ of the Organization of American
States, and, in some cases, at the spontaneous request of the country concerned.
The Commission feels that these reports, their later dissemination, and
discussion of them have helped to change the behaviour of particular countries
as regards their observance of human rights, and in some cases, the reports have
placed on record that the behaviour of a country is in accord with international
commitments it has undertaken in the field of human rights.
Follow-ups on these reports have usually been included in the
Commission's annual reports to the General Assembly when warranted by the
State's behaviour in the human rights area.
The Commission's Annual Report submitted to the twentieth regular session
of the General Assembly included a chapter with sections on the status of human
rights in Cuba, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay and
Suriname from September 1989 to May 1990.
At this time, the Commission considers in this Chapter the status of
human rights in Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama, and
Suriname. In order to make the
information available to it as complete as possible, the Commission, on November
9, 1990, requested the countries mentioned to provide it with any information
they deemed appropriate, but particularly information on how they had complied
with the Commission's previous recommendations; on the progress they had made
and any difficulties they had encountered in effective observance of human
rights; and on the text of any statute enacted or case law that might have
affected the observance of human rights.
Where warranted, the Governments' responses and any other information
from various sources to which the Commission has had access have been taken into
consideration in drafting this chapter.
The Commission reiterates that the inclusion of these sections is not
designed to give an overall and complete description of the status of human
rights in each of the eight countries mentioned.
The Commission's intent here is rather to give an update covering the
period of one year since the last general reports.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has continued to
observe the evolution of human rights in Cuba during the period covered in this
annual report. The purpose of this
section is to update the information that the Commission has supplied in its
seven special reports on the situation of human rights in Cuba and in its
earlier annual reports.
During this period, the Commission has observed a disturbing increase in
trends that it noted in its two previous annual reports.
In effect, the progress noted in 1988 enabled a number of recently
established groups to function, among them groups defending human rights; in
1989 and 1990, however, the Government of Cuba took a more hard line attitude
toward such groups. Many of their
leaders and activists were arrested and sentenced to varying terms of
imprisonment. Presently there are
around 30 human rights activists being held, either serving out sentences or
awaiting trial. Some of those still
awaiting trial have been in prison for many months. This trend has deepened in the period covered by this annual
During this same period, the change that hurt the country's economy
continued to take its toll. That
change is at least partly due to the radical change experienced by the Socialist
bloc countries of which Cuba was part. The
social effects of this new situation, as Cuban authorities announced, will
impose new demands on the Cuban people. The
Cuban Government is preparing to cope with such problems through a variety of
measures, some aimed at establishing stricter controls over any type of
organization that is independent of the Government. This is reflected both by the number of persons whose
activities have been affected by the Cuban Government's measures and by the
severity of the penalties being imposed against some of them.
Thus, on June 20, 1990, a group of persons who had formed the Democratic
Integrationist Movement was put on trial. They
had been held since September 24, 1989. This
was the first time that this type of political activist had been charged with
the crime of rebellion, even though they had not advocated the use of violence
to change the kind of government. The
Prosecution's case was presented on April 25, 1990 and the accused were
sentenced to prison: Esteban González
Gonzáles, seven years; Mario Fernández Mora, six years; Manuel Pozo Montero
and Manuel Regueiro Robaira, five years, and Edgar Llompart Martín, Isidro
Ledesma Quijano and Arturo Montané Ruiz, three years.
They were charged with organizing for the purpose of carrying out acts of
civil disobedience calculated to overthrow the Revolutionary Government in
power; calling for a plebiscite, amendment of the Constitution and a multiparty
system, among other activities. In
the Prosecutor's indictment, reference is made to this group's ties with human
rights organizations. It should be
noted that the platform of the Democratic Integrationist Movement rejects any
type of violence or terrorism. According
to the information received, the trial failed to demonstrate how the accused
engaged in specific criminal activities.
During the period to which this annual report refers, a number of things
occurred concerning the situation of members of Cuba's Pro Human Rights Party,
nine of whom were arrested on March 10, 1990.
Those arrested were: Tania Díaz
Castro, Samuel Martinez Lara, José Luis Barzaga, Pablo Pupo Sánchez, Emérita
Elejalde, Rolando Pagés Navarro, Mario Remedios Rodríguez, Eduardo Hoyos Ortiz
and Cecilia Romero Acanda. Tania Díaz
Castro, Samuel Martínez Lara and Pablo Pupo Sánchez had been out of prison
only a few weeks at the time they were arrested again.
Radio Rebelde reported that the reason they were arrested was because
they had sent a congratulatory cable to the United States Delegation on the
occasion of the resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Commission on
Cuba. They were later charged with
involvement in a plan to instigate a rush on various embassies in Havana by
people seeking asylum; they were also charged with acting with the knowledge of
and on instructions from the United States Interests Section.
All of those named, with the exception of Samuel Martínez Lara, were
released on September 4, 1990. Martínez
Lara is still being held in Villa Marista, the State Security prison.
He has not been tried nor have any charges been filed against him.
According to the information supplied to the Inter-American
Commission, the conditions of Martínez Lara's confinement are particularly
difficult, and the Commission has sent the Government of Cuba a message asking
that his situation be regularized. According
to the information received, on November 21, 1990, Dr. Martínez Lara reportedly
was allowed to spend 15 minutes with the attorney who has offered to defend him.
In January, the Inter-American Commission was informed that the
Prosecutor had requested a five year sentence for Dr. Martínez Lara for several
crimes, including rebellion.
The eight members of the Pro Human Rights Party who were released were
brought to trial on November 27, 1990, and convicted of the crime of unlawful
assembly. During their confinement,
the activists were kept in the State Security prison, without benefit of
attorneys. Recordings of
statements, some of them made under these abnormal conditions were then
broadcast over Cuban state television.
During the period covered in this report the Government of Cuba also
linked the Cuban Pro Human Rights Party with a group called Youth for Human
Rights. Eleven of its members were
arrested: Luis Enrique Vinageros,
Ivelise Camejo Moleiro, Juan Carlos Sierra Pérez, Miguel Angel Fernández
Crespo Vidal and José Luis Martínez, who were sentenced to 15 years'
imprisonment; Francisco Rosado Torres, who was sentenced to ten years; Guillermo
Campos Muñiz and Ares Nasco Marrero, eight years; María Margarita García Valdés,
Moisés Ariel Violard del Valle and Guillermo Senón Santos Dávila, three
years' household arrest. These
people were tried and convicted for the crimes of terrorism, rebellion and
possession of arms and explosives. These
are the highest penalties imposed against persons whom the Government associates
with human rights activities.
According to the indictment, it was a plot to perpetrate acts of
violence. The indictment charged
that the plot was the work of the United States Interests Section, which has
denied any link to it and has said that it does not sponsor acts of violence.
The Cuban Pro Human Rights Party also denied having any link with Youth
for Human Rights or with those arrested. Various
human rights organizations in the United States have said that they never heard
of Youth for Human Rights, which has no association with the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights either.
According to human rights activists, this is a Government invention
calculated to discredit various human rights organizations that have repudiated
violence as a form of political action.
During the period being considered in this annual report, Pedro Alvarez
Martínez, a member of the Pro Human Rights Party in Pinar del Río, was also
convicted. On June 25, 1990, he was sentenced to five years' imprisonment for having
printed pamphlets covertly and possessing "illegal" documents of the
Democratic Integrationist Movement. Juan
Betancourt Morejón, a member of the Democratic Integrationist Movement from San
Miguel del Padrón in the province of La Havana, was arrested on May 21, 1990,
for reasons that are still unknown. He is being held in Quivicán prison. Other members of that Party have been arrested for short
periods, threatened by the authorities and released without being charged.
This is interpreted as a form of harassment intended to persuade them not
to continue their activities.
During the period under consideration in this annual report, members of
the Cuban Pro Human Rights Committee were also the target of pressure and
threat. Its Chairman, Gustavo Arcos
Bergnes, was summoned by the Prosecutor on April 12, 1990, who warned him to
abandon his human rights activities. On
April 13, Havana's Prosecutor gave Sebastián Arcos Bergnes the same
warning--who was later transferred to a maintenance crew and had his
wages cut--; Aida Valdés Santana on April 10; and Oscar Peña Martínez
and Jesús Yañes Pelletier on April 14, 1990.
All are members of the Cuban Committee.
This Committee's Habana Campo Provincial Delegation reported numerous
acts of harassment on the part of government authorities.
Another member of the Committee who was arrested was José Irene Padrón
Dueñas, on September 4, 1990. He
is in Villa Marista, where he went on a hunger strike demanding that he be
informed of the reasons for his arrest. Ricardo
Filguera Castro, another member of the Committee, was arrested on October 19,
1989 and brought to trial on June 25, 1990.
The sentence is not yet known.
Numerous measures have also been taken against members of the Cuban Human
Rights and National Reconciliation Commission.
Its Chairman, Dr. Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz, is still in prison.
During the period covered by this annual report, Luis Alberto Pita Santos
was arrested three times--on April 27, May 1 and August 28, 1990.
His home was searched by agents of the State Security force and
literature on the subject of human rights was confiscated from him.
After his arrest on August 28, he was placed in Villa Marista, and on
September 3 was transferred to the Havana National Psychiatric Hospital.
He was released 26 days later, without any charges having been filed
against him. The
Inter-American Commission was also informed that on July 29, two agents of
the State Security Force went to the home of Alfredo Suarez Muñiz, a member of
the Cuban Commission, to warn him that if he did not stop his human rights
activities they could arrest him.
Other associations have been the target of measures on the part of the
Cuban Government. The Martiano
Human Rights Committee reported that one of its members, Alvaro Alvarez Batista,
was detained on December 17, 1989, and was held in Villa Marista until November
1990, when he was released. No
charges were ever filed against him. The
Inter-American Commission has also been informed that the Chairman of the
Martiano Human Rights Committee, Hubert Jerez Mariño, who is serving out a
sentence at the Kilo 7 prison--a situation addressed by the
Commission in its previous annual report--has been severely punished
by prison authorities since November 21, for having sent a letter of
congratulations to Mrs. Violeta Barrios de Chamorro.
According to the information received, Mr. Jerez Mariño's food ration
has been cut in half; he is held in isolation and has not been allowed to have
visits by members of his family. Mr.
Jerez Mariño's sentence will be up on February 1, 1991.
Measures have been taken against other individuals as a result of actions
that took place on the occasion of the visit that the United Nations Human
Rights Commission made to Cuba. Such
was the case with Enrique Acosta Ruiz, Lázaro Rosa Arbolay and Sergio Raúl de
la Vega Gómez, who were briefly arrested in September 1988 at the time of that
visit and then arrested again in April 1989 and held without charge until
October 8, 1990, when they were released. The
reason for their imprisonment was never explained.
In its previous annual report, the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights made reference to the case of Alfredo Mustelier Nuevo, who had gone
on a hunger strike to request that the most lenient law be applied in his case
and that his sentence be considered served.
The Inter-American Commission was informed that Mr. Mustelier was
released in March 1990. He and his
wife left for the United States in December 1990.
Mario Chanes de Armas and Ernesto Díaz Rodriguez, the other two plantados
(intransigent prisoners) have served 29 and 22 years in prison, respectively.
The former is the oldest political prisoner in the world.
Also during this same period the Commission was informed that certain
prison practices that were believed to have been abandoned have now been
reinstated. According to
information received, the special areas in the three buildings of the Este
Complex--which had been deactivated--are now being used
again, as is the so-called "Death Rectangle" with its individual
A matter of particularly grave concern is the fact that the agreement
that the Cuban Government and the International Committee of the Red Cross had
concluded to enable the latter to meet with Cuban prisoners has expired.
The Agreement expired in June 1990 because of the Government's failure to
make any move to renew it. Cuban
political prisoners have thus been left without an important means of
During the period covered in this annual report, the Cuban Government
continued to refuse to allow Alexander Menéndez, a minor, and Mrs. Rosa Miranda
Díaz and her daughter Lissette Vásquez Miranda, to leave the country. These three are relatives of the athletes José Menéndez and
Roger Vásquez, respectively. Mr.
Menéndez was brutally assaulted by members of the Cuban athletics delegation at
a sports event in Mexico City and had to be temporarily hospitalized.
The Cuban Government's heightened repression against any type of
independent organization and the serious economic problems being experienced
have provoked situations that some observers are predicting will cause Cuban
society in general and the human rights situation in particular to take a
serious turn for the worse. The
spokesman for the Cuban Pro Human Rights Committee, Gustavo Arcos Bergnes,
proposed that a broad dialogue be undertaken among representatives of all Cuban
political leanings, both within and outside of Cuba, in order to be able to deal
with the serious situations that loom on the horizon.
The proposal caused a heated debate among various groups and persons,
especially the Cuban community in exile.
Moreover, it has been announced that the IV Congress of the Cuban
Communist Party will be held in the first half of 1991; it has been said that
the Congress will have to address the extraordinary situation at the present
time and adopt measures to deal with it.
Since its Seventh Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Cuba, the
Inter-American Commission has been saying that measures should be adopted,
both domestically and internationally, to achieve absolute observance of human
rights in Cuba. It is the
Commission's view that the thrust of the effort in this regard must come from
the Cuban Government and that the IV Congress should provide an opportunity to
incorporate within Cuba's laws and practices the elements that would make them
consistent with the international system of human rights.
Cuban citizens, without exception, must be free to express their views on
matters that so profoundly affect the exercise of their rights. The Inter-American Commission believes that it is
through democratic procedures and the full exercise of the rights inherent in
the individual that the present difficulties can be overcome peacefully and at
the least social cost to the population.
At the same time, the Inter-American Commission must point out that
the inter-American community has an obligation to create the external
conditions that will enable Cuban society to overcome the situation that now
besets it, by means of the aforementioned democratic procedures which will lead
to an absolute observance of human rights.
As part of its functions and authorities, the Commission will continue to
monitor the situation of those rights in Cuba and hopes that with the resolve of the Cuban authorities and people and the
support of the inter-American community of which Cuba is part, those
rights will be effectively exercised and observed.