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 upon 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 subsequent dissemination and discussion thereof, have helped to change the behavior of particular countries as regards the observance of human rights, and in some cases, the reports have placed on record that the behavior of a country is in accordance with the international commitments it has undertaken in the field of human rights.


          The Commission's Annual Report submitted to the twenty-third regular session of the General Assembly included a chapter with sections on the status of human rights in Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Peru, from February 1 through December 31, 1993.


          In this Chapter, the Commission considers the status of human rights in Cuba, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Peru.  In order to make the information available to it as full and complete as possible, the Commission, on October 1993, requested that the above mentioned countries 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 five countries mentioned.  The Commission's intent here is rather to give an update covering the period of one year since the last general reports.




          I.            BACKGROUND


          In 1993, The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights continued its close monitoring of the human rights situation in Cuba.  This report serves as an update on information that has been studied by the Commission and presented in various

Annual Reports and in the seven special reports.


          The information available to the Inter-American Commission during the period covered by this Annual Report leads it to conclude that the human rights situation in Cuba has changed little in comparison to years past.  Civil and political rights are not effectively exercised primarily because of the concentration of power in the hands of a small group of people and the absence of the rule of law.  In effect, individuals have no recourse against arbitrary measures that may be taken by the state.  As a result, the decline in living standards and the repressive state control of groups not aligned with the regime have led to repeated and ongoing human rights violations exerted through security agencies.  Considering these factors, along with the serious economic and social crisis attendant, one could only expect the prevailing situation to worsen.


          The Cuban Government's vigorous repression of any sort of independent organization as well as the grave economic difficulties facing the Cuban people at large, have contributed to a marked decline of Cuban society in general and of the human rights situation in particular. 




          During the period covered by this Annual Report, the Cuban Government has continued to demonstrate its inflexibility and control over the population by the imposition of harsh sentences placed on people it considers "dangerous" under the current Penal Code.   Such people include those opposed to the regime, who are accused of attempting to destroy the political system, spreading propaganda against the state and favoring foreign interests, etc.  The crimes against state security as defined in the Cuban Penal Code and under which most human rights activists are prosecuted and convicted include:  "enemy propaganda," "rebellion," "contempt", "illegal association," "public disturbance," etc.  Under the allegation of these offenses, many are held for prolonged periods awaiting trial and sentencing.



          Information received by the Inter-American Commission indicates that the total number of persons imprisoned in Cuba for political reasons through August 1993 is 602.  A breakdown of the same follows:

          Reason          Number of Prisoners



 1.      Enemy propaganda          342


 2.      Contempt     52


 3.      Illegal association 15


 4.      Labor strike  2


 5.      Defamation of heroes and martyrs  1


 6.      Acts against state security  14


 7.      Disclosure of secrets          4


 8.      Treason        1


 9.      Attempt to obtain asylum 2


10.     Piracy          31


11.      Espionage     14


12.      Rebellion      16


13.      Sedition        3


14.      Infiltration     1


15.      Physical assault   5


16.      Terrorism      15


17.      Sabotage      83


18.     Ex-military        1


Total prisoners. 602


            The Cuban Penal Code, published in the Official Gazette of Cuba on December 30, 1987, contains a number of articles the Cuban authorities cite to justify the detention of opponents of the regime.


          Articles 72 and 75 establish the concept of  "dangerous state," a legal definition under which any citizen can be jailed on the mere presumption that he might later commit a crime:


          Article 72.  A dangerous state is defined as the special predisposition of a person to commit crimes, demonstrated by conduct that is manifestly inconsistent with the norms of socialist ethics.


          Article 75.  A person who, though not in one of the dangerous states specified in Article 73, by virtue of links or dealings with persons potentially dangerous to society, to others, and to the social, economic, and political order of the socialist state may be predisposed to crime shall be warned by the competent police authority as to prevent him or her from engaging in activities that are dangerous to society or criminal in nature.


          For its part, Article 103 of the same Penal Code has been the legal provision most often used for detention and persecution of opponents of the regime.  This article sets out the penalties for what has been designated "enemy propaganda."


            1.    A penalty of one to eight years of imprisonment shall be incurred by anyone who:


                 a.      Incites actions against the social order, international solidarity, or the socialist state by way of propaganda, whether spoken, written, or in any other form:


                 b.      Prepares, distributes, or possesses propaganda of the type mentioned in the preceding subsection;


            2.    Anyone who spreads false news or ill-intentioned predictions intended to cause alarm or discontent among the population or public disorder incurs imprisonment for between 7 and 15 years.


            3.    If the mass media is used to carry out the acts described in the foregoing sections, the penalty is imprisonment for between 7 and 15 years.


            4.    Anyone who permits use of the mass media as specified in the foregoing section incurs a penalty of imprisonment for between one and four years.


            It has been reported that political dissidents may also be charged under Article 115.


            Article 115


                Anyone who spreads false news in order to disturb international peace, or to jeopardize the prestige of, or discredit, the Cuban state or its good relations with another state, incurs a penalty of imprisonment for between one and four years.


            Article 144


            1.    Anyone who threatens, slanders, defames, insults, wrongs, or in any other way abuses or offends, whether orally or in writing, the dignity or propriety of an authority or public official, or of his agents or assistants, in the performance of his duties or at the time of such performance or by reason of it incurs a penalty imprisonment for between three months and one year or a fine of 100 to 300 units or both.


            2.  If the act specified in the foregoing section is carried out in connection with the President of the Council of State, the President of the National Assembly of People's Power, the members of the Council of State or of the Council of Ministers, or the deputies of the National Assembly of People's Power, the penalty is imprisonment between one and three years.


            According to data received by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, during the month of August 1993, 342 prisoners were held in Cuban jails charged with the offence of "enemy propaganda", their sentences ranging from approximately one to fifteen years.  Similarly, during the same month, 52 prisoners were held for the offence of "contempt".  Their sentences ranged between one and three years.  To date, fifty percent of the prison population is held without trial.


            A large percentage of Cuban detainees are prosecuted and given lengthy prison sentences.  Reports indicate that during the first phase of the trial the detainee is kept at security police facilities for several months, sometimes in a windowless cell. The detainee is removed only for repeated interrogation at any hour of the day or night with limited opportunity for visits from family members or his attorney.


            The case of Roberto Robajo Hernández is among the most significant cases that arose during the period covered by this Annual Report.  Hernández, labor leader, member of the General Union of Cuban Workers (UGTC) and Secretary General of the Committee of Havana Province was reportedly arrested on March 11, 1993.  To date, no information as to his whereabouts or reasons for his arrest has been released.  Roberto Robajo Hernández and other leaders were harassed the day before by state security for their activities in support of independent labor unions.


            The Inter-American Commission has also been informed that in March 1993 the provincial Court of Santiago, Cuba, sentenced the following people to 13 years in prison for the crimes of rebellion and other acts against state security:  Juan José Moreno Reyes, Luis Reyes Reynosa, Benigno Raúl Benoit Pupo, Eduardo Guzmán Fornaris, Enrique Chamberlays Soler, Lorenzo Cutiño Bárzaga, Adolfo Durán Figueredo, Wilfredo Galano Matos, Rafael Rivera Matos, Maritza Santos Rosell, Ramón Mariano Peña Escalona, and Ramón Fernández Francisco.  The Inter-American Commission has been informed that the charges in this case were connected with the holding of meetings and with the preparation and distribution of flyers critical of the government in a number of municipalities of Holguín Province.  Seven other people received sentences of between one and two years in connection with those activities.


            Twenty people were reportedly arrested and imprisoned for distributing statements against the government of Cuba and its supreme leader, Fidel Castro.  The protesters were tried in the town of Moa in Holguín Province at the far eastern end of the country on March 16, 17, and 18, 1993 and received sentences ranging from seven months to 13 years.  Juan José Moreno Reyes and Luis Reyes Reinoso were sentenced to 13 years in jail; Benigno Gueroy, Eduardo Fornaris Peña, and Lorenzo Calzada to 11 years; and Adolfo Durán Figueredo and Rafael Rivero Matos to 10 years.


            It has also been reported that Alfredo García Quesada, an electrician and a student at the University of Camaguey, was arrested in April 23, 1993, in Guayabal, Las Tunas, for distributing flyers which read "down with Fidel" and for painting those words on a white horse.  He is now serving 5 years at the Típico prison in Las Tunas.


            According to reports received, Andrés Mora Calderón was arrested on September 3, 1993, on a charge of "dangerousness."  When his wife, Xiomara Fernández Sánchez, went to the police station and learned of the charge, she called those who had ordered his arrest "abusers".  For this,  she too was arrested, on a charge of "contempt for authority."


            The Inter-American Commission was informed that the numerous persons are held awaiting trial.  Among these are:  Luis Gustavo Domínguez Guetiérrez of the group "Peace, Progress, and Freedom," who is currently detained and charged with "enemy propaganda" for sending a letter to leader Fidel Castro in which he refused the medals awarded to him for participation in the War of Angola; Pedro Armentero Lazo, jailed in the Combinado del Este penal facility; and Orfilio García Quesada, arrested in El Guayabal in May 1993 for helping to collect signatures for a petition requesting political changes.


            The Inter-American Commission was also informed that writer and journalist Roberto Alvarez San Martín, age 46, was arrested in September 1993 on a charge of "enemy propaganda."  Alvarez San Martín had worked for over 30 years at the Cuban Radio and Television Institute (ICRT), where he directed radio and television programs which won over 50 international prizes.  Alvarez was barred from practicing his profession in February 1992 when he announced he would be married in the Catholic Church.  Shortly before his arrest, he wrote to his colleagues at the Union of Cuban Journalists  (UNEAC) denouncing "the most obvious privileges enjoyed by those who belong to the power elite and the corruption of countless state officials."


            It has also been reported that the "security law" was used to arrest citizen Víctor Betancourt Cartaya and nine residents of the town of Bauta in Havana Province whose names could not be ascertained.  According to reports, the detainees are held incommunicado in cells at the state security detention center under charges of participating in "public actions against the government."


            The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reports on the following conclusions reached by the Public Prosecutor's Office in the case brought against Sebastián Arcos Bergnes, leader of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights, in October 1992 for the crime of "enemy propaganda,".  The quotation below shows the types of behavior punishable under this charge:


                That Sebastián Arcos Bergnes, in defiance of law, has sent information to broadcast stations outside the country in order to assist with to the campaign to discredit Cuba.


                That, in violation of the disciplinary rules of the Combinado del Este Prison, he sent handwritten notes to counterrevolutionary prisoners to help incite animosity toward the Cuban social system.


                That, during an inspection conducted at the Combinado del Este Prison on December 11, 1991, fragments of paper with ink handwriting were taken from the inmate, and in one of them the accused, Sebastián Arcos Bergnes, said "we continually propose democratic changes to the regime and work towards fostering the national consciousness necessary for achieving such changes through peaceful but firm civil resistance on the part of the population.  At present this is our main educational task...then to demand lunch, transportation, tourism; then amnesty, freedom of speech and of association, and finally democracy."  That is, to encourage, through systematic propaganda, activities contrary to our social system.


            The exercise of the right to justice in Cuba is further inhibited by the  judiciary's lack of independence.  Under Article 121 of the Constitution, the judiciary is subordinated to the executive and the legislature, indicated thus:


            The courts constitute a system of state organs which are set up with functional independence from any other and they are only subordinated to the National Assembly of People's Power and to the Council of State.


            The lack of independence and impartiality in the administration of justice in Cuba goes beyond that constitutional provision.  The Office of the Attorney General of the Republic --Article 128 of the Constitution-- is subordinated to the National Assembly People's Power and to the Council of State.  The Attorney General is elected by the National Assembly People's Power --Article 129-- to which he must report on his activities --Article 130; and he receives direct instructions from the Council of State --Article 128.


            Moreover, Articles 66, 68, and 121 of the Organizational Law of the Judiciary System[1] state that, in order to be a professional judge, lay judge, or public prosecutor, one must "be actively involved with the revolution"; and this involvement is even required for admission to the study of law.  We should also mention Article 4 of the same law, which states that one of the main objectives of the administration of justice is:


                To raise social awareness of legal matters in terms of strict adherence to law, including within decisions the necessary statement to educate citizens as to the conscientious and voluntary fulfillment of their duties of loyalty to the homeland, to the cause of socialism, and to of socialist rules coexistence.


            The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has received reports that court-appointed defense attorneys are not primarily engaged in protecting the interests of their clients, since such interests are secondary to the interests of the socialist system.  The Inter-American Commission was informed that many people who had been convicted of political offenses said they had met their defense attorneys only at the time of oral proceedings, and that the defense presents a few conventional extenuating circumstances but does not demonstrate the innocence of the defendant, who is always certain that he will be convicted.  Also, it is reported that in many cases, neither the defendant nor his family would receive a copy of the sentence or even a copy of the charges filed against him.  In effect, it is quite often only at trial through the oral version given by the Prosecutor - which is the police in the Cuban trial system - would the defendant find out the details of his indictment.


            It should also be pointed out that Articles 160 and 161 of the Code of Penal Procedures do not grant the accused the right to make statements in the presence of a defense attorney, whether of his choice or court-appointed.  According to reports, in most trials for crimes against state security this has allowed many forms of discrimination against witnesses for the defense as opposed to witnesses for the prosecution.  This practice reflects the blatant hostility of prosecutors and the lack of impartiality of the judges who conduct proceedings.




            During the period covered by this Annual Report, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has continued to receive information on various forms of harassment and intimidation suffered upon persons and organizations active in human rights by state security forces.  The Government of Cuba is apparently of the view that all activities connected with the protection of human rights are aimed at destroying the political system and favoring foreign interests.  Human rights groups have stated that the prison sentences given by the government are unduly lengthy given the nature of the charges brought, such as the printing and distribution of pro-democratic literature and the organization of peaceful demonstrations, etc.


            In 1993, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was informed that the government of Cuba exerts systematic control over the daily life of every citizen so as to restrict individual exercise of the right to freedom of thought and expression.  whether in the workplace, school or neighborhood.  In Cuba, even the education of children has an ideological twist.  Under Article 38 of the Constitution, parents are charged with the responsibility of actively contributing to the education and comprehensive training of their children to ensure that they become  productive citizens prepared for life in a socialist society.  Article 39 further stipulates that the State bases its educational and cultural policy on Marxist thought which promotes the patriotic education and communist training of new generations.


            The Inter-American Commission was also informed that "cumulative school records" and "work records" are use to monitor the ideological involvement of the individual virtually throughout his life.  These files contain not only academic and employment history information, but also reports of affiliation with mass organizations, functions performed in such organizations, degree of militancy, ideological characteristics of family members, infractions committed, etc.  The Inter-American Commission has received complaints that persons have been expelled from places of study or employment or otherwise have been subjected to discrimination because they expressed opinions that differed from the official ideology.


            Also on the matter of freedom of expression, the Inter-American Commission has been informed that restrictions under the Constitution have prevented many human rights organizations from exercising their right to freedom of the press and freedom of speech.  In this way, the exercise of their rights is subordinated to the ideological aims of the state.  Article 53 of the Constitution provides that:


                Citizens have freedom of speech and of the press in keeping with the objectives of socialist society.  Material conditions for the exercise of that right are provided by the fact that the press, radio, television and other organs of the mass media are state or social property and can never be private property.  This assures their use at the exclusive service of the working people and in the interests of society.


            The case of Guillermo Fernández Donate is one of the most significant examples of harassment effected against human rights activists who attempt to exercise freedom of speech.  Fernández Donate, a militant with the Democratic Socialist Movement and member of the Committee for Human Rights was arrested in public on June 29, 1993, on a charge of "enemy propaganda."   According to reports, even before his arrest, Fernández had been expelled from Projects Enterprise No. 2, where he worked, and from the Law School of the University of Havana, where he studied, for holding views contrary to government policy.


            On August 18, 1993, a large number of state security agents carried out operations in the vicinity of the  Holy Spirit Church.  Several members of the Christian Liberation Movement were arrested at the side door to the church, among them Dagoberto Capote Mesa, leader of the organization, who was taken to a nearby place, interrogated, and threatened that he would be expelled from his job if he continued his human rights activities.


            Similarly, Amador Blanco Hernández, President of the José Martí National Human Rights Commission, and Joel Mesa Morales, Vice President of that organization, were arrested in December 1992 and January 1993 respectively.  Following his arrest, Amador Blanco Hernández, began a protest hunger strike.  The two men  are accused of having dispatched false reports designed to show the Cuban population that it lives in an atmosphere of terror and persecution.   They were tried on September 3 and according to preliminary reports, each will be sentenced to eight years in prison.


             The arrest of human rights activist Efraín García Dámaso was also reported during the period covered by this Annual Report.  He was sentenced to four years in prison on a charge of "dangerousness" for his work in the promotion and defence of human rights.  García Dámaso is now confined at El Pitirre.


            It has also been reported that on July 30, 1993, three citizens--  Víctor Blanco, Reinaldo Herrero Díaz, and his brother Fernando Herrero Díaz --were arrested in the town of Calabazar in Havana Province and accused of participating in an antigovernment demonstration held there.  They were taken to the Valle Grande prison with an official request for a year in jail and a 3,000-peso fine.


            The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has further been informed that on August 22, 1993, Abel Rondán Hernández, member of the Cuban party for Human Rights, was arrested after two police officers and four state security agents searched his residence.  As of now he remains disappeared and his whereabouts are unknown.


            Another form of intimidation used by the Government against persons not aligned with the political regime is the use of psychiatry for nonmedical purposes.  Such measures have a legal basis in Articles 78 and 79 of the current Penal Code.  Article 78 establishes the security measures which the state considers appropriate  in the case of a person declared to be in a "dangerous state", and Article 79 specifies the therapeutic measures.  They read as follows:


            Article 78.


                A person found to be in a dangerous state in the appropriate proceedings may be subjected to the most suitable of the security measures listed below:  a. therapy; b. reeducation; c. monitoring by agencies of the Revolutionary National Police.


            Article 79.


                The therapeutic measures are: a. internment in a psychiatric or detoxification treatment facility; b. assignment to a specialized teaching center, with or without internment; c. outside medical treatment.


            According to information provided to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, there is widespread fear of being subjected to "therapeutic" measures among groups not aligned with the regime and the prison population.  On May 13, 1993, human rights activist Carlos Santana Ochoa was jailed.  He is now confined in the special "Carbó Servía" Room of the Psychiatric Hospital of Havana.  The Carbó Servía Room has repeatedly been  denounced by human rights organizations in and outside Cuba as a place used by the State Security Department for the psychiatric torture of dissidents.


            Reports indicate that Vice President of the Democratic Civic Party, Domiciano Torres Roca is confined in a special room of the Psychiatric Hospital of Havana.   Torres Roca, who is accused of "enemy propaganda," was publicly arrested on August 13, 1993, and reportedly taken to the aforementioned Psychiatric Hospital, where he is at the mercy of a hundred of the most aggressive mentally ill individuals.  Torres Roca, a professor of architecture previously removed from his academic post, is said to have no psychiatric history.


            Other complaints received by the Inter-American Commission concern persons linked directly or indirectly to human rights organizations, labor groups, or political groups who say they have been visited by state security agents at home or at work and threatened with loss of employment, with prosecution, or with being subjected to so-called "acts of repudiation"  by the Rapid Response Brigades,[2]" and have sometimes been attacked in the street by strangers or warned to leave the country.


            Aida Rosa Jiménez and Asalia Ballester Cintas, of the Democratic Civic Party, and René Contreras Blanch of the Cuban Party for Human Rights were beaten on March 16, 1993, at the Centro Habana by members of the police force and sustained serious head injuries.


            Another cause of concern for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is what happens when persons are summoned to appear before the police and then are issued warnings or are briefly detained and subjected to interrogation.  It is reported that threats of reprisals against these persons or their relatives are made frequently.  By way of example, Roberto Trobajo Hernández, Secretary of the General Union of Cuban Workers and member of the National Commission of Independent Unions, was arrested on March 5, 1993, in Guira de Melena and taken to the San Antonio de los Baños police unit, where he stayed for four days.  He was thereafter taken to the Technical Investigations Department (DTI) in San José de las Lajas for three additional days.  The Inter-American Commission was also told that he was threatened that he would be prosecuted for the crime of enemy propaganda if he continued to oppose the regime, and that he had in fact lost his job because of his arrest.


            The information received also indicates that Rolando Roque Malherbe, member of the Democratic Socialist Movement, was threatened and arrested on September 23, 1993, in an effort to prevent him from holding a meeting scheduled for the following day at his home.  Roque Malherbe remained in detention until September 27.  The meeting was held nonetheless, despite an "act of repudiation" carried out at the time.


            Other cases are those of Hilda Cabrera, Berta Galán, and Victoria Cruz of the Mothers for Dignity Association, who were threatened and subjected to interrogation on a number of occasions in 1993.  Also, according to reports, María Valdés Rosado, coordinator of Democratic Civic Action, and Alicia Suárez of the Cuban Christian Democrat Movement were arrested in Havana on May 7, 1993, and freed two days later.  On August 4, 1993, Caridad Duarte Gómez of the Martí Youth Organization was subjected to harsh interrogation for several hours at the police station of the municipality of Habana Vieja.  This procedure was repeated on May 19, 1993, at the Picota y Paula Station.




            Something that still worries the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and has been studied in a number of reports is the situation of jails in Cuba.  The Commission has  continued to receive copious information on the very poor conditions endured by inmates of various jails in the country, especially persons who have been confined for political reasons.  The prison population faces daily problems of scarce food and medication, unhealthy conditions, physical and psychological abuse which is further exacerbated by the grouping of common criminals with political prisoners.  The Inter-American Commission has been informed that this situation is met with protests by inmates, who are usually brutally put down and confined to punishment areas.


            The Inter-American Commission was informed that nutritional and hygienic conditions and deficient medical care are the most serious problems facing the prison population.  The most common illnesses include diarrhea, anaemia, skin diseases, and parasites from contaminated water.  Cases of tuberculosis have also been found in the Manacas and Combinado del Este prisons, proving fatal to some inmates, such as Alcides Pérez Rodríguez, who died on March 5, 1993, in the Provincial Hospital of Cienfuegos as a consequence of a generalized infection. Rodríguez was arrested in the provincial prison of Cienfuegos and was awaiting trial.  It has also been reported that Juan Enrique Olano Pérez, who had been confined for two years in the Quivicán prison, died at the Hermanos Amejeiras Hospital.  Apparently, by the time he was taken to the Hospital, he was already in critical condition.


            The Commission received a complaint about the delicate situation of political prisoners Bienvenida Cúcalo Santana and Aurea Feria Cao.  The two women were sentenced to three and five years in prison respectively on a charge of "enemy propaganda", and are now at the Western Women's Prison.  Ms. Cúcalo Santana's health is delicate because of a prolonged hunger strike in protest of the atrocious living conditions, and because of her medical history.  In July 1992, she was diagnosed with a fibroma and fibromatous nodes in the uterine wall.


            Also reported is the critical situation of other female political prisoners such as María Elena Aparicio, member of the Harmony Movement held since February 19, 1992.  She was tried on May 20, 1992 together with Yndamiro Restano, President of that group, and sentenced to eight years in jail for the crime of "illegal association".  At the Western Women's Prison, she took a stand by removing her prison uniform to protest new conditions imposed on the prisoners.  Finally she was transferred to the Women's Prison of Villaciara.


            These illnesses and the poor medical treatment have provoked protests by many prisoners, who are quited by brutal beatings.  In other cases, they are confined in punishment cells (small cells with covered doors through which they see no sunlight for months), or transferred to prisons far from their family homes, or prevented from receiving visits from their relatives.  Reprisals also take place when they refuse "reeducation," which, according to reports, is understood to be political and ideological training.


            The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been informed that Luis Alberto Pita Santos, President of the Association to Defend Political Rights, was beaten and confined in punishment cells at the prison of Boniato, Santiago, in late 1992, and was transferred to the Kilo 8 Prison in Camaguey in early 1993.  A similar case is that of his cellmate Jesús Chambes Ramírez who ended up with a broken cheekbone and hematomas on various parts of his body.  The Inter-American Commission was also informed that some prisoners were transferred to other prisons or confined in punishment cells because  written material denouncing the prison situation was found in their possession.  For example, Arturo Suárez Ramos, member of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights, was transferred from the Combinado del Este Prison to the Boniato prison and locked up in a punishment cell for denouncing the situation of the prisoners.


            According to information received a group of political prisoners reported brutal beatings, confinement in punishment cells, and a worsening of health conditions in the Quivicán Prison.  Cecilio Ruíz, age 21, imprisoned for having expressed disagreement with the policies of the regime, lost a tooth in the beatings.  Activist Sergio Llanes Martinez of the Party for Human Rights is frequently subjected to physical abuse and has been taken to punishment cells without medical care though suffering from hepatitis.


            A number of human rights violations were also reported at the Combinado del Este Prison.  On May 31, 1993, a number of common prisoners were beaten for contacts with political prisoners.  Also, Gerardo Montes de Oca was beaten by four guards under the direction of Sergeant Riquelme, chief of the punishment cells, and sent to the windowless cells for three days to hide the effects of the blows.  In the end he had to be interned in the prison hospital, but not without being threatened beforehand.


            The Inter-American Commission additionally received information that Alberto Aguilera Guevara, Roberto Muré, Luis Grave de Peralta, Ibrán Herrera Ramírez, Enrique Gonzales, Rodolfo Gutiérrez, and Robier Rodríguez, inmates at the Boniato prison, were beaten and transferred to the higher-security Kilo 8 prison in Camaguey on February 12, 1993, for conducting a hunger strike to protest the abuse they had received.


            It has also been reported that a small group of prisoners were recently freed on the condition that they leave the country.  Others, such as Sebastián Arcos Bergnes, who is serving a sentence of four years and eight months at the Ariza prison in Cienfuegos, and Yndamiro Restano, President of the Harmony Movement, who was sentenced to ten years in prison, have rejected that proposal.


            V.               FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT


            The Commission has continued to receive reports that persons are prosecuted and convicted for trying to leave the country illegally.[3]  Generally, Cubans who try to leave illegally and are arrested face one to three years in jail, and if violence is employed in the attempt to leave, the penalty is three to eight years in prison.


            According to Article 216 of the Cuban Penal Code, those persons captured after setting out as well as those suspected of a later escape attempt are prosecuted.


            Article 216


            1.    A person who, without observing the legal formalities, leaves or takes steps to leave national territory incurs a penalty of imprisonment for between one to three years or a fine of between 300 and 1000 units.


            2.  If violence or intimidation of persons is employed or force is used in order to carry out the act referred to in the previous section, the penalty is imprisonment for between three and eight years.


            3.  The crimes specified in the foregoing sections are punished separately from others that may be committed for or in the course of their perpetration.


            Article 217


            1.  A person who organizes, promotes, or incites the illegal departure of persons from national territory incurs a penalty of imprisonment for between two and five years.


            2.  A person who provides material aid, offers information, or in any way facilitates the illegal departure of persons from national territory incurs a penalty of imprisonment for between one to three years or a fine of between 300 and 1000 units.


            According to reports, approximately 3,000 people are imprisoned in Cuban jails for illegal departure from the country.  Sources indicate that 25 people per day try to leave without meeting the requirements, and that only about one in three succeeds.  It is also estimated that in 1992, 2,975 boat people arrived on the shores of the United States of America, and 1,600 have done so from January 1993 to the end of August.  It has also been indicated that, apart from political reasons, one of the primary causes of emigration is economic:  the lack of opportunities and options.  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights must state its concern over this, since legally irregular departure from the island entails a serious risk to the lives of those who attempt it.


            It has also been reported that on many occasions Cuban coast guard patrols have fired upon persons who attempt whether by land or sea, to reach the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay to seek asylum.  This use of force has been highly criticized as being excessive and unnecessary if the aim is solely to detain these persons.  Similar incidents concerning persons who tried to leave the country on their own on makeshift rafts have also been reported at other points along the coast.  In other cases, vessels piloted by United States citizens or residents have approached Cuban shores to pick up Cuban citizens.


            According to information provided to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Renato Rodríguez Sánchez, who has been jailed at the Valle Grande prison for a number of months on a charge of piracy, tried to leave the island on September 16, 1992, along with 11 other people.  The boat was machine-gunned down by border guards stationed in the area.  Jorge Luis Marrero and young Ivette Molina were wounded in the gunfire.


            Other persons are imprisoned under similar charges, such as Armed Forces Second Lieutenant Gamal Abdel Hernández Torres, arrested on January 23, 1993, for alleged plans to leave the country illegally.  He was sentenced on May 4 of the same year to two and a half years in prison, and has now been transferred from the Valle Grande jail to the higher-security prison in Toledo.


            The Inter-American Commission has been informed of the situation faced by Ms. Nidia Cartaya, President of the Association of Cuban Hostages.  The passport of Ms. Cartaya, age 55, is being held by immigration authorities, who for eight years have refused to approve her travel in reprisal for the fact that her husband was granted asylum nine years ago in the United States.


            Another report indicates that internationally known Cuban writer Norberto Fuentes was arrested by Cuban coast guards on October 10, 1993, and since that date has been held incommunicado.  Over 2,600 members of the U. S. writers association have asked the Cuban President to free this renowned intellectual.


            A member of the Confederation of Democratic Workers, Benigno Torralba Sánchez, was arbitrarily arrested and accused of the crime of intending to leave the country.  He was sentenced to three years in jail on the mere presumption that he planned to leave the country.  Another case is that of Alejandro Joaquín Fuerte García, a former Interior Ministry Official, who is being subjected to reprisals in prison.  Fuerte García, age 32, was arrested in 1991 for trying to leave the country, and is now an inmate at the Cinco y Medio del Pinar del Río prison.  He was sentenced to five years.


            Also reported were the cases of Israel Martínez Torvo, Pedro Luis González, and Angel Díaz, who had been demobilized from military service and who had tried to leave the country illegally on other occasions.  They were arrested on April 2, 1993, when the truck in which they were heading for Boca del Mariel was searched and a makeshift raft was found.  They are now in the Valle Grande prison.  The brothers Jorge and Juan Valladares Salabarría are at Valle Grande for the same reason.  They were arrested on May 21, 1993, and still await trial.  Finally, Pedro Reinaldo Amador, activist with the National Confederation for Political Rights, has been held on the basis of criminal proceedings, pending for over a year,  for "attempted" illegal departure.  


            VI.  CONCLUSIONS


            The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights must express its deep concern over the continual worsening of the human rights situation in Cuba.  The facts presented in this report show the extremes to which the Cuban Government has gone in repressing every form of dissent by using legislation designed to subordinate the rights of the individual to the requirements of the state.  It is clear that the Cuban political system continues to give absolute exclusivity to the Communist Party, which, in practice, constitutes a power higher than the state itself.  This prevents the healthy plurality of ideologies and parties that is one of the foundations of democratic government.


            The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights feels it would be appropriate to cite the second conclusion of its Seventh Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Cuba as a complement to what was stated in the preceding paragraph:


                The above is reinforced by the Cuban Constitution's use of terms and concepts taken from political-philosophical doctrines, which serve little to promote the observance of the rule of law, the guarantee that protects the rights of citizens against impairment by the State.  A source of particular concern to the IACHR is the Cuban legislation which establishes limits on the exercise of the recognized rights and freedoms of its citizens.   According to this formulation of the laws it is the citizen who must adapt to the purposes set by the State; whereas the concept of democracy envisions exactly the opposite:  it is the State that must limit its action in the face of the inherent rights of man and may interfere only to bring about the full observance of civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of those governed.  The subordination of the individual to the State is further entrenched in Cuba by the nonexistence of a separation of governmental powers, which results in the dependence of the system for the administration of justice on the executive.[4]


            The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is of the view that the arguments set forth in the Seventh Report are still valid, since the facts presented in this section of the Annual Report show that exercise of the right to justice and due process is greatly impaired by the de facto and legislative subordination of the administration of justice to the executive.  This continues to foster an overall feeling of uncertainty and trepidation among citizens, and is further aggravated by the weakness of procedural guarantees, especially in trials that may directly or indirectly affect the power structure that still remains in Cuba.   


            As for freedom of speech, it is clear that the Government and Party still maintain absolute control and repression of any political or ideological dissent.  Consequently, the Inter-American Commission remains of the opinion that in Cuba there is no freedom of expression that would allow the political dissent essential to democratic government.  


            With respect to the right to freedom and personal safety, there persists a lack of guarantees against arbitrary arrest.  In addition, the Inter-American Commission must express its concern over the poor prison conditions, which are even worse  for political prisoners.  The deliberately harsh and degrading conditions give rise to more frequent and severe human rights violations, not only in themselves, but also because protests are often put down with physical abuse, that threatens the lives of the inmates.  


            Concerning freedom of movement, the Inter-American Commission is of the view that, despite changes made[5], the exercise of this right is still highly restricted in practice and by law.  This is by virtue of Articles 216 and 217 of the Cuban Penal Code, which punishes not only those persons who are captured after having initiated a legally irregular trip but also those  suspected of a propensity to attempt such a trip.  In addition, persons who have taken positions critical of the government at some point and have later attempted to leave the country have been subjected to harsher restrictions and reprisals by the Government.  


            In light of these conclusions, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights considers it appropriate to quote a comprehensive pastoral letter issued by the Bishops of Cuba in early 1993:  


             We feel that, along with certain economic changes that are beginning to be implemented, certain political irritants should be eliminated from Cuban society, and that this unquestionably would bring relief and provide the nation with a source of hope:


            1.  The exclusive and omnipresent nature of official ideology, which involves the pairing of terms which cannot be equated, such as homeland and socialism, state and government, authority and power, legality and morality, Cuban and revolutionary.  This centralizing and all-encompassing role of ideology makes the repeated directives and slogans tiresome.



            2.  The restrictions placed not only on the exercise of certain freedoms, which might be acceptable under some circumstances, but on freedom itself.  A substantial change in this position would guarantee, among other things, the independent administration of justice, which would place us on a stable path toward building a fully de jure state.



            3.  Excessive control by the state security agencies, which sometimes touches even the strictly personal life of individuals.  This explains the fear that one feels but cannot clearly define, which seems to be evoked by something ineffable.



            4.  The large number of imprisonments for acts that could either be decriminalized or be reconsidered so that many people who are serving time for economic, political, or similar reasons could be freed.



            5.  Discrimination for reasons of philosophical or political ideas or religious belief, whose effective elimination would encourage participation in Cuban society by all Cubans without distinction.



            The continuing refusal of the Cuban regime to recognize fundamental human rights, together with the profound socio-economic crisis in that country, creates a dangerous potential for societal crisis.  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will continue to watch the Cuban domestic situation closely, pursuant to its mandate to protect and promote human rights in each country of the hemisphere.


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    [1]  Official Gazette of August 25, 1977.

     [2]  The "Rapid Response Brigades" were created in June 1991 by the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic.  These units are made up of civilians whose mission is to monitor any sign of public discontent or "counterrevolutionary demonstration."  According to information received by the IACHR, they act with impunity, especially when they violate the rights of people who work to promote and protect human rights.  The most common tactic of the "Rapid Response Brigades" is the "acts of repudiation," in crowds which gather in front of the homes of human rights activists and shout all sorts of abusive remarks and slogans supporting the revolution and the Government.

     [3]  It has been reported that restrictions imposed by immigration rules in some countries, the complicated legal procedures required by the Cuban authorities, and the reprisals to which such persons are subjected are some of the reasons for which many people continue to leave the country on rafts and makeshift boats.  We should note that when the Cuban immigration authorities deny a visa this decision is not subject to appeal.

     [4]  The Situation of Human Rights in Cuba, Seventh Report, IACHR, 1983, p.177.

     [5]  In August 1991, the Government of Cuba lowered the age requirement for foreign travel to 20 years of age for both men and women.