52.     The American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man enshrines not only civil and political rights, but also economic, social, and cultural rights.  Accordingly, the right to protection of the family, to the protection of mothers and children, to the preservation of health and well-being, to education, to the benefits of culture, to work and fair pay, to rest and leisure time, to social security, and to association to protect economic, social, cultural, and trade-union interests are all enshrined in the American Declaration.

          53.     Throughout the period covered by this report, the Inter-American Commission was informed of the advances by the Cuban State in preserving health. The right to health is enshrined in Article XI of the American Declaration, which provides: “Every person has the right to the preservation of his health through sanitary and social measures relating to food, clothing, housing and medical care, to the extent permitted by public and community resources.”

          54.     In Cuba, according to the information received, the health program is an essential part of social policy, and has contributes to advances in human development and equity.  It is based on the following principles:

-         Medicine as a state and social endeavor.
-         Accessibility of services free of charge.
-         Preventive emphasis.
-         Adequate application of advances in science and technology.
-         Participation of the population.
-         International collaboration.

          55.     The application of these principles, mainly the accessibility of services at no charge, has made it possible to achieve equity in health care, as regards both geographic accessibility and the various levels of complexity of the National Health System.  In Cuba, health is a right of all citizens, without any limitations based on race, sex, or age, and ensuring the availability of health services is a responsibility of the State, which acts through a lead agency, the Ministry of Public Health.  The legal framework is set forth in Articles 47 to 50 of the Cuban Constitution.[35]

          56.     According to a study entitled “Investigación sobre Desarrollo Humano y Equidad en Cuba” directed by the Centro de Investigaciones de la Economía Mundial (CIEM), and published with the sponsorship of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Cuba today has favorable health indicators with considerable homogeneity nationwide.  Thus, it has been noted:

Medical care coverage of the population is 100%; life expectancy at birth is greater than 75 years; infant morality is 7.9 per 1,000 live births; the presence of communicable diseases has diminished notably, and the epidemiological picture presents a downward trend in infectious diseases; it has an extensive network of high-tech services and a large number of highly skilled professionals and technical personnel, for a ratio of one physician per 176 inhabitants (ONE 1998).

These indicators show that the development attained in health, as a result of the social project undertaken since 1959, has had a decisive impact on the results obtained by the country in improving the human potential (CIEM 1997).

At the same time, there have been advances in developing a high potential for research.  Many centers have been established for scientific research and the production of high-tech equipment and drugs.. Their scientists are highly qualified and the results of their investigations have been internationally acknowledge.[36]

          57.     The main reforms in the health sector since 1960 are as follows: (a) The 1960s (creation of the National Health System, the Rural Medical Service; health areas and clinics; the introduction of procedures for combating infectious diseases; vaccination with broad participation of the population); (b) the 1970s (de-concentration of the teaching of medicine; creation of the community clinics; decentralization of the health sector to the provincial governments; implementation of the maternal and child care program); (c) the 1980s (creation of the family medicine model; development of the medical specialties; introduction of advanced technology; accelerated development of the medical-pharmaceutical industry); (d) the 1990s (introduction and generalization of accomplishments in science and technology; addressing the embargo and the break-up of the Soviet Union and the socialist camp; assessment of the sector; and preparation of priority strategies and programs).[37]

          58.     Maternal and child health has been accorded top priority. The indicator for infant mortality summarizes the country’s sustained advances in health care for children.  According to The State of the World’s Children 1998, published by UNICEF, Cuba ranks 34th in mortality of children under 5 years of age, among 193 countries.

          59.     In 1993, infant mortality was less than 9.4 per 1,000 live births. In the following years, the rate continued to fall, until reaching 7.9 per 1,000 live births.  All pregnancies received pre-natal care and practically all deliveries take place in hospitals, with adequate services. In addition, Cuba classifies as a country with low reproductive risk, according to Population Action International (PAI, 1995).[38]

          60.     The National Program of Immunizations has been maintained, and poliomyelitis, diphtheria, and neonatal tetanus have been eradicated. In 1996, 98.5% of Cuban children under two years were protected from ten communicable diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, rubella, mumps, hepatitis B, meningococcus meningitis, tuberculosis, and poliomyelitis.

          61.     Indeed, the epidemiological profile reflects the trends brought about by social policy. In Cuba, the following diseases have been eradicated: poliomyelitis (1962), tubercular meningitis (1971), neonatal tetanus (1972), diphtheria (1979), congenital rubella syndrome and meningoencephalitis due to mumps (both in 1989), and measles (1993).  Pertussis, rubella, tetanus, and mumps are not health problems considering their very limited incidence (CIEM, 1997). Except in two cases (influenza and pneumonia), infectious diseases are no longer among the leading causes of death. At present, these include heart disease, malignant neoplasms, cerebrovascular diseases, and accidents, a pattern of mortality typical of more developed countries (MINSAP 1998).[39]

          62.     With respect to access to housing, major strides have also been made in Cuba. According to the information provided, in 1984, the General Housing Law (amended in 1988) transferred the ownership of hitherto state-owned housing to the usufructuaries and legitimate occupants. Currently, 85% of all families own the homes in which they live. In addition, property was conveyed at low prices, with a high state subsidy, in the new dwellings built by the State, amortizable at 120-month and 140-month terms, and with 3% interest, decreasing annually. The 1984 law facilitated citizens’ access to land to build housing with their own labor, and created opportunities for getting bank loans, acquiring building materials, and providing services. At present, 72.4% of the housing stock is located in urban areas, and 27.6% in rural areas (INVE, 1999).[40]

          63.     The Commission was also informed that it was anticipated that 400,000 dwellings would be added to the housing stock from 1996 to 2000, 250,000 of which are newly-built, and 150,000 of which would be reincorporated into the state-owned housing through rehabilitation by the State, cooperatives, and the population. The net increase in the housing stock in 1998 (balance of units added and units removed) came to 54,794 dwellings, for annual growth of 1.8%, considerably less than was planned.[41]

          64.     As for the right to education, the Cuban program has made major strides worthy of special mention.  At present, 97.4% of the children ages 6 to 14 are in school; this figure is quite uniform throughout the country, and by sex; the average level of school in the general population is nine grades; the enrollment rate in higher education is 945 per 100,000 population. Educational development has been reflected in scientific and technical advances.  In 1997, Cuba has 220 scientific and technical research centers, to which more than 42,000 researchers, university professors, and other technical personnel are attached. The country has 1.8 scientists and engineers per 1,000 population, a rate considerably higher than the average for developing countries.  Higher education has 23,000 professors and 155,000 students enrolled. Since 1959, more than half a million people have graduated from the universities, i.e. 5% of the total population.[42]

          65.     Among the most noteworthy achievements of education in Cuba are the school and work facilities that make it possible for full-time workers to study.  Through a variety of plans and various types of programs (elementary, medio básico, and medio superior), Cuban workers have had the option of studying without any need to quit their jobs, and relying on the support of the labor administrations.  Today, of every 100 employed workers, seven have university degrees, and 13 are mid-level technical staff.  Other efforts have been made to expand a network of schools with different types and levels of education, aimed at covering the broad array of educational needs in the provinces. A comparative study was recently presented of 13 Latin American countries, which is distinguished from previous studies in that, among other factors, it was focused on education policy, it was undertaken by the educational systems of the participating countries, and it included factors associated with academic performance, selecting a sample that was stratified and controlled. The report on the study was prepared by the Laboratorio Latinoamericano de Evaluación de la Calidad de la Educación.  In its first chapter, “Main findings of the results of the study,” it states: “In its results, Cuba stands out significantly among the countries of the region.” (UNESCO, 1998). According to the results of applying UNESCO’s Basic Education Index (BEI), Cuba is the leading country among the Third World nations (CIEM, 1977).[43]

          66.     The right to work is also among the economic rights enshrined in the American Declaration:

Article XIV. Every person has the right to work, under proper conditions, and to follow his vocation freely, insofar as existing conditions of employment permit. Every person who works has the right to receive such remuneration as will, in proportion to his capacity and skill, assure him a standard of living suitable for himself and for his family.

          67.     The Cuban Constitution provides at Article 45 that “Work in a socialist society is a right, a duty, and a motivation for each citizen. Labor is remunerated as per its quality and quantity; providing work addresses the demands of the economy and society, the worker’s choice, and his or her aptitude and skill; it is guaranteed by the socialist economic system, which fosters economic and social development, without crisis, and which, in so doing, has eliminated unemployment and done away forever with the seasonal unemployment called ‘down time’ (tiempo muerto). Voluntary, unremunerated work, performed on behalf of society, in industrial, agricultural, technical, artistic and services activities, is recognized to help shape the communist conscience of our people. Each worker has a duty to carry out fully the tasks inherent to one’s employment.”

          68.     Article 46 of the Constitution grants workers “the right to rest, which is guaranteed by the eight-hour workday, weekly rest, and paid annual vacations.  The State fosters the development of vacation facilities and plans.”  In addition, a social security system is guaranteed for “the adequate protection of all workers with impediments due to health, disability, or illness.  In case of death of the worker, [the State] guarantees similar protection for his or her family.”[44]  The Cuban State also “protects, through social assistance, the elderly who have no resources or protection, and any person who is not able to work who does not have family members who are in a position to provide him or her assistance.”[45]  In addition, Article 49 of the Constitution “guarantees the right to occupational protection, safety, and hygiene through the adoption of adequate measures for preventing accidents and occupational diseases.  One who suffers an accident at the workplace or contracts an occupational disease has the right to medical care and to a subsidy or retirement in the event of temporary or permanent incapacity to work.”

          69.     Articles 42, 43, and 44 of the Cuban Constitution prohibit discrimination in employment based on sex or race. To guarantee this principle, it promotes the incorporation of women to work by offering a series of facilities such as day care centers, boarding schools, maternity leave (pre-natal and post-partum), care for the elderly, and temporary work options compatible with maternity.

          70.     Nonetheless, the Commission must note that during the period covered by this report, it has received numerous complaints from workers and independent trade unionists who have been subjected to threats, expulsion from the workplace due to political opinions, temporary detention, intimidation, restrictions on the right to movement, house arrest, violation of correspondence, and wiretapping, in addition to physical and verbal abuse.

          71.     The Commission has also been informed that persons who display political discrepancies with the regime are unemployed in greater proportions, and that the family members of political prisoners suffer discrimination in the workplace, as do the political prisoners once they are released.  In addition, it has been noted that such treatment is accorded the family members of emigres when they have adopted antagonistic positions abroad.  Discrimination in employment is an easy mechanism to apply in an economy in which the State is the only employer.[46]

          72.     In this regard, the organization Human Rights Watch/Americas described the labor situation in Cuba in the following terms:

Taking advantage of its position as virtually the only source of jobs in Cuba's state-controlled economy, the Cuban government exercises strict control over labor rights. Cuba not only effectively bans independent labor groups and harasses persons attempting to form them, but also allows workers' political views to influence hiring and firing decisions. Cuba's firm hand over labor rights extends to its expanding foreign investment sector, where foreign companies can only hire Cuban employees through government-controlled employment agencies. And Cuba's extensive prison labor program fails to observe the basic principles of humane treatment of prisoners and violates an international ban on forced labor by requiring political prisoners to work.  These labor rights abuses contradict the Cuban government's claims of protecting the rights to association, assembly, and expression, and the right to work.[47]

          73.     Another imposition by the Cuban State on workers is compulsory membership in the Central de Trabajadores de Cuba (CTC) union federation, the only trade union organization allowed by the authorities.  As Pax Christi Netherlands points out:

Like all Cubans, people employed by foreign investors must be a member of the state-controlled Cuban labour union CTC (Confederación de Trabajadores Cubanos). Cubans who are selected to represent their fellow workers in the work place must first pass indoctrination courses. According to one labour representative": 'I can defend employees in my workplace only up to a certain point. If they violate the rights of the State there is nothing I can do. If I would do something, I could lose my job."

Cuban workers that belong or associate to the independent and thus illegal unions are expelled from their jobs. Even lawyers defending these people are harassed and may lose their right to work in the legal profession. These people are usually forced into exile. An independent labour union as CUTC tries to give legal advice to workers who have been fired for political reasons. According to one CUTC representative: "We write legal defences and consult people on their constitutional rights, and in most cases workers have no idea what their legal rights are. The plight of the Cuban workers is compounded by the fact that the State is legislator, employer and arbitrator of all labour issues. " As far as foreign investors are concerned: "Contracts between the State and the foreign firms are not shown to workers and they have no idea how much the foreign firm pays the Cuban Government for their services. " The workers' lack of knowledge, as to what rights and protection exist, is an obstacle to demanding better working conditions.[48]

          74.     The presentation in the above-cited paragraph on the situation of independent trade unionists in Cuba is corroborated by the many complaints received by the Commission during the period covered by this report. In effect, the Commission has received reports of the beatings, threats, temporary detentions, harassment, and denial of employment to which independent unionists in Cuba are subjected day after day.  Some of the most noteworthy cases include:

          a.       Pedro Pablo Alvarez Ramos, Secretary General of the Consejo Unitario de Trabajadores de Cuba (CUTC), was detained at his residence in Havana on October 13, 2001. His detention was related to the press conference that he and other members of his organization called that day in the home of Mrs. Gladys Linares, member of the national board of the CUTC.  The conference was related to the holding of the CUTC Congress, announced for October 20 and 21.  The CUTC, which is a member of the Central Latinoamericana de Trabajadores, called its first congress, unleashing a wave of repression that was reflected in the detention, for several hours, of Carmelo Agustín Díaz Fernández (of the CUTC board), Gladys Linares Blanco, and Humberto Monés Lafita.  During the roundup the political police confiscated US$ 5,040.00 from them, which had been donated by Dutch unions so that the CUTC could cover the costs of its national meeting.  To date, the money has not been returned.

          b.       Sergio González Suárez Inclán, Secretary General of the Confederación Obrera Nacional Independiente de Cuba, in the province of Matanzas, was fired from his job at the Oil Drilling and Extraction Enterprise, on being declared “politically untrustworthy.” González Suárez worked as an electrician there.

          c.       Manuel Lantigua Domínguez, 41 years of age and a member of the Consejo Unitario de Trabajadores Cubanos (CUTC) in the province of Guantánamo, was blacklisted and mistreated for the mere fact of belonging to an independent trade union organization.  On August 8, 2001, Lantigua was summonsed by the chief of police for the sector where he lives, Lt. Iranelio Muñoz, to the Guantánamo police station, where he was fingerprinted and photographed, and a file was opened on him for the alleged offense of “social dangerousness.” On July 9, 2001, this unionist had already been stoned at the entrance to his home by members of the so-called “Rapid Response Teams.”

          d.       Luis Sergio Uñes Rodríguez, delegate of the Confederación Obrera Nacional Independiente de Cuba (CONIC) in Bayamo, province of Granma, was notified April 30, 2001, of the prohibition on leaving his home during the May 1 celebration under threat of being taken to the police unit located at Francisco Vicente Aguilera avenue and 4th street.  The order to remain in his home was given by a State Security officer, who identified himself only as a member of the counter-revolutionary watch group in that eastern region.

          75.     In addition to the examples cited above of harassment of independent unionists in Cuba, the organization Human Rights Watch/Americas stated in its World Report 2002 that:

The government recognized only one labor union, the Workers Central of Cuba (Central de Trabajadores de Cuba, CTC). Independent labor unions were denied formal status and their members were harassed. Workers employed in businesses backed by foreign investment remained under tight government control. Under restrictive labor laws, the authorities had a prominent role in the selection, payment, and dismissal of workers, effectively denying workers the right to bargain directly with employers over benefits, promotions, and wages. Cuba also continued to use prison labor for agricultural camps and ran clothing assembly and other factories in its prisons. The authorities' insistence that political prisoners work without pay in poor conditions violated international labor standards.[49]

          76.     The fact that the Cuban State prohibits the establishment of independent unions not only violates its international obligations[50] in this area, but also its own principles enshrined in the Cuban Constitution, for the Constitution establishes the right to assembly and association of workers, and declares that social organizations “enjoy the broadest freedom of speech and opinion, based on the unhampered right to initiative and criticism.”[51]  Nonetheless, the Commission also considers that the State restricts the freedoms recognized in the Constitution by Article 62, according to which they may not be exercised “against the existence and ends of the socialist State, or against the decision of the Cuban people to build socialism and communism.”  This limitation is supplemented by the mandate of the sole union federation authorized and controlled by the State, which stipulates “the political-ideological work to deepen the struggle in defense of socialism and its principles.”[52]

          V.      PRISON CONDITIONS

          77.     The American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, at Article XXV, establishes, inter alia: “No person may be deprived of his liberty except in the cases and according to the procedures established by pre-existing law.... Every individual who has been deprived of his liberty has the right to have the legality of his detention ascertained without delay by a court, and the right to be tried without undue delay or, otherwise, to be released. He also has the right to humane treatment during the time he is in custody.”

          78.     The foregoing principles mean that every person submitted to any form of detention or imprisonment must be treated humanely and with due respect for the dignity inherent to the human person. In addition, his or her arrest, detention, or imprisonment must be carried out within the bounds dictated by strict compliance with the law, and by competent officers, and none of his or her fundamental rights shall be restricted, except, naturally, those whose curtailment is precisely the content of the punishment imposed. In this regard, it is fundamental that the deprivation of liberty have well-defined objectives, which cannot be exceeded by the activity of the prison authorities, not even under the cover of the disciplinary power that vests in them, and, therefore, the prisoner may not be marginalized, but instead reinserted in society.  In other words, the prison practices must be in accord with a basic principle: no suffering should be added to the deprivation of liberty than what it already represents: The prisoner should be accorded humane treatment, with full respect for the dignity of his or her person, while at the same time seeking to facilitate reinsertion of the prisoner in society.  In this respect, the Commission has noted that:

The purpose of depriving persons of liberty, among others, is to separate dangerous individuals from society to protect it from crime, and the reform and social readaptation of the persons sentenced. To this end, the prison system must use every curative, educational, moral, spiritual or other means and every form of assistance available to it to reduce as much as possible the conditions which weaken the prisoner's sense of responsibility, the respect for the dignity of his person and his capacity for social rehabilitation.[53]

          79.     The problem of arbitrary detention and imprisonment for political motives and the harsh conditions in the prisons that the prisoners must bear have been one of the Commission’s foremost concerns with respect to Cuba. This explains that a large share of its earlier reports have been aimed at analyzing the situation of political prisoners, and that two such reports have been dedicated exclusively to the matter.

          80.     The Inter-American Commission has received abundant information on the prison situation in Cuba, which describes the persistence of overcrowding, scarcity and low quality of the food, deficient medical care, beatings, use of solitary confinement for punishment–with shuttered doors and no light–the mixing of common prisoners with those jailed for political reasons, and of convicts and those in pre-trial detention, limited family visits, etc. Human Rights Watch/Americas, in its 2002 World Report, described the situation in Cuban prisons in the following terms:

Whether detained for political or common crimes, inmates were subjected to abusive prison conditions. Prisoners frequently suffered malnourishment and languished in overcrowded cells without appropriate medical attention. Some endured physical and sexual abuse, typically by other inmates with the acquiescence of guards, or long periods in punitive isolation cells. Prison authorities insisted that all detainees participate in politically oriented "re-education" sessions or face punishment. Political prisoners who denounced the poor conditions of imprisonment were frequently punished with solitary confinement, restricted visits, or denial of medical treatment.


In July, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (Comisión Cubana de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Nacional), a respected Havana-based nongovernmental group, released a partial list of political prisoners that included 246 cases they considered to be reliably documented. Some of the prisoners named on the list were serving extremely long sentences--twenty or more years for crimes such as "rebellion" and "sabotage," offenses broadly defined by Cuban courts--while others were serving short sentences for "contempt of authority" (desacato) or public disorder.[54]

          81.     In addition, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Nigel Rodley, in a report published in January 2001, stated, inter alia, that he “notified the Government [of Cuba] that he had received information according to which some prisons did not meet the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners....  The prisoners suffer malnutrition and are in crowded cells without adequate medical care.  Some of them reportedly suffer physical and sexual abuses perpetrated by other detainees, with the consent of the prison guards, and are subjected to long periods of isolation in their cells. In many cases, the common prisoners are not separated from minors awaiting sentencing.”[55]  The Special Rapporteur reported the following cases to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights:[56]

          a.       In the tightest-security prison in Havana, Combinado del Este, six prisoners with tuberculosis, HIV, and other diseases reportedly died, apparently due to the negligence of the medical and para-medical personnel of the prison hospital.  At the Quivica prison in the province of Havana, hunger reportedly worsened for all the prisoners due to the lack of firewood for the prison kitchen.  There is reportedly a lack of medicines at the prison for ailments such as stomach cramps, headaches, and fever.  At the highest-security prison of Aguica in Colón, Matanzas, hygienic and sanitary conditions in which the prisoners live are reportedly very harsh.  Twenty-seven prisoners with severe bilateral optical neuritis and peripheral polyneuropathy, known as beriberi, reportedly had not received appropriate medical treatment or adequate food.

          b.       Lázaro Pérez Cano reportedly began a hunger strike in view of the living conditions at the maximum-security prison of Aguica, in Colón, Matanzas.  He was reportedly isolated from the rest of the prison population by the authorities and placed in the cell at the police station, without light, water, or a mattress, and nude.  Pérez Cano is reported to be one of the 27 prisoners with severe bilateral optical neuritis.

          c.       The area of the Guantánamo prison known as the “deposit” or “quarantine,” on tier 3-C, is said to have 27 cells or cubicles measuring approximately eight meters long by two meters wide, with a capacity for nine people in bunks with three beds each.  Among the prisoners with tuberculosis are Julio Limonta Cajigal and Joel Quintana Salomón; with hepatitis, Eugenio Hernández Reñez; with chicken pox, Orlando Alvarez Cuartel; and Yudel Cintra Martínez is schizophrenic, paranoid, and physically disabled.  According to the information provided, they are not receiving adequate medical treatment.

          d.       Alexander Giordano reportedly died at the Nieves Morejón prison, in the province of Santci Spíritus, supposedly due to lack of medical care. He was reportedly taken to the operating room twice for intestinal obstruction.  The second time, after requesting medical care for eight days in the prisoners ward at the Camilo Cienfuegos Provincial Hospital in Sancti Spíritus, he was examined and operated on immediately.

          e.       Marcelo Diosdado Amelo Rodríguez, who had been President of the “Gerardo González, Brother of the Faith” Club of Political Prisoners and former Political Prisoners, was reportedly detained on February 19, 1993, for the alleged offense of rebellion, in Case 14/93. In view of his delicate health due to chronic circulatory insufficiency and decompensation with high blood pressure, he was reportedly placed in an isolation cell at the small hospital of the Provincial Prison of Boniato.

          f.       Yesenia Rodríguez Aguilar was reportedly confined in the Provincial Women’s Prison of Guantánamo.  Under the custody of her official re-educator, Dignora Navarro, she reportedly went to the Agostino Neto General Teaching Hospital for an ultrasound on January 29, 2000.  Pregnant, she was reportedly pressured by the prison authorities and the prison physician to have an abortion, which she reportedly refused. Yesenia Rodríguez Aguilar reportedly was suffering major lumbar and hypogastric pain as the result of a kidney infection.  She was reportedly denied medical care for not accepting the abortion.

          82.     U.N. Special Rapporteur Nigel Rodley concluded his report by making the following observations:

The Special Rapporteur is concerned that over the years he has received many allegations, consistent and sustained, suggesting that there are substantial abuses in the Cuban prison system in the form of overcrowding, inadequate resources, neglectful medical attention and abuses by institutional personnel or by inmates acting with at least the acquiescence of such personnel, as well as culpable omission to ensure timely needed medical attention.  He believes that the authorities would be well advised to institute a thorough inquiry within the prison system, preferably with the participation of international experts in prison administration.[57]

          83.     The Commission has also been informed that the prison guards and common prisoners grouped in prisoners’ councils, acting under the orders or with the acquiescence of the prison authorities, punish by beating with a stick those Cuban political prisoners who openly express their ideas or criticisms.  According to information received, Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina, President of the Movimiento Cubano de Jóvenes por la Democracia (MCJD: Cuban Movement of Youth for Democracy), sentenced to six years in prison, at the Combinado de Guantánamo prison, for the alleged crimes of “desacato” (contempt, disrespect of authority) of the person of Commander Fidel Castro, and “Public Disorder,” was physically assaulted by common prisoner Emeregildo Duvergel–sentenced to 20 years in prison for murder–resulting in a fractured jawbone. The political prisoners at that prison accuse Lt. Col. Jorge Chediak, chief of the prison, Major Pablo Reyes Cobas, chief of ward A-500, Capt. Silvestre Obet Herrera, and Capt. Víctor Reyes Cobas, chief re-educator for company Nº 1 of ward A-500, of having ordered the beating.

          84.     The Commission was also informed that José Menéndez, a political prisoner confined at the Guamajal prison, in Santa Clara, has for the last six years been confined to a cell that is three meters long and two meters wide, where an effort has been made to break his will through total isolation.  In addition, Lemberto Hernández Planas, a political prisoner, was assaulted on August 3, 2001, by one of the officers at the “La Granjita” prison of the Boniato jail, in the province of Santiago de Cuba.  A note from the prison reports that the chief of the prison, known as Hechemendía, ordered officer Yoel Gutiérrez López to carry out the attack on the political prisoner. In addition, it was reported that the beating of a prisoner at the Combinado de Guantánamo sparked a massive protest of the prisoners on tier 4B on August 19, 2001, and forced the top prison authorities to make an appearance to calm the prison population.  It was indicated that the conflict began when the prison staff performed a search in cubicle one of detachment 43 and began to beat prisoner Jesús Catalá, almost causing a riot in the prison.

          85.     The Commission must note its profound concern over the grave prison conditions in Cuba, which, by any reckoning, violate principles and provisions of international human rights law, such as those in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.[58] The Commission observes, moreover, that the treatment is more severe and degrading in the case of prisoners who are serving a sentence for political crimes.  The State continues using the prison system as the basis of its social defense, since the function of the sanctions is to protect the group in power from “socially dangerous” persons and to seek the political re-education of the person sanctioned.


          86.     The Commission has been informed that in late 2001, certain mechanisms were apparently adopted aimed at annulling some of the unilateral measures of the United States aimed at isolating the Cuban regime. In effect, according to Human Rights Watch/Americas: “The devastation wrought by Hurricane Michelle opened a crack in the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba, with U.S. companies selling food and medicine to Havana in November 2001 to offset losses and replenish stocks used in the island's worst storm in half a century. The sales, valued by a U.S. official at about U.S. $30 million, represented the first commercial transactions between the two countries since the embargo was put in place. Authorities in Washington had originally offered to provide Cuba with disaster relief aid, but Cuban officials, declining the aid offer, expressed interest in buying food, medicine, and other necessities.”[59]

          87.     Human Rights Watch/Americas also states: “A law enacted in 2000 allowed food sales to Cuba, and an earlier law allowed the export of medicines. Yet, because the law on food sales barred U.S. government or private financing of the sales, Cuban officials had previously criticized it, saying that they would refrain from buying food until the embargo was lifted. This year's purchase represented a departure from that position, but one that Cuban officials insisted was exceptional. ‘We have no reason to see [the sales] as a policy shift, rather as something that happened because of a hurricane that doesn't happen every month in Cuba,’ explained Cuban Vice-President Carlos Lage.”[60]

          88.     The Commission was also informed that in May 2001, two U.S. congresspersons introduced a bill to the U.S. Congress to allocate up to US$ 100 million over four years to dissidents, opposition groups, political prisoners, or any other independent organization in Cuba. The bill, entitled the “Cuba Solidarity Act of 2001” was rejected by the dissidents, who were of the view that more than a benefit, it would be to their detriment, because they feared that receiving such aid would damage their credibility and help discredit them. In March 2001, a parallel proposal had been introduced in the House of Representatives. In November 2001, both versions of the bill were being reviewed by congressional committees.  In this respect, Héctor Palacio Ruíz, Director of the Centro de Estudios Sociales Independiente, stated from Havana, Cuba, that

A few pesos more or a few pesos less are not going to solve the problem Cubans face. It will create even more tensions, the dispute between Cuba and the United States will deepen.  What that is going to bring, unfortunately, is more calamity to our Nation. We ask that that be considered, because in reality those of us who are here are patriots, and although we experience many difficulties, we don’t think that it’s right to accept economic aid that tends to demoralize the patriotic movement of this nation, which is very worthy.  What the government tells us all and of the Americans themselves is that we are for rent, that we are paid by imperialism, in other words, that everything we do is because the Government of the United States pays us. We want to make it perfectly clear that no one pays us.  We act out of principle and our morals.  I think that any money that comes from a government in this fashion is not a solution.  I think that what needs to be resolved is the problem of the relationship between the two countries, that what we must seek is the re-establishment of relations.  What the [Cuban] government is saying here is that [the United States] wants to give all of us US$ 100 million.  We can’t be bought for one hundred million dollars, or for one billion dollars, or for all the money in the United States.

          89.     The Commission trusts that measures will continue to be adopted, as necessary, to end the trade embargo against Cuba, since the economic sanctions and unilateral measures aimed at isolating the Cuban regime have a grave impact on the economic and social rights of the population, which is the most vulnerable sector in this whole problem.  The Commission is also of the view that internal political and economic reforms would be facilitated by ending the current isolation of Cuba.  In addition, it believes that the prolonged policies of economic sanctions have become a means of justifying the system’s limitations and lack of openness.

          90.     It should also be noted that on several occasions the international community has expressed, through resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly, and also in the inter-American ambit, its rejection of the unilateral measures, which do not help install a process of peaceful political transition in Cuba.  The inter-American community has the duty to ensure that adequate humanitarian assistance is provided to the Cuban population that needs it, and to strengthen multilateral and bilateral technical and financial cooperation with Cuba so as to allow the Government and people of Cuba to undertake, based on consensus, the political and economic reforms urgently called for by the current situation. In addition, the inter-American community must observe closely the evolving human rights situation in Cuba, for as it improves, the political will of the Government to carry out reforms that allow for the unrestricted observance of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights is being put to the test.

          91.     In this endeavor, the Inter-American Commission is of the view that it is up to the Cuban State to make the main effort to incorporate into its legal and constitutional order, and its practice, those elements that make it compatible with international human rights law.  In addition, the Commission is of the view that it is Cuban citizens, without exception, who should have the opportunity to state their views freely on matters that so profoundly affect the exercise of their rights.  The Commission considers that it is through democratic procedures, and with the full exercise of the rights inherent to the human person, that the current difficulties can be overcome peacefully, at the least social cost to the population.

          92.     In the context of its functions and powers, the Commission will continue to observe the human rights situation in Cuba, and hopes that human rights will be effectively observed by decision of the Cuban authorities and people, and with the support of the inter-American community, which includes Cuba.

          VII.     CONCLUSIONS

          According to all of the foregoing, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has reached the following conclusions:

          1.       The Cuban State adopted some human rights-related measures that the Commission considers positive.  In the view of the Commission, the most important such measures have to do with the release of some political prisoners during the period covered by this report.  The Commission hopes that the State continues this process, so as to bring an end once and for all to the political imprisonment of hundreds of individuals serving sentences in Cuban jails.

          2.       The Commission is concerned about the continuity–with respect to previous years–of the pattern of repression by the State against any person who tries to exercise his or her rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association in a manner that does not meet with the Government’s approval.  In this regard, peaceful opponents, independent journalists and trade unionists, and human rights activists who tried by various means–all peaceful–to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, association, information, movement, and peaceful protest, were often frustrated by the severe and varying sanctions imposed by the Cuban State.  This legislation, characterized by provisions such as dangerous state, pre-criminal security measures, and the terms socialist legality, socially dangerous, norms of socialist co-existence, enemy propaganda, rebellion, official warning, hijacking, ties to or relations with persons potentially dangerous to society, constitute the legal framework for the Cuban authorities to commit human rights violations.  In the Commission’s view, applying these provisions to persons who wish to exercise their fundamental rights constitutes a violation of international human rights law.

          3.       The administration of justice continues to be subordinated de facto and de jure to the political authorities, which has a detrimental impact on the observance, in practice, of the right to justice and due process.  This creates a negative climate of uncertainty and fear among the citizenry, which is reinforced by the weak procedural guarantees, especially in trials of peaceful opponents to the regime or human rights activists. The Commission also considers that as there is no separation of powers in Cuba that guarantees the independence of the administration of justice, the right of the accused to a fair trial is seriously violated, and, accordingly, it is possible to violate other fundamental rights of the human person, such as the rights to life and individual liberty, and freedom of expression, assembly, and association.

          4.       Various positive developments by the Cuban State as regards economic, social, and cultural rights merit special mention. Within the right to health, for example, medical and dental care are a universal right in Cuba, provided free of charge and as a responsibility of the State. Numerous and positive measures have been taken to extend this right to all sectors of society, regardless of sex, age, color, creed, income, or place of residence.  In addition, considerable progress has been made reducing the incidence of stillborn children and infant mortality, and the healthy development of children.  The prevention, treatment, and control of epidemic diseases has improved over the years.

          5.       The Commission considers that important strides have been made to implement the right to education. Primary and secondary education are accessible to all, free at all levels, and compulsory through ninth grade.  A large part of the population receives technical, vocational, or university education, and education for adults has been encouraged and intensified with numerous positive results.  Nonetheless, discrimination in education for political reasons continues and should be condemned. There has also been progress in access to housing. Legislation on housing in Cuba transferred ownership of housing from the state to the usufructuaries and legitimate occupants.  In addition, citizens’ access to land has been facilitated, to build housing on their own, and opportunities have been created to obtain bank loans, purchase building materials, and provide services.

          6.       With respect to the right to work and trade union rights, the Constitution contains a series of legal, economic, and social mechanisms which, if respected in practice, would lead to the unhampered exercise of these rights in Cuba. Nonetheless, in practice, the Cuban State systematically violates the labor and trade union rights of Cuban citizens.  Accordingly, workers and independent trade unionists suffer threats, dismissal from the workplace for their political opinions, temporary detentions, intimidation, restrictions on their right to movement, house arrest, violation of correspondence, and wiretapping, in addition to physical and verbal abuse.  The Commission has also learned that those persons who express political discrepancies with the regime are much more likely to be unemployed, and that political prisoners’ family members suffer discrimination in employment, as do political prisoners once released.  This discriminatory treatment is also meted out to the relatives of emigres when they have spoken out against the regime abroad.

          7.       The Commission must state its profound concern because the Cuban State continues to violate international standards for the treatment of prisoners. In effect, the overcrowding, poor hygienic conditions, scarcity and low quality of foods, deficient medical care, beatings, punishment by solitary confinement (with shuttered doors and without access to light), the mixing of common prisoners with those jailed for political reasons, and of convicts with persons held in pre-trial detention, and limited or restricted family visits, are some of the conditions prevailing today in the Cuban prisons. These conditions violate relevant international human rights principles and provisions, such as the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.  The Commission also concludes that the treatment is more severe and degrading in the case of prisoners jailed for political offenses.

          8.       With respect to economic sanctions, the Commission takes note of the advances in the process that should lead to the definitive lifting of the trade embargo on Cuba.  The Commission considers that the inter-American community has the responsibility to create external conditions that would make it possible for Cuban society to overcome the situation currently affecting it, with a view to attaining the unrestricted observance of human rights. In this regard, the Commission considers that the adverse effects derived from economic sanctions and other unilateral measures aimed at isolating the Cuban regime are an obstacle to creating those conditions that are so necessary for achieving a peaceful and gradual transition to a democratic form of government. These measures merely reaffirm the political purposes of the official sectors of the Cuban State, who fear any loosening of the current control of society.


          The persistence of human rights violations in 2001 requires the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to reiterate the same recommendations to the Cuban State as the previous year. These are measures that would substantially improve the human rights situation and, in many cases, require purely administrative decisions.  Accordingly, in keeping with Article 57(1)(h) of its Rules of Procedure, the Commission makes the following recommendations to the Cuban State:

          1.       End the harassment and sanctions of citizens for reasons related to the exercise of the freedom of expression, assembly, and association.

          2.       Adopt urgent measures to continue releasing prisoners of conscience, without conditions.

          3.       Eliminate from the criminal legislation all criminal provisions that impose sanctions in violation of internationally accepted democratic standards, the freedom of expression, association, and assembly. In the area of freedom of the press, annul all provisions and acts aimed at creating mechanisms for self-censorship or prior censorship.

          4.       Eliminate from the Criminal Code the provisions on dangerous state, pre-criminal security measures, and the terms “socialist legality,” “socially dangerous,” “norms of socialist co-existence,” and “socialist morality,” since their vagueness and subjectivity constitute a factor of juridical insecurity that creates the conditions for the Cuban authorities to commit arbitrary acts.  In addition, eliminating the criminal provision referring to “official warning” by which threats are made to sanction individuals who have “ties or relationships with persons potentially dangerous to society.”

          5.       Adopt urgent measures to carry out a reform of the country’s prison system, for the purpose of improving the living conditions of the prison population. The Cuban State should undertake an exhaustive background check of the prison authorities prior to placing them in the various prisons, to prevent mistreatment and abuse of the prisoners.  In this regard, it would be important for the Cuban State to adopt a regulation providing guidelines to those authorities to follow to ensure that they not overstep the bounds of their mandate in performing their functions.

          6.       Adopt the measures necessary to allow for ideological and political party pluralism for the full exercise of the right to political participation, in keeping with Article XX of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.


          1.       The draft report on the situation of human rights in Cuba was approved by the Commission in the course of its 114th regular session. On March 12, 2002, it was transmitted to the State, in keeping with Article 57(2) of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure, so that it might present any observations within one month.

          2.       Once the period expired, the Cuban State refrained from making observations on the contents of the report.

          3.       On April 3, 2002, the Commission adopted the report in its final form, and decided it should be published in Chapter IV of this Annual Report.

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[35] Investigación sobre Desarrollo y Equidad en Cuba, 1999, Centro de Investigaciones de la Economía Mundial (CIEM), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Editorial Caguayo S.A., 2000, p. 97.

[36] Id., p. 98.

[37] Id.

[38] Population Action International (1995) established the Reproductive Risk Index, which is based on a set of selected indicators and ranges from 0 to 100, a higher number indicating greater reproductive risk. The result for Cuba was 18.5 (PAI, 1995).

[39] Id., pp. 103-104.

[40] Investigación sobre Desarrollo Humano y Equidad en Cuba, op. cit., pp. 106-107.

[41] Id., pp. 107-108.

[42] Id., pp. 80-81.

[43] Centro de Investigaciones de la Economía Mundial, Investigación sobre Desarrollo Humano y Equidad en Cuba, op. cit., pp. 83-84.

[44] Article 47 of the Cuban Constitution.

[45] Article 48 of the Cuban Constitution.

[46] In July 2001, the Confederación Obrera Nacional Independiente de Cuba (CONIC) and the Federación Sindical de Plantas Eléctricas, Gas y Agua de Cuba reported the following cases to the Commission:

a.          Félix Navarro Rodríguez was removed from his position as director of the Escuela Secundaria Básica (secondary school) in the municipality of Perico, province of Matanzas, after being apprehended by the political police on charges of an alleged offense of “enemy propaganda.”  He belongs to the Movimiento por la Democracia “Pedro Luis Boitel.”

b.          Adduel Borrego Mangañelles, 24 years old, a student in the second year of computer science at the Universidad de La Habana, cannot continue studying nor can he find a job operating a computer due to the fact that he opposes government policy. “You can eat your degree as a computer operator; so long as you’re a dissident here you can’t touch that equipment,” he was told by Captain Ríos, chief of police in the town of Manuel Lazo, province of Pinar del Río.  Borrego Mangañelles belongs to the Partido Pro Derechos Humanos, which is affiliated to the Andrei Sakharov Foundation, which has also caused him to be harassed by the political police, resulting in several arrests, threats, police searches, as well as discrimination in the workplace, and intellectual discrimination.

c.          Lázaro de la Paz Abella worked as an “A” stitcher at the España Republicana agro-industrial complex, in the municipality of Perico, province of Matanzas.  He was dismissed for refusing to participate in a political meeting called by the administration of the sugar complex.  He is a member of the organization Movimiento por la Democracia “Pedro Luis Boitel.”

d.          José Méndez Cabezas (46), Juan Fallat Astorga (58), and José Pérez Pérez (55) lost their jobs for refusing to perform “voluntary labor.”  All of them had worked for 30 or more years.  For the last two months the three of them have not worked since the vehicles assigned to them by the company are damaged and there are no spare parts.  During that time, none of the three was paid a salary.  The urban bus company does not guarantee a salary for those drivers whose vehicles come to a standstill due to mechanical failure. “To transport people to the ‘Open Tribunes’ or the ‘Marches of the Combatant People’ (political acts of the party) there is bus service. Indeed, ‘reserve’ spare parts appear for the buses; but when the government activity concludes, they remove these parts from the vehicles and they continue to be immobile awaiting repair,” the workers said.  The three drivers were told by the administrator and the Secretary of the Communist Party of the bus terminal that they had to work a volunteer day transporting people to an Open Tribune held in the Havana municipality of Arroyo Naranjo.  As the three refused to work without pay, they were fired. The drivers appealed the labor sanction, but the competent organs affirmed the punishment, noting “definitive removal from one’s work post for refusal to serve the government and the party.”

e.          Víctor E. Peña García, resident of the town of Guane, province of Pinar del Río, after four years of working as a chief confectioner, was fired.  Peña García, who worked in the Empresa de Cultivos Varios y Tabaco of that municipality, was harassed for several months by official Iván Osuna, and on February 19, 2001, the administrator of his workplace, Juan Talancón, told him that he was not considered a permanent worker, that his contract was temporary, and that from that moment on he could only employ him as a worker in the brigade for sanctioned workers, which performed agricultural work.  Peña García has not been sanctioned for any reason, and his work received a positive evaluation from his immediate supervisors, but his association with the Partido Pro Derechos Humanos, affiliated with the Andrei Sakharov Foundation, provoked the animosity of his superiors.  The officials responsible for his dismissal denied him a document he sought explaining what happened, and the reasons for his conduct.

f.          Fernando Mexidor Vásquez, 32 years old, and a mid-level technician in mineral geology, and his wife Judelmis Almansa, 19 years old, were dismissed from their workplace by a special resolution of the Vice-Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), Gen. Julio Casas Reguiro, for meeting with and relating to people who oppose the prevailing political system. Verbal communication sufficed for these two young people to be left without a job.  The administration of the Empresa de Geo Cuba in Las Tunas alleges that his relationships with opponents made it impossible for them to work in that entity as civilian personnel of the FAR.

g.          Dr. Alberto Nilo Meneses Dewelde, a physician specialized in ophthalmology, was considered politically “untrustworthy” for having been sought through the family unification program. He worked with his wife Sandra de los Angeles González Trista, who was also dismissed from the “Ernesto Che Guevara” provincial hospital in the province of Las Tunas.

[47] Human Rights Watch/Americas, Cuba’s Repressive Machinery, op. cit., p. 182.

[48] Id., p. 13.

[49] Human Rights Watch/Americas, World Report 2002, op. cit., p. 6.

[50] On June 25, 1952, Cuba ratified Convention Nº 87 on freedom of association and protection of the right to organize, of 1948.

[51] Article 54 of the Cuban Constitution.

[52] Silvia Martínez and Emilio del Barrio, “VIII Pleno del Comité Nacional de CTC: Encara el Movimiento Obrero la lucha contra el Delito y Otras Deformaciones,” Granma Diario, Havana, Cuba, May 27, 1998.

[53] IACHR, Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Brazil, p. 66, para. 37; OEA/Ser.L/V/II.97, doc. 29 rev. 1, September 29, 1997, General Secretariat of the Organization of American States, Washington, D.C., 1997.

[54] Human Rights Watch/Americas, World Report 2002, Cuba, op. cit., pp. 2 and 4.

[55] United Nations, Economic and Social Council, Commission on Human Rights, Fifty-seventh session, Item 11(a) of the provisional agenda, Civil and Political Rights Including The Questions of Torture and Detention, Report of the Special Rapporteur, Sir Nigel Rodley, submitted pursuant to the Commission on Human Rights resolution 2000/43, E/CN.4/2001/66, January 25, 2001, p. 78, paras. 356 and 357.

[56] Id., pp. 78-82.

[57] Id., p. 82.

[58] The Cuban State has asserted that it complies with the Standard Minimum Rules in a report by the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic of Cuba, presented by Blanca Gutiérrez, Prosecutor from the Bureau for Oversight of the Legality of Cuban Prisons, at the conference of the United Nations Latin American Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, San José, Costa Rica, February 1997, p. 5, in Human Rights Watch, Cuba’s Repressive Machinery, op. cit., p. 98.

[59] Human Rights Watch/Americas, World Report 2002, op. cit., pp. 9 and 10.

[60] Id., p. 10.