doc. 6 rev.
13 April 1998
Original: Spanish








          Consistent with its authority under relevant provisions of the Chapter of the Organization of American States, the American Convention on Human Rights, and the Statute and Regulations of the Inter-american Commission on Human Rights, it continues its practice of including in its annual report to the General Assembly a chapter on the human rights situations in various member states.  The purpose of this practice has been to provide the Organization with updated information on the evolution of human rights in countries which had been the special focus of Commission attention; to assess and report upon compliance by member states with its various recommendations; and in some cases, to report on a situation emerging or developing at the close of its reporting cycle.


          In this chapter, the Commission reiterates its interest in receiving cooperation from member states in order to identify the measures adopted by them to demonstrate a commitment to improving respect for human rights.  Without prejudice to this consideration, the Commission, in various chapters of this report, has noted the positive steps in the field of human rights taken by various states of the Hemisphere.




          In its annual report for 1996, the Commission set forth four pre-established criteria to identify the member states of the OAS whose practices in the field of human rights merited special attention, and hence, inclusion in chapter V of that report.  An additional new criterion regarding inclusion in this chapter has been added by the Commission.


          1.       The first criterion in which the Commission believes that special reporting is warranted obtains in states which are ruled by governments which have not been chosen by secret ballot in honest, periodic and free popular elections in accordance with accepted international standards and principles.  The Commission has repeatedly pointed out the centrality of representative democracy and democratically constituted systems in achieving the rule of law and respect for human rights.  With respect to states in which the political rights set forth in the American Convention and Declaration are not respected, the Commission complies with its duty to inform other OAS member states regarding the situation of human rights of its inhabitants.


          2.       The second criterion concerns states where the free exercise of rights contained in the American Convention or Declaration have been effectively suspended, in whole or part, by virtue of the imposition of exceptional measures, such as a state of emergency, suspension of guarantees, state of siege, prompt exceptional security measures, and the like.


          3.       The third criterion which could justify a particular state's inclusion in this chapter is where there are serious accusations that a state is engaging in mass and gross violations of human rights set forth in the American Convention and/or Declaration or other applicable human rights instruments.  Of particular concern here are violations of non-derogable fundamental rights, such as extrajudicial executions, torture and forced disappearance.  Thus, where the Commission receives credible communications denouncing such violations by a particular state which are attested to or corroborated by the reports or findings of other governmental or intergovernmental bodies and/or of respected national and international human rights organizations, the Commission believes that it has a duty to bring such situations to the attention of the Organization and its member states.


          4.       The fourth criterion concerns those states which are in a process of transition from any of the above three situations.


          5.       The fifth criterion regards structural or temporary situations that may appear in member states confronted, for various reasons, with situations that seriously affect the enjoyment of fundamental rights enshrined in the American Convention or the American Declaration.  This criterion includes, for example: grave situations of violence that prevent the proper application of the rule of law; serious institutional crises; processes of institutional change which have negative consequences on human rights; or grave omissions in the adoption of the necessary measures which would provide for the effective exercise of fundamental rights.




          I.        BACKGROUND


          1.       On March 14, 1997, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, meeting in its 95th regular session, adopted the report pertaining to the situation of human rights in the Republic of Cuba.  That report--included in chapter V of the 1996 Annual Report (Development of Human Rights in the Region)--provided an extensive examination of the events that occurred in Cuba in the field of human rights during that year.


          2.       With the criterion used by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to evaluate the status in 1996 of those rights in Cuba, the situation is the same in 1997:  free elections abiding by internationally accepted standards do not exist and the right to political participation embodied in Article XX of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man is being violated. [1]


          3.       Within that context, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights must reiterate, once again, that the exclusion of the Cuban government from the regional system--under the terms of Resolution VI of the Eighth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Relations, held in Uruguay from January 22 to 31, 1962--does not imply in any way that it may fail to comply with its international obligations in the area of human rights.  The purpose of the Organization of American States in excluding Cuba from the inter-American system was not to leave the Cuban people unprotected.  It was the Government of Cuba that was excluded from the inter-American system, not the State of Cuba.  Therefore, the Cuban state is legally responsible before the Inter-American Commission with regard to human rights on the basis of OAS Charter and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man as well as the Commission's Regulations.




          4.       As noted in its report of 1996, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights considers it pertinent to set out the positive measures that the Cuban state has adopted in the area of human rights during the period covered by this annual report.  A variety of information sources that has been available to the Commission all agree in stating that the Cuban state adopted the following measures:


          a.       On February 24 and 25, 1997, officials from the states of Cuba and Canada met in Havana to discuss matters pertaining to human rights, as the ministers of foreign relations of the two countries had agreed in a joint statement in the month of January 1997.  The terms of the agreement covered not only questions pertaining to foreign investment but also to cooperation between the two countries in matters of human rights such as holding seminars, reforming the legal system, training judges and exchanging experiences in forming a citizen complaint commission.


          b.       The visit of Pope John Paul II to Cuba--from January 21 to 25, 1998--is a sign of how the Cuban state is changing its attitude toward the Catholic church.  During his stay in Cuba, the Pontiff visited, besides Havana, the cities of Santa Clara, Camaguey and Santiago de Cuba.  On the occasion of the Pope's visit, the Cuban state allowed the celebration of Christmas in the country and declared December 25, 1997 as a non-working holiday.  During the course of his stay in Cuba, the Holy Father emphasized how important it was to respect human rights, freedom of expression, the right to participate in public debate on equality of opportunities, to not separate children from their parents, religious freedom and to not impose atheism as state policy.  The Pope also denounced the existence of prisoners of conscience and requested the Cuban state to release prisoners in poor health.  And during his farewell, on January 25, 1998, Pope John Paul II stated, verbatim:


          The Cuban people may not find themselves deprived of their bonds with other peoples, which are necessary for economic, social and cultural development, especially when the isolation that is caused has an indiscriminate effect on the population, and adds to the difficulties of the weakest in basic aspects such as food, health and education.  Nations, especially those that share the Christian heritage and the same language, ought to work effectively to extend the benefits of unity and harmony, to join efforts and to overcome obstacles so that the Cuban people can maintain international relations that always promote the common good. [2]


          c.       The decision of the Cuban state to free more than 200 prisoners of conscience is a very positive measure which ought to be considered as the prelude to a process of greater public freedoms in Cuba.  In February 1998, the Cuban state processed the request that His Holiness John Paul II made to the chief of the Cuban state during his visit to that country from January 21 to 25, 1998.  The official announcement from the Cuban state was preceded by a letter from the Vatican which expressed its joy with the release of several dozens of persons who appeared on the list given to the Cuban authorities on January 22, 1998, by the Secretary of State of the Holy See, Angelo Sodano.  The Cuban Foreign Office informed the communications media that, taking the request of Secretary Sodano into account in which clemency was to be accorded to several other persons not included on the list, that it had been decided to pardon more than 200 in addition to the several dozens of persons.  These cases would be justified from a humanitarian standpoint or in consideration of their health, age, or similar circumstances, regardless of whether the sentence had been given for a political or common crime.


          d.       From July 28 to August 5, 1997, the Fourteenth World Youth Festival was held in Cuba, with more than 100 countries and 38 national preparatory committees participating.  The festival was the setting for a meeting with youngsters who were the children of Cubans residing abroad.


          e.       The last report by the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations, Carl-Johan Groth, published by the General Assembly on October 17, 1997, includes several extracts of the final observations of the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, which enumerate several positive aspects of Cuban state policy in that area.  The Committee noted the following:


          *        Cuban legislation was progressive in its provisions that affirmed the equality of sexes and that discrimination was made a crime.


          *        It noted with satisfaction the support that the Cuban state gave to the work of the Federation of Cuban Women which represented 90% of the country's women.


          *        That the number of women had increased considerably at all levels and in all spheres of education, over a wide range of occupations, including science and technology, medicine, sports and others, and, in particular, in the formulation of policy in local, national and international arenas.


          *        That there has been a substantial reduction in maternal mortality, attributable largely to improved care of children during the first years of life.  In addition, it noted that the freedom to decide on the number and spacing of births had been proclaimed a fundamental human right.


          *        It noted that the school dropout rate of youngsters had declined and that adult education plans had been developed for women.


          *        The Cuban state had made the necessary adjustments so that the extraordinary recession of the economy would not fall particularly hard on women and that women would not be the only persons who would suffer the consequences of that situation. [3]


          f.       The Children's Rights Committee of the United Nations examined the report presented by the Cuban state in conformity with Article 44 of the Convention on the Rights of Children on May 21 and 22, 1997.  In that context, the Committee observed, "the historical advances that the State Party has made in relation to the provision of services to children and the promotion of their welfare, especially in the spheres of health and education, which appear clearly in the socioeconomic indicators of the country, such as its rate of infant mortality and the teacher to student ratio." [4]


          g.       For its part, on November 17, 18 and 19, 1997, the Committee Against Torture of the United Nations considered the preliminary report from the Cuban state and adopted a series of conclusions and recommendations, among which it emphasized the following positive aspects:


          *        The Cuban Political Constitution commits the state to defend the dignity of the human person and to safeguard both individual and domestic inviolability.


          *        The Cuban state recognizes universal jurisdiction for trials of crimes against humanity which, many argue, should include torture.


          *        The provisions of the Cuban Labor Code provide that persons who are found innocent of having committed a crime have the right to compensation for the time during which they were deprived of their freedom of a result of preventive detention prior to the trial.


          *        The constitutional prohibition against the use of violence or coercion against persons to force them to testify coupled with the provision that, "every statement obtained in violation of this precept is null," and that the violation of this rule entails criminal responsibility, should be emphasized as something positive in Cuban legislation.


          *        All types of complicity in crimes against humanity and human dignity, recognized in international treaties, have been made crimes. [5]


          h.       The Inter-American Institute of Human Rights (IIDH)--an international academic institution--sent its third technical mission in 1997 to Cuba--from July 9 to 12, 1997, to consolidate the relations between that institution and the National Union of Jurists of Cuba, and to finalize the details on academic activities in that year.  The Inter-American Institute of Human Rights also used this opportunity to strengthen its ties with the Federation of Cuban Women and discussed the possibilities of carrying out an activity with this institution and the Gender and Human Rights Program in the future.


          i.        On September 4, 1997, the book, Seminar on Human Rights, was formally presented in Havana.  This book contains the minutes of the First Seminar on Human Rights held in June 1996 by the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights in collaboration with the National Union of Jurists of Cuba (UNJC).  This activity took place at the Havana Capitol Center in an auditorium holding more than 200 persons.  Among these were state authorities, diplomatic representatives accredited to Cuba and members of the Cuban legal community, as well as members of the UNJC.  The UNJC and the IIDH used this occasion to conduct a roundtable of comments about the book, presided over by Roberto Díaz Sotolongo, the Minister of Justice of Cuba.  Participating in the roundtable was María de los Angeles Florez Prida, the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba.  Participating for the IIDH were Pedro Nikken, the President of the IIDH, and Roberto Cuéllar, the Director of Research and Development and of the Area of Civil Society.  Participating for the UNJC were Arnel Medina Cuenca, the President of the UNJC, José Peraza Chapeau, a former student of the IIDH, and now the Legal Director of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, Ramón de la Cruz Ochoa, the Chairman of the Constitutional and Juridical Affairs Committee, and José Luis Toledo Santander, the Dean of the Faculty of Law of the University of Havana, and Deputy of the National Assembly of Popular Power.


          j.        From November 24 to 25, 1997, the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights organized, in coordination with the National Union of Jurists of Cuba (UNJC), its third academic activity called, "Seminar on Elections and Human Rights in Cuba and Latin America."  This seminar took place at the Havana Capitol Center, Cuba.  It brought together more than 90 participants, among them high officials from the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, advisors of the ministry of foreign relations, the ministry of justice, deputies from the National Assembly of Popular Power, professors from the School of Law at the University of Havana, the Central University of Las Villas, the University of Oriente, members of the National Elections Commission and the elections commissions of several provinces, judges from the Supreme Popular Tribunal, and the provincial and municipal courts from the interior of the country, officials from the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic, and members and representatives of different Cuban social organizations involved in the Cuban election process.  The Cuban press media also gave wide coverage to the event which was inaugurated in the presence of Roberto Díaz Sotolongo, the Minister of Justice of Cuba, and attended, during the official closing ceremony, by María de los Angeles Florez Prida, the Vice Minister of Foreign Relations of Cuba and Ernesto Sentí Darías, the First Vice Minister of the Ministry of Justice of Cuba.


          On the first day of the seminar, the speakers examined the theory and practice of elections systems, starting with the tie between the elected and the electorate, and other election systems in Latin America and the Caribbean.  On the second day Cuban speakers discussed Cuba's elections law, the Cuban electoral system and different aspects of it.  This subject was commented on at length by IIDH speakers.  The seminar brought about a fruitful exchange between the professors and the Cuban audience.  The IIDH delegation was headed on this occasion by Allan Brewer Carías and Mariano Fiallos Oyanguren, members of the Board of Directors of the IIDH, accompanied by Juan E. Méndez, the Executive Director of the IIDH and Luis Alberto Cordero, the Director of CAPEL.






          5.       In recent years, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been conducting a follow-up of changes in the situation of civil and political rights in Cuba.  In that context, the Commission must state its concern that allegations of discrimination for political reasons and systematic violations of the freedom of expression and association have not stopped.  Violations of this type have become institutionalized as policy of the Cuban state to stifle any position critical of the government or the situation of politics, labor, education and other areas.


          6.       This policy of the Cuban state has its foundation in the Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression and the rights of assembly, free speech and association, but at the same time, limits them severely.  In fact, Article 62 of the Political Constitution of the Cuban State states:


                   None of the freedoms extended to citizens may be exercised in opposition to the provisions of the Constitution and the laws, or against the existence and purposes of the socialist state, or against the decision of the Cuban people to build socialism and communism.  Violation of this principle is punishable.


          7.       The relevance of this provision lies in the fact that it regulates, at the highest level of law, the practical exercise of the rights and liberties extended by the Constitution to Cuban citizens in their relationships with state organs.  It can be considered, therefore, that the provisions of this article pervade all political, economic, social and cultural affairs that take place in Cuba.


          8.       Likewise, it is a highly dubious matter to set constitutional limits on the rights and freedoms of humans as a function of such an imprecise, and, at the same time, subjective criterion as the "decision of the Cuban people to build socialism and communism."  The interpretation of the criterion is necessarily beyond the strict juridical realm and places it clearly in the political field.  It would be, therefore, the organs exercising power that decide in each case whether the exercise of a freedom or a right violates this postulate.  This makes it impossible, then, for individuals to defend themselves against the political powers, which can, constitutionally, protect themselves and their arbitrary exercise of power from citizens.  This it's not a matter of what is known in comparative law as "indeterminate legal concepts" which are subject to judicial review on the basis of universally accepted standards of nationality and reasonableness.


          9.       In fact, the practice embodied in Article 62 of the Cuban Political Constitution--"violation of this principle is punishable"--has enabled the Cuban authorities to discriminate on political grounds against every person subject to their jurisdiction and to violate systematically the freedom of expression, association and assembly.  Violations of this type appear in the form of loss of freedom, temporary detention, harassment, threats, loss of job, domestic searches, adoption of disciplinary measures and others.


          10.     Violations of human rights--committed by the Cuban state--are aimed especially at groups that seek to protect those rights, including labor rights, political activity, or against independent journalists.  As was mentioned at the start of this report, the crime descriptions used by the Cuban authorities to assert that these violations have occurred are "enemy propaganda," "disrespect," "illicit association," "clandestine publications," "dangerousness," "rebellion," "acts against state security," and others.


          11.     The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has received information that during the period covered by this Annual Report the formation of human rights advocacy groups has continued, as have other political associations.  The sole objective of these groups is to examine, in a peaceful manner, solutions or alternatives to the serious problems that Cuban society faces every day.  As has been pointed out, the results of this examination are frequently brought to the attention of the Cuban state in order to encourage a dialogue. The response from the authorities, however, is frequently to repress such dialogue.


          12.     In effect, in 1997 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights  received many allegations of harassment against human rights protection groups.  A discussion of several cases reported by the United Nations follows: [6]


          a.       Daula Carpio Matos, of the Pro-Human Rights Party of Villa Clara, was arrested on February 24, 1997, and held for a period of 48 hours at the State Security office in Villa Clara.  On July 31, she was arrested once again and held at the Provincial Police Investigation Unit until August 7 when she was sent home and told not to leave it until her trial was held.


          b.       Rodolfo Conesa Vilomar and Jesús Gutiérrez Vilomar, both members of the Pro-Human Rights Party in the province of Sancti Spiritus, were arrested on February 24, 1997, and held for 72 hours at the State Security office of that province.  Anaida Iraina Corzo Aguiar, of the Pro-Human Rights Party of Villa Clara, was arrested on February 21, and held for 48 hours at the State Security office in Villa Clara.


          c.       Mayte Moya Gómez, of the Cienfuegos delegation of the Pro-Human Rights Party, was held from February 21 to 24 at the State Security facility in Cienfuegos.  Later, she was arrested once again on March 3 and held for 24 hours at the same place.  Carlos Suárez, of the Pro-Human Rights Party in the municipality of San Juan y Martínez, the province of Pinar del Río, was arrest on January 28 and held for 24 hours at the State Security office in San Juan y Martínez.


          d.       Ricardo de Armas Hernández, a delegate of the Pro-Human Rights Party from the province of Matanzas, was held for 24 hours on February 28, 1997, and later, on March 14, he was detained for several hours at the State Security office in that province.  On March 19, he was tried for disrespecting the Revolutionary National Police, and was sentenced to nine months in prison.


          e.       Lorenzo Páez Nuñez and Dagoberto Vega Jaime, from the José de la Luz y Caballero Non-Governmental Center for Human Rights were detained on July 10, 1997, in Artemisa, Havana, and tried the next day, without legal defense, by a municipal court.  They were sentenced to 18 months and 1 year of prison, respectively, for the crimes of disrespect and defamation, and were moved to the Guanajay prison.  The charges of disrespect appear to be linked to an incident that occurred on June 25 of the same year.  On that day, Lorenzo Páez, who is also an independent journalist, was at the home of another member of the opposition, Santiago Alonso Pérez, speaking by telephone with a representative of the exile community in Miami when members of the police force arrived at the house to conduct a search.  Lorenzo Páez proceeded to tell the person he was calling what was happening and handed the telephone to one of the policemen who spoke with the person in Miami.  Their conversation was recorded by the Miami person and later broadcast over a radio station that sends it signals to Cuba.  Both Lorenzo Páez and Santiago Alonso were arrested that same day and freed shortly afterward.  During this process, the Public Ministry argued that this incident showed that Lorenzo Páez was spreading news information abroad illegally.  It was not made clear, however, how those acts constituted "disrespect," nor why this description of a crime was applied to Dagoberto Vega who did not participate in the aforementioned incident.  They were also found guilty of defamation, because of the accusation made by a former official of the ministry of interior, to whom both had made mention, in a foreign report over the telephone as the person responsible for aggressive moves against a group of youngsters during a festive gathering at a sugar plant.  Lorenzo Páez is a mathematics teacher who was discharged from his job in 1992 at the Mariel Naval Academy for having criticized the government.  He was arrested for a short time in November of 1996 after the authorities had confiscated a number of documents pertaining to his activities as part of the aforementioned organization.


          13.     For its part, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was also informed that on October 6, 1997, Vivian Acosta, a leader of the Amor y Paz Christian Movement, was arrested at her home and taken to Versalles, the headquarters of State Security in Santiago de Cuba.  According to the victim's family members, the house search and raid took place--without any explanation from the authorities--between 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.  During this event, the police seized a typewriter, two cameras--unworkable because of missing parts--and documents dealing with religious and human rights issues.  Vivian Acosta is known among her neighbors in Palma Soriano for her humanitarian work with the families of political prisoners from the area.


          14.     The IACHR was also informed in October 1997 that Efraín Martínez was tried and sentenced to one year and six months of imprisonment.  Martinez is a member of the organization known as "Captive Peoples of Cuba," and lives in the López Peña neighborhood, Building 14, Apartment 22, in the municipality of San Cristobal.  Efraín Martínez was sentenced by the Pinar del Río Provincial Court for the alleged crime of "disrespecting the person of Commander Fidel Castro," in Case 38 of 1997.  According to information furnished, an official of the ministry of interior who was working at the Taco-Taco jail appeared as a witness to testify against Martínez.  This official stated that he saw Efraín shout, "Down with Fidel, you took away our lands and now you are starving us to death."  The accused admitted only that he had shouted, "Down with Fidel," and stated that the rest was the officer's invention.  Also appearing was the chief of the López Peña sector who stated that the accused "shouted offensive words" while he was at the Revolutionary National Police Station.  Taking these words as true, the provincial court upheld the sentence handed down by the first court.


          15.     Several members of the Pro-Human Rights Party of Cuba (PPDH) were arrested in Santa Clara by the Cuban authorities after they started a hunger  strike to protest the jailing of Daula Carpio Mata, a PPDH delegate from that area.  In effect, according to information provided on October 13, 1997, a police official raided the house of an activist known as Iván Lemas at approximately 5:00 a.m..  This house, located at San Miguel No.403, between Toscano and San Pedro, Santa Clara, was where the activists were holding their hunger strike.  As the raid occurred, approximately 15 members of the Committee for Defense of the Revolution (CDR) and the Rapid Response Brigades were in the area and shouted--according to the information provided--insults while they were drinking beer from a tap that they had placed in the corner.  According to the information, the activists began their strike after finding out that Daula Carpio had been taken to the Guyamajal prison in Santa Clara.  According to the witness, "a document arrived from the prosecuting attorney's office which stated that Daula had 5 days to find a lawyer to represent her in court, but after this, a patrol car came by to take her to the Guyamajal prison where she has been since October 9, 1997, on a hunger strike.  She is facing a sentence of two years.  We are demanding that Daula be given her rights so that at least they respect what they call socialist legality."  The persons who were arrested and tried in a summary court proceeding and sentenced to a year and six months of imprisonment on November 7, 1997, are the following:  Daula Carpio Matos and Roxana Carpio Matos (31 years of age, Guamajal women's prison), Iván Lemas Romero (35), Danilo Santos Méndez (35), Vicente García Ramos, José Manuel Yera Benítez (41), and José Antonio Alvarado Almeida (33), (correctional unit, with confinement).  Two other activists, Arelys Fleites Méndes and Felicia Matos Machado, were sentenced to one year and six months of house arrest.  Ileana Peñalver Duque (26), who was arrested with her son, Luis Miguel, three years of age, and Lillian Meneses Martínez (45), were sentenced to a year and a half of correctional unit without internment.


          16.     The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was also informed that several members of the Cuban Pro-Human Rights Committee, headed in Havana by Gustavo Arcos Bergnes, are still under arrest since they were taken prisoner on September 22, 1997, in Aguada de Pasajeros, in Cienfuegos province.  These persons are Israel García, Angel Gonzalo García, Reinaldo Sardi and José López Vieira.  Arrested with them was Benito Fjaco Iser, who is the head of the Pro-Human Rights Party in Cuba in Villaclara.  The houses of all these persons were searched during an operation conducted by State Security agents.


          17.     It is obvious--in the judgment of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights--that the Political Constitution of Cuba lays the legal groundwork for censorship and harassment of human rights defense groups and others since the state is the only entity with the right to determine whether oral or written words, the right of association and assembly or the rest of the rights embodied in the Constitution are contrary to the current political system.  The Constitution also contains the legal groundwork that enables the state to direct all activities in the areas of art, culture and press.

          B.       FREEDOM OF THE PRESS


          18.     Article 53 of the Political Constitution of Cuba explains what freedom of the press means to the state:


          Citizens are extended freedom of speech and press in accordance with the purposes of socialist society.  The material conditions for their exercise are given based on the fact that the press, radio, television, cinema and other means of mass communications are state or social property and may not be the object, under any circumstance, of private ownership, so as to ensure their exclusive use in the service of the worker people and the interest of society.  The law regulates the exercise of these freedoms.


          19.     This constitutional precept is the one that has allowed the Cuban state to exercise control over the communications media since 1960.  Radio and television are controlled directly by the state which runs all broadcasting stations in Cuba.  The written press, however, enjoys greater diversity since mass organizations, agencies and offices within the public sector and communist party organs are authorized to have their own regular publications.  The result of this is approximately 100 such publications at this time.  Obviously these publications have to follow the basic standards of ideological orthodoxy.  Any discrepancies may not go beyond the boundaries set by the requirement of ideological orthodoxy, that is, in no way may they oppose the current regime or become the spokespersons for radical transformation of that regime or senior government personnel who are responsible for the substance of policy.


          20.     In recent years, the reprisals that the Cuban state has waged against all types of open opposition have led many journalists who lost their jobs for political reasons to form independent news agencies that send information to the foreign media.  The methods of harassment that the Cuban state uses against these independent journalists range from criminal charges leading to sentences involving loss of liberties to house searches and confiscation of equipment (fax machines, recorders, cameras, video tapes and others).


          21.     During the period covered by this Annual Report, the newspaper Granma Internacional, the organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba that is distributed abroad, denounced the activity of the collaborators of the independent agencies and called them "dissidents disguised as journalists.  It accused them of being the fifth column of American imperialism and reminded them that their activities are in violation of the Constitution.  The weekly also has condemned the worldwide campaign that accuses Cuba of persecutions and mass arrests of journalists.  It states that the authorities show a strict respect for the personal integrity of the independent journalists. [7]


          22.     In March of 1997, the Cuban state allowed a number of foreign press correspondents to cover news on the island.  Among them was the United States company, Cable News Network (CNN).  At the same time, a new set of regulations covering the foreign press in Cuba went into effect.  The regulations state, "the holder of the accreditation must act in his professional work with objectivity and in adherence to vigorous explanation of the facts, consistent with the ethical principles that govern the conduct of journalism."  The regulations also provide that all Cuban citizens who work for a foreign press medium, except those working as collaborators, must be hired through a state employment agency.  It also states that in giving new accreditation to a correspondent at the beginning of the year, the authorities may request proof of works published as a requirement for re-accreditation. [8]


          23.     The Inter-American Press Society has expressed publicly its disagreement with these provisions.  It termed them a tool of repression to force journalists to censor themselves because they hand out penalties based on ambiguous and apparently unacceptable statements such as ethics, objectivity, rigorousness and professional work. [9]


          24.     The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights must also state that the legal framework--imposed by the Cuban state--that the foreign press works under amounts to prior censorship.  Theoretically, the sanction must be applied only after the abuses have occurred and its basic reasoning rests on the theory of probability.  If the state has the power to impose censorship before the idea is known, it is more likely that this power can be abused than an idea, no matter how prejudicial and inflammatory it might appear, can actually endanger the state once it is expressed.  Accordingly, a government that calls itself democratic must be built on laws that demand accountability for abuses committed and must require that the abuses be proven in court, while extending all possible guarantees and protections against arbitrary action by the public power.  The right to speak must not only be free of prior restraints but must be made manifestly free of fear of subsequent arbitrary punishment, because the fear of arbitrary action and unjust sentence can create an atmosphere that is equivalent to prior censorship.


          25.     The restraints and systematic harassment of independent journalists--during the period covered by this Annual Report--are an example of what has been stated in the preceding paragraphs.  The adoption of Law No. 80, on December 24, 1996, the National Assembly of Popular Power, and known as the Law on Reaffirmation of Dignity and Sovereignty, has enabled the Cuban state to repress even more independent journalists who have openly opposed the current political system.


          26.     The independent press agencies of Cuba informed the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that--in 1997--the Cuban State used this law as the pretext for harassing most independent journalists.  The police, for example, cited Law 80 during interrogations.  There were also repudiation meetings or warnings given by members of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution.


          27.     The latest United Nations report has mentioned the following individual cases that occurred in 1997: [10]


          a.       Tania Quinteros and José Antonio González, of the Cuba Press agency, were arrested on January 21 as they were leaving the Czech embassy in Havana.  They were held for 24 hours and 32 hours, respectively, at the fifth unit of Zapata.  Iván Hernández Carrillo, of the Democratic Solidarity Party, and Félix Navarro Rodríguez, from the Llanura correspondent's office of the Independent Press Bureau of Cuba, were arrested on February 24 and held for 72 hours at the State Security facility at Matanzas.


          b.       Joaquín Torres Alvarez, the Director of Havana Press, was physically assaulted at the door to his house in Havana on May 31 by four persons, at least two of whom were members of the Communist Party.  These persons also threatened and insulted him for having sent news abroad.  Later on, Joaquín Torres filed charges about these events to the police.  In 1996, Torres Alvarez was the target of short detentions on six occasions, and in February 1997 was threatened by security agents.


          c.       Héctor Peraza Linares, from the Havana Press agency, was arrested on June 23 at his house in Pinar del Río along with his wife, Carmen Fernández de Lara, who was held for a full day at the State Security department.  When Peraza Linares was arrested, his computer, typewriter, recorder, books and papers were confiscated.  Héctor Peraza had been arrested on at least three prior occasions in connection with his journalistic activities and had been the target of a police order that prohibited him from exercising his freedom of movement out of Pinar del Río.  As of the time this report was being prepared, he was still under arrest.


          d.       Ana Luisa López Baeza was the victim of an act of repudiation [11] at her house in Havana on February 10.  On July 1, her 22-year-old daughter was detained briefly and warned that her mother would be jailed if she continued her journalistic activities.  Rafaela Lasalle, of Oriente-Press, was the victim of an act of repudiation at her home in Santiago de Cuba on May 31.  On August 9, she was interrogated at the State Security office at Versalles.  Juan Carlos Cespedes, from Cuba Press, was held for six days starting on June 12.  Nicolas Rosario Rosabal, from the Independent Press Bureau of Santiago de Cuba, was the target of a repudiation meeting on February 21 and was arrested on February 24 and was held for a whole day at the State Security facility.  He was also arrested on July 5 and freed four days later.  Edel José García Díaz, from the Centro Norte del País agency, who lived in Caibarien, Villa Clara province, was the target of an act of repudiation at his home in July.  Prior to this he had been the target of threats and physical aggressions.  Luis López Prendes, from the Independent Press Bureau of Cuba (BPIC), was arrested in Havana on July 16, freed on July 18, once again jailed on July 19 and freed on August 6.  Lázaro Lazo, from the Nueva Prensa agency, and Rafael Alberto Cruz Lima, from the Patria agency, were arrested on July 22 at Lazo's house in Havana.  Cruz Lima was ordered to return to Ciego de Avila, since he was under a court order to not leave that province.  On August 18, he was arrested in Ciego de Avila.  William Cortés, a correspondent from Cuba Press in Pinar del Río, was arrested on July 28.  Odalis Curbelo Sánchez, a correspondent of Cuba Press in Pinar del Río, was held under arrest from July 31 to August 6.  Raúl Rivero Castañeda, the Director of Cuba Press, was arrested on August 12 in Havana and released on August 15.  He was also arrested and held for several hours on July 28 and was the target of an act of repudiation at his house on August 11.  Efrén Martínez Pulgarón, from Cuba Press, was arrested on August 13 in San Luis, Pinar del Río.  Marvin Hernández Monzón, from Cuba Press, was arrested on August 17 in Havana.  Olances Nogueras was forced to leave Cuba in August after having been jailed many times and having been the victim of physical aggressions and temporary arrests since 1995.


          28.     For its part, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has heard testimony from Cuba that indicates that María de los Angeles Gonzáles, the President of the Union of Independent Cuban Journalists and Writers (UPECI), was arrested in February 1997 for distributing an information bulletin entitled Transición.  According to information provided, this journalist's house was raided and searched for four hours by six State Security agents.  These agents also proceeded to confiscate her typewriter, carbon paper, magazines and a list of names of prisoners.  María de los Angeles refused to take either food or water for the 72 hours that she was under arrest.  She was interrogated three times during which she had to convince the Cuban state agents that her bulletin, Transición, had nothing to do with a support plan for a democratic transition in Cuba signed by the President of the United States, Bill Clinton.


          29.     On September 22, 1997, the organization called Reporteros sin Fronteras, issued a press release in which it "appealed to President Fidel Castro to put an end to the harassment of independent Cuban journalists.  Reporteros sin Fronteras, an independent international organization that works to promote freedom of the press throughout the world, issues this appeal in defense of two Cuban journalists who were harassed by the political police of that country."  According to the press release, at approximately 10:00 p.m. on September 19, 1997, State Security agents raided the house of Nicolás Rosario Rosabal, a correspondent for the Havana Press Independent Agency in the city of Cienfuegos.  After three hours of searching, the police took the journalist under arrest to the State Security department.  On the same day, Jorge Luis Arce, a correspondent for the Independent Press Office in Cienfuegos, received a summons to appear at the offices of the State Security department.  In a letter of protest sent to the Cuban Chief of State, the Secretary General of Reporteros sin Fronteras, Robert Menard, expressed his fear that these arrests would be linked to press dispatches sent by the two journalists.  The press release states, "Reporteros sin Fronteras has come out--steadfastly--in defense of Cuban journalists who are the victims of arbitrary measures at the hands of the Cuban authorities.  As an example, Reporteros sin Fronteras sent 22 letters of protest to Havana in 1996, placing Cuba at the head of the list of countries that receive such letters.  Since the Independent Press Office was established in Cuba in September 1995, Reporteros sin Fronteras has sent 9 missions to that country.  These missions have issued three reports on the situation of freedom of the press in that country."  "Furthermore, Reporteros sin Fronteras has provided financial assistance--$1,000 monthly--to five small independent press agencies in Cuba which employ approximately 30 journalists.  In January 1996, Reporteros sin Fronteras organized a training meeting for Cuban journalists, who also were given material.  Finally, Néstor Baguer, a correspondent for Reporteros sin Fronteras in Cuba, received a computer and a fax machine, both of which were confiscated later by the authorities of that country."


          30.     As pointed out in this chapter, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights believes that Cuba does not have a freedom of press that allows political disagreement and the free interplay of ideas which is fundamental for a democratic system of government.  To the contrary, the spoken, written and televised press is an instrument of ideological struggle and despite the self-criticism that is transmitted over those channels, the press follows the dictates of the group in power and is used to transmit the messages of that group to the grassroots and to the intermediate levels.  The Cuban state, by illegally restricting a person's freedom of press, is not only violating the right of that person, but is also violating the rights of others to receive information.  The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, along this line, has stated:


          Freedom of expression is a cornerstone upon which the very existence of a democratic society rests.  It is indispensable for the formation of public opinion.  It is also a conditio sine qua non for the development of political parties, trade unions, scientific and cultural societies and, in general, those who wish to influence the public.  It represents, in short, the means that enable the community, when exercising its options, to be sufficiently informed.  Consequently, it can be said that a society that is not well informed is not a society that is truly free. [12]



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   [1]        Article XX of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man:  

            Every person having legal capacity is entitled to participate in the government of his country, directly or through his representatives, and to take part in popular elections, which shall be by secret ballot, and shall be honest, periodic and free.

     [2]   EFE Agency, Havana, January 26, 1998.

     [3]   Situation of Human Rights in Cuba, United Nations, General Assembly, October 17, 1997, p. 9, pars. 48, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212 and 213. A/52/479.

     [4]   United Nations, op.cit., p.10, par. 49.

     [5]   United Nations, op.cit., p. 1 of the appendices.

     [6]   United Nations, op.cit., p.3, pars. 8-12.

     [7]   1997 Annual Report, Reporteros sin Fronteras, La Libertad de Prensa en el Mundo, Paris, France, 1997, p.51.

     [8]   See the Report of the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations for Cuba, op.cit., p.6, par. 35.

     [9]   United Nations, op.cit., p.6, par.36.

     [10]   United Nations, Report of the Special Rapporteur, op.cit., pp. 7-8, pars. 40-44.

     [11]   Acts of repudiation are the work of crowds arranged by the Rapid Action Brigades.  These people gather in front of the house of a human rights activist, an independent journalist or some other person who opposes the regime and shout all kinds of insults and slogans in support of the revolution and the government.  The Rapid Action Brigades were created in June 1991 by the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic.  These groups consist of civilians whose work is to control any sign of public discontent or "counter-revolutionary manifestation."

     [12]   Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Consultive Opinion OC-5/85, November 13, 1985, Series A, Number 5, par. 70.