31.     In examining the status of human rights in different countries, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has had to look at the organic relationship between violating the right to physical security on one hand, and neglecting economic and social rights and suppressing political participation on the other.  And that relationship, as has been made clear, is largely a cause and effect relationship.  In other words, neglecting economic and social rights, especially when political participation is suppressed at the same time, produces the type of social polarization that leads in turn to acts of violence by the government and against it.  In that context, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has stated:


          A life free of fear and need inevitably leads to a guarantee of civil and political rights since, when people at large participate--the very ones who are the targets of denied economic and social rights--they participate in the decisions that pertain to the allocation of national resources and the establishment of social, educational and health programs.  Popular participation, the objective of representative democracy, guarantees that all social sectors participate in the formulation, application and revision of national programs.  And while it can be asserted that political participation affords greater protection of economic, social and cultural rights, it is also true that the application of those rights creates the conditions that enable the people in general to be competent, that is, to be healthy and educated so they are able to participate actively and productively in the process of taking political decisions. [13]


          32.     In this order of ideas, the Commission must repeat that the absence of the right to participate politically--understood as the right to organize political parties and associations and the right to hold free, open and competitive elections to exercise the right to elect and be elected--has been one of the major factors contributing to the economic crisis in Cuba.


          33.     During the period covered by this annual report, two elections took place in Cuba, and open debate and the clash of ideologies were missing in both.  In October 1997, Cuba held municipal elections to elect the deputies of the Municipal Assembles of Popular Power and on January 11, 1998, the country elected deputies from the National Assemblies and the Provincial Assemblies.  Both processes had a common denominator, all the candidates came from a single political party: the Communist Party of Cuba.  In other words, the Cuban state did not allow other political parties to compete--as part of a healthy ideological pluralism--with the Cuban Communist Party.


          34.     An example of this is the information provided to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the attempt by six prospective candidates from the Pro-Human Rights Party of Cuba in the provinces of Cienfuegos and Camaguey to secure support among the electorate by gathering signatures to endorse their candidacies for the Municipal Assemblies of Popular Power.  In the end, these candidates were arrested and warned to abandon their election hopes.


          35.     According to the official version of the Communist Party of Cuba, there was a "98.35% attendance at the election polls of all registered Cubans; only 3.36% of the votes were left blank and 1.66% of the ballots were disqualified; 94.45% opted for the unified vote, not merely as token approval but on the basis of conscience which is the main thing." [14]   However, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been informed that state agents exerted pressures in many ways to get people to vote.  As reported, there were threats of job reprisals against teachers, health personnel, office employees of state enterprises, wage earners in the field of culture, press, sports and state tourism.  Also threatened were individuals authorized to work with foreign companies, sugar, tobacco and nickel workers, and public transportation system employees throughout the country.


          36.     The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights also received information from the island that Cuban state agents, through the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, made house-to-house visits to hint that the authorities had ways of knowing who voted against the Communist Party in their voting documents.  These acts of coercion implied the threat of firing anyone who nullified his ballot and jailing anyone who wrote words of opposition on their ballots for spreading "enemy propaganda."


          37.     This monopoly on power by a single group is shown, for example, in the exercise of self-employment--so important for many Cuban citizens--which is regulated by the Regulations on the Exercise of Self-Employment. [15]   Those regulations provide, "the Municipal Office of Labor and Social Security processes and obtains an endorsement from the Chairman of the Popular Council for the area where the applicant resides, with the assessment as to whether or not it is feasible to authorize the person to be self-employed, bearing in mind the activity he seeks to undertake, the need to supplement state activity and the socio-labor conditions of the applicant."  These socio-labor characteristics are interpreted in Cuba, again based on information provided--as an allusion to whether the applicant does or does not have "revolutionary integration," that is, whether or not he expressly supports the current political system and whether or not he participates in political and mass organizations.


          38.     Another question that generates concern on the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights is the status of workers in foreign capital enterprises.  According to information that has reached the Commission, there is no collective bargaining, that is, the hiring, payment of wages, termination of a contract and other aspects of the employment relationship is not conducted in a direct manner between the business and the employee, but through an employment agency designated by the state.  As has been indicated, the same discriminatory criteria based on ideological motives that are in effect for other areas also apply to these businesses and thus the state secures its control over the workers.


          39.     In addition, the Commission was told that the wages from the foreign companies do not go directly to the workers, but to the state employment agency which receives the wages in hard currency and then pays the worker in national currency.  The difference between the wages paid by the company and the wages actually paid to the worker by the employment agency is considerable.  This enables the Cuban state to obtain large earnings while the worker receives less than he should.  The law also provides that when mixed enterprises or wholly-owned foreign capital enterprises consider that a certain worker does not meet their demands on the job, they may request the employment agency to replace the person with another, and the worker has no legal recourse.


          40.     This lack of legal protection is also seen in the absence of free and independent trade unions that defend the labor rights of workers.  In this context, it is pertinent to mention one of the recommendations made by the Trade Freedom Committee within the framework of application of Agreement No. 87 (Trade Union Freedom and Protection of Trade Unions) on the relationships between the Workers Central of Cuba (CTC) and the Communist Party:


          . . .the Committee must not fail to take into account that Cuba has only one trade union central that is officially recognized and mentioned in the legislation, and that on previous occasions it has received complaints about the absence of any officially recognized trade union organization beyond the officially recognized present union structure.  In addition, in its last report, the Mission of Experts on Application of Agreements and Recommendations requested the government to guarantee in the legislation and in practice the right of all workers and employers, without distinction, to establish truly independent trade organizations that are outside the existing union structure, if they so desire (Article 2 of the Convention), as well as free election of their representatives (Article 3 of the Convention). [16]


          41.     The recommendations of the Trade Union Freedom Committee not only went unimplemented by the Cuban state but the state also launched a series of actions aimed at harassing the few organizations that attempted to organize formally a free and independent union in Cuba.  On April 4, 1997, the International Confederation of Free Trade Organizations (CIOSL) filed a complaint to the Cuban state through the Trade Union Freedom Committee with respect to the following events:


          -         In early January 1997, members of the National Executive Committee of the Confederation of Democratic Workers of Cuba (CTDC) personally delivered to the offices of the Department of Associations of the Ministry of Justice of Cuba an official document in which they requested (for the sixth consecutive year, according to their information) legal recognition as an independent trade union organization.


          -         On February 19, 1997, the CTDC issued a call to all organizations, trade unions, committees, institutes, unions and any others, regardless of name, involved in the trade union struggle, to join the Independent Workers Parliament for the defense of all Cuban workers.  What followed this call was a wave of repression by the government that led to the arrest or detention of several trade unionists.  Specifically, on February 21, 1997, José Orlando Gonzales Budon, the President of National Executive Committee of the CTDC, was arrested.  He was held without charges being pressed from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.  On February 22, 1997, he was arrested once again and freed on February 25, 1997.  Also detained on February 23, 1997, were Gustavo Toirac Gonzáles, the Secretary General, and Rafael García Suárez, the Secretary of the organization, and both of the CTDC executive committee.  They were released on February 25, 1997. [17]


          42.     After examining the positions of the parties, the Trade Union Freedom Committee recommended to the Cuban state, "to guarantee free operation of the Confederation of Democratic Workers of Cuba (CTDC) and to have the authorities refrain from any intervention that would restrain this organization in the fundamental rights recognized in Convention No. 87 and the exercise of the human rights associated with the exercise of trade union rights, including the guarantee to not be subject to measures involving loss of freedom for conducting legitimate activities, and deplored the detentions for several days of three leaders of the CTDC in February 1997 for calling upon social organizations to join the Independent Workers Parliament.  The Committee calls the attention of the government to the principle that measures aimed at depriving trade unionists of their freedom, on grounds related to their trade union activities, can constitute an obstacle in the way of exercising trade union rights even though they might be minor, short-term measures.  The Committee asked the government to take steps to ensure that the competent authorities do not repeat similar freedom-restricting measures for legitimate trade union activities." [18]


          43.     Despite the recommendations of the Trade Union Freedom Committee, the Cuban state continued harassing the Confederation of Democratic Workers of Cuba (CTDC).  In effect, on May 9, 1997, the CTDC issued a press release in which it charged "ongoing hounding and harassment carried out by the political police of the regime against this independent trade union organization."  According to the press release issued in Havana, José Orlando Gonzáles Bridón, the CTDC President, was arrest on May 1, 1997, when the State Security department conducted a major operation to prevent Gonzáles Bridón and other trade union activists from attending the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Havana.  On that occasion, Gonzáles Bridón was held for four days at Villa Marista, the general headquarters of State Security.  On May 8, 1997, during the morning hours, several security agents appeared at his house and arrested him once again.  The CTDC indicated in its press release, "Bridon is seriously ill and the State Security department is conducting these operations for the purpose of harming his health even more, attempting in that way to get him to abandon his trade union activities."


          44.     In that context, the Inter-American Commission recalls that Article 33 of the OAS Charter holds, "equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth and income, and the full participation of their peoples in decisions relating to their own development are, among others, basic objectives of integral development."  In the judgment of the Commission, poverty is partly the result of insufficient state dedication and organization to protect and promote economic, social and cultural rights.  When the state does not guarantee these rights, it is also indicating an absence of civil and political guarantees.  The ability to participate in society entails civil and political rights along with economic, social and cultural rights.  From this it is logically clear that if there is no progress in the area of economic and social rights, civil and political rights achieved with great effort and human sacrifice continue being a mere aspiration for poorer and less well educated segments of the population.  In the final analysis, the consolidation of representative democracy involves the exercise of full participation by all members of society.


          V.      ECONOMIC SANCTIONS


          45.     The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has stated, "when the weakest sectors of society do not have access to the basic tools of survival that enable them to get out of their situation, the right to be free from all discrimination and the principles of equality of access and equity in distribution are being contravened voluntarily or the contravention is being condoned, as is the general commitment to protect the weakest elements of society.  In addition, unless those basic needs are satisfied, the very survival of the individual is directly threatened, and this implies the right to life, personal security and, as indicated before, the right to participate in political and economic processes." [19]


          46.     For its part, the General Assembly of the Organization of American States established a principle which holds


          the ideal of the free human being, free of fear and poverty, can only come about if the conditions are created to enable every person to enjoy his economic, social and cultural rights, as well as his civil and political rights. [20]


          47.     In that context, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights believes that it is urgent and necessary to move ahead on the road toward democratization and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms in Cuba.  These changes require however, the right conditions and it is the basic responsibility of the Cuban state to create those conditions.  For its part, the inter-American community also has the responsibility to contribute to the establishment of those conditions that lead to unrestricted effect of human rights in Cuba.  In this sense, the adverse effects stemming from economic sanctions and other measures aimed at isolating the Cuban regime do not appear to be the most appropriate way to create the conditions to bring about a peaceful and gradual transition to a pluralistic and civil society.


          48.     The Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Committee examined the effect of economic conditions on Cuba in his latest report:


          the permanence of the United States embargo continues contributing to the absence of any change in the system currently in force in Cuba.  The embargo is an easy excuse for keeping the people under heavy control and to punish or persecute in different ways those who call for political changes or social space for the individual.  Also, the embargo is a major contribution to the dramatic shortages of material goods that have characterized the Cuba of the 1990s and have put the people in a very difficult position. [21]


          49.     For its part, on June 4, 1996, the General Assembly of the Organization of American States issued during its twenty-sixth regular session a resolution entitled, "Freedom of Trade and Investment in the Hemisphere."  In this resolution it instructed the Inter-American Juridical Committee "in its upcoming session, and on a priority basis, to examine, conclude and present its opinion to the Permanent Council on the validity under international law of the Helms-Burton legislation,"  known as the Act for Cuban Freedom and Democratic Solidarity--the Freedom Law.  The purpose of this law--which took effect on March 12, 1996--is to increase the economic pressure on the Cuban state by penalizing foreign companies that seek to invest in properties confiscated by the state from United States citizens.  The law further seeks to make demands on foreigners who use United States property confiscated in Cuba, and Title IV of that law empowers the United States to deny a visa to any foreigner who trafficks with property confiscated from United States citizens.  The Inter-American Juridical Committee issued its opinion on this law in a regular session held on August 23, 1996. In addition to other points, it stated, "the grounds and the later application covered in this Opinion in the significant areas described above are not consistent with international law." [22]


          50.     The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was also informed that the United States Congress is concerned about the effects the embargo is having on the Cuban people.  As a result of this several Congressmen presented a bill called the Cuban Humanitarian Trade Act of 1997, [23] whose basic purpose is to make an exception to the trade embargo to allow the export of food, medicines and medical equipment to Cuba. [24]


          51.     The non-profit organization, American Association for World Health, issued a report in March 1997 on the impact of the United States trade embargo on health and nutrition in Cuba.  This report, quoted by the Special United Nations Rapporteur for Cuba that is entitled, "Denial of Food and Medicine: The Impact of the U.S. Embargo on Health and Nutrition in Cuba," mentions, in addition to other points, "for several decades the embargo imposed a heavy economic burden on the Cuban health system, but since 1992 there has been a marked increase in needs not met; there are patients who do not have essential medicines and physicians who have to work without adequate equipment.  This trend is directly related to the hardening in 1992 of the United States trade embargo which is one of the strictest, and prohibits the sale of food and restricts greatly the amount of drugs and medical equipment following the approval of the Cuban Democracy Act." [25]


          52.     This report by the American Association for World Health also gives important statistics that help to calculate the cost of the embargo for the Cuban people.  It states:


          -         The number of surgical operations fell from 885,790 in 1990 to 536,547 in 1995.  These numbers indicate clearly the decline in hospital resources.  Surgical services have to deal with the shortage of most anesthesia and modern equipment, special catheters, third generation antibiotics and other essential medications, sutures, instruments, operating arena garments, air conditioning equipment and disposable material;


          -         The deteriorating water supply in Cuba has increased the incidence of water-borne illnesses such as typhoid fever, dysentery and viral hepatitis.  For example, the mortality caused by acute diarrhea rose from 2.7 per 100,000 inhabitants in 1989 to 6.7 per 100,000 in 1994.  The rate of illness from amoebic and bacillary dysenteries showed a sharp increase during the same time;


          -         The Unites States embargo restricts Cuban AIDS patients from having access to a variety of medicines.  The experts of the Association discovered that as a direct consequence of the embargo, there were delays on six occasions in AZT treatment for a total of 176 carriers of HIV in Cuba when AZT was the only medication authorized to stop the advance of the virus.  In the words of a person who works with AIDS patients, "the problem is that our patients cannot wait";


          -         The representatives of the Association visited a pediatrics ward that had been without methochlopromide HCL for 22 days, a substance which in combination with others such as betametasone, is used in infantile chemotherapy.  Without this treatment to prevent nausea, the 35 children in the ward vomited 28 to 30 times per day on average;


          -         Cardiac illnesses constitute the leading cause of death in Cuba.  Mortality rates in men and women have risen since 1989: 189.3 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in 1989 and 199.8 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in 1995.  There was one patient who a Cuban cardiologist diagnosed as having had an infarct produced by ventricular arrhythmia who needed a pacemaker implant to live.  Although the United States company, CPI, which at that time had a virtual monopoly on the device, expressed that it was willing to make the sale, the United States government denied the license.  The patient died two months later.


          -         In 1993, the United States Treasury Department denied, ostensibly for reasons of foreign policy, a license requested by the German affiliate of Pfizer to sell to Cuba a pound of the principal active ingredient methotrexate, that would be used to test a medication against cancer;


          -         Approximately 48% of the 215 new United States medicines that are in the 1-111 phase of testing under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1995 are specific for breast cancer, but Cuban women will not have full access to any of them for as long as the embargo lasts;


          -         Cuban children suffering from leukemia are denied access to many drugs that would prolong their life expectancy.  For example, the FDA has already authorized Oncaspar (pegaspargaso), patented by the Enzon company of the United States and used for patients who are allergic to L-Spar (I-asparaginase).  Both medications produce a longer remission when they are used in the treatment of lymphoblastic leukemia.  However, the L-Spar produces allergic reactions in 40% of the patients who receive it for the first time and 70% in patients with recurring lymphoblastic leukemia.  In addition, the administration of Oncaspar is less traumatic for children who suffer from this disease since this drug takes only one-sixth the number of injections that are necessary for L-Spar.  However, the embargo deprives Cuban children of this innovation.  If this type of leukemia goes untreated, it causes death within two or three months.  In general, the embargo prevents as a practical matter Cuba from acquiring almost half of all the new medications available in the world market. [26]


          53.     The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights must reiterate once again that Cuba, as a member state of the Organization of American States, needs changes so that it can proceed along the road toward democratization and respect for fundamental rights and liberties.  These changes require the right conditions, and it is the responsibility of the Cuban state to create these conditions.  Nevertheless, the inter-American community also has the responsibility to help create the conditions that will lead to unrestricted effect of human rights in Cuba.


          54.     In addition, in this delicate and difficult matter of promoting and protecting economic, social and cultural rights, the Commission must at least recognize that just as it is the obligation of each state to struggle to increase its national wealth and to achieve thorough distribution so that each and everyone of the inhabitants of the state are beneficiaries, the more developed states also have an obligation to the less developed. 


          V.      PRISON CONDITIONS


          55.     The Inter-American Commission on HumanRights has always expressed its concern regarding the prison situation in the Hemisphere.  Thus, one of the special rapporteurs appointed by the Commission is preparing a report on this subject.  Furthermore, the Commission is currently processing a number of individual cases related to this matter, and pays particular attention to prison conditions during its in loco visits. 


          56.     Within this context, the problem of arbitrary detentions and jailings for political reasons and the hard conditions that prisoners face have constituted one of the major concerns of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights with respect to Cuba.  This explains why many of its earlier reports have been aimed at examining the situation of political prisoners and also that several of those reports have dealt exclusively with this subject.


          57.     The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recommended to the Cuban state in its last report that it, "Comply with minimal international rules for the treatment of prisoners, and improve the living conditions of the prison population in Cuba.  It is also imperative that the Cuban state adopt urgent measures to prevent the prison authorities from continuing to violate the right to personal integrity of the prisoners." [27]


          58.     The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights must note its concern that not only have its recommendations not been complied with but that jail conditions continue being deplorable.  In effect, the lack of medicines to treat the illnesses of the prisoners, the refusal of prison authorities to receive medicine from family members who bring them to the prisons, the refusal of the authorities to permit prisoners to receive religious care, mistreatment by guards and even by the physicians themselves at the prison infirmaries, beatings, overcrowding, dark punishment cells, meetings between family members and the prisoners in the presence of State Security agents and prison authorities, and the harassment of family members of prisoners are some of the conditions that prevail today in Cuban jails.


          59.     The last report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Cuba describes by way of example the conditions in the Southern Matanzas Combined Facility.  These are transmitted below:


          Prisoners are forced to get their own plastic sheets to keep them dry while they are sleeping because the buildings are in such a state of disrepair that the roofs leak badly from the build-up of rainwater; the supply warehouses and the areas where foods are prepared have an incalculable number of mice.  It is impossible to be in the dining room when food is served because of the large number of flies; overcrowding at time reaches twice the capacity of the installations since cells designed for three persons frequently hold up to six; the amount of food is insufficient, lacks vitamins and protein and frequently consists of tasteless broths and breakfasts of hot water; there is a lack of drugs, and medical care is systematically denied.  As a result of this situation, infections and epidemics have spread, among them mange and amoebic dysentery, and almost all the prisoners are under weight.  Added to the foregoing are cruel and degrading treatment consisting of brutal beatings, and disrespect in the form of obscenities, shouts, pushes and kicks.  The prisoners are the objects of constant searches and the privacy of correspondence is systematically violated. [28]


          60.     On June 12, 1997, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights received testimony from a Cuban political prisoner held at the Aguica prison.  This is transcribed below:


          1.       For four months we have not had any light in the cell.


          2.       I was left to fend for myself while having a heart attack and I was given help for only four hours.  They prevented me from receiving any medication and they kept on throwing me to the floor to take off my clothes.


          3.       A political prisoner, Raúl Carnell de la Rosa, sentenced to 30 years of prison, has been in solitary confinement for 4 years, and I have been in 5 years.


          4.       I handed in poems containing complaints to a criminal inspector but they did not pay any attention to me and they took away poems and stories that I had made.


          5.       Prisoners Miguel A. Planas Meléndez, Luis Gonzáles Madrazo and Javier Céspedes Cárdenas are still being beaten.  All of them from Havana were savagely beaten.  The last of these had his head fractured and his ribs broken: Emilio Cruz, Gilberto la Calle, Tolón, José and Vicente Galindo were the aggressors.


          6.       José Carlo San Martín Maguez from Cárdenas, Matanzas, gave a letter of complaint to an inspector and no one paid attention to him; he was stabbed in the stomach with a knife (142 stitches).


          7.       There is a cell for prisoners on hunger strike.  They put them in there naked, without water, without a mattress, without anything.


          8.       Lázaro Pérez Cano, another prisoner, who is very sick from optical neuritis, has been sick for six days without any medical care.  These cells were created by a henchman who is the Chief of Internal Order, Emilio Cruz Díaz.


          61.     The testimony given above does nothing but confirm to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights that the Cuban state systematically violates the principles and rules set out in the Minimal Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners [29] and the Code of Conduct for Officials Responsible for Enforcing the Law, [30] and even the provisions set out in Cuba's own Criminal Code on the punishment of loss of freedom (Articles 30 and 31). [31]


          62.     In addition, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was informed in May, 1997, by the Coordinator of Political Prisoners on the island that a number of prisoners in the province of Granma were "malnourished, medicines were in short supply and the minimum conditions necessary for recovery were lacking."  According to the letter received, the following prisoners are in a poor state of health:  1) Antonio Seguedo Labrada: sentenced to six years of loss of freedom in 1993, charged for the crime of enemy propaganda.  He is now in prison with pneumothorax, he has suffered considerable loss of weight and several episodes of pneumonia and runs the risk of contracting tuberculosis; 2) José Antonio Frandin Grive: sentenced to 12 years of prison in 1993, for the supposed crimes of "rebellion" and "enemy propaganda."  He is suffering from a duodenal ulcer and is going blind as a result of glaucoma;  3) Félix Ramírez Tiburcio: has been serving a sentence of 8 years of loss of freedom since 1992 for supposed "enemy propaganda."  He is suffering from severe malnutrition and neuropathy in an advanced state; 4) Cecilio Sambra Haber: has served four of the ten years of imprisonment for conviction in a case of "rebellion" and has been kept in jail despite showing severe cardiac problems; 5) Raúl Silot Sánchez: sentenced to 20 years of loss of freedom for sabotage and has a severe heart condition and high blood pressure; 6) José Ramón Batista Pérez: has been serving 8 years of prison for the crime of "rebellion" since 1993 and now has a bleeding ulcer, loss of vision and loss of weight, as well as generalized arthrosis and prostate problems.  This prisoner has already had three heart attacks and his heart is very compromised; 7) Wilfredo Galanos Matos: has been serving a sentence of 9 years since 1993.  He has had two heart attacks and he now has dis-compensated heart trouble; 8) Raúl Ayarde Herrera: sentenced to 10 years of jail in 1991 for espionage.  Has already been operated on for an intestinal blockage.  He suffered from chronic diarrhea and from gastritis and digestive upsets; 9) Tomás Ramos Rodríguez: has been serving a sentence since 1991 for "terrorism" and "rebellion."  He suffers from Parkinson's disease and nervous disorders.


          63.     Omar del Pozo Marrero, founder and active member of the Cuban Pro-Human Rights Committee, the National Unity Committee and the National Civic Union, was arrested on April 19, 1992 and tried and sentenced by a military court to 15 years of imprisonment for "revealing secrets concerning state security."  According to the information that was provided, Omar del Pozo has been placed into punishment cells on many occasions and one time he was left there for four months.  It has also been pointed out that Omar del Pozo is seriously ill with a stomach ulcer, heart disease and renal deficiency.  All of these have brought about severe weight loss and he has also lost large amounts of hair and his teeth.


          64.     The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights hopes the Cuban state will keep its promise--following the visit of His Holiness John Paul II--to set a number of political prisoners free.  The Commission believes that the Cuban state should give priority to those prisoners--whose names have been mentioned in this report--who are in poor health.


          65.     Nevertheless, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights must state that the situation of these political prisoners who have been sentenced to loss of freedom after having been arrested arbitrarily and subjected to trials, in which guarantees of due process were missing, is still one of extreme seriousness and is incompatible with the principles embodied in the Charter of the Organization of American States, the American Convention on Human Rights and the American and Universal Declarations of Human Rights.

          VI.      CONCLUSIONS


          Based on what has been said throughout this report, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has reached the following conclusions:


          66.     The measures adopted by the Cuban state in the area of human rights during the period covered by this report constitute progress that deserves mention.  There have been certain signs of openness in the areas of personal freedom, religious freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of movement.  The visit of Pope John Paul II to Cuba is an historic event that needs to be mentioned, not only because of the fact itself but also because of the message that it conveys and the possible positive consequences that it will have for the Cuban people.  In that context, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights agrees with the Supreme Pontiff that it is urgently necessary to move ahead on the road toward democracy and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms in Cuba.  These changes require, however, the right conditions and it is the fundamental responsibility of the Cuban state to create those conditions.  For its part, the inter-American community also has the responsibility to help create those conditions that would lead to unrestricted effect of human rights in Cuba.  In this sense, the adverse effects stemming from the economic sanctions and other measures aimed at isolating the Cuban regime do not appear to be the most appropriate way to create the conditions to achieve a peaceful and gradual transition to a pluralistic and civil society.


          67.     Nevertheless, the civil and political rights of the Cuban population continue being seriously jeopardized by the state.  In this way, discrimination on political grounds and systematic violations of freedom of expression and association continue being a policy of the state to repress any position that is critical of the regime or the political situation of the country.  The harassment of groups that advocate human rights or advance a political or trade union orientation becomes sentences involving loss of freedom, temporary detentions, threats, loss of job, adoption of disciplinary actions both before and after the crime, house searches and other restrictions.


          68.     Cuba does not have a freedom of press that allows political dissent, a fundamental condition for a democratic system of government.  The spoken, written and televised press continue being the tools of ideological struggle, they follow the directives of the group in power and serve to convey the messages of that group to grassroots and intermediate levels.  The Cuban state, by illegally restraining an individual's freedom of press, is not only violating the right of that person but also violating the right of others to receive information.  The regulations for the exercise of the foreign press in Cuba and Law 80, also known as the Law of Reaffirmation of Dignity and Sovereignty have enabled the Cuban state to use them as a mechanism for self-censorship or prior censorship because of an atmosphere based on fear of arbitrary punishment and unjust punishment.


          69.     There are no signs of any interest by the Cuban state in bringing about substantive reform for full enjoyment and exercise of the right to political participation as embodied in Article XX of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.  This would be, in other words, a reform allowing ideological and party pluralism and the holding of free, open and competitive elections--abiding by internationally accepted standards--to exercise the right of electing and being elected.  This presupposes the right to be freely nominated by parties or political groups, which is one of the keystones of a democratic system of government. [32]


          70.     The Cuban state has once again failed to comply with minimal international regulations for the treatment of prisoners and with its own legislation in the same area. [33]   The lack of medical care for prisoners, many of whom are sick as a result of poor diet and hygiene, added to the scarcity of food and drugs, the refusal to give medical care, unhealthy conditions and physical mistreatment are some of the prevailing conditions in Cuban jails.  The Commission has the hope that the Cuban state--as requested by Pope John Paul II--will continue conducting an exhaustive review of the cases of individuals who are serving time for crimes with political overtones, as well as those who are in a poor state of health, in order to set them free without conditions.




          The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, based on the conclusions of this report, formulates the following recommendations to the Cuban state:


          71.     To continue adopting positive measures to guarantee fully the rights and freedoms embodied in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.  In that context, it would be most helpful to establish institutions with the specific task of promoting and protecting human rights.


          72.     To cease the harassment, persecution and punishment of groups that defend human rights or have other political orientations, and allow them to be legal.


          73.     Conduct an exhaustive investigation into the events in which the right to life has been violated for the purpose of identifying those responsible, sentencing them to the appropriate punishment and extending to the victims' families adequate reparations and indemnity.


          74.     Adopt urgent measures to continue releasing--unconditionally--persons who are serving time for crimes with political and similar connotations.


          75.     Eliminate from criminal legislation all criminal descriptions that punish internationally accepted democratic standards, freedom of expression, association and meeting.  In the area of freedom of the press, repeal all rules that help create mechanisms for self-censorship or prior censorship.


          76.     Eliminate from the Penal Code all provisions on dangerous state, pre-crime security measures and the terms, "socialist legality," "socially dangerous," "standards of socialist life," since their imprecision and their subjective nature constitute a factor of legal insecurity that creates the conditions enabling the Cuban authorities to take arbitrary action.  In addition, eliminate the penal rule that refers to the "official warning" which is used to threaten with punishment individuals who have "ties or relations with persons who are potentially dangerous for society."


          77.     Adopt urgent measures to carry out a reform of the country's penitentiary system for the purpose of improving the living conditions of the prison population.  The Cuban state must conduct an exhaustive examination of the background of penitentiary authorities before assigning them to the different penal establishments in the country so as to avoid mistreatment and abuses of prisoners.  In this sense, it would be advisable for the Cuban state to create a set of rules with guidelines to be followed by those authorities so that they do not exceed the limits of their functions.


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




          79.     The draft report on the situation of human rights in Cuba was approved by the Commission during its 98º period of sessions.  It was sent to the State on March 5, 1998, pursuant to Article 63 (h) of the Commission's Regulations, in order to allow for the submission of observations within thirty days.


          80.     The Cuban State failed to present observations within the time limit provided.


          81.     On April 7, 1998 the Commission approved this report and its publication within Chapter V of the present Annual Report.

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     [13]   IACHR, Annual Report 1993, Chapter V, The Realization of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the Region, p.553, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.85, Doc.8 rev, February 11, 1994.

     [14]   Granma, electronic version, February 11, 1998.

     [15]   Published in the Official Gazette of May 21, 1996.

     [16]   International Labour Organisation Council of Administration, Seventh Topic, Order of the Day, 308th Report of the Trade Union Freedom Committee, par. 228, GB.270/7, 270th Meeting, Geneva, November 1997.

     [17]   Idem, p.66, par. 229.

     [18]   Idem, pp. 68 and 69, par. 240.

     [19]   IACHR, Annual Report 1993, The Implementation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the Region, p. 554, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.85, Doc.8 rev., February 11, 1994.

     [20]   OEA, General Assembly, AG/RES. 1213 (XXIII-O/93).

     [21]   United Nations, General Assembly, the Situation of Human Rights in Cuba, p. 13, par. 53, A/52/479.

     [22]   Opinion of the Inter-American Juridical Committee on resolution AG/doc.3375/96 "Free Trade and Investment in the Hemisphere," p.8, par. 10, OEA/Ser.G, CD/doc.2803/96, August 27, 1996.

     [23]   105th Congress, HR 1951 IH, June 18, 1997.

     [24]   See United Nations Report, Idem, par. 54, p. 13.

     [25]   Extracts from the report of the American Association for World Health, Denial of Food and Medicine:  The Impact of the U.S. Embargo on Health and Nutrition in Cuba, cited by the United Nations Rapporteur for Cuba, Idem, p.16.

     [26]   Extracts from the Report of the American Association for World Health, cited by the United Nations, Idem, pp. 17-18.

     [27]   IACHR, Annual Report 1996, Chapter V, Situation of Human Rights in Cuba, p. 743, par. 99, March 14, 1997, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.95, Doc. 7 rev.

     [28]   United Nations, Report of the Special Rapporteur, op.cit., p.8, par. 45.

     [29]   Adopted by the First United Nations Congress on Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Criminals, and adopted by the Economic and Social Council in Resolutions 663C (XXIV) of July 31, 1957, and 2076 (LXII) of May 13, 1977.

     [30]   Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in Resolution No.34/169 of December 17, 1979.

     [31]   Loss of Freedom.  ARTICLE 30. (1)  The punishment of loss of freedom may not exceed the term of twenty years.  However, with respect to crimes for which there is an alternative punishment such as death, the court can extend the term to as long as thirty years.  The time served in detention or provisional imprisonment of the prisoner is credited in full to the term of the sentence.  (2)  The punishment of loss of freedom is carried out in the penitentiary establishments provided by the law and its regulations.  (3)  The characteristics of those establishments and the minimum periods for which the prisoners must remain in each one are determined in the appropriate regulations.  (4)  Those punished to loss of freedom serve their sentence by being sorted into groups and only in specific cases provided for in the regulations can they be ordered to serve the sentence in isolation.  (5)  Men and women serve their time of loss of freedom in different establishments or in separate sections of the same establishment.  (6)  Juveniles younger than 20 years of age serve their sentence in establishments set aside specifically for them or in sections separate from those who are older.  Nevertheless, persons 20 to 27 years of age may be ordered to serve their sentence on the same conditions as the former.  (7)  Penitentiary establishments will use the progressive system as the method for counting time served for sentences involving the loss of freedom and as the foundation for parole on conditional release that is established in the Code.  (8)  The sentenced person may not be the object of corporal punishment nor may any measure involving humiliation or resulting in loss of dignity be used against him.  (9)  During the time that the sentence is being served, sentenced persons who are able to work shall perform useful labor and shall agree to it.


          ARTICLE 31.  (1)  Persons sentenced to loss of freedom who are held in penitentiary establishments: a) shall be paid for the socially useful labor they perform.  From that remuneration shall be deducted all necessary amounts to cover the cost of their maintenance, to subsidize the needs of their family, and to satisfy the civil responsibilities declared in the sentence, as well as any other obligations legally established; b) they shall be provided clothing, footwear and appropriate articles of essential use; c) they shall be given daily normal rest and one day of rest per week; ch) they shall be given medical and hospital care if sick; d) they shall be given the right to obtain long-term social security benefits in cases of total disability arising from work accidents.  If, for the same reason, the prisoner shall die, his family shall receive the corresponding pension; e) they shall be given the opportunity to receive and expand their cultural and technical skills; f) pursuant to the provisions of the Regulations, they shall be afforded the opportunity to exchange correspondence with persons not held in penitentiary facilities and receive visits and consumer goods; they shall be authorized to use the conjugal facility; they shall be given leave permits from the penitentiary establishment for limited times; they shall be given the opportunity and the means to enjoy recreation and to play sports in accordance with the activities scheduled by the penitentiary establishment and they shall be promoted to better penitentiary conditions.  (2)  The sentencing court may extend to those who have been sentenced to loss of freedom, for justified reasons and upon request, extra-penal leave for as mush time as is considered necessary.  In addition, the minister of interior may extend the same for special reasons, and shall communicate it to the President of the Popular Supreme Court.  (3)  Persons younger than 27 years of age held in penitentiary establishments shall receive technical instruction or shall be trained in the performance of a trade in accordance with capacity and level of schooling.  (4)  The time of the extra-penal leave and of the leave permits from the penitentiary establishment shall be credited to the time of the sentence that involves loss of freedom provided that the sentenced person has displayed good conduct during the enjoyment of the permit or the leave.  In addition, any reductions of time that have been granted to the sentenced person during the time the sentence is being served shall be credited to that time.  (5)  The time that the sentenced person remains in a hospital establishment because of alcoholism or habitual addiction that requires treatment shall be counted in the time of the sentence imposed.  As for the sentenced person held in a penitentiary establishment who has been the object of security measures as a result of symptoms of mental disturbance, that person shall be subject to the provisions of the Law on Penal Procedures for the purposes of counting the time that he is in such a situation.

     [32]   The Communist Party Manifesto issued during the V Congress held in October 1997 mentions, among others, the following:  Cuba will never restore capitalism because the Revolution will never be overthrown.  Cuba continues living a socialist existence and will continue being socialist.  The Revolution must remain alert and mobilize ever more our people in the struggle for the legality and the ethics of socialism.  The press, which went from the hands of the oligarchy into the hands of the people through the Revolution to become truly free, has a vital role to play in ideological struggle.  The mass communications media as well as educational and cultural establishments have a great challenge before them:  to guarantee the continuity of the socialist, patriotic, anti-imperialist ideals and values of the Revolution itself for future generations of Cubans.  The United Nations, Report of the Special Rapporteur, op.cit., p.12, par. 52.

     [33]   See Articles 30 and 31 of the Cuban Penal Code.