Reporting from Mexico City - Restrictions on civil liberties in Cuba have continued to be harsh since President Raul Castro assumed power from his brother Fidel three years ago, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.

Authorities have jailed scores of dissidents, protesters and others, often through the use of a "dangerousness" provision that allows the detention of Cubans on suspicion that they might break the law in the future, the rights group said in a 123-page report.

Human Rights Watch said its report, “New Castro, Same Cuba,” is the first broad look at human rights conditions in Cuba since Fidel Castro handed power to his younger brother on a temporary basis in 2006. The ailing older Castro formally stepped down as head of state in February 2008.

Human Rights Watch said liberties remain severely curtailed, despite hope among activists that new leadership in Cuba would end Cold War-era limits on dissent and the media.

In particular, it said Raul Castro has made heavy use of the "dangerousness" law.

"Cubans who dare to criticize the government live under constant fear since they know they could end up in prison just for expressing their opinion," Jose Miguel Vivanco, the group's Americas director, said in a statement issued with the report in Washington.

Nevertheless, the rights group said the United States should lift its 47-year-old embargo on travel and trade with Cuba, calling it a costly failure. It urged more targeted pressure to improve human rights conditions.

"No longer would Cuba be able to manipulate the embargo as a pretext for repressing its own people," the report said.

President Obama has adopted a more conciliatory posture toward Cuba than his predecessor by easing rules restricting travel and money transfers by Cuban Americans. But Obama renewed the embargo as a way to pressure the Cuban government to enact political reforms.

There was no immediate reaction to the report from Cuba, which has denied holding political prisoners and accused foes abroad of stirring discontent in hope of toppling the socialist regime.
Source: Los Angeles Times

Human Rights Watch released today its 123-page report titled, “New Castro, Same Cuba: Political Prisoners in the Post-Fidel Era,” on the state of political prisoners and repression under Raul Castro’s government.
The report “shows how the Raúl Castro government has relied in particular on the Criminal Code offense of “dangerousness,” which allows authorities to imprison individuals before they have committed any crime, on the suspicion that they are likely to commit an offense in the future. This “dangerousness” provision is overtly political, defining as “dangerous” any behavior that contradicts Cuba’s socialist norms.”
Here are segments of the executive summary:
In July 2006, Fidel Castro handed control of the Cuban government over to his brother Raúl Castro. As the new head of state, Raúl Castro inherited a system of abusive laws and institutions, as well as responsibility for hundreds of political prisoners arrested during his brother’s rule. Rather than dismantle this repressive machinery, Raúl Castro has kept it firmly in place and fully active. Scores of political prisoners arrested under Fidel Castro continue to languish in Cuba’s prisons. And Raúl Castro’s government has used draconian laws and sham trials to incarcerate scores more who have dared to exercise their fundamental freedoms.
Raúl Castro’s government has relied in particular on a provision of the Cuban Criminal Code that allows the state to imprison individuals before they have committed a crime, on the suspicion that they might commit an offense in the future. This “dangerousness” provision is overtly political, defining as “dangerous” any behavior that contradicts socialist norms. The most Orwellian of Cuba’s laws, it captures the essence of the Cuban government’s repressive mindset, which views anyone who acts out of step with the government as a potential threat and thus worthy of punishment.

While this report documents a systematic pattern of repression, it does not intend to suggest that there are no outlets for dissent whatsoever in Cuba. The last three years have, for example, witnessed the emergence of an independent Cuban blogosphere, critical lyrics by musicians, and most recently a series of government-organized public meetings to reflect on Cuban socialism.

The Cuban government has for years refused to recognize the legitimacy of independent human rights monitoring and has adamantly refused to allow international monitors, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and international nongovernmental organizations like Human Rights Watch, to visit the island and investigate human rights conditions. In researching this report, Human Rights Watch made repeated written requests to the Raúl Castro government for meetings with authorities and formal authorization to conduct a fact-finding mission to the island. As in the past, the Cuban government did not respond to any of our requests.
As a result, Human Rights Watch decided to conduct a fact-finding mission to Cuba without official permission in June and July 2009. During this trip, Human Rights Watch researchers conducted extensive interviews in seven of the island’s fourteen provinces. We also conducted numerous interviews via telephone from New York City. In total, we carried out more than 60 in-depth interviews with human rights defenders, journalists, former political prisoners, family members of current political prisoners, members of the clergy, trade unionists, and other Cuban citizens.

The State of Dangerousness

at 11:14 PM Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The precarious state of human rights in Cuba, as documented in today's report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), "New Castro, Same Cuba," can be summarized by the following widely-used provision in the Castro regime's criminal code:

The State of Dangerousness

Article 72. A state of dangerousness is considered to be the special propensity of a person to commit crimes, as demonstrated by conduct observed in manifest contradiction to the norms of socialist morality.

We commend HRW for documenting the Castro regime's brutality.

Nonetheless, we disagree with an adjoining letter by HRW's Americas Director Jose Miguel Vivanco, which advocates for the unconditional lifting of tourism-travel related sanctions.

In lieu of tourism-travel sanctions, Vivanco's letter states that,

"[HRW's] report lays out a proposal for the United States to work with allies in the European Union, Canada, and Latin America to forge a new coalition that will exert targeted pressure on the Raul Castro government to release all political prisoners."

If such coalitions haven't been successful in preventing or dismantling nuclear weapon facilities in Iran and North Korea, what makes him think it would be successful in persuading the Castro regime to release political prisoners?

But even more worrisome is Vivanco's own admission that:

"However, lifting the travel ban by itself will not bring an end to the Raul Castro government's repression."

So what's the point?

Let's not forget that doubling the Castro regime's GDP through U.S. tourist-travel would also double its ability to finance repression.

And that's a dangerous proposition indeed. 

Source: Capitol Hill Cubans 

"Have You No Conscience?"

That's Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart [FL-21] from last Monday. It seems that our favorite Congressman from Miami took the time on the House floor to remind everyone of Cuba's oppressed Cuban dissident movement, and comparing their repression to Jewish persecution, and shaming members of the American press for not doing enough to shed light on this genocide.

Rep. Diaz-Balart centered his speech on the health of political dissident Martha Beatriz Roque, who last weak was described as gravely ill due to a hunger strike. But, Rep. Diaz-Balart on Monday declared that Roque was "close to death." Yesterday, Roque revealed herself to reporters in Havana who instead described her as "unsteady but far from death."

Huh? This is what happened...

Late last week, Miami Herald reporter Juan O. Tamayo twice reported about the deteriorating health of Martha Beatriz Roque during a hunger strike which began around Tuesday. The reports described Roque's condition jumping from extremely grave to stable based on examinations by an ambulance crew and one doctor. Tamayo's only source seemed to be political dissident Vladimiro Roca, who was also protesting alongside Roque. Then, on Sunday Roca reported [audio by Radio Marti] on Roque's latest diagnosis by one doctor. The diagnosis included a "sudden case of decompensation" (heart dysfunction by overload), "tachycardia" (abnormal rapid beating of the heart), paleness, sweating, and loss of consciousness.

By Monday morning, Marc Masferrer from the Uncommon Sense blog was convinced that "Cuban Dissident Martha Beatriz Roque is Dying." Masferrer wrote to his readers that this was "not a dramatic exaggeration" but "an accurate assessment of facts on the ground." By Monday evening on the House floor, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart was also convinced that this was the case. (Rep. Diaz-Balart also clearly exaggerated the number of dissidents on a hunger strike with Roque as "dozens" when all reports indicate less than ten) Therefore, he wondered why there was no media coverage about the dying Roque and asked:

"Members of the press, have you no conscience? Do not continue to treat the suffering, oppressed people of Cuba, and their heroes, as non-persons. Please do your duty."

I agree, the press must do its duty. Yesterday, after apearing before reporters Martha Beatriz Roque refused to speak with them. Reporters must not allow the rumors of her health go unaccounted for. Did she, Vladimiro Roca, or any doctor exaggerate her condition for increased media coverage? Did their hunger strike end becuase of Rep. Diaz-Balart's inaccurate public statements?

Cuba's dissidents cannot allow their credibility to be tainted. Their actions must be transparent and without doubt about their goals advocating human rights. Neither should their actions be concerned with politicians who exploit their suffering for selfish gain.