I.            BACKGROUND


1.          At its 114th regular session, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights examined the general situation of human rights in Cuba.  It approved a preliminary report, which was then forwarded to the Cuban State for the latter to present its observations within a one-month period.  As the State did not submit observations, the Commission gave final approval to the report on April 16, 2002, and ordered that it be published in Chapter IV of its 2002 Annual Report.


          2.          It should be noted, however, that the Cuban State sent the IACHR a note, dated March 13, 2002, and signed by the Chief of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C., Dagoberto Rodríguez Barrera, wherein it returned the Commission’s report.  It wrote, inter alia, that "on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Cuba, … our country does not recognize the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and … therefore does not accept the text of this report.”


          3.          The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has consistently maintained that the Cuban State is party to the first international instruments established in the American hemisphere to protect human rights: the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the Charter of the Organization of American States.  Cuba also signed Resolution VIII at the Fifth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs (Santiago, Chile, 1959), which created the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights “charged with furthering respect for such rights.” [1]


          4.          The Commission wishes to reiterate that Resolution VI of the Eighth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs excluded the present Government of Cuba, not the State, from participation in the inter-American system.  This position is confirmed by the wording of that Resolution, the course of the debates in which it was approved, and other actions of the Organization with respect to this matter.


          5.          In its Seventh Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Cuba, the Commission supports its position by asserting that the concepts of government and state are distinguishable both juridically and institutionally, not only in terms of legal theory but also in terms of practice. 


          6.          The Commission has also written that “in the case of Cuba, the exclusion of its Government could not entail the loss of its status as a member state, since according to the system of the Charter of the OAS, a state can only lose that status in one case:  that provided for in Article 4, i.e., in the case of the entry into the Organization of a new political entity resulting from the unification of several of its member states.  Unlike the Charter of the United Nations which makes provision for the expulsion of a member state that repeatedly violates the principles contained in it (Article 6), the Charter of the OAS makes no such provision.  The Commission therefore considers that the status of member state constitutes a right according to the provisions of the Charter, and as such, no state may be deprived of that status; the status of member state may only be renounced by the Government that decides to take such a step, but it cannot be lost by means of application of a sanction for which there is no provision in the Charter. [2]


          7.          It is the present Government of Cuba that was excluded from the inter-American system, and not the Cuban State.  Therefore, the Cuban State is juridically answerable to the Inter-American Commission in matters that concern human rights.  Moreover, the Commission’s consistent position has been that when it excluded the Cuban Government from the inter-American system, it was not the intention of the Organization of American States to leave the Cuban people without protection.  That Government’s exclusion from the regional system in no way means that it is no longer bound by its international human rights obligations.


          8.          It should be noted that an important reason for the preparation of the present report is the lack of free elections, conducted in accordance with internationally accepted standards, which is a violation of the right to vote and to participate in government, recognized in Article XX of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.  That article provides that “[e]very 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.”  Article 3 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter signed in Lima, Peru, September 11, 2001, defines the elements of a democratic system of government as follows:


Essential elements of representative democracy include, inter alia, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, access to and the exercise of power in accordance with the rule of law, the holding of periodic, free, and fair elections based on secret balloting and universal suffrage as an expression of the sovereignty of the people, the pluralistic system of political parties and organizations, and the separation of powers and independence of the branches of government.


          9.          That being the case, since its most recent report, cited above, the Commission has continued to monitor the development of the human rights situation in the Republic of Cuba.  This report is a follow-up on the events that have happened in that country in the period covered in the present annual report.




          A.          Political rights


10.          Article XX of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man recognizes the right to vote and the right to participate in government.  It reads as follows:


Article XX. 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.


          11.          Political rights as recognized in the American Declaration concern the right to take part in government in two clearly identifiable ways: the right to hold office directly and the right to elect others to hold office.  This presupposes a broad concept of what constitutes representative democracy.  The latter rests upon the sovereignty of the people.  The functions through which power is exercised are performed by individuals chosen in free and authentic elections.


          12.          It is Commission doctrine, moreover, that the right to political participation implies “the right to organize parties and political associations, which through open discussion and ideological struggle, can improve the social level and economic circumstances of the masses and prevent a monopoly on power by any one group or individual.” [3]   Further, the Commission has observed that “the governments have, in the face of political rights and the right to political participation, the obligation to permit and guarantee: the organization of all political parties and other associations, unless they are constituted to violate human rights; open debate of the principal themes of socioeconomic development; the celebration of general and free elections with all the necessary guarantees so that the results represent the popular will. [4]


          13.          In the case of Cuba, the Commission has already observed that “the main criterion [for the preparation of the report] is the lack of free elections in keeping with internationally accepted standards, which undermines the right to political participation enshrined in Article XX of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man… ”. [5]   In that report, the Commission cited Article 3 of the Democratic Charter, signed in Lima, Peru, September 11, 2001, which reads as follows:


Essential elements of representative democracy include, inter alia, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, access to and the exercise of power in accordance with the rule of law, the holding of periodic, free, and fair elections based on secret balloting and universal suffrage as an expression of the sovereignty of the people, the pluralistic system of political parties and organizations, and the separation of powers and independence of the branches of government.


14.          The Cuban State is violating the people’s political rights not just by refusing to hold free elections that meet internationally accepted standards, but also by ignoring the principles of its own Constitution.  In effect, during the period covered by this report, and invoking articles 63 and 88 [6] of Cuba’s Constitution, a group of Cuban citizens called “Todos Unidos,” representing more than 140 organizations and coordinated by Osvaldo Payá Sardiñas, presented a petition-with 11,020 signatures-to the General Assembly of the People’s Power asking the Cuban regime for a constitutional referendum to introduce substantive changes in the law.  The so-called Varela Project petitions the National Assembly for a referendum on the amendments needed in the laws, preserving the general welfare and respect for human rights. [7]    The Cuban authorities’ response came a few days after the “Varela Project” was presented.  Their response was a nationwide mobilization in which 800,000 signatures were gathered to declare the Cuban Constitution and the socialist system irrevocable.  The Commission was also told that prominent notables from the peaceful opposition like Gustavo Arcos Bergnes, Elizardo Sánchez, Julio Ruiz Pitaluga, Osvaldo Payá Sardiñas -coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement-, Héctor Palacios Ruiz, and Pedro Pablo Álvarez were among those who signed the Varela Project petition.  Cuban authorities arbitrarily arrested them, confiscated their documents and personal belongings and temporarily prohibited them from leaving the country.


15.          During the IACHR’s 116th regular session, Dr. Marcelino Miyares, a member of the Human Rights Commission of the Christian Democratic Party, spoke at length about the Varela Project. She stated that the violations of Cuban citizens’ basic rights are basically of four types:


1.- The “preliminary version of the Varela Project bill” has not been publicized, as the current law requires. 


2.- Restrictions on personal communication via telephone and the Internet, and on access to the mass media.


3.- Repression in the form of detentions; public censure, beatings, threats and terror.  We are providing written testimony concerning these acts of oppression. [8]


          16.          The Commission finds that the Cuban political system’s normative structure provides for principles that, if observed and enforced, could properly safeguard political rights.  Cuba’s Constitution guarantees Cuban citizens the right to propose changes to the legal and political system.  It is obvious, however, that the Cuban authorities do not have the political resolve to effect the kinds of changes that would put Cuba on the road to democratic government and, ultimately, to unqualified respect for and observance of human rights in that country.  The political system in place in Cuba today continues to give an unhealthy preponderance to the government party, to the point that the party is more powerful than the State itself, thereby precluding any possibility of the healthy ideological and partisan pluralism that is one of the pillars of the democratic system of government.  

B.       Discrimination for political reasons, as it relates to the lack of freedom of expression, assembly and association


          17.          The rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association are upheld in the following Articles of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man:


Article IV. Every person has the right to freedom of investigation, of opinion, and of the expression and dissemination of ideas, by any medium whatsoever.

Article XXI. Every person has the right to assemble peaceably with others in a formal public meeting or an informal gathering, in connection with matters of common interest of any nature.

Article XXII. Every person has the right to associate with others to promote, exercise and protect his legitimate interests of a political, economic, religious, social, cultural, professional, labor union or other nature.


          18.          The right of assembly and the right to freedom of association are recognized in the American Declaration and other international human rights instruments, and are very interrelated.  By virtue of the right to freedom of association, a citizen is free to associate with whomever he/she chooses without being subject to penalties that impair his/her exercise of other civil, political, economic and social rights by reason of that association.  This includes the right to form associations and the right to join existing associations, at any stage in the life of a modern society.


          19.          The right of assembly, for its part, is the right that every person has to assemble in groups, either publicly or privately, to discuss or defend their ideas.  These rights–freedom of association and right of assembly-are protected in the constitution of every State in this hemisphere, including Cuba.   Article 54 of the Cuban Constitution provides that “The rights of assembly, demonstration and association are exercised by the workers, laborers and intellectuals, peasants, women, students and other sectors of the working people, for which purpose they shall have the necessary means.  Social organizations of the masses shall have all the facilities for conducting such activities, in which their members enjoy the broadest freedom of speech and opinion, based on the unrestricted right to initiative and criticism.”


          20.          The freedom of expression provided for in Article 53 of the Cuban Constitution provides that “Citizens enjoy freedom of speech and freedom of the press in accordance with the purposes of a socialist society.  The material conditions for their exercise are ensured by the fact that the press, radio, television, cinema and other mass media are State- or collectively-owned.  There can be no private ownership of any medium.  This ensures that the media will serve the worker people exclusively and the interests of society.  The law shall regulate the exercise of these freedoms.”


          21.          These rights, however, are limited and subordinate to Article 62 of the Cuban Constitution, which provides that:


No freedom given to the citizenry shall be exercised against the provisions of the Constitution and the laws, or against the existence and purposes of the Socialist State, or against the Cuban people’s decision to build socialism and communism.  Any violation of this principle shall be punishable.

          22.          This provision of the Constitution establishes the legal grounds for censorship, since the State alone has the authority to determine whether the right to freedom of oral or written expression, the right of association, the right of assembly and the other rights recognized in the Constitution, have been exercised in a manner contrary to the existing political system.  The Cuban authorities’ intolerance of any form of political opposition is the principal factor limiting participation, especially now that the existing socialist system has been declared “irrevocable” in the aftermath of the Varela Project’s presentation. 


          23.          The State has controlled all the media since 1960.  Major newspapers like Granma (official mouthpiece of the Communist Party), Juventud Rebelde (official newspaper of the Communist Youth Union) and Trabajadores (the Cuban Labor Confederation newspaper) reflect government views only.  The right of the Cuban people of access to information in severely limited due to the absence of a pluralization of communications media.  Although in recent years there has emerged a group of independent journalists, their work has seen daily restraints through temporary detentions, disciplinary deprivation of liberty, harassment, searches, seizures of equipment, etc. That has severely limited and/or restricted their work.


24.          There can be no open, organized criticism of government policy with this system.  The current Cuban regime persists in using various methods–control of information and of scientific and cultural affairs, incarceration, accusations, public censure, disciplinary measures, official warnings and imprisonment-to restrict and even eliminate any type of political opposition.  The Commission has recommended repeatedly the elimination from legislation of the language such as “enemy propaganda,” “desacato” [contempt for authority], “unlawful association”, “clandestine printing presses,” dangerousness,” “official warning,” “pre-delict and post-delict security measures,” “associations or ties with persons that could pose a danger to society,” “socialist legality,” “socially dangerous,” and so on.  In the years since these provisions were introduced into Cuba’s constitutional and criminal laws, the IACHR and other sectors of the inter-American community have recommended to Cuba that such laws be eliminated.  The authorities, however, have not only disregarded these recommendations, but have systematically enforced these laws against persons who peaceably attempt to exercise their civil and political rights.  Human Rights Watch has written the following:


The denial of basic civil and political rights is written into Cuban law. … While Cuba's domestic legislation includes broad statements of fundamental rights, other provisions grant the state extraordinary authority to penalize individuals who attempt to enjoy their rights to free expression, opinion, press, association, and assembly.


In recent years, rather than modify its laws to conform to international human rights standards, Cuba has approved legislation further restricting fundamental rights. (…) But Cuba has consistently refused to reform the most objectionable elements of its laws. Cuba's concurrent refusal to amnesty political prisoners and its continued prosecution of nonviolent activists highlight the critical role that Cuba's laws play in its machinery of repression. [9]


          25.          In May 2002, Amnesty International issued a report on the situation of human rights in Cuba, which corroborates this assessment:


Amnesty International is concerned that Cuba continues to detain people for their political, religious or other conscientiously held beliefs. An unconfirmed number of people are currently detained for political offences in Cuba; of these, six had been identified by Amnesty International as prisoners of conscience as this report went to print. While recognizing that this number represents a significant decrease from past decades, Amnesty International continues to call urgently for the unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, and for the repressive laws under which they are often convicted to be repealed.


While the number of identified prisoners of conscience has declined steadily over the last years, Amnesty International and other organizations have noted with concern an increase in other types of violations, including short-term arbitrary arrest, threats, summonses and other forms of harassment directed by the state against political dissidents, independent journalists and other activists in an effort to limit their ability to exercise fundamental freedoms.


In Cuba freedom of expression, association and assembly are severely limited by law and in practice. Those who attempt to express views, organize meetings or form organizations that conflict with government policy can be subjected to short term detentions, interrogations, summonses, official warnings, threats, intimidation, eviction, loss of employment, restrictions on travel, house searches, house arrests, telephone bugging and physical and verbal acts of aggression carried out by government supporters. These measures can be directed against specific individuals, in an apparent effort to encourage them to desist from their activities. Similarly, they can be used on a larger scale, to prevent planned demonstrations or events in which dissident views might be expressed. [10]


          26.          As regards freedom of expression, freedom of the press in Cuba was seriously restricted during the period that the present report covers. In November 2002, the Inter-American Press Association published a resolution of the Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations on the “harassment of independent journalists and the lack of freedom of expression and lack of freedom of the press in Cuba.”  The resolution states that "independent journalists Bernardo Arévalo Padrón, Léxter Téllez Castro, Carlos Brizuela and Carlos Alberto Domínguez are still in jail and many others are systematically harassed with searches, calls for intimidation, temporary detentions, warnings, fines and forcible expulsions from places where they go to do their professional work.”


          27.          From all the foregoing, the Commission can conclude that the Cuban State has not altered the repressive pattern of behavior practiced in the past against groups or individuals who wanted to exercise –without censorship or restriction- their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association.  Some cases illustrate what the prevailing situation is:


a.          Leonardo Bruzón Ávila, President of the “Movimiento Pro Derechos Humanos 24 de Febrero” was detained on the morning of February 23, 2002, seemingly to prevent him from participating in the activities scheduled for the next day to commemorate the events relative to the downing of the two planes belonging to the group called “Brothers to the Rescue” [“Hermanos al Rescate”].  Bruzón Ávila has been held at Quivicán prison since February 23, 2002.  Initially he was held in a walled-in punishment cell in the Technical Investigations Department [Departamento Técnico de Investigaciones] (DTI), in Havana.  In late March he was transferred to Melena Dos prison, also in Havana.  According to Amnesty International, the cells in this prison are dark and very dirty and have little ventilation.  This is disturbing, because according to the reports received, Bruzón Ávila’s health is delicate.  Prior to being detained this time, Leonardo Bruzón had been repeatedly detained and harassed.  On one occasion, the authorities issued a warrant for his arrest and for the eviction of him and his family when, on August 12, 2001, he organized an independent library of children’s videos at his home in Havana.  He was detained again on September 5, 2001 and released four days later.  In August of that same year, prior to that incident, he and other critics of the government were detained and briefly held to prevent them from participating in an organized demonstration seeking the release of political prisoners.  They were planning to stage a candlelight vigil before the statute of the Virgin Mary that stands in Virgen del Camino park in Havana.  On December 3, 2000, he and other dissidents were detained to prevent them from taking part in a demonstration to mark Human Rights Day.  He was not released until two months later. [11]


b.          On January 17, 2002, in Bayamo, Granma province, State police agents approached two members of the “Christian Liberation Movement” and arrested young Alexis Rodríguez Fernández.  While he was being interrogated, he was told that the leader of his group, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, would soon be under arrest and given a sentence that would keep him in prison for a long time to come.  Alexis Rodríguez was released at nightfall, in a very remote area, and had to return home on foot. [12]


c.          On January 23, 2002, in the Baire zone of Granma province, National Police agents, State security troopers, and civilian members of the rapid-response brigades assailed a group of 15 activists with the Christian Liberation Movement.  The activists were forced out of the truck they were traveling in, kicked, punched, and threatened.  The reports show that a number of papers were taken from them, among them petitions signed in support of the Varela Project. [13]


d.          Authorities again resorted to a massive crackdown on dissidents in the wake of the events of February 27, 2002.  That day, a group of 21 Cubans crashed the gates of the Mexican Embassy in Havana.  According to reports received, police and State security agents attacked Reuters reporter Andrew Cawthorne and cameraman Alfredo Tedeschi with batons, in an effort to prevent them from reporting what had happened.  Security forces announced that police had arrested 150 Cubans who had gathered in front of the Embassy.  After these arrests, at least a dozen dissidents were detained to prevent them from participating in the disturbances.  Most were detained in Havana, although some were held in custody in the province of Ciego de Ávila.  In Ciego de Ávila, a number of Cuban journalists were beaten as they tried to cover the protests after the arrests at the Embassy of Mexico.  One of these, independent journalist Jesús Álvarez Castillo, of Cuba Press, sustained an injury to the neck from being beaten by members of a rapid-response brigade and employees of the Interior Ministry on March 4, 2002.  Activists who demonstrated outside the hospital to protest the injury were themselves beaten by the police. [14]


e.          Between September 17 and 21, 2002, a number of activists with the Christian Liberation Movement in the eastern province of Palma Soriano were attacked by members of the rapid-response brigades.  On September 17, 2002, in the village of “La Concepción,” Raumel Vinajera Stivens, Annies Burgos Preval, Ángel Gustavo Elegía, Alexis Rodríguez Fernández, Jesús Mustafa Felipe, Roilán Montero Tamayo and Alden Guzmán Leyva were attacked and then taken into custody.  Rafael Rachid Madlum Payán, 59, Dr. Enrique Silva Cual and young Irraide Sánchez Ávila, who has sight problems, were severely injured.  Inspector Joaquín Fajardo and three unknowns kicked them in the back.  State security agents, namely Major Feria, Captain Manuel Reyes, and Lieutenant Colonel Socarrás of the National Police, also participated in these events. [15]


f.          On September 21, 2002, the home of José Daniel Ferrer García was sacked by a mob of over one hundred people carrying sticks, machetes, steel bars, stones and other objects, who began shouting insults at the occupants of the home.  Inside were members of the Christian Liberation Movement: Ana Belkis, Enrique Ferrer García, Milka María Peña Martínez, Maidelín Guerrero Peña, Norberto Díaz Leyva, Calixto Cepero Fuentes and Yunier Santos Cruz.  The mob included Juan Torres, Ezequiel Duarte, Dioni Andino, Eredis Vega, Israel Mulet, Benito Justa, Zonia Tassé, Margarita La Hera, Belkis López, and other members of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution [Comités de Defensa de la Revolución] (CDR).  Stones were thrown at the home and they tried to force open the door.  They were stopped by two officers with the political police, who after identifying themselves in order to get the mob under control, proceeded to encourage them to continue shouting and throwing stones, but from outside the front of the home. [16]    


g.          For the last four months of 2002, the authorities of Villa Clara have waged an intense campaign directed at opposition member Diolexis Orestes Rodríguez Hurtado.  Orestes was detained in Manicaragua on June 29, 2002.  At the State security department, he was mistreated and beaten, and then abandoned on the national highway.  He was arrested and beaten again on July 26.  They hospitalized him the following day suffering from an internal hemorrhage.  On August 5, he was detained again for several hours, accused by the authorities of possessing anti-Castro posters.  On August 31, 2002, they cut off his phone service for seven days.  On September 2, agents Orestes Chaviano and Cardoso accused him of “unlawful exit”–; they also accused him of being a “counterrevolutionary.”  The harassment continues to this day.  The authorities say that they will be opening a “dangerous suspect” file on this person. [17]


h.          Juan Carlos González Leiva, blind President of the Cuban Human Rights Foundation, has been incarcerated since March 4, 2002.  In the course of the events, another eight activists with the Cuban Human Rights Foundation were beaten and arrested, along with journalists Lexter Téllez Castro and Carlos Brizuela.  They had gone to the Ciego de Ávila provincial hospital to show their solidarity with journalist Jesús Álvarez Castillo of Cuba Press, whom that same day police had beaten when he tried to cover the work of the human rights activists.  According to witnesses, police, who then began to beat him, dragged Juan Carlos Leiva from the hospital.  The witness states that “the agent who injured Juan Carlos was Amaury, known among the Ciego de Ávila dissidents as ‘El Chacal’.  According to the testimony, this State security agent hit the victim on the head with his weapon.  Juan Carlos Leiva is still being held in Holguín prison, pending trial.  Major Faguo has threatened his life.  According to the information provided, this high-ranking State security officer told him that “they were not going to allow counterrevolutionaries and if they had to kill him they would.” [18]


i.          The incidents recounted above are also related to what happened to Cuba Press correspondent Jesús Álvarez Castillo, on March 4, 2002.  At 11:30 that morning, the journalist was covering a protest by the Cuban Human Rights Foundation (FCDH) in the city of Ciego de Ávila, when a police officer used a stranglehold on him and injured his neck.  En route to the police station, Álvarez Castillo lost consciousness and had to be checked into the local hospital, where they took x-rays that showed that he had a dislocated cervical vertebra.  At around one that afternoon, a number of journalists and human rights activists gathered at the hospital to protest the attack on Álvarez Castillo.  In the group were Léster Téllez Castro, director of the independent news service Agencia de Prensa Libre Avileña, and Carlos Brizuela Yera, a reporter with the independent news agency Colegio de Periodistas Independientes de Camaguey.  When the demonstrators shouted anti-government slogans, they were attacked by the police, forced into police cars and taken to the local unit of the Technical Investigations Department (DTI).  Álvarez Castillo was released from the hospital that same afternoon.  On March 11, 2002, police transferred Brizuela Yera to a detention center in the eastern province of Holguín, while Téllez Castro was taken to facilities in the province of Cienfuegos, in southcentral Cuba.  Álvarez Castillo is at home recovering from his injuries.  The journalist is taking anti-inflammatory medications and medications for pain and dizziness.  Although no charges have been brought against him, the police have him under surveillance.  Ann Cooper, Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), observed that “”Cuban journalists have long faced systematic harassment, criminal prosecution, and jail because of their work.  These recent attacks represent a disturbing escalation in the Cuban government's ongoing efforts to silence independent journalism in the country." [19]


j.          The organization “Reporters without Borders” protested in July 2002 over the detention of Ángel Pablo Polanco of Servicio Noticuba, an independent news agency.  Ángel Polanco was arrested in his home on July 30, 2002.  On the morning of July 30, State security agents did an in-depth search of his home, which lasted several hours.  The agents seized technical equipment, personal papers and money, only to return that night and forcibly detain the journalist.  He was incarcerated at the general headquarters of the State Security agency in Villa Maristas, Havana.  Two other members of the opposition were also detained at nightfall.  These arrests were made in anticipation of a peaceful anti-government protest planned for August 5, 2002.  It should be noted that on February 23, 2002, two agents from the department of State Security (DSE) arrested Polanco for having published reports on the proceedings undertaken against Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet, President of the Lawton Human Rights Foundation.  Ángel Pablo Polanco was detained five times in 1999. [20]


k.          Agustín Cervantes García, 27, and José Alberto Castro Aguilar, 30, who were running the Varela Project in the city of Contramaestra, in Santiago de Cuba province, have been in custody since November 16, 2002, the date on which they were the victims of a public censure [acto de repudio] organized by State security.  These young men, who are accused of the supposed crime of “contempt for authority against the person of Fidel Castro,” were first held at the Contramaestre Police Unit.  State security then transferred them by government bus to the Moscú prison, where the common prisoners, upon learning the story of these two young men, began to shout “Viva Varela Project” and “Down with Fidel”.  When that happened, they were transferred again, this time under heavy police escort, to the Mar Verde maximum security prison.  Another case that occurred in the same city, also related to the Varela Project, is that of activist Lázaro Rosales Roja.  On November 19, 2002, four individuals appeared at his place of residence.  One showed Rosales his identification, which was Revolutionary National Police officer Nº 21592. He told Rosales Roja that he should come with them.  When Rosales Roja refused, the agents forced their way into his home, threw him to the floor and beat him, injuring him with a piece of glass that cut his left cheek.  When the victim went to the Police Unit to file a complaint about what happened, they told him that the assailants were thugs, that he should look for them himself and turn them in.  On November 22, 2002, the manager of the Varela Project, Rogelio Travieso Pérez, was taken by State security agents to a place he was unable to identify, because they forced him to keep his head down in the car.  There these agents questioned him for several hours.  The Commission has also received reports to the effect that State security is threatening and pressuring friends and other persons who have some association with Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas or with some of his relatives.  Similar incidents have occurred with other Varela Project managers. [21]


28.          These events are deeply troubling to the Commission, as all they do is illustrate the Cuban authorities’ utter contempt for the people’s basic rights.  By law and in practice, the Cuban State has imposed limitations and restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and association for so long and to such an extent that those limitations and restrictions have by now become government routine.  It pays no attention to the recommendations that the IACHR and other organizations in the inter-American human rights community have made time and time again. 


          29.          Once again, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is compelled to remind the Cuban State that “the imposition of legal mechanisms to exercise control over the media and other social communicators has a negative effect on the respect for and protection of freedom of expression. Such impositions deny individuals their fundamental right to participate fully in social, political, economic and cultural life”, and  “[a]ny obstacle to the free discussion of ideas and opinions restricts freedom of expression.  Prior conditioning of expression, such as truthfulness, timeliness or impartiality, among other conditions, is incompatible with the rights provided for in international instruments. The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression believes that the prohibition of speech that does not conform with the purpose of a socialist society is a form of prior conditioning.” [22]            


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[1] The Situation of Human Rights in Cuba, Seventh Report, IACHR, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.61, Doc.29 rev. 1, (1983) p 10, paragraph 32.

[2] IACHR, Situation of Human Rights in Cuba, Seventh Report, op.cit., para. 36, p. 11.

[3] IACHR, Ten Years of Activities 1971-1981, General Secretariat of the Organization of American States, Washington D.C., 1982, p. 334.

[4] Ibid, p. 335

[5] IACHR, Annual Report 2001, General Secretariat of the Organization of American States, Chapter IV, Human Rights Developments in the Region, Cuba, p. 679, paragraph 8. 

[6] Article 63..-  Every citizen has the right to file complaints and petitions with the authorities and to receive the pertinent attention or response within the legally prescribed time period.  Article 88(g).- Citizens may propose laws.  If so, the legislative initiative must have the support of at least ten thousand citizens, all of whom shall be voters. 

[7] The Varela Project and the Political Rights of Cubans, Testimony of Marcelino Miyares, Ph.D., before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Washington, D.C., October 17, 2002.  Those who signed the Varela Project are petitioning for citizens to be guaranteed

The right to associate freely, in keeping with one’s interests and ideas, so that persons, either individually or in groups, are able to express their ideas, beliefs and opinions by means of the spoken and written word and by any means of dissemination and expression;

That the laws that guarantee these rights take effect within no more than sixty days after this referendum is held;

That an amnesty be decreed for all those detained, punished and incarcerated for political reasons and who have not participated in acts that constituted direct assaults against the lives of other persons.  The amnesty law would take effective within thirty days of this referendum;

That amendments be introduced in the law in order to guarantee citizens their right to form private businesses, both individual and cooperative, their right to engage in business activity, which may be either a productive business or service business in which contracts can be made between the workers and the businesses for their operation, under conditions that are just, where no one can profit by exploiting the work of another.  These new laws should also guarantee respect for the rights of workers and citizens and the interests of society, and should take effect within sixty days of this referendum;

That the Election Law be rewritten and its new provisions guarantee:

That election districts be determined for elections of delegates to the municipal assemblies, delegates to the provincial assemblies, and deputies to the National Assembly;

That the voters in each election district carved out for the municipal elections shall themselves elect one delegate to the municipal assembly.  A voter may vote for only one candidate for delegate;

That the voters in each election district carved out for the provincial elections shall themselves elect one delegate to the provincial assembly. A voter may vote for only one candidate for delegate;

That a citizen shall be nominated as candidate for the office of delegate to the municipal assemblies, or candidate for the office of delegate to the provincial assemblies, or as candidate to serve as deputy in the National Assembly, only after he/she gathers signatures in support of his/her candidacy directly from the voters in his/her municipal, provincial or national election district, as appropriate, in accordance with the terms and conditions set forth in points 4.A.4,  4.A.4.1, 4.A.4.2 and 4.A.4.3 of this petition;

That the necessary and sufficient conditions that must be met for a citizen to be nominated as a candidate shall be as follows:

The citizen satisfies the conditions stipulated in Articles 131, 132 and 133 of the Constitution for a citizen to have the right to vote and to be elected to office;

The signatures in support of the citizen’s candidacy are presented to the appropriate authorities no later than thirty days before election day; these signatures must represent no fewer than 5% of the number of voters in the district the prospective candidate aspires to represent.  A voter can give this kind of support to only one person aspiring to be nominated for the office of Delegate to the municipal assembly, only one person aspiring to be nominated for the office of delegate to the provincial assembly, and only one person aspiring to be nominated  for the office of National Assembly deputy;

The citizen must live in the election district he/she aspires to represent in the municipal assembly; must live in the province he/she aspires to represent in the Provincial Assembly, and in the country if he/she seeks to be nominated a candidate for the office of National Assembly deputy.  To be nominated, a citizen must have lived in the country for at least one year prior to the elections;

Voters, those seeking to be nominated, and the nominees have the right to meet in assemblies, provided they respect law and order, to explain their platforms and ideas.  Every candidate shall be entitled to equitable use of the mass media;

The new election law, with the terms herein expressed, is to take effect no later than 60 days after this referendum.

[8] The Varela Project and the Political Rights of Cubans, Testimony of Marcelino Miyares, Ph.D., before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 116th regular session, Washington, D.C., October 17, 2002.

[9] Human Rights Watch, Cuba’s Repressive Machinery: Human Rights Forty Years After the Revolution, 1999, digital version. 

[10] Amnesty International, The Situation of Human Rights in Cuba, May 2002, p. 2, at: AMR 25/002/2002/s.

[11] Idem., digital version.

[12] Idem., digital version

[13] Idem.

[14] Idem.

[15] Marcelino Miyares Ph.D., The Varela Project and Cubans’ Political Rights, Testimony given before the IACHR, op. cit., Repressive Actions of the Cuban Political Police against Members of the Christian Liberation Movement from July to September 2002.

[16] Idem.

[17] Communication dated October 15, 2002, in the files of the IACHR.  The identity of the person who supplied the information in question is being withheld for security reasons.

[18] Coalition of Cuban-American Women, Laida Carro, communication dated October 23, 2002, Miami, Florida, United States.

[19] News from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), New York, March 14, 2002, Police Assault Journalist.

[20] Reporters Without Borders, communication dated August 2, 2002.

[21] Information Bureau of the Cuban Human Rights Movement,  Miami, Florida, United States, December 4, 2002, reporting information received from Havana, Cuba, through members of the Christian Liberation Movement.

[22] IACHR, Annual Report 2000, Volume III, p.  62.