Under its mandate to promote the observance and defense of human rights, the IACHR has been reviewing the status of human rights in the countries of the hemisphere and has drawn up special reports on some of them.  These reports have been prepared on the Commission's own initiative, or on instructions from an organ of the Organization of American States, and, in some cases, at the spontaneous request of the country concerned.


          The Commission feels that these reports, their later dissemination, and discussion of them have helped to change the behaviour of particular countries as regards their observance of human rights, and in some cases, the reports have placed on record that the behaviour of a country is in accord with international commitments it has undertaken in the field of human rights.


          Follow-ups on these reports have usually been included in the Commission's annual reports to the General Assembly when warranted by the State's behaviour in the human rights area.


          The Commission's Annual Report submitted to the twenty first regular session of the General Assembly included a chapter with sections on the status of human rights in Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama, and Suriname from May 1, 1990, to January 31, 1991.


          At this time, the Commission considers in this Chapter the status of human rights in Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama, and Suriname.  In order to make the information available to it as complete as possible, the Commission, in November 1991, requested the countries mentioned to provide it with any information they deemed appropriate, but particularly information on how they had complied with the Commission's previous recommendations; on the progress they had made and any difficulties they had encountered in effective observance of human rights; and on the text of any statute enacted or case law that might have affected the observance of human rights.


          Where warranted, the Governments' responses and any other information from various sources to which the Commission has had access have been taken into consideration in drafting this chapter.


          The Commission reiterates that the inclusion of these sections is not designed to give an overall and complete description of the status of human rights in each of the seven countries mentioned.  The Commission's intent here is rather to give an update covering the period of one year since the last general reports.



          The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has continued to observe human rights developments in Cuba.  This section of the Annual Report depicts the situations that have arisen during the period covered by it and updates the information given in the Commission's previous annual reports and seven special reports.


          During 1991, the year covered by this Annual Report, the adverse economic and social conditions to which the Commission drew attention in its 1990 Report continued to worsen.  The Fourth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba failed to take the hoped-for political decisions to deal with those situations.  Moreover, the Cuban authorities failed to respond to repeated requests by heads of state of the Americas to initiate a process of relaxation of the internal political system by accepting the principle of plurality of political positions and granting those that do not share the Government's ideology the right to participate in the life of the nation.


          The Government has tightened the restrictions imposed on the activities of persons who seek to exercise their human rights or to denounce abuses committed by the authorities.  The Government of Cuba considers these groups and persons to be in large part controlled by foreign interests that seek to destroy the political process initiated in 1959 and has accordingly further hardened its attitude toward any show of discontent or dissidence.  Reliable observers feel that the increase both in social tensions and in governmental repression betokens an extremely dangerous situation which as it develops can have serious repercussions on effective respect for human rights.


          Against this general background the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has received information on increased action on the part of the Cuban Government against human rights activists and unofficial organizations. For example, on October 9, 1991 thirteen persons were arrested in Havana for having distributed the text of proposals of the Cuban Democratic Coalition (Convergencia Democrática Cubana) movement and having tried to organize a demonstration in that city.  The detainees are Luis Pita Santos, President of the Political Rights Defense Association (Asociación de Defensa de los Derechos Políticos--ADEPO), Reynaldo Betancourt Alvarez, Lazaro Loreto Perea, Ramon Rodriguez, Raul Cobas Paradela, and Julian Jorge Reyes, all members of ADEPO's board of directors.  Also detained were Jorge Quintana, leader of the group Seguidores de Mella and María Celina Rodríguez, President of the group Libertad y Fe.  Also arrested were Omar López Montenegro, Manuel de Jesús Leyva, Juan Gualberto Fernández and Eduardo Cuartas, all members of the Asociación Pro-Arte Libre (APAL), and the independent activist Fernando Nunez.


          The persons named have been tried for the crimes of illegal association, incitement to break the law and possession of clandestine printed matter, all concepts contained in the Cuban Penal Code, in addition to that of disrespect for the President of the Council of State.  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has learned that Reynaldo Betancourt Alvarez and Jorge Julián Reyes have been sentenced to three years and Aníbal Cruz to two years and three months imprisonment.  The Commission has not received information on the situation of the other people listed.


          The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been informed that representatives of the Convergencia Democrática Cubana were arrested at the residence of Dr. Omar del Pozo on September 23, 1991.  The information indicates that nine police officers burst into Dr. del Pozo's residence, demanded identity documents and detained all the activists for an hour without giving any reason.  Some of these were released after an hour:  Hector Castaneda, Vilma Fernandez, Gregorio Rueda, Ernesto Arteaga, and Maria Elena Bayo.  They awaited the release of their colleagues.  However, forty minutes later Dr. Omar del Pozo, Fausto Martí and Pablo Reyes were taken to the Tenth Police Unit, where they were held.  The Commission has also been informed that on the same date the police visited other members of the Convergencia Democrática Cubana in order to threaten them and urge them not to persist in their activities.


          Similarly, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has received information concerning threats against the delegation of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights (Comité Cubano Pro Derechos Humanos) in the province of Holguín.  In September, the activist Eriberto del Toro Argote received telephone calls in the early hours of the morning threatening him with death if he persisted in his activities on the Committee.  Also, Míriam Zaragoza Perez was visited by an official of State Security who interrogated her concerning her activities as a member of the Committee and threatened her with imprisonment if she persisted in them.


          The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been informed that on September 6, 1961, Daniel Azpíllaga, President of the Pacifist Movement for Solidarity and Peace (Movimiento Pacifista Solidaridad y Paz) and his brother Tomás were arrested by agents of the State Security Department (Departamento de Seguridad del Estado--DSE) and the Revolutionary National Police (Policía Nacional Revolucionaria--PNR) when a demonstration in Havana organized to demand political amnesty was broken up.  In the process one of the demonstrators was wounded and others were struck by a group of police dressed in civilian clothes.  The Azpíllaga brothers were detained at the Tenth Police Unit in Havana.


          The Commission has also learned that the following were detained on November 19, 1991:  Maria Elena Cruz Varela, President of the Criterio Alternativo group, and Fernando Velazquez Medina, Elvira Baro, Jorge Pomar, Hubert Luis Matos Sanchez, Eliecer Aguilar, Pastor Herrera and Gabriel Aguado Chaves.  These persons had met together in the house of Elena Cruz Varela. The information also indicates that in the detention process the persons listed were struck and the interior of Cruz Varela's house was seriously damaged.  On December 4, 1991, the conviction in the case of the members of Criterio Alternativo was handed down.  They received the following sentences:  Maria Elena Cruz Varela and Jorge Aracelio Pomar Montalvo were sentenced to two years in prison, convicted of association for unlawful purposes and libel; Pastor Herrera Macuran was sentenced to one year and four months imprisonment, having been found guilty of association for unlawful purposes and of operating clandestine printing presses; Gabriel Aguado Chavez was sentenced to one year and six months, having been found guilty of the same charges.  The Inter-American Commission has received reports that Fernando Velasquez Medina has been sentenced to two years, Hubert Luis Matos Sanchez to one year and four months, and finally Eliecer Aguilar Chavez to one year in prison, all on similar charges.  The reports indicate that Elvira Baro is still being held at the Villa Marista prison, though no proceedings have been instituted against her.


          On November 9, 1991, Marco Antonio Abad was arrested as he was attempting to film an "act of repudiation" targeted against the Chairman of Criterio Alternativo, Maria Elena Cruz Varela.  According to the reports the Commission has received, the "acts of repudiation" are the newest intimidation tactic the government is using against human rights activists.  The "act of repudiation" involves a mob that gathers outside the activists' homes, hurling all manner of insults and slogans in favor of the revolution and of the Government.  Jorge Crespo, a young filmmaker, was arrested three weeks later, apparently because of some connection with Marco Antonio Abad.


          The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has also been told that on December 20, 1991, Yndamiro Restano, a leader of the group Movimiento Armonía (MAR), was arrested by State Security Police, as he was about to drop off his parents at their home.  Six days later, Jorge Egana, Iraida Montalvo, and Berenice Morales, all members of the Movimiento Armonia, were arrested.  According to reports received, they are being held in the facilities of the State Security Police at Villa Marista and it is believed that they will be convicted on charges of "rebellion" for having encouraged peaceful change and democracy.


          During the period covered by this Report the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was informed of the release of a number of prisoners.  Dr. Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz, President of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (Comisión Cubana de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Nacional) was released conditionally from Aguica Prison on May 5, 1991, three months before completing his two-year sentence. The Commission considered that sentence a violation of Dr. Sánchez Santa Cruz's human rights.


          Upon his release Sanchez Santa Cruz was once again subjected to harassment by the Government, being arrested and released twice within 48 hours.  On November 20, 1991 he was detained when approaching the residence of María Elena Cruz Varela, President of Criterio Alternativo.  On November 22, a group of police agents burst into his house and after conducting a minute search arrested him together with his brother Gerardo.  According to the information received, no sooner had the security agents detained the Sánchez brothers than a mob of about 200 people arrived by state transportation, provided with portable sound amplification systems, who hurled objects against the residence and shouted insults of all kinds, at a time when only the mother and a brother of the persons involved were there.  The information indicates that around 10 p.m. of the same day, November 22, the detainees were brought back to the house and forced to pass through the midst of the mob, which kept striking and insulting them until they were able to enter.  Since that date the Sánchez Santa Cruz residence, the headquarters of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, has been blocked and the telephone disconnected.


          On the other hand, Huber Jerez Merino, President of the Martí Committee for Human Rights (Comité Martiano por los Derechos del Hombre) was released from Camagüey Provincial Prison (known as Kilo 7) on February 1, 1991, upon expiration of his 18-month sentence.  On November 27, 1990 Hiram Abi Cobas Nunez, General Secretary of the Human Rights in Cuba Party (Partido Pro-Derechos Humanos en Cuba), was released for medical reasons before completing his sentence.  These two people, together with Elizardo Sánchez, had been arrested on August 6, 1989, on the charge of having distributed false information with the intent to endanger the prestige and credit of the Cuban state when they made statements to the foreign press concerning incidents of irregular legal process in the cases of General Arnaldo Ochoa and other high Cuban officials which culminated in his execution.


          On March 19, 1991, Mario Jesus Fernandez Mora and Edgardo Llompart Martín were released from Combinado del Este prison.  They had been arrested in September 1989, together with Esteban Gonzalez Gonzalez, Manuel Pozo Montero, Arturo Montane Ruiz, Manuel de la Caridad Regueiro Robaína, and Isidro Daniel Ledesma Quijano.  All were convicted on June 20, 1990, on charges of rebellion and acts against the security of the state (Articles 98, 99, and 125 of the Cuban Penal Code).   The charges were based on activities carried out with members of the Democratic Integrationist Movement (Movimiento Integracionista Democrático).  Esteban González was sentenced to seven years imprisonment, Mario Fernández to seven years, Manuel de la Caridad Regueiro and Manuel Pozo Montero to five years, and Arturo Valentín Montané and Edgardo Llompart to three years.  Isidro Ledesma Quijano was sentenced to three years deprivation of liberty on the ground of mental illness.  The Commission has  learned that the remaining four Democratic Integrationist Movement prisoners are continually transferred from one prison to another.


          In January 1991, Manuel Pozo Montero, Manuel de la Caridad Regueiro Robaína and Arturo Montané Ruiz took part in a protest jointly with about ten political prisoners in Combinado del Este prison.  The group refused to wear their uniforms, with the aim of pressuring the Cuban authorities to initiate political reforms entailing greater respect for human rights.  On January 14, all these people, together with Esteban González González, who did not take part initially in the protest, were transferred to other prisons:  Montane and Pozo to Cerámica Roja prison (Camaguey), Regueiro to Combinado del Sur prison (Matanzas) and González to Aguica prison (also in Matanzas), where he also refused to put on the uniform.  The four are said to have been transferred back to Combinado del Este prison, apparently on condition that they stop the protest.  However, Esteban Gonzalez and Manuel Regueiro have been transferred again, to Cimanajuay prison in Havana.


          Samuel Martinez Lara, leader of the Partido Cubano Pro Derechos Humanos, who was sentenced to three years restricted liberty in November 1990, on a charge of rebellion for his human rights activities, was allowed to emigrate to the United States in June 1991, after having served 18 months.  Ernesto Haza Tejera, a member of the same party, was released from Aguica prison after serving a one-year sentence on a charge of public disorder.


          It should be noted the pressures exerted against persons who engage in activities in defense of human rights or try to carry out activities that constitute the exercise of fundamental human rights on the part of the Cuban regime, which can be expected to intensify this policy in the immediate future.


          The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been informed that during the period covered by this Report the Government of Cuba reduced some of the restrictions imposed on persons who wish to leave the country.  As a start the minimum age was reduced from 65 to 35 years for men and from 60 to 30 years for women, and last August the Cuban Government announced that men and women over 20 years of age may emigrate.  The Inter-American Commission has also learned that the Cuban Government has lifted certain restrictions which prevented families from reuniting with relatives who had obtained political asylum outside Cuba, such as reprisals against the families of persons having received asylum and even total prohibition on leaving the island.  The Government recently allowed persons with families exiled abroad to leave the country and join them.


          The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights regards as a positive step the permission to leave the country granted by the Cuban Government to Alexander Menéndez, son of the cycling trainer Jose Alberto Menendez, and to Rosa Miranda Diaz and Lissette Vasquez Miranda, wife and daughter, respectively, of Roger Vasquez, as repeatedly requested by the Commission.


          The Commission is concerned about the continued flight of many people from Cuba on makeshift rafts and boats.  According to information received, up to November 1991, 2,096 Cubans had reached the coast of Florida in this way, a marked increase over the figure for the year 1990, during which 467 Cubans reached the United States coast under these conditions.  It is virtually impossible to calculate how many human lives have been lost in the attempt, but it is generally agreed that the number is high.  According to available analyses the reasons for this behavior are, first, the restrictions stemming from the rules governing emigration to the United States, and second the lengthy bureaucratic procedures imposed in Cuba.


          It should be noted that Cubans who try to leave the country illegally and are apprehended face sentences of one to three years deprivation of liberty.  According to information furnished to the Commission, there are a large number of people under deprivation of liberty owing to situations of this kind.  A case in point is that of Alejandro Joaquin Fuentes García, a former lieutenant in state security who was surprised while trying to flee the country on a boat in September 1991; he is in very poor health and is incarcerated under particularly harsh conditions.


          Ernesto Diaz Rodriguez, a celebrated hold-out, was released in March 1991, after having served 22 years of a 40-year prison sentence. Similarly, Mario Chames de Armas was released on July 16, 1991, 24 hours after completing a sentence of 30 years.


          The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has continued to receive information on the unsatisfactory conditions of incarceration of persons deprived of liberty for political reasons, a situation that has triggered many hunger strikes.  Thus, Rodolfo Rojas Triana and Ariel Prieto Henríquez began a hunger strike in Combinado del Este prison in Havana at the end of September demanding their freedom, as did Jorge Hechevarría Pérez, confined in Valle Grande prison in Havana, who began his hunger strike on October 23, 1991.


          The Commission was also informed during the period covered by this Report of cases of psychiatric abuse committed against Juan Eligio Guzman and Miguel Muñoz Cordova, accused of having painted anti-government slogans in Santiago de las Vegas, who have been confined under arrest in the Carbó Serví award of Mazorra Hospital.  On October 28, 1991, they were transferred to a cell in the Castellanos maximum-security psychiatric ward, and on that date began a hunger strike to protest their situation.


          The Commission has also learned of another person on hunger strike, Ariel Diaz Morales, who was a victim of physical aggression in the Flor de Cuba prison and was then transferred to El Yabu prison, a even harsher jail.  It has also been informed that Carlos Novoa Ponce has been on a hunger strike since November 1, 1991, in Valle Grande prison, demanding his freedom.  Novoa is co-founder of the Christian Democrat Movement (Movimiento Demócrata Cristiano) and was one of the people given asylum in the headquarters of the Czechoslovakian Embassy last year during the "Embassies Crisis."  Novoa joined the strike in which Jorge Hechevarría Pérez has been engaged since September 23.


          In addition, the brothers Jorge and Osman Varela Hernandez, incarcerated for trying to leave the country, have been on strike since October 28, demanding to be treated as political prisoners.  Added to these four hunger-strike cases in Valle Grande prison, Juan Enrique García Cruz, one of the founders of the Asociación Pro Arte Libre, has been on a prolonged fast in Guanajay prison since October 16, demanding his freedom for having served his full sentence.


          The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has also been informed that political detainees are being housed along with ordinary prisoners.  Thus, Dr. Julio Bentz Saab and Dr. Julian Arana Rosainz, who were both arrested in October 1990, on charges of violation of state security and illegal association (Articles 107.1 and 208-209, respectively, of the Penal Code), are being detained together with ordinary prisoners in units 1 and 2 of Combinado del Este prison.


          Concerning application of the death penalty in Cuba, the Commission has learned that Joaquin Emiliano Dueñas Carbonell was sentenced to death in February 1991, on charges of having assassinated two police officers.  Jorge Luis Gonzalez Norona was executed last March for ordinary crimes.


          The Inter-American Commission must also address itself to the death sentence handed down by the Provincial Tribunal of Havana on January 11, 1992, against Eduardo Díaz Betancourt, Daniel Santovenia Fernandez and Pedro de la Caridad Alvarez Pedroso.  The three were charged with "entering Cuban territory clandestinely, for the purpose of committing terrorist acts, sabotage and spreading enemy propaganda."  According to information supplied by the Cuban Government, the three men were taken on December 29, 1991, as they were landing on the island.  They were carrying weapons and explosives.  The Supreme Court upheld the sentence in the case of Eduardo Díaz Betancourt and Daniel Santovenia Fernandez, but not in the case of Pedro Alvarez Pedroso.  The latter's death sentence was commuted and he was sentenced instead to 30 years' imprisonment.  On appeal, the Cuban Council of State finally commuted the death sentence of Santovenia Fernandez on January 19, 1992, but upheld the sentence of Díaz Betancourt, disregarding appeals from a number of prominent figures.  It argued that he was an extremely dangerous person with a long criminal record; he had been especially trained to commit crimes against the Cuban people and the security of the State.  The Government of Cuba reported that Díaz Betancourt was executed on January 20.


          Human rights organizations have said repeatedly that the three convicted men had not committeed any act of violence, that the trial was a summary proceeding and that under Article 124, paragraph B of the Cuban Penal Code, the penalty for entering the country clandestinely for the purpose of perpetrating a crime against the security of the State is 10 to 20 years' imprisonment, not the death penalty.  A matter of particular concern was the statement made by the Council of State to the effect that "revolutionary justice will be less and less lenient" toward those who try to undermine the system.  The Inter American Commission on Human Rights considers that the trial was a summary proceeding which does not guarantee due process.  Moreover, the Commission must point out that the penalty is excessive and disproportionate since the individuals in question had not committed any acts of violence.


          In the field of political rights, it should be mentioned that the Fourth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party was held on October 10, 1991.  It was attended by 1,800 delegates.  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been informed that the various human rights groups and organizations presented a series of proposals to the delegates of the Fourth Congress.  These included calls to institute general amnesty for all political prisoners, establish freedom of worship, convoke a constituent assembly consisting of representatives of the entire nation, legalize human rights organizations and opposition parties that so request, and cooperate with the United Nations special representative; in addition, institute elections for all government offices through free, direct and secret ballot, establish separation of powers into executive, legislative and judicial branches, end monopoly control of the communications media and guarantee absolute freedom of expression, assembly and peaceful demonstration, and legalize the General Union of Workers of Cuba (Unión General de Trabajadores de Cuba--UGTC) and recognize the right to strike, the eight-hour workday and other internationally recognized rights; and finally, allow freedom of individual initiative and encourage the development of small and medium-sized agricultural enterprises, with active participation in the market, and maintain relations with all countries within a framework of mutual respect and cooperation.  The Inter-American Commission has not been informed of any resolutions of the Fourth Congress that could be interpreted as indicating a desire on the part of the Communist Party of Cuba to advance toward reforms designed to overcome the serious problems that beset Cuban society.


          The Commission has also learned that on July 11, 1991, the Public Prosecutor's Office (Fiscalía General de la República) set up "Rapid Action Brigades" (Brigadas de Acción Rápida) with the object of controlling any sign of public discontent.  The Cuban authorities have reported the recruitment of civilian volunteers in labor centers and neighborhoods.


          Finally, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights draws attention to two resolutions adopted during the period covered by this Report.  The first resolution was adopted by the Commission on the Application of Standards of the International Labor Organization (ILO).  It found that Cuban legislation restricts trade union membership to an official labor organization and that it discriminates against workers on the basis of their political beliefs.


          The second resolution was adopted by the 47th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, which took place in Geneva on July 2, 1991.  The President of the UN Human Rights Commission appointed Rafael Rivas Posada as Special Representative of the Secretary General for Cuba, with the task of drawing up a report evaluating the human rights situation for discussion at the 1992 session.  The final resolution prescribed that the Special Representative shall maintain contact with the Cuban Government and population and presumably visit Cuba.  However, the Cuban Delegation to the United Nations stated that its Government does not guarantee access by the Special Representative.


          The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights must express its deep concern over the mounting restrictions to which those who hold positions that differ from those of the Government are subjected in Cuba.  If further progress is to be made in the direction of democratization and respect for the fundamental rights and freedoms, then the proper conditions must be present.  It is up to the Cuban Government to create those conditions.  As the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights noted, the inter-American community, too, has a responsibility to help create those conditions that result in unqualified observance of human rights in Cuba.


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