Human rights in Cuba have had a tumultuous history, especially after Fidel Castro seized power in 1959. His communist regime, lasting almost 50 years, marked the country and created tension between other countries including the United States. Under his dictatorial leadership, the government fell into oppressive patterns. Although Castro has not had power in Cuba for almost a decade and died in 2016, Cuba still struggles with human rights violations.
Under Fidel Castro’s rule, human rights in Cuba did see improvements in some areas. Castro pushed to increase literacy rates and the education systems became stronger. Healthcare services also saw vast improvements, earning the government – specifically Castro – the love of many. After his death last year, the majority of Cubans mourned his death.
While he may have had the support of many of his fellow citizens, Castro also perpetrated egregious human rights violations. With a regime characterized by intimidation and blunt force, he squashed any opposing views. The government put thousands of people in jail to avoid any possible threats to the security of their control, and used physical force to spread fear throughout any groups that did not support the communist party. Human rights viewed as inconvenient to the government were not respected and freedom of expression did not exist.
Even though Castro does not hold power in Cuba anymore, the pattern of governmental oppression of free speech continues. Fewer human rights activists spend significant amounts of time in jail, but they still suffer from sporadic arrests meant to intimidate them. Racism also plagues Cuban communities, with Afro-Cubans receiving the brunt of racial discrimination. Afro-Cubans report higher difficulty obtaining jobs and housing than their white fellow citizens. They are also more likely to be racially profiled to be criminals.
The government largely controls the information Cubans have access to and also has a heavy hold on the media. However, in the past few years Cuba has relinquished some control of worldly information. Private Internet access used to be illegal except for under specific conditions, but as of March 2017, Cubans are allowed to use the Internet freely at home.
While there have been improvements to human rights in Cuba, the country still has a long way to go to achieve justice for all. The United States has begun to restrict trade with Cuba, hoping to force the country to improve its human rights. Hopefully, in response to pressure from the United States, the Cuban government will take a magnifying glass to the human rights violations happening around the country and make efforts to remedy them.
– Julia Mccartney