Cuba’s complicated political history has contributed to the government’s crackdown on free speech and public criticism of the nation. However, protecting political regimes is no excuse for oppression or violent action in any country or political system. Observing and acknowledging the status of human rights in Cuba is essential to improving the living conditions of those who live there. Here are the top nine facts about human rights in Cuba.
Top Nine Facts About Human Rights in Cuba
- Political Protest – The first of the top nine facts about human rights in Cuba pertains to Cuba’s political integrity. The Human Rights Watch reported that the Cuban government uses tactics, such as arbitrary detentions, to intimidate critics. These tactics are also intended to prevent political protest and dissent. In fact, the number of arbitrary detentions rose from a monthly average of 172 to 825 between 2010 and 2016. These unreasonable detentions are meant to discourage Cuban citizens from criticizing the government. Additionally, they result in a serious freedom of speech crisis for the Cuban people.
- Political Participation – Although dissent against the government is punished harshly, more Cubans are willing to express discontent with their votes now than in previous years. For example, during a constitutional vote in 1976, only 8 percent of the population voted that they were unhappy with their current constitution. However, in the most recent constitutional vote, 14 percent of the population voted they were unhappy. Although this is still a small percentage of the country willing to express discontent, it signifies substantial improvement from previous years.
- Freedom House Rating – In 2018, the Freedom House gave Cuba a “not free” rating. This is due to the Cuban government’s use of detentions to restrict political protest and restrain freedom of the press. However, there have been several notable improvements including the reforms “that permit some self-employment.” These economic reforms give Cubans more control over their personal financial growth.
- Right to Travel – There have been improvements in Cubans’ overall right to travel throughout their country and beyond. Since 2003, when travel rights were reformed, many who had previously been denied permission to travel have been able to do so. However, the government still restricts the travel rights of Cubans who criticize the government.
- Freedom of Religion – The U.S. State Department reported that although the Cuban Constitution allows for freedom of religion, there have been several significant restrictions on freedom of religion in Cuba. Accordingly, the government has used “threats, travel restrictions, detentions and violence against some religious leaders and their followers.” In addition, the Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), considered an illegal organization by the Cuban government, reported 325 violations of freedom of religion in 2017.
- Freedom of Media – The internet is limited and expensive in Cuba. Moreover, the Cuban government censors anything made available to the Cuban people. The Human Rights Watch reported that “the government controls virtually all media outlets in Cuba and restricts access to outside information.” While there are a few independent journalists who publish their work online, the Cuban government regularly takes these sites down so they cannot be accessed by the Cuban people.
- Access to Healthcare – Access to healthcare remains strong in Cuba. Despite its economic status, the country has a life expectancy of 77 years. The World Health Organization even reported a drop in child mortality, reporting only seven deaths for every 1,000 children. This is a substantial improvement compared to 40 years ago when there were 46 deaths per 1,000 children. This strong healthcare system is a great success for the country and brings a higher quality of life to its citizens.
- Labor Rights – Cuba possesses a corrupt labor climate. As the largest employer in the country, the government has immense control over labor and the economy. Consequently, workers’ ability to organize is very limited. The state is able to dismiss employees at will. This lack of stability and the constant threat to citizens’ jobs enables the state control that restricts citizens’ rights to free speech.
- Political Prisoners – The Cuban government has wrongfully imprisoned several political dissidents. For instance, Dr. Eduardo Cardet Concepción was sentenced to three years in prison for criticizing Fidel Castro. In addition, a family was sentenced to prison for leaving their home during the state-mandated mourning period for Fidel Castro. However, the children of the family were released from prison after a prolonged hunger strike.
Although the Cuban government has been very successful at providing its citizens with a high quality of health care and is providing more economic freedoms, there are still huge restrictions on speech and media in the country. The government can threaten dissenters with unemployment, restrict their right to travel and arrest them on false claims. These restrictions are a serious human rights violation. In order to help provide the Cuban people with the opportunity to fully have a say in their government, it is important for those outside of Cuba to advocate and raise awareness for the plight of the Cuban people.
– Alina Patrick