OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN SEVERAL STATES
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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,
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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