50 Reasons Against Lifting Sanctions Towards Cuba's Regime
Capitol Hill Cubans
I. FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
1. The International Committee of the Red Cross (“ICRC”) has repeatedly requested access to prisons in Cuba, one of the few countries to deny it permission to visit political prisoners. The ICRC “has not been able to visit prisons since July 1959, seven months after Fidel Castro came to power.” (“Red Cross Seeks Access to Cuban Prisons,” AFP, December 7th, 2006).
2. According to the 2008 State Department Report on Human Rights Practices, "The government [of Cuba] continued to deny its citizens their basic human rights and committed numerous, serious abuses. The government denied citizens the right to change their government. At year's end there were at least 205 political prisoners and detainees. As many as 5,000 citizens served sentences for 'dangerousness,' without being charged with any specific crime.
The following human rights problems were reported: beatings and abuse of detainees and prisoners, including human rights activists, carried out with impunity; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, including denial of medical care; harassment, beatings, and threats against political opponents by government-recruited mobs, police, and State Security officials; arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights advocates and members of independent professional organizations; denial of fair trial; and interference with privacy, including pervasive monitoring of private communications.
There were also severe limitations on freedom of speech and press; denial of peaceful assembly and association; restrictions on freedom of movement, including selective denial of exit permits to citizens and the forcible removal of persons from Havana to their hometowns; restrictions on freedom of religion; and refusal to recognize domestic human rights groups or permit them to function legally. Discrimination against persons of African descent, domestic violence, underage prostitution, trafficking in persons, and severe restrictions on worker rights, including the right to form independent unions, were also problems."
3. Afro-Cuban pro-democracy leader, Jorge Luis Perez Garcia "Antunez," who already spent over 17 years as a political prisoner before his release in 2007, has been on a peaceful hunger strike in his home since February 17th demanding the cessation of torture in Cuba's political prisons. Cuban authorities recently assaulted Antunez' home with tear gas (Amnesty International Miami Herald, March 26, 2009).
4. "Day and night, the screams of tormented women in panic and desperation who cry for God's mercy fall upon the deaf ears of prison authorities. They are confined to narrow cells with no sunlight called "drawers" that have cement beds, a hole on the ground for their bodily needs, and are infested with a multitude of rodents, roaches, and other insects…In these "drawers" the women remain weeks and months. When they scream in terror due to the darkness (blackouts are common) and the heat, they are injected sedatives that keep them half-drugged." Testimony of Juan Carlos González Leiva, State Security Prison, Holguín, Cuba, October 27, 2003.
5. The Cuba Archive Project (www.cubaarchive.org) has rigorously documented over 90,000 non-combat deaths that can be attributed to the Cuban regime through executions, extra-judicial assassinations, deaths in political prisons, missing and disappeared. To put this in perspective, the brutal regime of General Augusto Pinochet was attributed over 3,000 murders, executions and disappearances during its 16-year rule.
6. Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, one of Cuba’s best known and most respected pro-democracy and Afro-Cuban leaders, was sentenced to 25-years in prison on April 7th, 2003. Dr. Biscet was arrested on December 6th, 2002 while trying to hold a seminar on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Seventeen other people were arrested together with him. He was arrested only 37 days after being released from a first three-year sentence that he served on a charge of “disrespect”.
7. Plainclothes police kicked their way into a Roman Catholic church in eastern Cuba, beat and used pepper spray on a group of dissidents, church officials and human rights activists. Seven people were arrested when police entered the parish church of Santa Teresita in Santiago, Cuba's second-largest city, in search of government opponents. (Reuters, December 5th, 2007)
8. "I have never been charged in court yet I am condemned not to leave this Island. This restriction has not been dictated by a judge, nor could I have appealed it to jury, rather it comes from the great prosecutor—with full rights—in which he’s set himself up as the Cuban State. That severe magistrate determined that the old woman sitting next to me would not receive the ‘white card’ because her son ‘deserted’ from a medical mission. The boy who waited in the corner couldn’t travel either, because his athlete father plays now under another flag. The list of the punished is so long and the reasons so varied, that we could establish a huge group of forced islander 'stay-at-homes.' It’s too bad that the vast majority are silent, in the hopes that one day they’ll be allowed to leave, as one who receives compensation for good behavior," writes Cuban (Generation Y) blogger Yoani Sanchez, named as one of Time Magazine's 2008 Most Influential People in the World, after being denied permission to travel abroad for the third time this year alone.
9. It would be exceedingly presumptuous for U.S. policymakers to ignore the pleas of Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet in Cuba - similar to those of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma - that the United States continue not to recognize, and therefore not legitimize, these regimes in a political, diplomatic or commercial capacity.
10. Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a bricklayer and plumber, was arrested on March 20th, 2003 while taking part in a hunger strike at the Fundación Jesús Yánez Pelletier in Havana to demand the release of Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet and other political prisoners. He was sentenced to three years' imprisonment in 2003 on charges of showing “contempt to the figure of Fidel Castro,” “public disorder” and “resistance.” In November 2005 he was sentenced to an additional 15 years for “contempt” and “resistance” in prison. In May 2006,
he was again tried on the same charges and sentenced to an additional seven-year term. He is now serving a prison sentence of 25 years and six months. (“Newly Declared Prisoners of Conscience,” AP, January 29th, 2004).
11. “In the early morning hours of July 13, 1994, three boats belonging to the Cuban State and equipped with water hoses attacked an old tugboat that was fleeing Cuba with 72 people on board. The incident occurred seven miles off the Cuban coast, outside the port of Havana. The Cuban State boats attacked the tugboat with their prows, while at the same time spraying everyone on the deck of the boat, including women and children, with pressurized water. The pleas to stop the attack were in vain, and the old boat-named the ‘13 of March’ - sank, with a toll of 41 deaths, including ten children.” Ted Koppel, ABC’s Nightline, January 21st, 1998.
12. On April 26th, 2006 a mob organized by the Cuban regime’s secret police assaulted Marta Beatriz Roque, a prominent dissident and former university professor of economics. According to the Cuban Committee for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), “several members of the para-police mob attacked her verbally and physically, threw her to the ground and then attacked her inside her house, where a very hefty individual slugged her hard in the face.”
13. In Cuba, all print and broadcast media are under state control. Also, access to the Internet is severely limited outside of governmental offices and educational institutions. During 2006, there was a rise in the harassment and intimidation of independent journalists and librarians. From January to August 2006, journalist Guillermo Fariñas staged an intermittent hunger strike to obtain access to the Internet, without success. (“Guillermo Farinas Ends Seven-Month-Old Hunger Strike for Internet Access,” Reporters Without Borders, September 1st, 2006).
14. The Cuban regime forbids the country's citizens from leaving or returning to Cuba without first obtaining official permission, which is usually denied. Unauthorized travel can result in criminal prosecution. The regime also bars citizens engaged in authorized travel from taking their children with them overseas, essentially holding the children hostage to guarantee the parents' return. Given the widespread fear of forced family separation, these exit travel restrictions provide the Cuban government with a powerful tool for punishing defectors and silencing critics.
15. On March 18, 2003, a severe wave of repression broke over Cuban opposition leaders. For three days, 90 peaceful human rights, democracy and political activists were arrested in the spring of 2003, summarily tried and sentenced to jail terms of up to 28 years.
16. “I can only hope that in their deliberations, Mr. Bush, Congressional lawmakers and the farmers they represent will consider the ‘freedom of movement’ I and the other wives of Cuban political prisoners will enjoy for years to come: traveling every three months to spend just two hours with our husbands.” Written from Cuba by Claudia Marquez Linares, “Free Trade Won’t Free Cuba,” New York Times, November 6th, 2003.
17. Hundreds of thousands of Cuban refugees have tried to flee the regime and navigate the Florida Straits in flimsy rafts made from rope and old inner tubes and in rickety boats constructed from old car parts and bus roofs. Experts believe that for every refugee rescued, two or three are captured by Cuban authorities or have perished at sea.
18. Francisco Chaviano, an Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience, who attempted inside Cuba to collect information on political disappearances, including those of captured rafters, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1995.
19. On April 2nd, 2003 Lorenzo Copello, Bárbaro Sevilla, and Jorge Martínez -- three young Afro-Cubans -- attempted to hijack a Havana ferry in an attempt to flee to the United States. They were caught, summarily tried in closed-door proceedings, and executed by firing squad nine days later in a case condemned by Amnesty International, the United States and other governments.
20. On February 23rd, 2007 the Cuban regime ordered three foreign journalists, Gary Marx of the Chicago Tribune, César Gonzalez-Calero of the Mexican daily El Universal and Stephen Gibbs of the BBC, to immediately stop reporting on Cuba and leave the island. They were told that their work "was not the most suitable to the Cuban government."
21. As Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who taught us all about the horror of the Soviet gulag, noted "we are slaves there from birth, but we are striving for freedom. You however, were born free. If so, then why do you help our slave owners?"
Number 22-50 are located here.