Department of State. Released by
the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. March 31,
Cuba is a totalitarian state controlled by Fidel Castro,
who is Chief of State with the titles of President, Head of
Government, First Secretary of the Communist Party, and commander
in chief of the armed forces. Castro exercises control over
all aspects of life through the Communist Party and its affiliated
mass organizations, the government bureaucracy headed by the
Council of State, and the state security apparatus. The Communist
Party is the only legal political entity, and Castro personally
chooses the membership of the Politburo, the select group
that heads the party. There are no contested elections for
the 601-member National Assembly of People's Power (ANPP),
which meets twice a year for a few days to rubber stamp decisions
and policies previously decided by the governing Council of
State. The Communist Party controls all government positions,
including judicial offices. The judiciary is completely subordinate
to the Government and to the Communist Party.
The Ministry of Interior is the principal entity of state
security and totalitarian control. Officers of the Revolutionary
Armed Forces, which are led by Fidel Castro's brother General
Raul Castro, were assigned to the majority of key positions
in the Ministry of Interior in the past several years. In
addition to the routine law enforcement functions of regulating
migration and controlling the Border Guard and the regular
police forces, the Interior Ministry's Department of State
Security investigated and actively suppressed political opposition
and dissent. It maintained a pervasive system of surveillance
through undercover agents, informers, rapid response brigades
(RRBs), and neighborhood-based Committees for the Defense
of the Revolution (CDRs). The Government traditionally has
used the CDRs to mobilize citizens against dissenters, impose
ideological conformity, and root out "counterrevolutionary"
behavior. RRBs consisted of workers from a particular brigade
(construction workers, a factory, etc.) that were organized
by the Communist Party to react forcefully to any situation
of social unrest. The Government on occasion used RRBs instead
of the police or military during such situations. Members
of the security forces committed numerous, serious human rights
The economy was centrally planned, with some elements of
state-managed capitalism in sectors such as tourism and mining.
The country's population was approximately 11 million. The
economy depended heavily on primary products such as sugar
and minerals, but also on its recently developed tourism industry.
The economy performed poorly during the year, mainly due to
inefficient policies. The 2001-02 sugar harvest was poor,
remittances from abroad decreased, and tourist arrivals declined
5 percent below 2001 levels. In November 2001, Hurricane Michelle
severely affected agricultural production, which did not begin
to recover until midyear. Government officials announced that
the economy had grown by 1.1 percent during the year. Government
policy was officially aimed at preventing economic disparity,
but persons with access to dollars enjoyed a significantly
higher standard of living than those with access only to pesos.
During the year, the Government issued a moratorium on new
licenses for small private businesses in the service sector,
many of which have been fined on unclear grounds or taxed
out of existence. A system of "tourist apartheid"
continued, whereby citizens were denied access to hotels,
beaches, and resorts reserved for foreign tourists.
The Government's human rights record remained poor, and it
continued to commit numerous serious abuses. Citizens did
not have the right to change their government peacefully.
Although the Constitution allows legislative proposals backed
by at least 10,000 citizens to be submitted directly to the
ANPP, the Government rejected a petition known as the Varela
Project, with over 11,000 signatures calling for a national
referendum on political and economic reforms. The Government
mobilized the population to sign a counter-petition reinforcing
the socialist basis of the State; the ANPP unanimously approved
this amendment. Communist Party-affiliated mass organizations
tightly controlled elections to provincial and national legislative
bodies, resulting in the selection of single, government-approved
candidates. Prisoners died in jail due to lack of medical
care. Members of the security forces and prison officials
continued to beat and abuse detainees and prisoners, including
human rights activists. The Government failed to prosecute
or sanction adequately members of the security forces and
prison guards who committed abuses. Prison conditions remained
harsh and life threatening. The authorities routinely continued
to harass, threaten, arbitrarily arrest, detain, imprison,
and defame human rights advocates and members of independent
professional associations, including journalists, economists,
doctors, and lawyers, often with the goal of coercing them
into leaving the country. The Government used internal and
external exile against such persons. The Government denied
political dissidents and human rights advocates due process
and subjected them to unfair trials. The Government infringed
on citizens' privacy rights. The Government denied citizens
the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association.
It limited the distribution of foreign publications and news,
restricted access to the Internet, and maintained strict censorship
of news and information to the public. The Government restricted
some religious activities but permitted others. The Government
limited the entry of religious workers to the country. The
Government maintained tight restrictions on freedom of movement,
including foreign travel and did not allow some citizens to
leave the country. The Government was sharply and publicly
antagonistic to all criticism of its human rights practices
and discouraged foreign contacts with human rights activists.
Violence against women, especially domestic violence, and
child prostitution were problems. Racial discrimination was
a problem. The Government severely restricted worker rights,
including the right to form independent unions. The Government
prohibits forced and bonded labor by children; however, it
required children to do farm work without compensation.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
a. Arbitrary and Unlawful Deprivation of Life
There were no reports of politically motivated killings.
On August 16, Juan Sanchez Picoto died in a psychiatric hospital
in San Luis de Jagua, allegedly by suicide. According to family
members, Sanchez Picoto had tried to emigrate nine times since
1998, and after the last attempt the authorities forcibly
removed him from his home and placed him in a psychiatric
unit for alcoholics at a Guantanamo psychiatric hospital.
He was held in a ward for violent and mentally ill offenders,
despite a doctor's diagnosis that he did not meet criteria
for involuntary commitment. He was allegedly given shock therapy
and assaulted by another detainee, resulting in a head injury.
On August 15, he was transferred from the Guantanamo hospital
to the San Luis de Jagua unit and died the next day; family
members were not allowed to see the body.
During the year, there were reports that prisoners died in
jail due to lack of medical care (see Section 1.c.).
There was no new information about the results of any investigation
into the deaths of Leovigildo Oliva and Leonardo Horta Camacho,
and no government action was likely; police reportedly shot
and killed both men in 2000.
The Government still has not indemnified the survivors and
the relatives of the 41 victims for the damages caused in
the Border Guard's July 1994 sinking of the "13th of
March" tugboat, despite a 1996 recommendation by the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to do so.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment
The Constitution prohibits abusive treatment of detainees
and prisoners; however, members of the security forces sometimes
beat and otherwise abused human rights advocates, detainees,
and prisoners. The Government took no steps to curb these
abuses. There continued to be numerous reports of disproportionate
police harassment of black youths (see Section 5).
On March 4, state security agents, police, and civilian members
of an RRB beat blind activist Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leyva,
independent journalist Carlos Brizuela Yera, and eight other
activists, who were at a public hospital in Ciego de Avila
protesting the earlier beating of independent journalist Jesus
Alvarez Castillo. Police forcibly removed the protesters from
the hospital and arrested them. On August 21, a municipal
court charged them with "contempt for authority, public
disorder, disobedience, and resistance." Prosecutors
requested a 6-year sentence for Gonzalez Leyva. Gonzalez Leyva
protested his imprisonment through a liquids-only fast, and
at year's end weighed less than 100 pounds.
On September 17, plainclothes police beat 59-year-old Rafael
Madlum Payas of the Christian Liberation Movement as he approached
a police station to inquire about the cases of seven activists
being held at the station.
The Government continued to subject persons who disagreed
with it to what it called acts of repudiation. At government
instigation, members of state-controlled mass organizations,
fellow workers, or neighbors of intended victims were obliged
to stage public protests against those who dissented from
the Government's policies, shouting obscenities and often
causing damage to the homes and property of those targeted;
physical attacks on the victims sometimes occurred. Police
and state security agents often were present but took no action
to prevent or end the attacks. Those who refused to participate
in these actions faced disciplinary action, including loss
On July 1, the first secretary of the Communist Party in
Cruces, Cienfuegos province, directed 150 persons to engage
in an act of repudiation against Gladys Aquit Manrique of
the Cuban Pro Human Rights Party. The persons shouted epithets
at Aquit Manrique and kicked her door.
There were also smaller-scale acts of repudiation, known
as "reuniones relampagos," or rapid repudiations.
These acts were conducted by a small number of persons, usually
not from the target's neighborhood, and lasted up to 30 minutes.
These individuals shouted epithets and threw stones or other
objects at the victim's house.
On April 21, members of an RRB beat Grisel Almaguer Rodriguez
of the Political Prisoners Association as she departed the
home of human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz.
On September 21, persons directed by state security officials
threw stones and mud at the home of Jose Daniel Ferrer of
the Christian Liberation Movement and beat Victor Rodriguez
Vazquez and Yordanis Almenares Crespo, who were visiting Ferrer
at the time of the attack.
On September 24, police in Santiago province directed persons
to beat six members of the Christian Liberation Movement during
an act of rapid repudiation.
Prison conditions continued to be harsh and life threatening,
and conditions in detention facilities also were harsh. The
Government claimed that prisoners had rights such as family
visitation, adequate nutrition, pay for work, the right to
request parole, and the right to petition the prison director;
however, police and prison officials often denied these rights
in practice, and beat, neglected, isolated, and denied medical
treatment to detainees and prisoners, including those convicted
of political crimes or those who persisted in expressing their
views. The Penal Code prohibits the use of corporal punishment
on prisoners and the use of any means to humiliate prisoners
or to lessen their dignity; however, the code fails to establish
penalties for committing such acts, and they continued to
occur in practice. Detainees and prisoners, both common and
political, often were subjected to repeated, vigorous interrogations
designed to coerce them into signing incriminating statements,
to force collaboration with authorities, or to intimidate
victims. Some endured physical and sexual abuse, typically
by other inmates with the acquiescence of guards, or long
periods in punitive isolation cells. Pretrial detainees were
held separately from convicted prisoners. In Havana there
were two detention centers; once sentenced, persons were transferred
to a prison.
Prisoners sometimes were held in "punishment cells,"
which usually were located in the basement of a prison, were
semi-dark all the time, had no water available in the cell,
and had a hole for a toilet. No reading materials were allowed,
and family visits were reduced to 10 minutes from 1 or 2 hours.
There was no access to lawyers while in the punishment cell.
On May 10, political prisoner Carlos Luis Diaz Fernandez
informed friends that he had been held in solitary confinement
since January 2000 in a cell with no electric light and infested
by rats and mosquitoes.
In August six guards at Guamajal prison, Villa Clara province,
beat common prisoner Pedro Rafael Perez Fuentes until he was
unconscious. Perez Fuentes told his mother that the guards
had beaten him because he had asked them why he had been denied
exercise privileges. The prison warden verbally abused Perez
Fuentes' mother when she informed him of her plans to report
On August 6, prison officials, including the chief of political
reeducation, beat political prisoner Yosvani Aguilar Camejo.
Aguilar Camejo is the national coordinator for the Fraternal
Brothers for Dignity Movement. He was arrested at the time
of the Mexican Embassy break-in by asylum seekers in late
February (see Section 1.d.).
Prison guards and state security officials subjected human
rights and prodemocracy activists to threats of physical violence,
to systematic psychological intimidation, and to detention
or imprisonment in cells with common and violent criminals,
sexually aggressive inmates, or state security agents posing
On February 21, political prisoner Ariel Fleitas Gonzalez
advised relatives that prison authorities had placed a dangerous
common criminal in his cell in Canaleta prison to monitor
his activities. That prisoner threatened Fleitas Gonzalez
when the latter called upon officials to respect prisoners'
On June 20, a guard at Las Ladrilleras prison in Holguin
province instructed a common prisoner to beat political prisoner
Daniel Mesa. Mesa reportedly suffered brain damage as a result
of the attack.
In late October, imprisoned dissident Leonardo Bruzon Avila
was hospitalized from the effects of a 43-day hunger strike.
In February the authorities had arrested Bruzon on charges
of civil disobedience. In December the authorities returned
Bruzon to prison, where he resumed a liquids-only diet. Family
members and colleagues believed he was returned to prison
before he had fully recovered from the effects of his hunger
In November Ana Aquililla, wife of Francisco Chaviano Gonzalez,
reported that her husband remained confined with common prisoners,
that for more than 1 year he was not allowed outside the prison
for recreation, and that he could not receive family visits.
Chaviano is the former president of the National Council for
Civil Rights in Cuba and received a 15-year prison sentence
in 1994 on charges of espionage and disrespect.
Political prisoners were required to comply with the rules
for common criminals and often were punished severely if they
refused. They often were placed in punishment cells and held
The Government regularly failed to provide adequate nutrition
and medical attention, and a number of prisoners died during
the year due to lack of medical attention. In 1997 the IACHR
described the nutritional and hygienic situation in the prisons,
together with the deficiencies in medical care, as "alarming."
Both the IACHR and the former U.N. Special Rapporteur on Cuba,
as well as other human rights monitoring organizations, have
reported the widespread incidence in prisons of tuberculosis,
scabies, hepatitis, parasitic infections, and malnutrition.
In early June, common prisoner Hector Labrada Ruedas died
of internal bleeding after prison authorities refused his
requests for medical attention.
Alberto Martinez Martinez contracted hepatitis and leptospirosis
while being held for attempting to leave the country without
government authorization. He was placed in intensive care
following his release. Martinez Martinez is the son of Alberto
Martinez Fernandez, president of the Political Prisoners and
Ex-Political Prisoners Club.
On June 19, the illegal (see Section 2.b.) nongovernmental
organization (NGO) National Office for the Receipt of Information
on Human Rights Violations reported that political prisoner
Nestor Garcia Valdes had contracted tuberculosis while being
held in Guantanamo Provincial Prison with nine infected common
prisoners, none of whom had received treatment for the disease.
The wife of political prisoner Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina reported
that Rodriguez feared for his health because he had been held
for an extended period in a cell with two prisoners suffering
from tuberculosis. Rodriguez was especially concerned because
his wife and young daughter visited him in his cell, exposing
them to possible infection as well. Rodriguez' wife claimed
that the prison doctor had refused to transfer Lobaina after
learning that he was a political prisoner, saying that his
fate was of no concern to her. Rodriguez is in the third year
of a 6-year sentence for "contempt of authority"
and "public disorder."
Political prisoner Osvaldo Dussu Medina reported that inmates
in Boniato prison were forced to wash their clothes in water
contaminated with feces and urine from a broken sewer pipe.
Prison authorities had been aware of the contamination for
2 years but did nothing to remedy the situation.
Prison officials regularly denied prisoners other rights,
such as the right to correspondence, and continued to confiscate
medications and food brought by family members for political
prisoners. Some prison directors routinely denied religious
workers access to detainees and prisoners. Reading materials,
including Bibles, were not allowed in punishment cells. Prison
authorities refused to grant blind dissident Juan Carlos Gonzalez
Leyva access to his Braille Bible.
In July prison officials in Ceramica Roja prison denied religious
visits to political prisoner Enrique Garcia Morejon of the
Christian Liberation Movement. Garcia Morejon twice requested
visits by a Catholic priest while the priest was visiting
There were separate prison facilities for women and for minors.
Conditions of these prisons, especially for women, did not
take into account the special needs of women. Human rights
activists believed that conditions were poor.
The Government did not permit independent monitoring of prison
conditions by international or national human rights monitoring
groups. The Government has refused to allow prison visits
by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) since
1989. In 2001 the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National
Reconciliation (CCHRNC), an illegal NGO, appealed to the Government
to create a national commission with representatives from
the Cuban Red Cross, the Ministry of Public Health, and different
churches, to inspect the prisons and recommend changes to
the existing situation. The CCHRNC did not receive a response
from the Government.