Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and
Labor, March 8, 2006. U.S. Department of
Cuba, with a population of 11 million,
is a totalitarian state led by a president,
Fidel Castro, whose regime controls all
aspects of life through the Communist Party
(CP) and its affiliated mass organizations,
the government bureaucracy, and the state
security apparatus. Although civilian authorities
generally maintained effective control of
the security forces, the Ministry of Interior
is the principal instrument of state security
and control, and officers of the Revolutionary
Armed Forces, which are led by the president's
brother, have occupied most key positions
in the ministry during the past 15 years.
The government's human rights record remained
poor, and the government continued to commit
numerous, serious abuses. At least 333 Cuban
political prisoners and detainees were held
at year's end. The following human rights
problems were reported:
* denial of citizens' rights to change
* beatings and abuse of detainees and prisoners,
including human rights activists, carried
out with impunity
* transfers of mentally healthy prisoners
to psychiatric facilities for political
* frequent harassment of political opponents
by government-recruited mobs
* extremely harsh and life-threatening prison
conditions, including denial of medical
* arbitrary arrest and detention of human
rights advocates and members of independent
* denial of fair trial, particularly to
* interference with privacy, including pervasive
monitoring of private communications
* severe limitations on freedom of speech
* denial of peaceful assembly and association
* restrictions on freedom of movement, including
selective denial of exit permits to thousands
* refusal to recognize domestic human rights
groups or to permit them to function legally
* domestic violence, underage prostitution,
and sex tourism
* discrimination against persons of African
* severe restrictions on worker rights,
including the right to form independent
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of
the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of
There were no reports that the government
or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful
killings. However, the Cuba Archive human
rights project noted in November that foul
play was likely in many prison deaths recorded
as "heart attacks."
There were no reports of politically motivated
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or
Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law prohibits abusive treatment of
detainees and prisoners; however, members
of the security forces sometimes beat and
otherwise abused human rights advocates,
detainees, and prisoners, particularly political
prisoners, and did so with impunity.
Authorities often subjected detainees and
prisoners to repeated, vigorous interrogations
designed to coerce them into signing incriminating
statements or to force their collaboration
with authorities. Some endured physical
and sexual abuse, typically by other inmates
with the acquiescence of guards, or long
periods in isolation or punishment cells.
On February 19, a "reeducation specialist"
forced political prisoner Fidel Garcia Roldan
into a cell, pushed him against the wall,
then hit him repeatedly in the head.
On March 2, Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta,
a prisoner at Kilo 8 prison in Camaguey,
was handcuffed and dragged more than 120
feet across the floor of the prison; he
suffered severe cuts and abrasions. As of
that date, Herrera Acosta had not been exposed
to sunlight for more than one year.
Throughout March and April, authorities
subjected political prisoner Jose Daniel
Ferrer Garcia to deafeningly loud music
and noise from a speaker placed by the guards
at the entrance to his cell from the early
morning until late each night; as of April
28, he had been denied exposure to sunlight
for seven months.
In August a prison guard beat dissident
Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique. On September 26,
a guard at Camaguey's Kilo 8 prison punched
and broke the nose of political prisoner
Lamberto Hernandez Plana, following his
refusal to stand for a lineup of inmates.
The government knowingly sent mentally healthy
prisoners to psychiatric hospitals or the
psychiatric ward of a prison hospital. For
most of the year, Dr. Luis Milan Fernandez,
a political prisoner with no known mental
ailment, was held at the psychiatric ward
of the Boniato prison in Santiago. Dr. Milan
was forced to share a cell with prisoners
suffering from severe mental illness. In
February the government regained custody
of academic Orlando Vallin Diaz, who had
escaped from a psychiatric hospital months
earlier. Vallin had been sent to the hospital
after serving approximately three months
in prison for alleged drug trafficking;
family members denied that Vallin had ever
been involved with drugs or shown any sign
of mental illness.
The government continued to subject persons
who disagreed with it to "acts of repudiation."
At government instigation members of state-controlled
mass organizations, fellow workers, or neighbors
of victims staged public protests against
those who dissented from the government's
policies by shouting obscenities and causing
damage to the homes and property of those
targeted. Physical attacks on victims or
their family members 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 of employment.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions continued to be harsh
and life threatening. Conditions in detention
facilities also were harsh. Prison authorities
frequently beat, neglected, isolated, and
denied medical treatment to detainees and
prisoners, particularly those convicted
of political crimes or those who persisted
in expressing their views. Authorities also
often denied family visitation, adequate
nutrition, exposure to natural light, pay
for work, and the right to petition the
Prisoners sometimes were held in "punishment
cells," which usually were located
in the basement of a prison, with continuous
semi-dark conditions, no available water,
and only a hole for a toilet. Reading materials,
including Bibles, were not allowed. Prison
officials regularly denied prisoners other
rights, such as the right to correspondence.
Some prison directors routinely denied religious
workers access to detainees and prisoners.
In November the Cuban Commission for Human
Rights and National Reconciliation denounced
the worsening health of dozens of political
prisoners, stating that more prisoners suffered
from dangerous diseases due to the "generally
subhuman and degrading conditions"
in which they were held.
Power and water cuts were frequent at prisons,
and inmates often suffered from extreme
heat. At Havana's Combinado Del Este prison,
disturbances were reported after allegations
surfaced that prison authorities sold gas
for personal profit.
Victor Rolando Arroyo, an independent journalist
serving a 26-year prison term, described
his cell in Guantanamo provincial prison
as a space approximately 11 feet by 34 feet,
where 34 people slept on three-tiered bunks.
The cell was dimly lit; there were no cleaning
supplies; and water, which flowed sporadically,
had a disagreeable color, odor, and taste.
The government regularly failed to provide
adequate nutrition and medical attention;
according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), prisoners
typically lose weight during incarceration.
Pedro Pablo Pulido Ortega stated that he
and other prisoners at Guamajal prison in
Santa Clara received only cornmeal for lunch
and one small portion of potatoes for dinner.
Prisoner of conscience Blas Giraldo Reyes
Rodrigues experienced medical problems for
two months before authorities on May 3 transferred
him to an infirmary where tests indicated
he had been suffering from an infection.
On August 2, Bertha Antunez Pernet reported
that authorities at Kilo 7 prison in Camaguey
Province retaliated against her brother,
Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, who had criticized
prison conditions, by denying him medication
for a respiratory condition.
There were occasional reports of prisoners
dying as a result of violence by fellow
prisoners, but no statistics were available.
On April 4, Freddy Ibanez Blanco died from
burns suffered in a prison uprising at Havana's
Combinado del Este prison.
There were also occasional reports of suicide
attempts by prisoners, but no statistics
were available. In November political prisoner
Mario Enrique Mayo twice attempted suicide.
Human rights activists alleged that prison
authorities used "thugs" within
the general prison population to harass
Sexual assault occurred at men's prisons,
but the government did not disclose such
incidents. In July an inmate at Aquadores
prison beat and raped Orlando Rodriguez
Salazar, who was denied medical attention
except for a sedative.
Although officials sought to separate the
juvenile and adult prisoners, juveniles
sometimes were held in the same facilities
as adults. Although pretrial detainees generally
were held separately from convicted prisoners,
some long-term detainees, including political
detainees, were held with convicted prisoners.
The government did not permit independent
monitoring of prison conditions by international
or national human rights groups. The government
has denied prison visits by the International
Committee of the Red Cross since 1989.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
Although prohibited by law, arbitrary arrest
and detention were abuses effectively and
commonly used by the government to harass
Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
The Ministry of the Interior exercises
control over police and internal security
forces. The National Revolutionary Police
(PNR) is the primary law enforcement organization
and generally was effective in investigating
common crimes. Specialized units of the
Ministry of the Interior are responsible
for monitoring, infiltrating, and suppressing
opposition political groups. The PNR plays
a supporting role by carrying out house
searches and providing interrogation facilities
for State Security agents. There were reports
in both the independent and official press
of corruption within the security forces.
Members of the security forces acted with
impunity in committing numerous, serious
human rights abuses. While the PNR ethics
code and Interior Ministry regulations ban
police brutality, the government did not
announce any investigations into police
misconduct during the year.
Arrest and Detention
The police have broad detention powers,
which they may exercise without a warrant.
Under the law, police can detain without
a warrant not only persons caught in the
act, but someone merely accused of a crime
against state security. The law requires
police to file formal charges and either
release a detainee or bring the case before
a prosecutor within 96 hours of arrest;
it also requires authorities to provide
suspects with access to a lawyer within
7 days of arrest.
In practice the law was not respected.
At least 39 political detainees were held
at year's end without formal charges. Among
them was Maximo Pradera Valdez, arrested
in 2001 and still held without formal charge
at year's end. On May 13, authorities in
Havana detained six human rights activists,
including Rene Montes de Oca Martija and
Lazaro Alonso Roman, in connection with
a peaceful demonstration; at year's end
several of the activists remained in detention,
and no formal charges had been brought.
On June 22, police in Havana took into detention
nine human rights activists, including Rene
Gomez Manzano, Julio Cesar Lopez Rodriguez,
and Jesus Alberto Reyes Sanchez, in connection
with a peaceful demonstration; at year's
end all remained in detention, and none
had been charged.
Bail was available, although typically
not in cases involving antigovernment activity.
Time in detention before trial counted toward
time served if convicted. The government
denied prisoners and detainees prompt access
to family members.
The law provides that all legally recognized
civil liberties may be denied to anyone
who actively opposes the decision of the
people to build socialism. The authorities
routinely invoked this authority to deny
due process to persons detained on purported
state security grounds. The authorities
routinely engaged in arbitrary arrest and
detention of human rights advocates. Police
frequently lacked warrants when carrying
out arrests or issued warrants themselves
at the time of arrest. Authorities sometimes
employed false charges of common crimes
to arrest political opponents and often
did not inform detainees of the charges
against them. The authorities continued
to detain human rights activists and independent
journalists for short periods, including
house arrest, often to prevent them from
attending or participating in events related
to human rights issues (see sections 2.a.
The Penal Code includes the concept of
"potential dangerousness," defined
as the "special proclivity of a person
to commit crimes, demonstrated by his conduct
in manifest contradiction of socialist norms."
If the police decide that a person exhibits
signs of dangerousness, they may bring the
offender before a court or subject him to
therapy or political reeducation. Government
authorities regularly threatened prosecution
under this provision.
During the year authorities arrested at
least 53 persons for democratic or political
activity; at year's end all remained in
custody, and 18 of them were still awaiting
trial. At year's end there were at least
39 political detainees awaiting trial, of
whom 18 were detained during the year.
On April 27, the government convicted the
remaining 23 citizens who had been detained
since 2002 for breaking into the Mexican
Embassy and requesting asylum. The individuals
were sentenced to prison terms ranging from
4 to 18 years.
On July 12, the government arrested several
members of the Las Marianas opposition group
as they prepared to undertake a six-day
hunger strike to compel the government to
release non-violent dissidents from prison.
The government did not permit access to
political detainees by international humanitarian
Authorities sometimes detained independent
journalists to question them about contacts
with foreigners or to prevent them from
covering sensitive issues or criticizing
the government (see section 2.a.). After
months of detention, the government often
released activists without charges.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
While the constitution provides for independent
courts, it explicitly subordinates them
to the National Assembly of People's Power
(ANPP) and the Council of State. The ANPP
and its lower level counterparts choose
all judges. Thus, in practice the CP influenced
Civilian courts existed at the municipal,
provincial, and appellate levels. Panels
composed of professionally certified and
lay judges presided over them.
The courts undermined the right to a fair
trial by restricting the right to a defense
and often failed to observe the due process
rights nominally available to defendants.
While most trials were public, trials were
closed when there were alleged violations
of state security. Almost all cases were
tried in less than one day; there were no
jury trials. The law provides the accused
with the right to an attorney and, except
in cases involving state security, the right
to consult an attorney in a timely manner,
but many defendants met their attorney only
minutes before the start of their trial.
Moreover, the government's control over
members of the lawyers' collectives compromised
their ability to represent clients, especially
those accused of state security crimes.
Criteria for presenting evidence, especially
in cases involving human rights advocates,
were arbitrary and discriminatory. Often
the sole evidence provided, particularly
in political cases, was the defendant's
confession, usually obtained under duress
and without the legal advice or knowledge
of a defense lawyer. A defendant's right
to present witnesses was only arbitrarily
Prosecutors may introduce testimony from
a member of the neighborhood-based Committee
for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR)
about the revolutionary background of a
defendant, which may contribute to a longer
or shorter sentence. The law presumes the
innocence of the accused, but the authorities
often ignored this right in practice. The
law recognizes the right of appeal in municipal
courts but limits it in provincial courts
to cases involving maximum prison terms
or the death penalty. Appeals in capital
cases are automatic. The Council of State
ultimately must affirm capital punishment.
On August 9, independent journalist Lamasiel
Gutierrez was tried for "dangerousness"
and sentenced to seven months of house arrest.
During her trial, 25 uniformed personnel
filled the courtroom. She was denied the
right to speak on her own behalf during
the proceedings, and was not allowed to
consult with counsel.
On July 22, Rene Gomez Manzano, one of
the leaders of the Assembly for the Promotion
of Civil Society, was arrested and jailed
indefinitely. The government refused the
request of Manzano, who is an attorney by
profession, to represent himself and insisted
that he accept another attorney.
Military tribunals, which are governed
by a special law, assumed jurisdiction for
cases. The military tribunals tried civilians
if a member of the military was involved
with civilians in a crime. In these tribunals,
there was a right to appeal, access to counsel,
and the charges were made known to the defendant.
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights stated
that the government held, in addition to
political detainees, at least 294 political
prisoners at year's end; 45 of them were
convicted of terrorism and 33 of "dangerousness."
The authorities incarcerated persons for
such offenses as disrespect of the head
of state (Fermin Scull Zulueta, three years),
disrespect and scorn of patriotic symbols
(Antonio Velazquez Hernandez, two years),
public disorder (Orlando Zapata Tamayo,
three years), and attempt to leave the country
illegally (Osolanis San Miguel Rodriguez,
three years). Other charges included disseminating
enemy propaganda, illicit association, clandestine
printing, or the broad charge of rebellion,
which often was brought against advocates
of peaceful democratic change. Between two
thousand and five thousand teenagers were
serving sentences for the crime of "potential
dangerousness, with sentences ranging up
to five years' imprisonment.
At year's end 60 of the 75 peaceful human
rights activists, journalists, and opposition
political figures arrested and convicted
in 2003, mostly on charges of violating
national security and aiding a foreign power,
remained in prison.
Political prisoners often were held at
facilities hundreds of miles from their
families, making family visits more difficult.
Prison conditions prompted some political
prisoners to carry out lengthy hunger strikes.
On October 5, dissidents Victor Arroyo and
Felix Navarro ended their hunger strikes
at the penal ward of a Guantanamo hospital
prison after 24 days and 18 days, respectively.
They were protesting actions of a "re-educator"
who had seriously injured Arroyo's leg.
Prison staff and inmates (at the instigation
of prison staff) often targeted political
prisoners for abuse (see section 1.c.).
Political prisoners, such as independent
journalist Fabio Prieto Llorente and Diosdado
Gonzales Marrero, were held among the general
prison population. Conversely, political
prisoner Adolfo Fernandez, although held
with the general population, reported that
he was prevented from interacting with other
prisoners in the cafeteria and forced to
eat all meals alone in his cell. Some political
prisoners preferred to stay in their cells
to avoid contact with prison guards. In
November, following three hunger strikes,
political prisoner and attorney Mario Enrique
Mayo, serving a 20-year sentence in Holguin,
carved "innocent" and "liberty"
into his body. The government released Mayo
on December 1.
The government continued to deny human
rights organizations and the International
Committee of the Red Cross access to political
prisoners. Authorities denied visits to
families of political prisoners while they
were held in "punishment cells."
Prisoners in punishment cells had no access
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy,
Family, Home, or Correspondence
While the constitution provides for the
inviolability of a citizen's home and correspondence,
official surveillance of private and family
affairs by government-controlled organizations,
such as the CDRs, remained pervasive. The
government employed physical and electronic
surveillance against nonviolent political
opponents. The state assumed the right to
interfere in the lives of citizens, even
those who did not actively oppose the government
and its practices. The authorities employed
a wide range of social controls to discover
and discourage nonconformity.
The Ministry of Interior employed a system
of informants and the CDR block committees
to monitor and control public opinion. While
less capable than in the past, CDRs continued
to report on suspicious activity, including:
conspicuous consumption; unauthorized meetings,
including those with foreigners; and defiant
attitudes toward the government and the
Between January and March, CDR members
harassed Havana resident Noemi Arias Noe
and her husband and teenage son following
their unsuccessful attempt to flee the country.
CDR members left a threatening sign on their
door and pounded on the family's front door;
Arias said neighbors broke down a common
door to intimidate the family. Arias and
her husband received more than 10 police
citations related to their attempted migration
and were obliged to appear before the local
police chief twice monthly.
Authorities occasionally threatened parents
with the loss of custody of their children
for taking part in "counterrevolutionary"
activities. On August 19, a police officer
visited the Havana home of Carla Vismari
Santa Leon, a pro-democracy activist, and
warned her mother that Carla and her activist
husband could lose custody of their two-year-old
son unless they halted their activities.
The government controlled all access to
the Internet and took steps to censor all
electronic mail, disallowing any attachments
(see section 2.a.). State Security often
read international correspondence and monitored
overseas telephone calls and conversations
with foreigners. The government also monitored
domestic phone calls and correspondence
and sometimes denied telephone service to
dissidents. State Security agents subjected
journalists to harassment and surveillance,
including electronic surveillance and surreptitious
entry into their homes (see section 2.a.).
In March Lourdes Esquivel Vieyto reported
that prison officials refused to give her
letters written by her imprisoned husband
There were numerous credible reports of
forced evictions of squatters and residents
who lacked official permission to reside
in Havana and other major cities. On March
11, officials informed Barbaro Sanchez and
two of his neighbors that they had to abandon
their residences in Santiago de Cuba the
next day. On March 12, officials demolished
the homes because they were built without
proper authorization, albeit on property
owned by Mr. Sanchez and his neighbors.
On July 14, officials evicted Moises Leonardo
and Roberto de Jesus Guerra, two members
of the extralegal human rights organization
Corriente Martiana from a fellow dissident's
home on the grounds that the law prohibits
citizens from changing residence without
The government sometimes punished family
members for the activities of their relatives.
On February 23, authorities expelled from
school tenth-grade student Ernesto Luis
Roque Veitia, the son of independent journalists
Anna Rosa Veitia and Ernesto Roque. The
stated reason for the expulsion was Roque
Veitia's refusal to participate in a work
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties,
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The constitution provides for freedom of
speech and of the press insofar as they
"conform to the aims of socialist society,"
a clause effectively barring free speech,
and in practice the government did not allow
criticism of the revolution or its leaders.
Laws against antigovernment propaganda,
graffiti, and disrespect of officials impose
penalties between three months and one year
in prison; criticism of the president or
members of the ANPP or Council of State
is punishable by three years' imprisonment.
Disseminating "enemy propaganda,"
which included expressing opinions at odds
with those of the government, is punishable
by up to 14 years' imprisonment.
The government considers such materials
as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
international reports of human rights violations,
and mainstream foreign newspapers and magazines
to be enemy propaganda. Local CDRs inhibited
freedom of speech by monitoring and reporting
dissent or criticism.
Police and State Security officials regularly
harassed, threatened, and otherwise abused
human rights advocates in public and private
to intimidate them. The government subjected
dissenters to "acts of repudiation."
The government also obliged members of state-controlled
mass organizations, co-workers, or neighbors
of victims to stage public protests against
those who dissented from the government's
policies, for instance, by shouting obscenities
and often causing damage to the homes and
property of those targeted. Physical attacks
on the victims and their family members
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 March 19, four men forced their way
into the home of dissident doctor Darsi
Ferrer. They attacked him with a knife,
seriously lacerated his right hand, and
beat and threatened to kill him.
On May 8, a progovernment mob confronted
and threatened the Ladies in White, spouses
of political prisoners, as they took their
weekly stroll after attending mass at Havana's
Santa Rita church. Plainclothes government
agents were visible at the scene.
On August 6, police arrested Albert Santiago
DuBouchet, director of the independent Havana
Press agency. He was subsequently sentenced
to one year in prison for disrespect and
resistance, a decision condemned by the
Committee to Protect Journalists.
On September 16, in Santa Clara approximately
60 members of a progovernment mob struck
independent journalist Guillermo Farinas
with clubs after he took part in a protest
outside a police station over the arrest
of a dissident. The beating, which began
after Farinas refused to say "Long
Live Fidel Castro," left him badly
On October 16, a group of approximately
30 persons appeared outside the Havana home
of veteran dissident Roberto de Miranda
and during a four-hour period shouted insults
at de Miranda and his wife.
In October and November, in the Villa Clara
city of Manicaragua, 21 prodemocracy and
human rights activists accused the government
of forbidding them to use public transportation,
frequent restaurants, use public recreation
facilities or receive visitors at home.
The activists stated that their photos had
been posted outside public establishments
and grocery stores, so that workers would
know whom not to serve.
The government reportedly threatened to
take custody of children of some members
of the political opposition. On November
7, a State Security official warned executive-turned-whistleblower
Niurka Brito, "If you continue to have
ties with the opposition, you could lose
custody of your children."
The constitution provides that print and
electronic media are inalienably state property.
The government owned and the CP controlled
all media except for a few small, unauthorized
church-run publications. The law bars "clandestine
printing" and provides for three to
six months' imprisonment for failure to
identify the author of a publication or
the printing press used to produce the publication.
Catholic church-run publications, denied
access to mass printing equipment, were
subject to governmental pressure. Vitral
magazine, a publication of the diocese of
Pinar del Rio, continued to publish during
Citizens did not have the right to receive
or possess publications from abroad, although
newsstands in hotels for foreigners and
certain hard currency stores sold foreign
newspapers and magazines. The government
continued to jam the transmissions of Radio
Marti and Television Marti.
All media must operate under CP guidelines
and reflect government views. The government
also pressured groups normally outside official
controls, such as visiting and resident
international correspondents. Cars used
by foreign journalists have unique license
plates, enabling monitoring by the authorities.
Expulsions lessened following the adoption
of a stricter visa policy; the government
barred some foreign journalists from entering
Law 88 prohibits a broad range of activities
that purportedly undermine state security.
The law provides for fines and prison terms
of 7 to 20 years for each charge for anyone
possessing or disseminating "subversive"
literature or supplying information that
U.S. authorities could use to apply U.S.
legislation. At year's end 22 journalists
arrested in 2003 for violating Law 88 remained
On March 24, journalist Oscar Mario Gonzalez
was detained and interrogated by police.
Police told him that he was considered one
of the independent journalists most critical
of the regime; the government continued
to deny his request for an exit visa to
visit his daughter.
On June 20, cartoonists in the city of
Santa Clara were rounded up for interrogation
after a series of antigovernment caricatures
appeared in the city.
The government continued to subject independent
journalists to: internal travel bans; arbitrary
and periodic detentions (overnight or longer);
harassment of family and friends; seizures
of computers, office, and photographic equipment;
and repeated threats of prolonged imprisonment.
Independent journalists in Havana reported
that threatening phone calls and harassment
of family members continued during the year.
Ministry of the Interior agents infiltrated
and reported on independent journalists.
Authorities also placed journalists under
house arrest to prevent them from reporting
on human rights conferences and events and
on court cases against activists (see section
1.d.). Police prevented independent journalists
from covering "sensitive" events.
Authorities often confiscated journalists'
equipment, especially photographic and recording
equipment, on the grounds that it had been
purchased illegally, despite receipted proof
to the contrary. On November 29, state security
officers in Santa Clara executed a search
warrant to seize "counter-revolutionary"
materials at the home of independent journalist
Carlos Serpa Maceira. They reportedly confiscated
his books, notes, radio, and two small recorders.
Resident foreign correspondents reported
that intense government pressures, including
official and informal complaints about articles,
continued throughout the year. The government
controlled resident foreign journalists
by requiring them to obtain an exit permit
each time they wished to leave the country.
The government also required foreign correspondents
to hire local staff from government agencies.
The government continued to control tightly
distribution of information, including importation
of foreign literature, which largely was
unavailable to the public. The government
frequently barred independent libraries
from receiving materials from abroad and
seized materials donated by foreign diplomats.
The government prohibits diplomatic missions
from printing or distributing publications,
including newspapers and newspaper clippings,
unless such publications exclusively address
conditions in a mission's home country and
prior government approval is received. Many
missions did not accept this requirement
and distributed prohibited materials.
On February 25, State Security agents entered
the homes of Maria Elena Mir Marrero and
Reinaldo Cosano Alen, directors of two independent
libraries. The agents confiscated boxes
containing books, radios, and copies of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The government operated four national television
stations, four national radio stations,
one international radio station, one national
magazine, and three national newspapers.
Additionally, it operated many local radio
stations, television stations, magazines,
and newspapers. All were official organs
of the CP, dedicated to promulgating its
propaganda. Content was nearly uniform across
all of these media; none reflected any degree
of editorial independence. The regime tolerated
the Catholic Church's publication and circulation
of two magazines and several other publications
but vigorously persecuted any other independent
person or institution that attempted to
distribute written, filmed, or photographed
material. The only books published in the
country were those published by the government,
and state censors required pre-publication
The government controlled all access to
the Internet and subjected all electronic
mail to review and censorship. In October
Reporters without Borders noted that the
government "does its best to keep its
citizens away from the Internet." The
Internet could be accessed only through
government-approved institutions. Only foreigners
were permitted to purchase Internet access
cards from the national telephone monopoly,
leading to a continued increase in clandestine
Direct Internet access was generally available
only to certain government-approved individuals,
including some doctors, professors, and
journalists. The authorities continued to
restrict the types and numbers of international
Web sites that could be opened by citizens
and did not permit church representatives
to have Internet access. In November a foreign
press account reported the government's
acknowledgment that it blocked access to
Web sites it considered to be terrorist,
subversive, or pornographic.
On April 20, Internet access was suspended
in Santiago de Cuba in anticipation of local
elections. An employee of the only Internet
cafe in the city reported that the Internet
service provider routinely cut service any
time a politically significant event took
The government restricted academic freedom
and continued to emphasize the importance
of reinforcing revolutionary ideology and
discipline. Academics were prohibited from
meeting with some diplomats without prior
government approval. The Ministry of Education
required teachers to evaluate students'
and their parents' ideological character
and to place such evaluations in school
records. These reports directly affected
students' educational and career prospects.
Government policy required teaching materials
for courses such as mathematics or literature
to have ideological content. Ideological
indoctrination began with textbooks for
students in the early primary grades. Government-controlled
public libraries denied access to books
or information unless the requester produces
a government letter of permission.
Academics whom the government allowed to
travel abroad were aware that their actions,
if deemed politically unfavorable, could
negatively impact those back home.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Although the constitution grants limited
rights of assembly and association, these
rights are subject to the requirement that
they may not be "exercised against
the existence and objectives of the Socialist
Freedom of Assembly
The law punishes any unauthorized assembly
of more than three persons, including those
for private religious services in private
homes, by up to three months in prison and
a fine. The authorities selectively enforced
this prohibition and often used it as a
pretext to harass and imprison human rights
On May 20, the government permitted a meeting
in Havana of the Assembly to Promote Civil
Society. Approximately 150 members and observers
attended. However, two European journalists
who sought to cover the event were expelled
from the country, and for months afterwards,
the government subjected participants to
harassment, arrest, and other abuses. For
example, on July 22, leaders of the Assembly
for the Promotion of Civil Society Martha
Beatriz Roque and Rene Gomez Manzano were
among approximately 30 people arrested en
route to a demonstration (see section 1.e.)
The authorities never have approved a public
meeting by a human rights group and often
detained activists to prevent them from
attending meetings, demonstrations, or ceremonies.
Unapproved meetings and demonstrations took
place, which the government frequently disrupted,
infiltrated, or attempted to prevent. Authorities
sometimes used or incited violence against
On January 20, government agents assembled
more than 500 people in the streets outside
the house of Gerardo Lazcano Naranjo in
efforts to disrupt a peaceful gathering
at his home.
On July 13, authorities in Havana mobilized
a Rapid Reaction Brigade against a small
group convening at the city's sea wall for
a peaceful commemoration ceremony. Brigade
members verbally attacked and threatened
the peaceful vigil, and police took into
custody 30 participants, 7 of whom remained
in custody at year's end. On August 12,
at the instigation of the authorities, approximately
80 persons filled the streets in front of
the home of Vladimiro Roca, leader of the
outlawed political group Todos Unidos, thus
preventing members of the group from attending
a scheduled meeting.
On August 27, dissident doctor Darsi Ferrer
organized a meeting of doctors and public
health workers in Havana, which became the
object of an "act of repudiation."
A government-organized mob blocked and jostled
would-be participants and hurled abuse at
On December 10, 13 pro-democracy activists
gathered in Sancti Spiritus at the home
of Irma Gomez Ortiz to mark Human Rights
Day. A crowd of 70 people, including CP
members, massed out front, shouting insults
at those inside.
Freedom of Association
The law specifically prohibits unrecognized
groups, and the government generally denied
citizens the freedom of association. The
authorities never have approved the existence
of a human rights group; however, a number
of professional associations operated as
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) without
legal recognition, including the Association
of Independent Teachers, the Association
of Independent Lawyers, the Association
of Independent Architects and Engineers,
and several independent journalist organizations.
The constitution proscribes any political
organization other than the CP (see section
Recognized churches (see section 2.c.),
the Roman Catholic humanitarian organization
Caritas, the Freemason movement, and a number
of fraternal or professional organizations
were the only associations permitted to
function outside the control or influence
of the state, the CP, and their mass organizations.
The authorities continued to ignore applications
from new groups for legal recognition, thereby
subjecting members to potential charges
of illegal association.
c. Freedom of Religion
Although the constitution recognizes the
right of citizens to profess and practice
any religious belief within the framework
of respect for the law, the government continued
to restrict freedom of religion. The government
requires churches and other religious groups
to enroll with the provincial registry of
associations within the Ministry of the
Interior to obtain official recognition.
The government did not place any numerical
limits on admissions to Catholic seminaries,
and there were no constraints on ordination.
In practice the government appeared to halt
registration of new denominations, although
no groups were known to have applied for
registration during the year. The government
tolerated some relatively new religions,
such as the Baha'i Faith and a small congregation
of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints. Officials frequently harassed and
repressed unregistered religious groups.
The Ministry of Interior engaged in active
efforts to control and monitor religious
institutions, particularly through surveillance,
infiltration, and harassment of religious
professionals and practitioners. State Security
officials visited priests and pastors prior
to significant religious events to warn
that dissidents were trying to "use
the church." In many churches, most
noticeably at Santa Rita's, in front of
which relatives of political prisoners,
the "Ladies in White," staged
a weekly march for their release, State
Security agents attended Mass for intimidation
Although it did not favor any one particular
religion or church, the government appeared
to be most tolerant of those churches that
maintained close relations to the state
through the Cuban Council of Churches (CCC),
which often supported government policies.
The government, with rare exceptions, prohibited
the construction of new churches, forcing
many growing congregations to seek permits
to meet in private homes. On February 18
the congregation of a Pentecostal parish
in Havana rejected the government's order
to demolish their church on the grounds
that it was constructed illegally.
The government introduced a regulation
to "legalize" thousands of private
homes used for occasional church services;
it set forth a number of requirements, including
that the house host no more than three meetings
per week and not be located within 1.2 miles
of another such house. Some Protestants,
whose congregations have grown in recent
years, expressed worry that the regulation
was aimed at them.
On January 7, Ismari de Armas lost her
job at a Pinar del Rio sewing shop. The
administrators of the state-owned shop told
her they could not trust her because she
was a Jehovah's Witness.
Education is secular, and no religious
educational institutions are allowed; however,
the Catholic Church, Protestant churches,
and Jewish synagogues were permitted to
offer religious education classes to their
Religious literature and materials must
be imported through a registered religious
group and may be distributed only to officially
recognized religious groups.
The CCC continued to broadcast a monthly
15-minute radio program on condition that
it not include material of a political nature.
On January 6, priests of the babalawo cult
reported that government officials visited
them to pressure them to assimilate with
the government-sanctioned Yoruba Cultural
Association (YCA); inquired about membership
roles, including the number of foreigners
involved in the church; and informed the
priests that if they sought to leave country
all of their icons would be confiscated,
unless they had a YCA membership card.
Societal Abuses and Discrimination
There were no reports of societal violence,
harassment, or discrimination against members
of religious groups. There were between
1,000 and 1,500 members of the Jewish community.
There were no reports of overtly anti-Semitic
For a more detailed discussion, see the
2005 International Religious Freedom Report
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country,
Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The law qualifies these rights, and the
government severely restricted foreign travel
and emigration. Although it generally did
not restrict domestic travel, the government
limited internal migration to Havana. State
Security officials prohibited some human
rights advocates and independent journalists
from traveling outside their home provinces.
Although the law allows all citizens to
travel anywhere within the country, residence
is heavily restricted, thus impeding the
right to move. The local housing commission
and provincial government authorities consider
requests for change of residence largely
on the basis of housing space. According
to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights,
the system is fraught with corruption. During
the wait for permission, which routinely
lasts six months or more, the applicant
cannot obtain food rations or a local identification
card. Police frequently checked the identification
of persons on the streets, and anyone from
another province living in Havana illegally
may be fined and sent home. While the regulation
was in effect nationwide, it was applied
most frequently in Havana. Afro-Cubans from
the more impoverished eastern provinces
were disproportionately affected by this
On July 14, independent journalist Lamasiel
Gutierrez Romero was taken into custody
for several hours when she purchased a plane
ticket to travel from her home on the Isla
de Juventud to Havana. While in custody,
she was beaten, held without food or water,
and threatened with imprisonment for up
to two years.
In September independent journalist Amarilis
Cortina Rey was fined for living "without
official permission" in the Havana
house her grandfather purchased in 1924
and for which she was the only heiress.
Residency law was enforced selectively in
her case, likely because of Cortina's work
as an independent journalist. A similar
incident occurred in December when a neighbor
of activist Martha Beatriz Roque was evicted,
almost certainly because of her friendship
The government imposed restrictions on
both emigration and temporary foreign travel,
mainly by requiring an exit permit. Although
the government allowed the majority of persons
who qualified for immigrant or refugee status
in other countries to depart, thousands
of citizens who received foreign travel
documents were denied exit permits during
the year. Most were doctors, nurses, and
other health professionals. Others denied
exit permits included young men of military
age and citizens with certain political
or religious beliefs. On December 14, the
"Ladies in White"--relatives of
political prisoners--were denied exit permits
to receive the Sakharov Prize awarded to
them by the European Parliament.
The government banned some of the professionals
who were denied exit permits from working
in their occupational fields or subjected
them to arbitrary punishment. For instance,
Doctor Amarilys Lorenzo Contreras and her
dentist husband, Adalberto Dorrego Torres,
were allowed to continue in their professions
but were transferred to inferior government
clinics after they sought exit permits.
Resolution 54 denies exit permits to medical
professionals until they have performed
three to five years of service in their
profession after requesting permission to
travel abroad. This regulation, which was
normally applied to recent graduates, remained
The denial of exit permits to men of military
age usually covered individuals age 18 to
27; however, in most cases involving migration
under the 1994 US-Cuba Migration Accords,
the applicants eventually received exemption
from obligatory service and were granted
The government denied exit permits for
several years to relatives of individuals
who migrated illegally (for example, merchant
seamen and sports figures who defected while
out of the country). The government frequently
withheld exit visas to control dissidents.
Jorge Olivera, one of the 75 political
prisoners summarily convicted in 2003, requested
exit permission on January 6 and at year's
end remained waiting for a response. Juan
Carlos Gonzalez Leiva, former political
prisoner and current political activist,
reported that eight of his relatives, including
his parents, sister, and her family, have
waited since January for exit permits.
On January 17, authorities revoked the
exit permit of Nelida Hernandez de Llano,
a member of the Christian Liberation Movement.
She and her family had qualified for refugee
On September 20, police prevented dissident
Miguel Sigler, his wife Josefa Lopez, and
their two children from leaving the country
as refugees, despite approved documentation.
The family returned to Havana where they
were forced to stay with friends because
the government had already seized their
house in Matanzas. On Sepember 27, as Lopez
walked along a Havana street, an assailant
beat her, declaring that it was a warning
to her and her husband. On October 5, the
Sigler family was allowed to emigrate.
The government also used both internal
and external exile to control internal opposition.
The law permits authorities to bar an individual
from a certain area or to restrict an individual
to a certain area for a period of 1 to 10
years. Under this provision, authorities
may exile any person whose presence in a
given location is considered "socially
The government routinely invoked forced
exile as a condition for political prisoner
releases and also pressured activists to
leave the country to escape future prosecution.
Migrants must pay processing fees (approximately
$180 [4,500 pesos] for exit permission,
$66 [1,650 pesos] for a passport, and $30
[750 pesos] for an airport tax), that amount
to approximately 23 months' salary for the
average citizen. Migrants to the United
States faced an additional charge of approximately
$720 (18 thousand pesos or 5 years' salary)
for adults and $480 (12 thousand pesos)
for children. These fees represented a significant
hardship, particularly for political refugees,
many of whom were fired from their jobs
for being "politically unreliable"
and had no income. At year's end some refugees
were unable to leave the country because
of inability to pay exit fees. Authorities
routinely dispossessed refugees and their
families of their homes and most of their
belongings before permitting them to leave
The law provides for imprisonment of up
to 3 years or a fine of $12 to $40 (300
to 1,000 pesos) for unauthorized departures
by boat or raft. The Office of the UN High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stated
that it regarded imprisonment of more than
one year for simple illegal exit as excessive.
Under the terms of the 1994 US-Cuba Migration
Accord, the government agreed not to prosecute
or retaliate against migrants returned from
international or US waters, or from the
US Naval Base at Guantanamo, after attempting
to emigrate illegally if they had not committed
a separate criminal offense. However, in
practice some persons repatriated under
the terms of the Accord reported harassment
Protection of Refugees
Although the country is not a party to
the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status
of Refugees and its 1967 protocol, the constitution
provides for the granting of asylum to individuals
persecuted for their ideals or actions involving
a number of specified political grounds.
Although the government has no formal mechanism
to process asylum for foreign nationals,
in practice it provided protection against
refoulement, the return of persons to a
country where they feared persecution.
The government had an established system
to provide assistance to refugees. During
the year 39 persons applied for refugee
status, of whom 10 were approved; according
to the UNHCR, there were 708 refugees in
the country. The government cooperated with
the UNHCR, and provided temporary protection
to a small number of persons.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights:
The Right of Citizens to Change their Government
While the constitution provides for direct
election of provincial, municipal, and ANPP
members, citizens do not have the right
to change their government, and the government
retaliated against those who sought peaceful
political change. The constitution, which
proscribes any political organization other
than the CP, defines socialism as its "irrevocable"
basis. Candidates for provincial and national
office must be approved in advance by mass
organizations controlled by the government.
In practice a small group of leaders, under
the direction of the president, selected
the members of the highest policy-making
bodies of the CP, the Politburo, and the
The government continued to reject the
petition for a national referendum on political
and economic reforms known as the Varela
Project, despite more than 40 thousand signatures.
Elections and Political Participation
In 2003 there were national elections in
which 609 candidates were approved to compete
for the 609 seats in the National Assembly.
The CP was the only political party allowed
to participate in the elections. A small
minority of candidates did not belong formally
to the CP but were chosen through the same
government-controlled selection process.
The government saturated the media and used
government ministries, CP entities, and
mass organizations to urge voters to cast
a "unified vote" where marking
one box automatically selected all candidates
on the ballot form.
During the year there were elections for
nearly 15 thousand local representatives
to the municipal assemblies. After the first
run-off election, the government reported
that 96.6 percent of the electorate had
voted. While the law allows citizens not
to vote, CDRs often pressured neighborhood
residents to cast ballots. According to
the Cuban Commission for Human Rights, the
government blacklisted those who did not
Although not a formal requirement, in practice
CP membership was a prerequisite for high-level
official positions and professional advancement.
The government rejected any change to the
political system that it judged incompatible
with the revolution and ignored or actively
suppressed calls for democratic reform.
After the Christian Liberation Movement,
led by Oswaldo Paya, submitted to the National
Assembly two petitions (known as the Varela
Project) proposing a national referendum
on political and economic reforms, the National
Assembly in 2003 unanimously passed an amendment
making socialism the irrevocable basis of
Varela organizers continued to collect
signatures in support of their proposal;
however, activists reported increased harassment
by State Security agents. Authorities arrested
and detained Varela activists, confiscated
signatures, fined and threatened activists
and signers, and forced signers to rescind
signatures. State Security impersonated
canvassing volunteers and increasingly infiltrated
the ranks of activists. In May and June,
Oswaldo Paya reported State Security agents
visited and pressured more than 50 Varela
Project signatories to retract their signatures
and denounce the Varela Project activists
who had collected their signatures.
There were 2 women in the 24-member Politburo
and 22 in the 150-member Central Committee.
Women held 5 seats in the 390 member-Council
of State and 219 seats in the 609-seat National
While the 2002 census recorded that blacks
and persons of partial African descent account
for 35 percent of the population, according
to the 2002 census, some observers estimated
that Afro-Cubans made up 50 percent or more
of the population. Persons of African descent
held 6 seats in the 24-member Politburo.
Following the selection of the new ANPP
in 2003, the government reported its composition
as 67 percent white, 22 percent black, and
11 percent mixed race.
Government Corruption and Transparency
Independent and official press reported
incidents of government corruption. In October
the government acknowledged massive corruption
at state-run gas stations and ordered youth
brigades to take over their operations.
Also during the year, the government released
statistics indicating that prosecutors over
the past three years had made 16 thousand
accusations for economic crimes at state-run
The law provides for public access to government
information, but in practice requests for
information routinely were rejected, often
on the grounds that access was not a right.
Many convicts and their defense attorneys
never received a copy of the sentence certification
to which they were legally entitled.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged
Violations of Human Rights
In violation of its own statutes, the government
did not recognize any domestic human rights
groups or permit them to function legally.
Several human rights organizations continued
to function outside the law, including the
Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National
Reconciliation, the Cuban Committee for
Human Rights, and the Cuban Human Rights
Party. The government subjected domestic
human rights advocates to intense intimidation
and harassment, including threats of disappearance.
For example, on September 17 in Pinar del
Rio city, State Security agents visited
the home of human rights activist Virgilio
Pita Rivero and told his wife that if he
did not end his activities, they would "make
State Security officials often infiltrated
human rights organizations and subjected
them to constant surveillance. Public identification
of suspected state infiltrators was a crime
punishable by 8 to 15 years' imprisonment.
The government took various steps to restrict
the operation of domestic human rights NGOs
that advocated or criticized the government's
human rights policies. Government authorities
regularly threatened NGOs with prosecution
under the Penal Code provisions of "dangerousness"
(see section 1.a.) Both the UN Commission
on Human Rights (UNCHR) and the IACHR criticized
this tactic for its arbitrariness, the summary
nature of the judicial proceedings employed,
the lack of legal safeguards, and the political
considerations behind its application. Private
individuals acting in response to government
instigation and coercion often harassed
members of human rights NGOs; crowds assembled
at their homes prevented access, intimidated
people, and sometimes caused material damage.
The government rejected international human
rights monitoring, did not recognize the
mandate of the UNCHR, and refused to acknowledge
requests by the Personal Representative
of the Commissioner on Human Rights, to
visit the country. Meanwhile, the UNCHR
renewed the status of the personal representative.
Section 5 Discrimination, Societal Abuses,
and Trafficking in Persons
The constitution prohibits discrimination
based on race, gender, disability, or social
status, however, racial discrimination occurred
The law prohibits threats and inflicting
injuries, including those associated with
domestic violence. Human rights advocates
reported that violence against women was
a problem, and police often did not act
on cases of domestic violence. Violent crime
rarely was reported in the press, and there
was no available data regarding the extent
of domestic violence.
The law criminalizes rape (though it was
unclear whether that included spousal rape)
and stipulates penalties ranging from 4
to 10 years' imprisonment. If two or more
rapists are involved, or if the rapist had
been convicted previously of the same offense,
sentences could reach 15 years. If the victim
is under 12, or if the act results in injuries
or grave illness, capital punishment is
possible. The government enforced the law.
Prostitution is legal for persons over
age 17, but pandering and economic activities
facilitating prostitution, including room
rentals, are illegal. Large numbers of foreign
tourists visited the country specifically
to patronize prostitutes, and sex tourism
was a problem. Some street police officers
were suspected of providing protection to
individuals engaged in prostitution, who
were numerous and visible in Havana and
other major cities.
The law provides penalties for sexual harassment,
with potential sentences of three months
to five years' imprisonment. The rigor of
enforcement and the extent of the problem
were unclear. The law was applied most frequently
to male supervisors "abusing their
power" with female subordinates, according
to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights.
The law provides that women and men have
equal rights and responsibilities regarding
marriage, divorce, raising children, maintaining
the home, and pursuing a career. The law
grants working mothers preferential access
to goods and services. The law provides
for equal pay for equal work, and women
generally received pay comparable to men
for similar work.
The law provides that all children have
equal rights and that parents have a duty
to ensure their protection. Public education
was free through the university level. The
law requires school attendance until the
ninth grade, which was the highest level
achieved by most children. The government
reported that 99.4 percent of primary-school-age
children were enrolled in school during
the 2004-05 schoolyear, while UNICEF recorded
that 93.1 percent of secondary-school-age
children were enrolled in the 2003-04 school
year. All elementary and secondary school
students received obligatory ideological
Boys and girls had equal access to a national
health care system that covered all citizens.
UNICEF reported high vaccination rates for
childhood diseases. Children up to age seven
received additional food rations through
the ration card system.
Although seldom covered in the official
media, there were occasional reports of
child abuse, but there was no societal pattern
of child abuse. Researchers released the
results of a six-year study of child abuse
in the Santiago area, conducted by the Superior
Institute of Medical Sciences, which found
that 50 percent of children aged 8 to 10
reported having been punched or kicked following
the ingestion of alcohol by their parents.
Police officers who found children loitering
in the streets or begging from tourists
frequently intervened and tried to find
the parents. If a child was found bothering
tourists more than once, police frequently
fined the child's parents. During their
summer vacation, students were pressured
to enlist for up to a week of "volunteer
labor" at work camps in rural areas.
Child prostitution was a problem, with
young girls engaging in prostitution to
help support themselves and their families
(see section 5, Trafficking). Children may
marry with the consent of their parents
at age 14, but the law provides for 2 to
5 years' imprisonment for anyone who "induces
minors under 16 years of age to practice
homosexuality or prostitution."
Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits all forms of trafficking
in persons, and there were no reports that
persons were trafficked to or from the country.
Trafficking for underage prostitution and
forced labor occurred within the country
The law criminalizes promoting or organizing
the entrance of persons into, or the exit
of persons from, the country for the purpose
of prostitution; violators were subject
to 20 to 30 years' imprisonment.
The Ministries of Justice and Education,
the PNR, and local governments are tasked
with different facets of combating trafficking
in persons and the problem of underage prostitution;
no entity had complete autonomy dealing
with these problems. The police were tasked
with investigating and arresting traffickers;
the Ministry of Justice with prosecuting
and incarcerating traffickers; and the Ministry
of Education with rehabilitating prostitutes,
including underage prostitutes. No information
was available concerning government assistance
with international investigations of trafficking
or the extradition of traffickers.
While underage prostitution was widely
apparent, there were no reliable statistics
available regarding its extent. Although
the police generally enforced laws on underage
prostitution, the phenomenon continued,
with cabarets and discos catering to sex
tourists. The government prosecuted persons
involved in child prostitution and child
pornography and assisted other countries
in international investigations of child
Trafficking victims came from all over
the country, and most worked in the major
cities and tourist resort areas. Anecdotal
information indicated that victims came
from poor families; in many cases, families
encouraged victims to enter into prostitution.
There was no information available regarding
traffickers and their methods.
There were anecdotal reports of police
officers receiving bribes to allow exploitation
of minors for prostitution.
Individuals engaged in prostitution, including
possible trafficking victims and children,
often were treated as criminals, detained,
and taken to rehabilitation centers.
No civil society groups in the country
assisted trafficking victims in an official
Persons with Disabilities
There was no known law prohibiting official
discrimination against persons with disabilities
in employment, education, access to health
care, or in the provision of other state
services; however, a Labor Ministry resolution
gives persons with disabilities the right
to equal employment opportunities, and to
equal pay for equal work. There was no official
discrimination against persons with disabilities.
There are no laws mandating accessibility
to buildings for persons with disabilities,
and in practice, buildings and transportation
rarely were accessible to persons with disabilities.
The Special Education Division of the Ministry
of Education was responsible for the education
and training of children with disabilities.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Security
was in charge of the Job Program for the
Although there were many black police officers
and army enlisted personnel, racial discrimination
often occurred. Blacks complained of frequent
and disproportionate stops for identity
Other Societal Abuses and Discrimination
Societal discrimination against homosexuals
persisted, as police occasionally conducted
sweeps in areas where homosexuals congregated,
particularly along sections of Havana's
The government restricted persons found
to be HIV-positive to sanatoriums for treatment
and therapy before conditionally releasing
them into the community. Even after their
release, some persons with HIV/AIDS said
the government monitored their movements
with a de-facto chaperone to prevent the
spread of the illness. HIV/AIDS sufferers
also asserted that state medical professionals
frequently failed to respect confidentiality,
with the result that their condition was
known widely throughout their neighborhoods.
Some persons with HIV/AIDS said the government
only offered them jobs incompatible with
their medical condition.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The law does not allow workers to form
and join unions of their choice. Rather,
the state established official unions and
did not permit competing independent unions.
Official labor unions have a mobilization
function and do not act as trade unions,
promote worker rights, or protect the right
to strike. Such organizations were under
the control of the state and the CP, which
also managed the enterprises for which the
laborers worked. Because all legal unions
were government entities, antiunion discrimination
by definition did not exist.
The CP selects the leaders of the sole
legal labor confederation, the Confederation
of Cuban Workers (CTC), whose principal
responsibility is to ensure that government
production goals are met. Virtually all
workers were required to belong to the CTC,
and promotions were frequently limited to
CP members who take part in mandatory marches,
public humiliations of dissidents, and other
Workers often lost their jobs because of
their political beliefs, including their
refusal to join the official union. Several
small independent labor organizations were
created, although they functioned without
legal recognition. These organizations also
were subject to infiltration by government
agents and were unable to represent workers
effectively or work on their behalf.
On January 11, independent union organizer
Juan Antonio Salazar was arbitrarily detained
by police while he was walking down the
street. Police threatened to charge Salazar
with "threatening behavior" but
after several hours released him without
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Although provided for in the law, collective
bargaining does not exist in practice. The
State Committee for Work and Social Security
sets wages and salaries for the state sector,
which is virtually the only employer in
the country. The law does not provide for
strikes, and none were known to have occurred
during the year. There are no special laws
or exemptions from regular labor laws in
the three export processing zones.
The law denies all workers, except those
with special government permission, the
right to contract directly with foreign
companies investing in the country. Although
a few firms negotiated exceptions, the government
required foreign investors and diplomatic
missions to contract workers through state
employment agencies, which were paid in
foreign currency, but which, in turn, paid
workers very low wages in pesos (see section
6.e.) Workers subcontracted by state employment
agencies must meet certain political qualifications.
The state employment agencies consulted
with the CP, the CTC, and the Union of Communist
Youth to ensure that the workers chosen
"deserved" to work in a joint
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory
The law does not prohibit forced or compulsory
labor by adults. The government maintained
correctional centers for persons convicted
of such crimes as "dangerousness"
(see section 1.a.). Prisoners held in such
centers were forced to work on farms or
at sites performing construction, agricultural,
or metal work. The authorities also often
imprisoned persons sent to work sites who
refused to work.
On July 5, Ernesto Arocha Carta, a retiree
who had been declared disabled, filed a
complaint with the Ministry of Justice protesting
his sentence to one year's house arrest,
which included forced labor.
The law prohibits forced or compulsory
labor by children, but there were reports
that such practices occurred (see section
d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum
Age for Employment
The law prohibits forced and compulsory
labor by children, and the Ministry of Labor
and Social Security was responsible for
enforcement. Nonetheless, the government
required children to work in various situations.
Students at rural boarding schools were
expected to participate in several hours
of manual labor per day. Secondary school
students were expected to devote up to 15
days of their summer vacation completing
a variety of tasks ranging from farm labor
to urban cleanup projects and were paid
a small wage for this labor. Students in
post-secondary institutions (technical schools,
university preparatory schools, and agricultural
institutes) were expected to devote 30 to
45 days per year to primarily agricultural
work. Refusal to do agricultural work could
result in expulsion from school.
The legal minimum working age is 17, but
the Labor Code permits the employment of
15- and 16-year-old children to obtain training
or to fill labor shortages. The Labor Code
does not permit teenagers to work more than
7 hours per day or 40 hours per week or
on holidays. Children age 13 to 18 cannot
work in specified hazardous occupations,
such as mining, or at night.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The minimum wage, which is enforced by
the labor ministry, varies by occupation.
On average, the minimum monthly wage approximated
$9 (225 pesos). The government supplemented
the minimum wage with free education, subsidized
medical care (daily pay is reduced by 40
percent after the third day of being admitted
to a hospital), housing, and some subsidized
food. Even with subsidies, the minimum wage
did not provide a decent standard of living
for a worker and family.
The government required foreign companies
in joint ventures with state entities to
hire and pay workers through the state (see
section 6.b.). HRW noted that the required
reliance on state-controlled employment
agencies left workers without any capacity
directly to negotiate wages, benefits, the
basis of promotions, or the length of the
workers' trial period at the job with the
employer. Foreign companies paid the government
as much as $500 to $600 per worker per month;
however, because the government paid salaries
in nonconvertible pesos, workers only received
5 percent of the money foreign companies
paid to the government for their services.
The standard workweek was 44 hours, with
shorter workweeks in hazardous occupations,
such as mining. The law provides workers
with a weekly 24-hour rest period. These
standards were effectively enforced. The
law does not provide for premium pay for
overtime or prohibit obligatory overtime.
Workers were occasionally asked to work
overtime at their usual, non-overtime rate;
refusal to do so could result in a notation
in the employee's official work history
that could imperil any subsequent request
for vacation time.
Laws providing for workplace environmental
and safety controls were inadequate, and
the government lacked effective enforcement
mechanisms. In December the government announced
that in the first 11 months of the year,
90 people died in work-related accidents,
compared with 72 for the same period in
2004. The law provides that a worker who
considers his life in danger because of
hazardous conditions has the right to refuse
to work in a position or not to engage in
specific activities until such risks are
eliminated; the worker remains obligated
to work temporarily in whatever other position
may be assigned him at a salary provided
for under the law.