Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2002-2003: Cuba

Full report, released June 24, 2003 by U.S. Department of State.


Facing an openly and actively hostile Government, the United States Government and the U.S. Interest Section (USINT) in Havana confront significant challenges in their ongoing efforts to promote human rights, free access to information, and respect for democratic ideas in Cuba. Public diplomacy initiatives that would elicit only mild and favorable comment elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere threaten, to a surprising degree, the Cuban Government's traditional control over all aspects of life including access to information and opinion. Knowing that the Government has repeatedly acted to block such activities and stifle independent Cuban voices, the U.S. must operate quietly and creatively to support the Cuban people as they move toward democracy.

To better meet these goals, our strategy consolidates an array of programs to promote democratization, respect for human rights, and development of a free-market economy into the Enhanced Outreach Initiative (EOI). This initiative focuses on practical informational programs to promote democratic reforms and strengthen civil society, including discrete projects to support broader and balanced civil access to information. In addition, USINT follows the cases of more than 350 prisoners of conscience in Cuban jails, including more than 77 arrested since March 18. Their ongoing reporting supports broader U.S. efforts to draw international attention to the gravity of the human rights situation in Cuba.

The most significant human rights issue, in an extraordinarily repressive environment, is systematic official mistreatment of any citizen with the courage to challenge a rigid adherence to the "untouchable" socialist system. The Government works to harass, dissuade, and punish any independent voice, including those citizens who sought peaceful and productive change through the constitutionally sanctioned Varela Project. Targets of official repression include political dissenters, journalists, union members, and even librarians working outside the state monopolies. The regime resists international efforts to improve the treatment of its many prisoners of conscience, refusing an official mission of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and repeatedly denying access requests by the International Committee for the Red Cross.

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