June 24, 2003 by U.S. Department
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.