Megan Gularte, Jack Mizes, Sara Meza
Cuban leader Fidel Castro established the first communist dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere after leading a coup to overthrow Fulgencio Batista in 1959, after which the Cuban people eagerly looked towards their dreams of a future in which civil liberties and free elections were restored. While successful in reducing illiteracy and providing public health care, the Castro regime is widely criticized throughout the world for its numerous human rights violations and arbitrary arrests of political prisoners. For instance, Fidel Castro implemented a system of repressive state machinery in which the government conducted the summary trials and executions of thousands, suppressed political dissidents, closed independent media outlets, and ended independent economic activity. The Cuban government commonly punishes political dissent with arbitrary and preemptive detention of its citizens. Cuba restricts freedom of movement, assembly, press, speech, and access to information. While not illegal acts in Cuba, these are rights inherent to all people. Fidel Castro handed over the leadership of the state to his brother Raúl in 2008; Raúl Castro has continued to uphold the repressive state machinery implemented by his brother despite international pressure, criticism and calls for justice.
Cuba’s human rights abuses are more prevalent than ever. Within the last fifteen years, the amount of attention the Cuban government has received from international organizations, such as the United Nations, Human Rights Council, and Amnesty International has increased dramatically. This is in part due to the introduction of the digital age and the warming of relations with the rest of the world. Previously, the government had consolidated its power to a point that independent journalists and librarians were subjected to arbitrary and periodic detentions, harassment, and seizure of equipment and books, as these were seen as necessary actions for the survival of the regime. Cuban citizens had no access to foreign magazines or newspapers, since many mainstream publications are outlawed as enemy propaganda–including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Now that digital information is more readily available to international groups and other states, the Castro regime’s political abuses are being dragged into the spotlight. For example, a number of cases receive international recognition–the Damas de Blanco, El Grupo de los 75, and the fifty-three prisoners released in the negotiations with U.S. President Barack Obama. To provide a brief overview, the Damas de Blanco is an opposition movement made up of wives and female relatives of political dissidents. El Grupo de los 75 were arrested on charges of conspiring with the United States and working to attack the independence of Cuba. The fifty-three prisoners that were recently released are also a subject of contention. Journalists from the New York Times and the Miami Herald have reported that the nature of the release is not only dubious, but that a number of released men and women have already been re-arrested.
A contextual analysis of the history between the West and Cuba will provide insight into the shifting relationship with the Western hemisphere–more specifically the United States. Reports from the Human Rights Watch, academic journals, and government agencies will allow us to understand the tumultuous nature of past relations, and how it will affect the world’s assertions that justice will henceforth be served for victims of the Castro regime. American rhetoric claims to be promoting the support for human rights, democratic governance, greater economic prosperity and transparency in Cuba. The Cuban people, claims the United States, must be able to move forward independently of their government in order to create a functioning and prosperous civil society.
This dossier’s objective is to reveal and analyze the most prevalent of Cuba’s human rights violations–an unprecedented number of arbitrary political detentions. Additionally, a contextual and overarching history of the West’s relationship with Cuba will provide a basis for understanding how the Obama administration and the rest of the world are working to normalize relations with the communist state. This dossier is also unique in its current prevalence to international relations and human rights–we will provide an overview into the most austere cases of human rights abuses of the last fifteen years. Additionally, it will examine how the easing of tensions with the United States will affect the perpetuation of human rights abuses. “The voices of freedom cannot be drowned out by the threats of a frightened regime. The machinery of repression has tried to quiet those voices, but in vain. Years of deception cannot hide the truth, either from the people or the international community.” It is important to note that relations with Cuba are changing as this report is being written, but nevertheless, we will make sure that the report is up to date and factual in its analysis.
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