The Chained Pearl of Antilles: Repression of Human Rights in the Cuban State

Cuban Prison

A communist state does not allow for any political or social movements inside the country. This was the case in the Soviet Union, Communist China and to today Cuba. Starting with Fidel Castro, those who opposed the regime and asked for change were faced with retaliation backed by the full power of the Cuban state. Until today, Cubans who ask for political and social reform face imprisonment. Basic rights such as freedom of speech and peaceful assembly are violated every day. While the stepping down of the Fidel Castro gave many hope that change was forthcoming, his brothers policies towards threats to the communist regime have not changed. As the United States begins to reassess its attitude towards Cuba and reestablish diplomatic relations, it is important to not forget the plight of Cubans who have been repressed for decades. However, one must understand the situation in its entirety, including the viewpoint of the Cuban government. In order to analyze the situation of Cuba empirically, this paper will examine known instances of human rights violations and discuss the actors present, both domestic and international; as well as examine the historical context under which this situation has developed.


Since the takeover of the Cuban state by Fidel Castro the “Pearl of Antilles” has become awash with violence. Especially in the last decade, with international attention shifting to the middle-east the Cuban government has been able to escalate its atrocities. “The Castro dictatorship indeed has moved with sickening speed to arrest, try, convict and sentence to draconian jail terms approximately 80 of Cuba’s bravest and brightest”[1]. With the world occupied by terrorist organizations who seem determined on attacking the main lands of western countries and taking over middle-eastern ones, the Cuban regime contained in the boundaries of its shores has been pushed to the sidelines.

The problems that continue to arise in Cuba effect individuals and families that are considered critics opposed to the government. Cubans live in fear of their government because of the consistent oppressive acts in which they take to limit the rights of its citizens. The conflicts in Cuba according to Worlds Report 2014 states, “the Cuban government continues to repress individuals and groups who criticize the government or call for basic human rights. Officials employ a range of tactics to punish dissent and install fear in the public, including beatings, public acts of shamintermination of employment, and threads of long term imprisonment”. [2]

Especially the freedoms of expression, association and assembly are the ones that have suffered substantially[3]. Whenever people have gathered to demonstrate peacefully, the government has responded with force to break up such protests and often arrested several people. Even recently, after the announcement of the U.S. and Cuba relationship normalizations the Cuban government has continued on this path breaking up peaceful gatherings, resorting to beatings and imprisonments[4]. Furthermore, political competition has been largely absent in Cuba. The elections were often fixed and allowed no one other than the government to view the total number of ballots. Once Fidel Castro was elected he would no longer hold free elections because he claimed that the people of Cuba already voted and wanted Fidel.

While a sovereign nation is ultimately free to do as it pleases, the actions of a state are influenced by the international community; whether domestic or international. The case of Cuba has not been different either. As has been discussed before, when the USSR was still in existence it gave much support to Cuba[5]. Nonetheless, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union others have stepped up to ally with the small nation and provide support in the midst of American led opposition. As the legatee of the USSR the Russian Federation has continued to support Cuba and the Castro regime. In 2014 president Vladimir Putin met with Raul Castro and signed a deal which forgave the debts owned by Cuba to Russia, as well as signing security cooperation agreements[6]. Of course the power of the Russian state is not the same as that of the Soviet Union, but they remain a great power nevertheless. Having such an ally allows the Cuban government to not worry about complete isolation from the international community. On the other hand America has led a political and economic embargo. So while the U.S. and its allies have criticized the human rights record of Cuba, their criticism has meant little. For the past twenty three years the United Nations have called for the end of the U.S. embargo[7]. And while those that oppose the embargo site over a trillion dollars lost[8], the fact of the matter is that Cuba has survived with the embargo in place. So while it would unmistakably be good for Cuban economy to have the embargo lifted, the years of living with the embargo have made U.S. economic leverage less effective. Recently the Obama administration announced that the United States and Cuba will be resuming diplomatic ties[9]. The years of trade and political embargo have not brought about the goals they were meant to achieve and it would seem that the U.S. has decided to take a different approach. Even back in 2003 when the House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform was holding a hearing most of those that spoke did so in favor of a more constructive approach to U.S.-Cuban relations[10]. Even back in the U.S. there seems to be an understanding that the old methods have failed, and there is a need to try something new. There is a need to move past the history that has clouded the relations of Cuba and the U.S. and find ways to work with one another

Full text available Repression of Human Rights in the Cuban State

[1] United States. Committee on International Relations House of Representatives. Castro's Brutal Crackdown on     Dissidents. 2.
[2] “World Report 2014: Cuba.” Human Rights Watch
[3] Cuba: Silencing the Voices of Dissent, New York: Amnesty International. 3.
[4] Martin, Sabrina. "Another Sunday, Another 89 Political Arrests in Cuba." PanAm Post. N.p., 04 May 2015. Web. 27     May 2015.
[5] Rabkin, Rhoda Pearl. Cuban Politics: The Revolutionary Experiment. New York: Praeger, 1991. Print. 153
[6] Vulf Simona [Симона Вульф], Кого выберет Куба: США или Россия? [Who will Cuba choose: USA or Russia?].
[7] "General Assembly Demands End to Cuba Blockade for Twenty-Second Year as Speakers Voice Concern over       Impact on Third Countries | Meetings Coverage and Press Releases."
[8] "General Assembly Demands End to Cuba Blockade for Twenty-Second Year as Speakers Voice Concern over       Impact on Third Countries | Meetings Coverage and Press Releases."
[9] Whitefield, Mimi, and Jim Wyss. "Cuba and U.S. Close to Restoring Diplomatic Ties after 'highly Productive'          Meeting."
[10] United States. Committee on Government Reform House of Representatives. Castro’s Cuba: What is the      Proper U.S. Response to Ongoing Human Rights Violations in Our Hemisphere?

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