In March 2002, several dozen Cubans were arrested, tried summarily without due process, and sentenced to long prison terms. The Human Rights Council and the United Nations have sufficient information on these arbitrary processes. More than fifty of those detained in March 2002 remain in over-crowded prisons together with common inmates, in inhumane conditions that have seriously damaged their health. They and other Cubans have been imprisoned for defending, promoting or peacefully exercising universally recognized Human Rights.

None of those convicted in April 2003 was charged with using or having weapons, inciting violence or disorder, espionage, or any other crime. They were convicted for expressing their opinion, exercising free journalism, and promoting civic initiatives. Among these initiatives is the Varela Project that, based on the existing Cuban Constitution, calls for a Referendum so that the Cuban people can express their opinions on necessary changes.

But since mere assertion should not to be confused with action, I urge you to read the official records of the summary trials. You can find many unsubstantiated allegations, insults and forced interpretations by the accusers, yet you will not find a single fact linking the defendants to the crimes that are described in the laws under which they were sentenced to very long prison sentences. The courts that condemned them were following orders from the government and were directed by State Security.


The Human Rights Council has the obligation to demand of the Government of Cuba the release of those imprisoned for fulfilling this entity’s mission: defending and promoting Human Rights.

Although this should have been its first demand, the Human Rights Council still has the opportunity to be consistent by approving the resolution, calling for the release of those peaceful political prisoners, that we present today after having already presented it to each member state of the Council.


A form of inequality has characterized Cuban society: the exclusion of people from opportunities, and from participation in political and cultural life, because of their political or religious beliefs. This official practice is buttressed by a systematic doctrine in public education, mass media, places of work, schools and in all institutions. This reality is illustrated in the qualification and classification of individuals as “revolutionaries” (i.e. unconditional supporters to the regime) or non-revolutionaries, who are referred to as worms in an attempt to strip them of their human condition.

Churches, fraternities and other groups suffer direct and systematic interference and intimidation from law enforcement bodies and the Department of Religious Affairs of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.  This department seeks to condition and regulate the churches’ social mission and tries to pressure bishops, pastors and leaders of these institutions, as well as lay ministers, priests and nuns. The more it is proclaimed that relations between the Cuban state and these institutions are good, the more conditioned and silenced they are.

There are institutional and active mechanisms in every block of every town, in every school and university, in every workplace and in all other areas of society to monitor people and evaluate their political and ideological behavior in order to recommend or enforce repressive or excluding actions, and to maintain an updated dossier of every citizen. This monitoring and control largely determines the life opportunities for individuals and their families, who often believe they have no choice than to follow along in order to survive in this culture of fear.

Unequal equality is found in the institutionalized system of corruption and privileges that grants to some leaders a rich life with enormous advantages in all areas, depending on their status and their membership or links to an entrenched group. This selective group of power lives as rich capitalists in a nation subject to the stricter, yet very selective, rules of savage communism.  This inequality can not be appealed by citizens and is at the core of the relationship between the group in power and the majority. This state of exclusion of the impoverished majority and of privileges for a small sector in power is sustained by a repressive system that acts systematically against all who criticize, question or try to change it. This oppression is supplemented by overwhelming propaganda and a doctrine that labels as “treason” anything that confronts this untouchable power.

After May 10, 2002, when more than 11,000 Cuban citizens submitted a petition for the Varela Project referendum (, the National Assembly, in an unconstitutional move, amended the Constitution to state that Cuba’s social, political and economic system is irrevocable, thus denying the people’s right to sovereignty that is itself enshrined in the Constitution.

The lack of independent courts that fully comply with the law leaves citizens in a state of helplessness in the face of arbitrary abuse by authorities and law enforcement bodies. There is no concept of, or guarantees for, fundamental rights because citizens have no effective way to sue the state or the government. The lie that the people are the state itself and, as such, they cannot make claims against themselves, is cruel and crippling. This traps the system in an order of non-rights.


This system of power, privileges, oppression, propaganda, and doctrine is incompatible with freedom and with exercising freedoms of expression, of association, and to choose one’s representatives and government. However, these are not the only rights denied to Cubans. Fifty years of totalitarianism has put in place a culture of fear in which almost everything is banned and there is only tolerance and permissiveness, but not true rule of law.

The educational system is free, supported by the contributions of the Cuban people, and has expanded throughout the country and to all sectors of society. Especially notable for their human dimension are the special schools for children and young people with special needs.  The system lately has suffered from deterioration in the quality of its education and its effect on the development of values due to extreme politicization and a lack of incentives for teachers and workers. Education has also been a mechanism for domination, in which people are not educated for freedom but to be submissive to power figures as the only supreme value and as a reference from above on all moral issues.  The students, their parents and their teachers in all institutions of the educational system suffer oppression as a consequence of the lack of freedom of conscience, speech and association.

The public health system, both in theory and in practice, operates on the basis that all persons must be served by or benefit from its services and programs throughout the country based solely on need.  There is some favoritism and some dehumanizing behaviors that cause suffering or poor care.  The official propaganda sometimes uses the free nature of healthcare to justify the denial of many fundamental rights.  But the right to healthcare, and the healthcare system in Cuba, are generally designed and operated with a high level of humanitarian and social justice.

It is fair and necessary that the United States immediately lift the embargo on Cuba without conditions because it is the Cuban people who suffer its effects and because it is not a factor for positive change; on the contrary, it is often used by the Cuban government to justify what is unjustifiable: the denial of basic rights to Cubans.

The U.N. General Assembly has demanded, by majority vote, the just repeal of the embargo.

The General Assembly of the United Nations and many other institutions, including the Human Rights Council, harm the people of Cuba by encouraging the stagnation or decline in the human rights situation with their silence regarding the imprisonment in Cuba of human rights advocates and their outrageous refusal to demand the Cuban government to respect the rights of its own citizens.


The Human Rights Council should call upon the Cuban government to publish the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the human rights instruments it recently signed, and to commit publicly, to its own people, to comply with these norms and to make the necessary legal changes to respect and ensure these rights.

Most citizens who have signed the Varela Project are often intimidated and repressed by State Security, which still represses activists by threatening them and has even, like professional criminals, illegally entered the homes of activists to steal lists with thousands of names of people who signed this petition. The paradox is that citizens make a legal request that is supported by the Constitution while the government violates the law.

Those who condition the lifting of the embargo on the improvement of Human Rights in Cuba fall into a contradiction because the embargo itself is a violation of the rights of Cubans, and a violation cannot be a means or a remedy to overcome other violations.


Nevertheless, those who condemn the embargo and, at the same time, silence the denial and violation of Human Rights in Cuba, or condition the respect of human rights on the lifting of the embargo, are only interested in confronting the U.S. and not defending the Cuban people. They fall into hypocrisy and contradiction because they justify the Cuban government in punishing its own people and trapping them in an order of no rights.  It is even more insulting that they justify the lack of Human Rights in Cuba on the basis of the people’s right to self determination—as if Cuban citizens had a voice, freedom and rights to self-determination.

Many of those who travel to Cuba refuse to speak with representatives of civic organizations and human rights that are independent from the government and have publicly expressed satisfaction with the situation in our country without mentioning the lack of many rights in Cuba. Thus, they do not only join the Cuban government in its exclusionary practices, but also encourage the denial of Human Rights in Cuba and sow confusion and disappointment in our people.

Among these visitors are intellectuals; personalities from the world of culture; leaders and other personalities from Latin America, the United States, Canada, the European Union and other countries, including persons allegedly promoting Human Rights; and representatives of the United Nations.


It is common for the police to stop and search any citizen or vehicle on the road for no reason, without explanation nor the right to appeal. In this sense, Cuba lives in an undeclared state of siege.  The Cuban government has and continues to punish, with the exiling sentence of “Final Exit” (“Salida Definitiva”), hundreds of thousands of Cubans who decide to leave the country in search of freedom and opportunities that do not exist in Cuba. These Cubans cannot return to live in Cuba, nor does the government recognize their rights as citizens.  They can only return to Cuba if the government gives them permission for one, two or three weeks at most, and then they have to leave.

Cubans can leave the country on a temporary basis or under a “final exit” with government permission, which is often denied without any explanation. For Cubans who leave under the “Final Exit” category, the government confiscates all their property, including the dishes and silverware with which they ate. Leaving and entering the country is not a right in Cuba. Many families are separated due to the punishment government imposes on the family that is left in Cuba. When one of the family members departs with a temporary permit and decides not to return, he or she is labeled a “deserter”.

The right of association does not exist in practice, and the law that governs it is a set of impediments and constraints that prevents people from gathering according to their ideas or legitimate interests. Freedom to form unions is denied, and there is only one union completely dominated and controlled by the government and the communist party. The same occurs with student organizations. These organizations that supposedly defend workers and students are actually mechanisms to transmit government domination, control and, in many cases, repression.

The law prevents free elections. Did you know that Cuba’s electoral law stipulates that candidates for deputy may only be nominated by committees formed by organizations controlled by the Communist Party, and that there is only one candidate for each seat?

Although political freedom is stated in Article No. 1 of the Constitution, the Penal Code, other laws and the prevailing order completely deny this freedom at a personal and social level.


There are questions that can be asked and answered:


  1. Can Cubans speak freely, even going as far as to criticize the government, without being labeled or subject to reprisals? No.

Can Cubans with opinions different to those of the government express themselves through media outlets that are financed by the people’s money? No.

  1. Is there a right to establish and sustain independent publications and broadcasters independent from the government? No.
  2. Can workers freely form unions? No.
  3. Can students, professionals, religious people, and citizens with different ideas or interests organize legally and freely? No.
  4. Are there independent NGOs that the government does not persecute? No.
  5. Can a Cuban or a group of Cubans establish a small, privately-owned enterprise? No.  Can a foreigner? Yes.
  6. Are there any political parties besides the Communist Party that are not persecuted? No.
  7. Can non-Communist Cubans legally organize in political parties? No.
  8. Can Cubans leave or enter Cuba legally and freely? No.
  9. Can Cubans choose their deputies and their government democratically, from among several candidates, in a framework of democracy and pluralism? No.
  10. In the last 60 years, have Cubans been able to democratically elect their government? No.
  11. Do the Cuban people have the opportunity to exercise self-determination and freely decide on a Referendum, or endorse free elections on changes in the country or government, as has been done by the people of the United States and in many Latin American countries? No.
  12.  Why?



Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas

Havana, March 3, 2009


Comentario de Faustina Pernas
Hora: 14 Octubre 2009, 7:32 pm


Escribir comentario.

To prove you're a person (not a spam script), type the security word shown in the picture. Click on the picture to hear an audio file of the word.
Click to hear an audio file of the anti-spam word

To prove you're a person (not a spam script), type the security word shown in the picture. Click on the picture to hear an audio file of the word.
Click to hear an audio file of the anti-spam word