Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Human Rights Watch has monitored human rights conditions in Cuba for more than fifteen years. Although severe restrictions on basic civil and political rights have been a constant in Cuba during this period, the current crackdown, both in its scale and in its intensity, far surpasses the violations we have documented in the past.

Over the past month, the Cuban government has carried out a full-scale offensive against nonviolent dissidents, independent journalists, human rights advocates, independent librarians and others brave enough to challenge the government's monopoly on truth. By its sweeping nature, the crackdown seems intended not only to repress dissident voices, but to deny the very possibility of an independent civil society.

But while the current wave of repression is extraordinary for its scope and intensity, there is nothing unusual, by Cuban standards, about the means by which it has been imposed. The denial of basic civil and political rights is inscribed in Cuban law. The country's domestic legislation tightly restricts the rights to free speech, association, assembly and the press; its courts lack independence and impartiality; and its criminal procedures violate defendants' rights to due process of law.

--From a statement made earlier today by Jose Miguel Vivanco, Executive Director, Americas Division, Human Rights Watch, to the US House Committee on International Relations. Vivanco goes on to argue that the forty-year old US embargo cannot succeed in improving the human rights situation in Cuba. (It should be entirely obvious by now that maintaining the embargo is one of Castro's major objectives.)

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