House Foreign Affairs Committee hears how repression continues unabated in communist Cuba

No amount of cosmetic changes to Cuba’s socialist dictatorship can hide the fact that the Cuban people continue to suffer brutal repression under the Castro regime.

Michael Volpe in Al Dia:

Cuba continues to be repressive

While there is a new president of Cuba, little has changed in that country when it comes to human rights and press freedom.

Cuba’s record on human rights remains the same even though the Castro brothers appear to no longer be in charge. 

The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled “Human Rights in Cuba: Beyond the Veneer of Reform.”

The head of the committee is Aldio Sires, a Democrat from New Jersey, and this issue is personal to him. 

“I left Cuba and came to the United States when I was 11 years old,” Sires said during his opening remarks. “Despite great progress over the last six decades to improve quality of life all over the world, the Cuban regime remains stuck in the dark ages. This is a government that continues to lock up those who speak out against it. It is a government that criminalizes the core freedoms that are a foundation of any democracy. It is a government that for 60 years has denied the Cuban people their right to choose their own government.”

Carlos Queseda is the Executive Director and Founder of the International Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights and in his opening written statement, he noted that the regime has made changes which while appearing to be reform, have only continued the repression.

“The contrived approval of the new Constitution in the February 24th referendum ushered in a new era with regard to legal guarantees for human rights in Cuba. In a calculated move to create a loophole through which it can avoid complying with international human rights treaty obligations, the Cuban government altered the text of the new Constitution to grant it supremacy over international law. This poses a challenge for work on human rights in Cuba, as the government has created for itself an easy excuse for not complying with treaty obligations,” he said in his written statement. 

He noted that freedom of expression also remains repressed in Cuba. 

“Freedom of expression and opinion is nonexistent in Cuba. Independent civil society organizations are not permitted to legally register, in violation of their right to freedom of association. Activists and their family members face constant psychological torture,” he stated in his written statement. “Cases of activists and their family members not receiving adequate health services are numerous. And, we just found out that private companies, such as Western Union, may collaborate with government authorities to criminalize human rights activists, in clear violation of those activists’ right to privacy. Finally, arbitrary detentions and further violations of due process guarantees are commonplace.”

Carlos Martinez de la Serna is the Program Director for the Committee to Protect Journalists, and he talked about the lack of press freedom in Cuba. 

“Even as Cuba has seen some points of tight state control over media and freedom of expression loosen over the last decade, the country continues to be one of the Western hemisphere’s most difficult environments for the press. Independent and critical Cuban journalists constantly face the possibility of detention, having their homes or devices searched, their reporting equipment confiscated, and even criminal prosecution on anti-state charges. The slowly expanding influence of the internet has opened up new avenues for expression and journalistic work but has also expanded the set of tools of Cuban officials to monitor, surveil, and censor journalists, media workers, and private citizens.”

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