Domingo, 31 de Mayo de 2020
Última actualización: 17:28 CEST

Cuban Stories

Two girls in Havana. (REUTERS)

Barack Obama's trip represents a point of no return in his strategy of making US foreign policy in Latin America more efficient, thereby enhancing America's position and influence in the region.

For this it is essential that the reconstruction of Cuba begin, and it is clear that Cuba cannot be a prosperous country without American support. Cuba's reconstruction is possible only if, amongst other things, the domestic private sector begins to generate profits and jobs. The first thing to do is to establish a starting point for this process. It is important to systematically increase not only the number of individual businesses, but also their profits, and to remove all the obstacles to the reunification of families.

Last, but not least, there will be no prosperity in Cuba if human rights are not respected, and this is very clear to the American president. The visit also aims to enable the Cuban people to create mechanisms fostering a respect for human rights in the future.

This is the point where the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) has serious differences, not only with the US, but also Europe, the whole civilized world, and the countries that have signed and ratified both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (only Cuba and China have signed but not ratified it) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (only Cuba, the United States and Myanmar have signed but not ratified it), attached to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Communist Party of Cuba's denial of the fact that human rights are violated in the country has reached the point that the newspaper Granma actually published an article alleging that Obama's visit disproves the myth that in Cuba these rights have been violated over the past 50 years.

International mechanisms to protect human rights were created to prevent or limit abuses by the State. What is the situation in Cuba?

First, anyone who expresses an opinion contrary to the policies of the PCC, or seeks to organize an action against abuse by the State, is classified by a secret court as a "counter-revolutionary". There is no precise definition in the Cuban Constitution of what the Revolution is, nor does it define it as an institution of the State's powers. Nor does it define what counter-revolutionary conduct is. Nor does the Criminal Code specify any crime of counter-revolutionary behavior. It is not even known who makes the decision to include someone in this category. A certain action may be counter-revolutionary one day, but not the next. It suffices for the State to declare that "We were forced to ...". A person can be highly revolutionary one day, and become a counter-revolutionary the next morning.

This classification allows for unlimited use of the powers and resources of the State against those persons and their groups, relatives and friends, without any effective mechanism of defense or rebuttal. In Cuba there is no separation of powers, nor is there any kind of ombudsman, or mechanisms that curtail the powers of the Councils of State and Ministers, or those of the Communist Party.

Each person classified as a "counter-revolutionary" is automatically stripped of his humanity. He becomes a "worm"; that is,  something subhuman, without blood, feelings, or rights of any type.

Examples, consequences

Examples abound: the public lynching of those who submitted their applications to leave the country in 1980; the confiscation of everything, including wedding rings, from those who decided to leave Cuba in the 60s; self-incrimination by the poet Herberto Padilla; persecution of the writer Reynaldo Arenas for being gay; the singer Celia Cruz being barred from entering the country for her mother's funeral; the 1478-year sentence issued to 75 intellectuals in 2003; Dr. Hilda Molina, and Orestes Lorenzo, prevented from leaving the country; the five-year prison sentence for the signers of the "The Homeland Belongs to Everyone letter"; the sentencing of more than 4,000 people to more than 15 years in prison, and the retention in prison for years of several people even after they had completed their sentences; the sending to concentration camps (dubbed "UMAPs") of anyone suspected of homosexuality and "sentimentality"; the placement of mines in the "Isle of Youth" prison in response to the threat of invasion; the refusal to allow Huber Matos to visit his mother's grave before leaving the country, directly from prison; the refusal to allow economist Carmelo Mesa-Lago to enter the country for a tribute on his 80th anniversary; the execution by firing squad of people based on orders signed by Che Guevara, on the same day of the sentencing, even though he lacked the legal authority to do so, and the rulings were unconstitutional; the downing over international waters of unarmed aircraft belonging to the "Brothers to the Rescue" organization; the banishment of the so-called "captive peoples"; the sinking of the tugboat 13 de marzo with water cannons; the refusal to allow persons classified as counter-revolutionaries to attend university, or their children; forcing the activist and poet María Elena Cruz Varela to literally eat her own words by swallowing pamphlets she had written; the execution by firing squad of General Arnaldo Ochoa Sánchez, for treason and drug trafficking, without any provision for it in the penal code, etc.

These are some examples of famous cases. Of course, there are also the many cases of ordinary people, their stories only being shared with friends and family, with the press finding out only through the latter.

Some examples of the consequences suffered by the people due to decisions made by the Government are:

Injecting themselves with AIDS to obtain food and shelter; or with oil, and wounding their hands or legs with sharp objects, to get out of the concentration camps, military service and rural schools; nurses who have spent two years in Iraq and been given a watch as payment; people who have spent two years in Angola, for which they have received a fan; mothers who prostitute their daughters; girls who attempt suicide because their mothers force them to become foreigners' concubines; people who have died due to landslides taking their homes; children telling their mothers that all they want in life is to leave the country; people who have spent two years in jail just for proneness to criminal behavior; girls under 12 seeking abortions; doctors and athletes whose close relatives have not been allowed to enter or depart the country; seniors who have never heard from their children again after they left the country; boat people whose lives were  saved when they were rescued from the sea; stories of rafts being sunk by sandbags from helicopters; women with children crossing through Central American jungles with coyotes to reach the United States; people who were permanently denied exit permits because a final inspection of their homes revealed that a glass was missing, or the refrigerator wasn't working; an unknown number of boat people lost at sea; professionals forced to work in the countryside for three years before they were allowed to leave the country; the exorbitant costs for the processing of paperwork and communications services, separating families; abusive "fines" at Customs; seniors who sell cigars, one by one, because they can´t get by on their pensions alone; people who have been in prison for 8 years for the possession of beef; or 3 years for US dollars; people injured or killed in accidents when transported in trucks or other vehicles used for over 50 years; women who must visit doctors to receive certification that they are still menstruating just so they can receive maxi pads; students who have been sent back from the former socialist countries without anyone being told anything; 16-year-olds being sent to war in Angola; prohibitions on cell phones, or the Internet, or entering hotels or recreational vessels, just because they are Cubans; large families living in single rooms; blackouts and a lack of transport and hygiene at public facilities; diplomats who are humiliated because they don't even have the funds to invite their colleagues from other countries to social functions ...

Readers may share other stories and examples in their comments. These are individual cases, but ones that together combine to paint a picture of the magnitude of the tragedy. Stories that may allow us to draft a new Constitution that might prevent these kinds of things from ever happening again. And which might one day serve to draw up a generic map of the repression in Cuba, and to estimate the true ravages wrought by socialism’s construction.