Cuba's strides under Castro offset by decades of repression, reports say
By Joe Sterling, CNN
Updated 0626 GMT (1426 HKT) November 27, 2016
(CNN)The relentlessly brutal legacy of political repression that marked
Fidel Castro's rule in Cuba offset and undermined his achievements, two
major human rights groups said on Saturday.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued reports on the state
of human rights in the Caribbean nation the day after Castro died at 90.
Castro came to power after the 1959 revolution and handed over power to
his brother, Raul, last decade.
"There are few more polarizing political figures than Fidel Castro, a
progressive but deeply flawed leader," said Erika Guevara-Rosas,
Americas Director at Amnesty International.
Castro's 'darkest legacy'
"Access to public services such as health and education for Cubans were
substantially improved by the Cuban revolution and for this, his
leadership must be applauded," Guevara-Rosas said.
"However, despite these achievements in areas of social policy, Fidel
Castro's 49-year reign was characterized by a ruthless suppression of
freedom of expression."
"The state of freedom of expression in Cuba, where activists continue to
face arrest and harassment for speaking out against the government, is
Fidel Castro's darkest legacy."
Amnesty said it has documented hundreds of stories from "prisoners of
conscience" who were "detained by the government solely for peacefully
exercising their right to freedom of expression, association and assembly."
Fewer people get long-term prison sentences "for politically motivated
reasons." But, "repression takes new forms in today's Cuba," Amnesty said.
The group cited "the wide use of short-term arrests and ongoing
harassment of people who dare to publish their opinions, defending human
rights, or challenging the arbitrary arrest of a relative." It also said
access to the Internet is limited.
Human Rights Watch says Castro's repression had been "codified in law
and enforced by security forces" and "groups of civilian sympathizers
tied to the state." It says the system of repression that targeted
dissenters is a "dark legacy that lives on even after his death."
It says the government still carries out some of the practices that
emerged under his rule: Surveillance, beatings, arbitrary detention, and
public acts of repudiation. And that generated a "pervasive climate of
José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch cited
Castro's "draconian rule and the harsh punishments.""
"As other countries in the region turned away from authoritarian rule,
only Fidel Castro's Cuba continued to repress virtually all civil and
political rights," Vivanco said.
Embargo a pretext for repression
The economic embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba failed to
force Castro from power. Human Rights Watch said it placed hardships on
Cubans and failed to ease repression. The unsuccessful Bay of Pigs
invasion and the many assassination attempts exacerbated relations.
"Rather than isolating Cuba, the policy isolated the US. Castro proved
especially adept at using the embargo to garner sympathy abroad, while
at the same time exploiting it as a pretext to repress legitimate
efforts to reform Cuba from within, dismissing them as US-driven and
-funded initiatives," the group said..
The two nations reestablished diplomatic relations in July, and
President Barack Obama visited the island this year.
After Castro's death, Obama issued a statement of condolences. He
extended "a hand of friendship to the Cuban people," said they "must
know they have a friend and partner in the United States of America."
Human Rights Watch called President Obama's new stance toward Cuba "long
overdue." That policy includes the normalizing of relations, the easing
of strictures on travel and commerce, and urging lawmakers to mull the
lifting of the embargo.
"For decades, Fidel Castro was the chief beneficiary of a misguided US
policy that allowed him to play the victim and discouraged other
governments from condemning his repressive policies," Vivanco said.
"While the embargo remains in place, the Obama administration's policy
of engagement has changed the equation, depriving the Cuban government
of its main pretext for repressing dissent on the island."
Source: Cuba's strides under Castro offset by repression - CNN.com -