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3:06 PM Wednesday Jun 30, 2010
Cuba uses repressive laws, a well-oiled state security apparatus and
complicit courts to stifle political dissent as it harasses, spies on
and imprisons those who openly oppose its communist system, Amnesty
International said in a report released today.
The 35-page analysis said restrictions on expressing views deviating
from the official line are "systematic and entrenched," despite the
government's taking "some limited steps to address long-standing
suppression of freedom of expression."
Cuba's government did not respond to a request for comment. It routinely
dismisses international human rights groups as tools of the United States.
Amnesty found that things have not improved since February 2008, when
Cuba signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
and it blasted official prohibitions on individual liberties in the name
of national security and in response to Washington's 48-year trade
"No matter how detrimental its impact, the US embargo is a lame excuse
for violating the rights of citizens, as it can in no way diminish the
obligation on the Cuban government to protect, respect and fulfill the
human rights of all Cubans," the report said.
It was compiled using sources on and off the island but contained no
firsthand research since Amnesty has been banned from visiting Cuba
Cuba's human rights situation has been tense since the February 23 death
of dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo, considered by Amnesty International
a prisoner of conscience, after a long hunger strike behind bars.
Another opposition activist, Guillermo Farinas, has refused to eat or
drink since then, though he has received fluids and nutrients
intravenously at a hospital near his home in central Cuba.
Both cases drew international condemnation which has softened some since
the government reached an agreement with the Roman Catholic Church to
transfer political prisoners held far from their families to facilities
closer to home, and to give better access to medical care for inmates
who need it.
That led to the transfer of seven prisoners and the release for health
reasons of Ariel Sigler, who became a paraplegic while imprisoned. All
were among 75 activists, community organizers and journalists who defy
island controls on media arrested in a crackdown on organized dissent in
The Amnesty report noted that through the decades, "hundreds of
prisoners of conscience have been imprisoned in Cuba for the peaceful
expression of their views."