The Central American and Caribbean Article 19 Program began work in December 2018 with the aim of expanding work to promote and defend freedom of expression and access to information in the region, particularly in Guatemala, Honduras and Cuba.
In the complexity of the contexts we examined, Cuba is evidence of the diversity of scenarios and challenges to freedom of expression on our continent: an island ruled since 1959 by a revolutionary regime that proclaimed itself a “socialist state of law and society” and democratic, independent and sovereign justice (…) for Enjoying freedom, equity, equality, solidarity, well-being and individual and collective prosperity”; a model that produced two constitutions, one in 1976 and the other in 2019, where freedom of expression and expression and especially artistic creativity are recognized, but under the leadership of the “leading political force in society and the state”, the Communist Party of Cuba.
Thus, since 1959, Cuba has been ruled by a single political party that controls and controls the executive, legislative and judicial branches, as well as the country’s media and production. Thus, 62 years after the start of the revolutionary march, the island is under a political, social and economic logic of intense censorship, where the state controls even the narrative of culture, society, climate, and daily life, penalizing any difference. In the official version of what Cuba is (or should be).
The state set up to perpetuate power under one ideology has built specific institutional scaffolding to eliminate any sign of dissent. In other words, the party is the center and not the people or their rights. From this perspective, anyone who intends to solicit, receive and disseminate information or ideas of any kind and by any means, is going through the activism in favor of freedom of expression in a system in which this right is denied.
Thus, a journalist who wants to perform his social function of informing, puts up a stubborn resistance every day in the face of systematic government oppression. Although journalists have not been killed or disappeared in Cuba, state agents, the main aggressors against the press, have a wide range of legal and illegal mechanisms to silence and isolate those who intend to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, access to information, public participation, meetings, and association.
When analyzing the conditions in Cuba, it is impossible not to mention the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States since 1960. The United Nations General Assembly has passed a unanimous resolution against the embargo since 1992 when considering its multiple effects. It was born, particularly in the area of access to and enjoyment of economic, social, cultural and environmental rights. However, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights noted that the unilateral measures imposed by the United States do not absolve the State of Cuba from compliance with its international obligations nor do they absolve it from violations of the American Declaration of Rights and Duties. from a man.
For its part, international civil society and human rights organizations denounced that the island government used these conditions as an excuse to pursue a repressive policy towards freedom of association, expression and assembly, all in the name of national security.
The year 2021 was particularly difficult for Cuba and its citizens. The pandemic, travel restrictions affecting tourism to the island, food shortages, previous tightening of US sanctions and restrictions that limited the sending of remittances during the Trump administration (which Joe Biden did not modify) as well as with the outbreak of COVID 19, represented a complex scenario for the already difficult conditions that Cubans face it on a daily basis.
In this context, the Central America and the Caribbean Program documented, from January to June of this year, 305 attacks on 42 persons assigned to journalistic work. In the activists’ case, 276 assaults on 23 men and women, while trying to exercise their freedom of expression, were counted. Despite the diversity of types of aggression, it is possible to note an important trend towards house arrest – not allowing people to leave their homes without judicial action – and arbitrary arrests, and actions committed by agents of the National Revolutionary Police and the State Security Department.
For its part, the month of July witnessed massive protests, recorded on the eleventh, in more than 50 cities in Cuba, under the cry of freedom and demand for food, medicine and medical services, among others. In response, the government carried out a crackdown that left 800 people detained/disappeared, according to the register compiled by Kobalex 1.
Meanwhile, Article 19 documented attacks on 15 journalists, 9 of whom were arrested, 5 of whom were subjected to criminal proceedings on charges of disturbing public order. The precautionary measure was issued under house arrest so that they remain in their homes without being able to leave. Meanwhile, one of them, Orlves Cabrera, is still in prison.
Although the government has taken temporary and exceptional measures to release the import of food and medicine to ease the burden of the situation on the citizens, it is important to create spaces for dialogue for civil society where their demands and proposals are listened to. For this, it is necessary to abandon the idea that any expression of indignation comes from an organized plan to destabilize the country and to accept that in the many voices expressed in recent days there is a legitimate outcry that must be heeded.
1 Kopalex, Detained/Disappeared, Released, Enforced Disappearance, Detained, 2021. Available over here.
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