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Posted June 03, 2003 by publisher in Castro's Cuba

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Human rights crackdown in the name of security.

Amnesty International

1. Introduction

In the most severe crackdown on the dissident movement since the years following the 1959 revolution, Cuban authorities arrested 75 dissidents in the space of several days in mid-March. They were subjected to summary trials and were quickly sentenced to long prison terms of up to 28 years. With this sweep the authorities detained, with the exception of half a dozen well-known figures critical of the regime, the bulk of the mid-level leadership of the dissident movement; many of those arrested had been involved in activities of dissent for a decade or more.

The move, unprecedented in scope, was surprising to some observers in that over the last several years Cuba had generally seemed to be moving towards a more open and permissive approach. With some exceptions, for example numerous arrests of dissidents before and after the attempted gate-crashing of the Mexican Embassy in February 2002, the number of prisoners of conscience had declined steadily over past years. The Cuban authorities had seemed to be moving away from the blanket imposition of lengthy prison sentences as a means of stifling dissent, and towards a more low-level approach of harassment, designed more to discourage than to punish critics.(1) In addition, in April 2000 Cuba began implementing a de facto moratorium on executions, which was widely welcomed by observers of the human rights situation on the island.

Given the accumulation over the last several years of these and other signals of a relaxation in human rights terms, the wave of arrests and summary trials, in addition to the execution of three men convicted of hijacking, signal an alarming step backwards in terms of respect for human rights. Not unusually in the history of fraught bilateral relations, Cuban authorities identified provocation and aggression from the United States as the root source of the tensions which caused the crackdown.

Whatever the merits of the dispute between the Cuban government and the United States over the latter’s practices with regard to Cuba, a review of the limited information contained in the available trial documents indicates that the conduct for which dissidents were prosecuted was not self-evidently criminal; it was non-violent and seemed to fall within the parameters of the legitimate exercise of fundamental freedoms as guaranteed under international standards. On the basis of the available information, therefore, Amnesty International considers the 75 dissidents to be prisoners of conscience(2) and calls for their immediate and unconditional release.

2. Context on the eve of the clampdown

2.1. Some positive developments with regard to human rights

Limitations on freedom of expression, association and assembly remain codified in Cuban law; however, there were a number of indicators that repression of dissidents was waning before the crackdown in March.

One seemingly positive signal was the lack of wide scale repression of a number of initiatives by unofficial organizations in Cuba. While there were some incidents of harassment, the authorities appeared to largely ignore dissident activities. The most internationally well-known of these efforts is the Proyecto Varela petition drive for legal reform. In 2002 other initiatives, such as the Asamblea para promover la sociedad civil, Assembly to Promote Civil Society, headed by prisoner of conscience Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, arrested in the recent crackdown, were announced.

Another positive indicator was the slow but steady decline in numbers of prisoners of conscience over the last years. However the number peaked again in February 2002: the arrest of several activists was followed by an incident at the Mexican embassy in which a busload of youths crashed a bus through the perimeter fence, in what the authorities said was a search for asylum. The incident sparked more arrests of dissidents, with the result that at the end of 2002 there were more prisoners of conscience than at any point during the previous year.

On the eve of the March 2003 clampdown on dissent, Amnesty International had identified 15 Cubans as prisoners of conscience, detained solely for peaceful exercise of fundamental freedoms: Yosvany Aguilar Camejo; Jose Aguilar Hernández; Bernardo Arevalo Padron; Oscar Elías Biscet González; Leonardo Bruzon Avila; Francisco Chaviano González; Rafael Corrales Alonso; Carlos Alberto Domínguez González; Emilio Leyva Perez; Eddy Alfredo Mena y González; Carlos Oquendo Rodríguez; Ricardo Ramos Pereira; Lázaro Miguel Rodríguez Capote; Nestor Rodríguez Lobaina; and Jorge Enrique Santana Carreiras.(3)

A de facto moratorium on executions dating back to April 2000 was seen as another positive sign; although some new death sentences continued to be handed down, there was no information indicating that executions had been carried out. This changed with the April 2003 executions of three young men summarily tried and convicted under new anti-terrorism legislation, following a hijacking in which no one was harmed (see below).

2.2. Improving relations with the international community

Cuba’s relations with some sectors of the international community seemed to be improving in 2002 and early 2003. Political dialogue with the European Union, blocked for five years over a number of issues, including human rights concerns, had reopened with an initial meeting in December 2001. A follow-up meeting with representatives of the European Union was held in November 2002, and in March 2003 the first-ever official European Union delegation was opened in Havana.

In April 2002 the UN Human Rights Commission had passed a relatively mild resolution on human rights in Cuba, and in November 2002, for the 11th consecutive year, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling on the USA to end its embargo against Cuba.

Cuba’s relations with Canada, which had deteriorated over the three previous years, improved with the visit of a senior Canadian official in November 2002, and bilateral relations with a number of other countries appeared to be strong or improving.

2.3. Ongoing tensions with the United States

One exception to this pattern was the ongoing tension with the government of the United States. Relations between the two countries have been strained since the 1959 revolution, becoming increasingly so with Cuba’s espousal of a socialist system and the 1961 US-backed invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. The two countries do not have diplomatic relations, although from 1977 Interests Sections were set up in their respective capitals. The tension between them has affected both bilateral and international relations, and can be seen in numerous areas.

The US embargo against Cuba

The US has operated a financial and trade embargo against Cuba since 1962. It has consistently maintained that it will only change its policy if it sees fundamental political shifts on the island. The Cuban authorities maintain that the embargo is illegal and has caused massive suffering in Cuba, and regularly call for it to be repealed. This call has been consistently made by others as well, including the United Nations General Assembly (see below).

US legislation strengthening the embargo has been passed several times since its inception; in one such effort, in March 1996, US president Bill Clinton signed into law the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act,” otherwise known as the “Helms-Burton Act” after the lawmakers who sponsored it. The text of that law is discussed in more detail below. In more recent years, however, calls in the US for a lifting of the embargo have increased.

Since his inauguration, US president George W. Bush indicated that he would veto any legislative attempt to remove the embargo or other restrictions on Cuba unless a multiparty system was established and elections held. This position was criticised by former US president Jimmy Carter, whose visit to Cuba in May 2002 marked the highest-level visit from the USA since 1959. There was also opposition to the Bush administration’s approach from other sectors in the US; in October 2002, the US House of Representatives voted to end travel restrictions on US citizens wanting to visit Cuba, and Cuba continued to receive visits from local and national US lawmakers, among other public figures.

Human rights and the US embargo

Amnesty International calls for the lifting of sanctions where it believes the continuation of sanctions might contribute to grave human rights abuses. A review of the impact of the US embargo against Cuba and other related policies in this regard is deeply worrying.

a. Impact of the embargo on economic, social and cultural rights

In November 2002, for the eleventh consecutive year, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution that called on the US to “take the necessary steps to repeal or invalidate” the embargo against Cuba and related measures.(4) The resolution, entitled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba,” passed by 173 votes to 3, with 4 abstentions.

The vote followed the issuance of a report of the same name by the UN Secretary General; the General Assembly had requested that the report be drawn up in its 2001 resolution condemning the embargo. In that report, UN agencies resoundingly condemned the impact of the embargo on the economic, social and cultural life of Cuba. A selection of their comments provided in the text box below demonstrates how the embargo has affected all areas of life on the island.

The overwhelming evaluation of the relevant UN agencies is that the US embargo against Cuba is highly detrimental to Cubans’ enjoyment of a range of economic, social and cultural rights. Moreover, much of their analysis indicates that the negative effects of the embargo are felt disproportionately, not by the decisionmakers and authorities whose policies the embargo is aimed at influencing, but by the weakest and most vulnerable members of the population.

The negative impact of the US embargo on economic, social and cultural rights
The 2002 report of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations described the negative impact of the embargo and indicated that “Cuba is one of the five countries with the largest increases in the prevalence of undernourishment during the 1990s. According to FAO estimates, the proportion of the undernourished in its population rose from 5% in 1990-1992 to 17% in 1997-1999.”(5)

UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, was unequivocal about the negative impact of the embargo, indicating that it “has an impact upon all spheres of Cuban society. It affects particularly the efforts of the Government of Cuba to protect children, adolescents, women and families, as defined in the Convention of the Rights of the Child.”(6)

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization found that “in the case of education, where Cuba has achieved very important development levels, there has been an exacerbation in the scarcity of material resources for the publication of textbooks, the lack of availability of educational materials, the deterioration of many educational centres, the decrease in the quality of food and the drop in material incentives for teaching personnel … The embargo has also retarded the scientific development of the country.”(7) UNESCO’s findings “demonstrate(s) the need to put into effect the call on the United States Government to put an end to this policy, which violates the rights of the Cuban people.”(8)

The United Nations Population Fund added: “The decades-long United States economic embargo has exacerbated the situation and contributed to a further deterioration of the quality of life of the Cuban population. In 2001, the standard of living indicators stood below 1990 levels. The scarcity of financial assistance and severe restrictions on imports due to financial constraints have taken their toll on the delivery of basic social services.”(9)

The World Health Organisation condemned the health impact of the embargo: “at the outset, it should be noted that the embargo has had a very significant negative impact on the overall performance of the national economy, diverting the optimal allocation of resources from the prioritized areas and affecting the health programmes and services. This, in the end, compromises the quality of life of the population, specifically the children, the elderly and the infirm.”(10)

b. Impact of the embargo on the enjoyment of civil and political rights

In addition, Amnesty International believes that the US embargo has helped to undermine the enjoyment of key civil and political rights in Cuba by fuelling a climate in which such fundamental rights as freedom of association, expression and assembly are routinely denied. The embargo provides the Cuban government with an excuse for its repressive policies, while the widespread sympathy the country has garnered for resisting US pressure has left third countries reluctant to push Cuba to resolve its human rights crisis. Specific embargo provisions have also undermined the development of a human rights movement on the island, which in turn weakens prospects for the emergence of an independent civil society.

This impact can be seen most clearly on the legal front. The Cuban authorities have systematically defended their repressive legal system on the grounds that states under aggression have the right to restrict freedoms in the interests of national security.

Article 1 of Cuba’s Constitution names it as an explicitly socialist state.(11) The Constitution conditions the exercise of fundamental freedoms on support for the system:None of the liberties recognised for the citizens can be exercised against what is established by the Constitution and the laws, or against the existence and objectives of the socialist state, or against the decision of the Cuban people to construct socialism and communism.(12) This conditionality also exists with regard to specific rights. The rights of assembly and association are recognised, within the defined framework of “mass and social organisations” which “possess the means necessary to such ends.”(13) Freedom of speech and of the press are recognised, “in conformity with the objectives of the socialist society.”(14) In this way, the exercise of fundamental freedoms in ways which are perceived as hostile to the system is not Constitutionally protected.

In addition to conditioning the exercise of rights in this way, the Constitution specifically declares Cuba as “anti-imperialist and internationalist,” and declares that Cuba repudiates direct or indirect intervention in the internal or external matters of any State and, therefore, armed aggression, economic blockade, and any other form of economic or political coercion…(15)The combination of these two tendencies, the conditionality of rights and the avowedly anti-interventionist nature of the Cuban republic, create a situation in which perceived external aggression is met with increased internal repression of dissent.

Then-Minister for Foreign Affairs Roberto Robaina demonstrated the link during a 1995 address, the language of which is strikingly similar to recent official declarations:... we can only make further progress if the policies and actions contrary to the interests of the vast majority of our people are eliminated. No country admits the legal existence of organised groups that endanger the democratic system in power, particularly if that system was created on the basis of a consensus such as few peoples in the world have ever known. In other words: in Cuba it is not possible to make a counter-revolution legally, especially if the credentials for doing so are obtained in the offices of the representative of our number-one enemy.(16)As later sections of this document will demonstrate, the strengthening of the embargo with the Helms-Burton law in 1996 prompted the Cuban authorities to respond with harsh legislation which has ultimately been used to condemn prisoners of conscience to long prison terms. The passage of this law elicited expressions of concern about the its potential impact on the development of Cuba’s dissident movement. In his January 1997 report, the then UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cuba, Carl-Johan Groth, noted thatunder the terms of the Helms-Burton Act (officially, the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act) and the Torricelli Act (officially, the Cuban Democracy Act), which stipulate specific conditions and time-frames for the lifting of the embargo, the United States of America assumes the right to be the outside party that determines the rules for converting the current totalitarian system into a different, more pluralist one. This inspires doubt rather than confidence about the future and may cause some dissidents to feel that their own criteria are irrelevant and that Cuba’s future will in any case be decided without consulting them. The direct result of this situation could be a decline in the trend towards overt political activity and the risk it implies.(17)In addition to these concerns, Amnesty International believes that Cuban authorities have been able to use US economic assistance, even given indirectly through Miami-based or other groups, to undermine the human rights movement in several areas. With regard to these issues, following his May 2002 visit to Cuba, former US president Jimmy Carter advised the Bush administration against any deepening of the restrictions against Cuba. On the issue of aid to the dissident movement, he shared serious concerns about the ultimately negative impact of such aid: We then had extensive meetings with a wide range of the most notable dissidents, each the leader of an organization and many having completed prison sentences for their demands for change in the socialist regime. They were unanimous in expressing appreciation for my speech, willingness to risk punishment rather than be silent, hope that American visitation could be expanded, and opposition to any elevation of harsh rhetoric from the United States toward Cuba and to any funding of their efforts from the U.S. government. Any knowledge or report of such financial support would just give credibility to the long-standing claims of President Castro that they were “paid lackeys” of Washington.(18)Recent reports have indicated that the United States government is considering further tightening its sanctions against Cuba, possibly through widening the ban on US travel to Cuba and cutting off remittances sent by Cubans resident in the US to their families on the island. Amnesty International believes that any tightening of the existing sanctions would only heighten the negative human rights impact of the embargo described above.

The situation of the ‘Miami Five’

Tensions between the two countries have been heightened over the last months by disputes over the treatment of five Cuban men, Rene González, Fernando González, Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, Antonio Guerrero and Ramon Labañino, convicted in the US in 2001 on charges of spying on behalf of Cuba. The Cuban authorities gave much attention to the case, describing the men as heroes whose sole aim had been to protect Cuba from a potential terrorist threat by infiltrating exile groups in Miami, and their campaign received substantial support internationally.

In November 2002, the five men demanded a retrial on the grounds that anti-Cuba bias in Miami prevented them from getting a fair trial. Amnesty International wrote to the US authorities on several occasions to express concern at the treatment received by the men and the difficulties faced by their families in gaining access to them.

The ‘war on terror’

Cuban officials have criticised the United States for not acting against certain groups among the Cuban exile community in the US which are allegedly training for a possible armed invasion of Cuba.(19) One such group, Comandos F-4, reportedly claims to have shot and wounded a Cuban spy in Havana earlier this year.(20)

For its part, the US has also made accusations against Cuba. On 6 May 2002 the Undersecretary of State for arms control, John R. Bolton, alleged that Cuba was researching biological weapons and had provided technology to “other rogue states.”(21) His allegation coincided with the runup to the visit of former President Jimmy Carter to Cuba, during which Carter maintained that US authorities who briefed him prior to the visit had assured him there was no such evidence. In a statement during a visit to the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Havana, Carter said that “there were absolutely no such allegations made or questions raised” during “intense briefings from the State Department, the intelligence agencies - and high officials in the White House” before his visit to Cuba.(22)

Cuba also roundly denied the accusations. Former president Carter stated that in response to the allegations, President Castro had offered to open Cuba’s biotechnology research facilities for inspection.(23)

Since that time, somewhat conflicting signals have emerged from the US administration about this issue. Prominent administration members, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, were reported to have distanced themselves from the allegation.(24) It was repeated again, however, by then-Assistant Secretary of State for the Western hemisphere Otto Reich.(25) The US Department of State’s “Patterns of Global Terrorism” report for 2001 contained no mention of the allegation; neither did the 2002 report, released on 20 April 2003.

However, the latter report again included Cuba in a list of seven “state sponsors of terrorism,” defined as states which have “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.”(26) With regard to Cuba, the report acknowledged that Cuba had signed and ratified all twelve international counterterrorism conventions in 2001 and noted that “Cuba did not protest the use of the Guantanamo Bay base to house enemy combatants from the conflict in Afghanistan;” however, it continued, “it has remained opposed to the US-led Coalition prosecuting the war on global terrorism and has been actively critical of many associated US policies and actions.”(27)

The specific accusations against Cuba were that it “continued to host several terrorists and US fugitives” and ” sent agents to US missions around the world who provided false leads designed to subvert the post-September 11 investigation.”(28)

In mid-March, against the backdrop of preparations for the US-led military invasion of Iraq and widespread speculation that other states accused of sponsoring terrorism might also be targeted, the Cuban authorities detained scores of dissidents on accusations of seeking to subvert the Cuban system and conspiring with the US.

3. The mass arrests: a sudden and unprecedented crackdown
I am certain that informing others objectively and professionally and writing my opinions about the society in which I live cannot be a very serious crime - no one, no law will make me believe that I have become a gangster or a delinquent just because I report the arrest of a dissident, or list the prices of staple foods in Cuba, or write that I find it appalling that more than 20,000 Cubans every year go into exile in the United States and hundreds of others try to go anywhere they can.(29) - Raúl Rivero Castañeda, in 1999. He was arrested in the crackdown and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment.

For several days beginning on 18 March 2003, Cuban security forces began arresting known dissidents across the island. Those detained included journalists and economists, doctors, pro-democracy members of illegal opposition parties and other activists. According to reports, security agents searched the homes of those detained, confiscating computers, fax machines, typewriters, books and papers; in a number of cases, this material was then included in the prosecution’s case against the activists.

3.1. Cuba’s official stance on the mass arrests

As they had often done in the past, Cuban authorities immediately justified the crackdown as an unavoidable response to US aggression. They maintained that the behaviour of James Cason, head of the US Interests Section in Havana, was the immediate catalyst for the crackdown.

Since his arrival in Cuba in September 2002, the head of the US Interests Section,(30) James Cason, had reportedly taken a higher and more active profile and more public stance in criticising the Cuban system than his predecessors. As one journalist wrote in January after an interview with him, “Since he arrived, Cason says, he has put more than 4,000 miles on his car and visited nine of Cuba’s 14 provinces, talking to hitchhikers along the way and dining with dissidents and religious leaders in the island’s heartland.”(31) In the period leading up to the crackdown Cason reportedly made a high-profile visit to a meeting of dissidents and spoke with international journalists gathered there, as well as allowing dissidents to use his official residence for events.

In the days leading up to the crackdown, Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque described what he called “really unprecedented behaviour, something new for us since the Section was created,” and said that the Cuban government believed it to be part of a deliberate plan to strain relations.(32) President Castro indicated that on 17 March, the day before the crackdown began, the Cuban authorities submitted a written note to the US Interests Section to protest at what they considered James Cason’s violations of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.(33)

The official note announcing the arrests opens with a condemnation of the shameless and repeated provocations of the Head of the United States Interests Section in Cuba, obviously conceived and carried out as part of the hostile and aggressive policy of the current Administration towards our country, with the close cooperation and support of the terrorist mafia in Miami and the extreme right of the United States.(34) The note asserted that the Interests Section was involved in activities to destabilise Cuba: No country, as powerful as it may be, has the right to convert its diplomatic representation into the organizer, funder, chief and general headquarters of activities to destabilize, subvert the constitutional order, break the laws, conspire against the social development, sabotage the economic relations, threaten the security and destroy the independence of another country.(35) The note went on to warn: There should not be the slightest doubt that the Revolution will apply with the necessary rigor, and as required by the circumstances, the laws created to defend itself from new and old tactics and strategies against Cuba.(36)

In a 9 April speech on the trials of the dissidents, Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque refuted allegations that Cuba had timed the crackdown to take advantage of diverted global attention to the conflict in Iraq, repeating again the official justification of the arrests: these arrests were carried out before the beginning of the war in Iraq - it was before that the decision was made and the arrests were carried out as a consequence of the unsustainable situation that we had been put in by the provocations and irresponsible behaviour of Mr. Cason.(37)

Foreign Minister Perez Roque indicated that Cuba reserved the right to close the Interests Section:We know that this is the hope, the golden dream of those who maintain the blockade and the policy of aggression towards Cuba; it may also be the dream of Mr. Cason, his heroic return expelled from Cuba. We know well who would celebrate and welcome this decision; but, in any case, closing the Interests Section in Havana and asking Mr. Cason to leave the country is a right that we reserve.(38)

In later speeches, additional aggravating factors in US-Cuba relations were added to the official explanation. Cuban authorities have consistently criticised US immigration policy; they claim it encourages dangerous attempts at illegal migration by automatically granting Cubans, unlike those of other nationalities, the automatic right to legal status upon arrival on US soil. In a 25 April speech, President Castro described a series of recent hijackings of Cuban vessels by individuals attempting to reach the US, and accused the US of violating bilateral migration agreements and putting Cuban lives at risk by provoking such attempts: “the most serious part of the conspiracy against Cuba ... is the aim of breaking the Migration Accords and forcing a mass emigration.”(39)

President Castro went even further, accusing the US not just of provoking mass migration but of doing so as an excuse for armed intervention: “the sinister idea is to provoke armed conflict between Cuba and the United States. In this way they hope to liquidate the Revolution.”(40)

3.2. Domestic reaction to the crackdown

There were important reactions to the crackdown from within Cuba. In a significant move, the permanent committee of Cuba’s Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a press release on 11 April expressing concern at recent events.

On 22 April a group of Cuban women, including wives and mothers of those convicted, reportedly presented at the Council of State building a letter addressed to Fidel Castro asking for an end to repression and executions in Cuba:
We demand the abolition of the death penalty, as a crime with judicial trappings. Also, the elimination of the excessive sentences imposed on 75 peaceful human rights defenders—independent journalists and economists and oopposition members—only for expressing their opinions openly. (41)
Some of the women had been regularly carrying out weekly peaceful marches at the Santa Rita church in the Playa area of Havana as part of the Comite de madres cubanas por la libertad de los presos políticos, Committee of Cuban Mothers for Freedom for Political Prisoners. The group of mothers marched to call for the release of their loved ones and for better access for family visits.

3.3. International response

The international condemnation of the crackdown in Cuba has been unprecedented, indicating that a significant portion of the international community did not accept Cuba’s justification for its actions or felt that its response had been excessive and ill-judged. At the same time, Cuba avoided specific condemnation at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

United Nations Commission on Human RightsAs has happened every year since 1992, the issue of Cuba’s human rights record was raised during the meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva in April 2003.(42) Voting was postponed for a day after two amendments to the original text, which was presented by Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Peru and Uruguay before the crackdown, were proposed. One amendment, put forward by Costa Rica, added language that condemned the recent crackdown in Cuba. It was voted down by 31 votes to 15, with 7 abstentions.

The second amendment, proposed by Cuba, urged the immediate ending of the US embargo and requested that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights undertake an evaluation of the human rights impact of “continuous terrorist acts carried out with impunity against the people of Cuba from the territory of the United States.”(43) It was voted down as well, by 26 votes to 17 with 10 abstentions. On 17 April the original, pre-crackdown resolution was passed; it simply noted the previous year’s resolution, which had invited the Cuban government to achieve similar progress in civil and political rights as it had done in social rights. In addition it called on Cuba to receive the visit of Christine Chanet, the personal representative for Cuba of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who was appointed in January 2003.(44) The resolution was passed by 24 votes to 20, with 9 abstentions.

In a press conference on 18 April, Cuban Foreign Minister Perez Roque expressed satisfaction at the defeat of the Costa Rican amendment but clarified that that did not imply acceptance of the resolution itself:
...We want to say that this does not change the fact, however, that we reject also the final Resolution that was adopted. We reject it because, although it is not a condemnatory text, it is a text which is not justified ... it is a North American text, which corresponds to North American interests. (45)
In November 1994 the then-High Commissioner, Jose Ayala Lasso, visited Cuba, in response to an invitation soon after the post was created. However, the request to allow a visit from the Special Rapporteur for Cuba was not granted. On the issue of the recommended visit of the new High Commissioner’s representative, in his address Foreign Minister Perez Roque indicated that Cuba would not comply with the recent resolution:
Cuba does not refuse to cooperate with the High Commissioner, on the contrary; nor with the non-selective and non-discriminatory mechanisms of the Commission or the Office of the High Commissioner, of course not. What Cuba is not willing to accept is the manipulation of this topic; the unscrupulous use, even of the United Nations itself, to justify the campaign against Cuba ... it is for this reason that Cuba does not accept the mandate of the resolution.(46)

At the end of the Commission session, Cuba was re-elected as one of the 53 members of the Commission. A spokesman for the US White House reportedly said Cuba’s election was “like putting Al Capone in charge of bank security.”(47) The US had itself lost its seat in 2001 for the first time since the Commission’s establishment in 1947, to return to it one year later.

European Union

The crackdown came just as relations with Europe had improved significantly. On 12 March, just days before the wave of arrests began, the European Union opened its first-ever office in Cuba. Poul Nielson, Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, visited the island to open the delegation and stated publicly that the EU intended to strengthen its relations with Cuba.(48) He also welcomed Cuba’s application for admission to the Cotonou trade agreement.(49)

Following the crackdown, in his 9 April press conference on the trials, Foreign Minister Perez Roque addressed the issue of the EU’s relations with Cuba. He was critical of the parallels between the EU’s positions and those of the US:The European Union has not had the capacity to project an independent position towards Cuba, and this explains its lukewarm reaction to the blockade against Cuba; it explains its aligning itself with the North American position against Cuba in Geneva; it explains the fact that they have not been capable of forming a European position on Cuba that defends international law ...I should remind you that Cuba has already once withdrawn its application to the Cotonou Agreement, and if it had to do so again it would.(50)

On 14 April the External Relations Council of the European Union adopted a resolution on Cuba condemning the mass arrests, unfair trials and excessive sentences as well as the executions of the three hijackers. The resolution stated,These latest developments display a deterioration in the human rights situation in Cuba and will both affect EU/Cuba relations and the perspectives of strengthened cooperation. The Council will continue to monitor the situation closely.(51) In response, on 17 April the Cuban ambassador to the EU, Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz, defended Cuba’s policy and reaffirmed his country’s interest in the Cotonou Agreement.(52)

On 23 April, the European Commission scheduled for the following week a debate on its reaction to the situation in Cuba; several member states were reportedly considering downgrading the level of their cooperation with the island.(53) On 30 April the Commission announced its decision to freeze consideration of Cuba’s application. On 16 May, Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed the head of the European Commission delegation that Cuba was cancelling its application to the Cotonou Agreement. The Ministry’s official statement issued the following day concluded:Cuba has resisted more than 44 years of embargo, aggression and threats from the United States without surrendering, and it sees no reason whatsoever to accept pressure from anyone else.(54)

These recent developments reverse earlier improvements in relations with the EU, and make Cuba ineligible for EU development funds and other assistance earmarked for ACP countries.

Organization of American States

The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Organisation of American States (OAS) expressed concern at the arrests and summary trials, and “urged the Cuban authorities once again to change their position regarding the independent press and to allow all inhabitants the right to freedom of expression and information.”(55) On World Press Freedom Day, 3 May 2003, the Special Rapporteur joined his UN counterpart, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, to express grave concern at the sentences given out to the dissidents.(56)

Meanwhile, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemned the executions of the three would-be hijackers(57) and expressed grave concern at the detention and trial of the dissidents.(58)

Several efforts to introduce a resolution by the 34-member OAS condemning human rights violations in Cuba failed due to lack of support. On 19 May, Canada, Chile and Uruguay, which had sponsored the latest effort, re-submitted the text in a non-binding form to the Permanent Council of the OAS. Sixteen of the member states signed on to the revised statement, indicating a sharp divide among members. In 1962, the OAS had decided that adherence by any of its members to Marxism-Leninism was incompatible with the inter-American system and that such incompatibility therefore excluded “the present government of Cuba” from participation in the system.

United States

The United States firmly condemned the crackdown, and, as in previous years, provided impetus for the UN Human Rights Commission text condemning Cuba; the rejection of the Costa Rica amendment was therefore seen as a defeat of the initiative preferred by the US. It had played a similar role with regard to the effort to produce a resolution condemning Cuba by the OAS, with comparable results (see above).

a. Discussion of tightening of the embargo

In response to the crackdown, organisations in the US which had favoured an easing of US relations with Cuba quickly revised their positions. The board of directors of one such group, the Cuba Policy Foundation, resigned in protest at the crackdown in Cuba:We organized, funded and supported the Foundation because we hoped, and had reason to believe, that its energetic efforts to modify the ban on Cuba trade, travel and investment might succeed over time. We can only conclude, however, that in spite of its claims to the contrary, Cuba does not share our enthusiasm for a more open relationship. For this reason we have tendered our resignations.(59) The US government reportedly considered tightening even further its restrictive policy towards Cuba, by cutting off cash remittances from relatives in the United States, an important source of income for many Cubans, and strengthening the travel ban. US authorities reportedly reviewed contingency plans for their response in the event of another mass migration from Cuba like those that occurred in 1980 and 1994.(60) US Secretary of State Colin Powell called Cuba an “aberration in the Western Hemisphere” and said “we’re reviewing all of our policies and our approach toward Cuba in light of what I think is a deteriorating human rights situation.”(61)

b. Heightened rhetoric between Cuba and the US

Some US officials went even further in their statements, fuelling increasingly strong rhetoric between the US and Cuba. On 10 April, the US ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Hans Hertell, indicated that the war in Iraq was an example for Cuba: “I think what is happening in Iraq is going to send a very positive signal, and it is a very good example for Cuba, where we saw that last week the Fidel Castro regime ordered the arrest of more than 80 citizens.”(62)

US diplomat Wayne Smith, Head of the US Interests Section under President Jimmy Carter, said “the Cubans saw it [ the Iraq war ] as a signal that the United States was determined to throw its weight around and to blow away anyone it doesn’t like through the unilateral use of force.”(63) Speaking to National Public Radio, he said “there is a certain sense on the part of the Cubans that they might be next.”(64)

On the Cuban side there were statements that reinforced the impression that Cuban officials felt under threat in the context of the war in Iraq. The president of the International Relations Committee of the Cuban parliament told regional press, “I believe that countries like ours, that are considered by the United States as its enemies, are in more danger than others; but we should not see it as a matter affecting one country alone, it really is a risk for everyone.” (65)

In an interview with a US television network, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld responded to a question about whether the US would consider ‘the liberation of the Cuban people’ by saying that at the present time “there are no plans for military action against Cuba.”(66) He said that that could change if Cuba were believed to possess weapons of mass destruction.

In his May Day speech, President Castro again alluded to the perceived threat of US military aggression against Cuba, stating that “in Miami and in Washington it is being discussed today where, how and when to attack Cuba.”(67) He ended the speech with a dramatic appeal for peace between the two countries, while reiterating the willingness of the Cuban people to fight if needed to defend their country.

On 13 May the Bush administration, in one of the largest such expulsions to date, expelled 14 Cuban diplomats from the US. Seven worked at the Interests Section in Washington, and seven more at the Cuban mission to the UN in New York. Although official statements about the reasons for the expulsions varied, they indicated that the Cuban diplomats had been accused of “inappropriate activities.”

Other agencies and organisations

On 26 April the Vatican announced that Pope John Paul had written to President Castro on 13 April to express sorrow at the executions and the harsh sentences against dissidents. The letter reportedly asked for a gesture of clemency from the Cuban authorities.(68)

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern over the arrests and the fairness of the expedited trials, including with regard to the right to defence.(69) The director general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was among those who denounced the arrests.(70)

Numerous governments expressed their deep concern at the events to the Cuban diplomatic representatives in their countries. More than 300 artists, intellectuals and politicians joined a campaign begun by a Spanish magazine on behalf of the detainees; a separate international campaign, in support of Cuba’s position, drew attention from other artists and intellectuals.(71)

Activists of the human rights organisation Reporters without Borders were reportedly beaten by embassy security guards while protesting the arrest of 26 journalists during the crackdown. The protest took place in front of the Cuban embassy in Paris on 24 April. The confrontation occurred when the activists handcuffed themselves to the property’s fence. On 1 April the organisation’s activists had briefly occupied the Cuba tourism office in Paris.

Overall, the March crackdown was met with an unprecedented international reaction, prompting a heightened level of scrutiny of Cuba’s human rights situation at many different levels. The impact of this in Cuba remains unclear.

4. The legal proceedings against the dissidents

The March arrests were handled differently than smaller-scale multiple arrests carried out in 2002. In February 2002, a group of young men drove a commandeered public bus into the Mexican Embassy compound in Havana in an apparent attempt to secure asylum and leave Cuba; the incident set off a chain of arrests of known dissidents, and was thought to influence the continued detention of several who had just been arrested. Most of the dissidents were released thereafter, but ten of them remain in detention and are considered by Amnesty International to be prisoners of conscience. In those cases, the men were not promptly brought to justice; over a year has passed without them being brought to trial.(72)

In contrast, those arrested in the March sweep were brought to trial immediately and subjected to hasty collective proceedings. While a number of aspects of the judicial process were flawed, Amnesty International will focus on the charges brought against the defendants and their trials and sentencing.

4.1. The charges brought against the dissidents

Significantly, the charges brought against those arrested in the crackdown did not include the more common accusations usually used to suppress dissent, such as propaganda enemiga, enemy propaganda, desacato, disrespect, or desordenes públicos, public disorder. Rather, the emphasis was on more serious offences which carry higher penalties under the Cuban Penal Code.

Article 91 of the Penal Code

Amnesty International has had access to trial documents for 51 of the 75 dissidents tried. Article 91 of the Penal Code, which was the sole charge for 26 of the dissidents and was used in conjunction with Law 88 (see below) for another six, provides for sentences of ten to 20 years or death against anyone convicted of “acts against the independence or territorial integrity of the state.”(73) Under this article, “he who, in the interest of a foreign state, commits an act with the objective of damaging the independence or territorial integrity of the Cuban state, incurs the penalty of ten to twenty years imprisonment or death.”(74)

Law 87 of 1999, which modifies the Penal Code, changes the provisions regarding sentencing to provide for life imprisonment.

Law 88

In nineteen of the 51 cases that Amnesty International has been able to review in detail, dissidents were charged under Law 88, the Ley de Proteccion de la Independencia Nacional y la Economía de Cuba, Law for the Protection of the National Independence and Economy of Cuba. In another six cases, Law 88 was used in conjunction with article 91 of the Penal Code (see above).

a. The build-up to Law 88

As mentioned above, in March 1996, US President Bill Clinton signed into law the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act,” otherwise known as the “Helms-Burton Act” after the lawmakers who sponsored it. The text condemned recent events in Cuba,(75) tightened the US embargo, and discouraged investment in Cuba by providing for penalties against foreign companies investing there. It also provided for claims of confiscation of property and for US assistance to ‘democracy-building efforts’ in Cuba (see text box).

In December 1996 the Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular, the National Assembly of Popular Power, passed Law 80, Ley de Reafirmacion de la Dignidad y Soberanía Cubana, Law of Reaffirmation of Cuban Dignity and Sovereignty. This law was an explicit response to the Helms-Burton law:
The National Assembly of Popular Power, as representative of the people, repudiates the ‘Helms-Burton Law’ and declares its irrevocable decision to adopt the measures in its power as a response to this anti-Cuban legislation.(76)
‘Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996,’
or ‘Helms-Burton Act’

One hundred fourth Congress of the United States of America, at the second session. H.R. 927, 3 January 1996.

First and foremost, the Helms-Burton law tightens the US embargo against Cuba. Under section 109 it also allows the US president to “furnish assistance and provide other support for individuals and independent nongovernmental organizations to support democracy-building efforts for Cuba,” including through

· provision of published materials to independent democratic groups in Cuba;
· humanitarian assistance to victims of political repression and their families;
· support for democratic and human rights groups in Cuba; and
· support for visits and permanent deployment of international human rights monitors in Cuba.

The law also sets out ‘requirements and factors for determining a transition government’ (section 205) as well as ‘requirements for determining a democratically elected government’ (section 206).

The Title III: Protection of property rights of United States nationals” provision of the law would allow US nationals whose property was confiscated by Cuba to seek compensation in US courts from any foreign national who bought that property from Cubas government; this provision has been consistently waived, and has yet to come into force.

The Helms-Burton Act has been explicitly condemned by members of the international community, but has not been repealed. In February 1997 the European Union filed a formal petition with the World Trade Organization challenging the Helms-Burton law as restricting the principle of free trade. The US argued that it was an issue of national security, and in April 1998 the EU dropped the effort. The law has continued to be a source of tension, in spite of subsequent negotiations and agreements.

The text of law 80 provided for the adoption of further measures necessary to protect Cuba from the effects of the Helms-Burton Law. Just over two years later, those further measures were codified in Law 88.

b. Provisions of Law 88

In February 1999 Cuba’s National Assembly passed tough legislation providing for stiff prison terms for those guilty of supporting United States policy against Cuba as laid out in the Helms-Burton Law:
Whereas, the Government of the United States has dedicated itself to promoting, organizing, financing and directing counterrevolutionary and imperialist elements inside and outside the territory of the Republic of Cuba. For four decades it has invested significant financial and material resources to carry out numerous covert activities in order to destroy the independence and economy of Cuba, using to such end individuals recruited within the national territory, as has been recognized by the Central Intelligence Agency since 1961 according to a report released in 1998.(77)

The text of the law further details US legislative measures to finance counterrevolutionary activities in Cuba:
through the Law of 12 March 1996 known as the Helms-Burton Law, the United States expanded, intensified and codified its economic war against Cuba and detailed how such assistance would be given to individuals who would be used in the national territory to carry out the subversive and imperialist objectives of the Empire … the Federal Budget Law, passed on 21 October 1998 by the Government of the United States, set a minimum of two million dollars to support counterrevolutionary activities in Cuba …(78)

In this way, financing subversive activities within Cuba is portrayed, in addition to the embargo, as part of the US ‘economic war’ against Cuba. The introductory text concludes that it is “an inescapable duty to respond to this aggression against the Cuban people,”(79) and proceeds to detail the types of behaviour that would be considered as facilitating US policy and the penalties for them (see text box).
Penalties included in Law 88
Article 4 of the law provides for seven to 15 years’ imprisonment for passing information to the United States government or its agents that could be used to bolster anti-Cuban measures such as the US embargo or related destabilising activities within Cuba. This would rise to 20 years if the information is acquired with the participation of two or more persons; is passed on in order to receive personal gain; or is acquired surreptitiously or in a work context. Similarly, the penalty would be aggravated if the Cuban economy were ultimately to be harmed by the information being passed or if, as a result, the United States government were to take punitive measures against Cuban or foreign enterprises.

Article 5 provides for penalties of three to eight years, and/or a fine, for those who seek out classified information to be used in this way, which would rise to twelve years in the aggravating circumstances outlined above.

Under article 6 the legislation also sanctions with three to eight years and/or a fine the introduction into Cuba, ownership, distribution or reproduction of ‘subversive materials’ from the US government that would facilitate US economic aggression or related destabilising activities within Cuba. The penalties are more severe for those who do so for personal gain or who cause damage to the Cuban economy.

It proposes in article 7 terms of imprisonment of up to five years for collaborating with radio and TV stations, printed publications or other media deemed to be assisting US policy; accredited foreign journalists are exempt. Again, the penalties are more severe if the individual profits by the activity.

Also punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment are acts which disturb public order for the benefit of the US economic war on Cuba, according to article 8; the penalties increase for organisers of such events.

Article 9 outlaws ‘any act intended to impede or prejudice the economic relations of the Cuban state’ with penalties of up to 15 years. This can be extended if violence, blackmail or other illegal means are used; if private profit is obtained as a result; or if the United States government takes punitive measures in reprisal. The remaining articles cover incitement of others to commit any of the above acts; distribution of US funds or materials for these activities; and collaboration with third states sympathetic to US aims in Cuba.

c. Application of Law 88 in the recent trials

Cuban authorities have consistently presented the crackdown as a response to US aggression; in a recent press conference, for example, Foreign Minister Perez Roque maintained that Cuba had until now deliberately refrained from applying the strict measures of Law 88, passed in 1999, out of a ‘spirit of tolerance:’
the laws which were applied to try the mercenaries who act in the service of the power that is attacking its people, are laws dating from the end of the 90s and that had not been applied, in a spirit of tolerance; they were our response to Helms-Burton; but we have been placed in a situation where we had no other option, and we have acted.(80)
In this way, Law 88 itself is presented as a Cuban response to perceived US aggression, and the crackdown a reaction to a US-led rather than a domestic threat. In another press conference, the Foreign Minister spelled the connection out clearly, concluding a review of the provisions of Law 88 as follows:
It is the North American Interests Section in Havana, and this has been fully proven in the trials, that creates, directs, finances, stimulates, protects the creation and the subversive work of its agents in Cuba. How does it do this ? In fulfillment of the Helms-Burton Law.(81)

Human rights concerns with regard to the charges

Though passed in 1999, this crackdown marks the first time that the provisions of Law 88, described in detail above, have been applied in criminal proceedings in Cuba. This development is of grave concern, as elements of the law, mirroring other aspects of the Cuban legal framework, appear to place unlawful restrictions on internationally-recognised rights.

International standards make clear that the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, among other rights, shall only be subject to restriction on a well-defined and exceptional basis. Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights defines these restrictions as
such as are provided by law and are necessary:
(a) for the respect of the rights or reputations of others;
(b) for the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.(82)
The Human Rights Committee’s General Comment on the implementation of article 19 specifies that “when a State party imposes certain restrictions on the exercise of freedom of expression, these may not put in jeopardy the right itself.”(83) International jurisprudence has affirmed that any restriction must be strictly proportionate to the threat posed to national security or other legitimate interest, and must not exceed what is strictly necessary to fulfill that aim.

In contrast, as outlined in section 2.3.b above, the Cuban Constitution places clearly excessive limitations on the exercise of fundamental freedoms:
none of the liberties recognised for the citizens can be exercised against what is established by the Constitution and the laws, or against the existence and objectives of the socialist state, or against the decision of the Cuban people to construct socialism and communism.(84)
In this way, the exercise of fundamental freedoms in ways which are perceived to be in any way “against” the system is not Constitutionally protected. Law 88, and other laws within the Cuban system, place further restrictions on these freedoms, in violation of international standards.

Concerns about unlawful restriction of fundamental freedoms lead to related ones with regard to arbitrary detention,(85) whether arrests have taken place under the provisions of Law 88 or article 91 of the Penal Code covering acts against the independence or territorial integrity of the state.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has established criteria for determining when detention is arbitrary under international standards. These criteria include when there is no legal grounds for detention; when the deprivation of freedom relates to the exercise of certain freedoms or rights protected by international law; or when the right to fair trial has not been respected.(86) Since its creation in 1991, the WGAD has raised a number of individual cases with the Cuban Government, and has determined that more than twenty individuals were arbitrarily deprived of liberty. The most frequent reason was the criteria pertaining to the exercise of fundamental freedoms and rights. In an open letter on 3 April, the International Federation for Human Rights informed the Cuban government that it was bringing the mass arrests and trials to the attention of the Working Group.(87)

The text of law 88 may be determined to lead to arbitrary detention in some or all cases, in that it imposes unjustifiable limits on freedom of expression, association and assembly based on the potential foreign reaction to or possible economic ramifications of such acts, in violation of international standards as described above.

Equally worrying, the descriptions of a number of the proscribed acts seem so general and vague as to risk being interpreted subjectively and in a manner damaging to fundamental freedoms: such could be the case with article 9 of Law 88 outlawing ‘any act intended to impede or prejudice’ Cuba’s economic relations or the ‘subversive material’ prohibited in the law’s article 6. Similarly, with regard to article 91 of the penal code regarding ‘an act with the objective of damaging the independence or territorial integrity of the Cuban state,’ the behaviour which the article is meant to prohibit is ill-defined and open to subjective interpretation, potentially opening the door to arbitrary detention.

4.2. Prosecutions: the case against the dissidents

Amnesty International has reviewed trial documents for 51 of the 75 dissidents prosecuted. The section on individual cases below contains information on the specific charges against given individuals. In general, the prosecutors’ briefs accuse the dissidents of

· receiving funds and/or materials from the United States government, either through its agencies or third parties,
· in order to engage in a number of activities which the authorities perceived as subversive and damaging to Cuba’s internal order and/or beneficial to the embargo or other punitive measures by the US against Cuba.

As mentioned above, the Helms-Burton Law provides for US funding for individuals and groups to support “democracy-building” efforts in Cuba. In addition, the US funds other initiatives, such as Miami-based Radio Martí, aimed at disseminating within Cuba views critical of Castro and the Cuban system. Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque made extensive references to this funding in his 9 April press release on the trials of the dissidents.(88) Security agents of the Cuban state who had infiltrated dissident groups, and who later testified against some dissidents at their trials, reported regularly receiving and handling funds from various groups in the United States that were in turn financed by agencies of the US government.(89) The text box provided here gives a sample of the information publicly available on such funding.

As also mentioned above, Cuba has consistently expressed outrage at these practices, declaring them, with the US embargo, acts of aggression against Cuba. Cuba has moreover accused the US of an escalation of provocations against Cuba following the posting of James Cason as head of the US Interests Section in Havana.

The dissidents were not charged under articles of the Penal Code covering spying or revelation of secrets concerning state security (articles 95-97), and the evidence given does not point to such activity. None of them held sensitive positions of authority through which they would have access to privileged information. Whatever the merits of the Cuban government’s argument with the United States over its practices in Cuba, a review of the limited information contained in the trial documents indicates that the specific behaviour for which dissidents were prosecuted was non-violent and seemed to fall within the parameters of the legitimate exercise of fundamental freedoms rather than those of any recogniseable criminal activity.

According to the trial documents available, the activities on which the prosecutions were based included, among others,

· publishing articles or giving interviews, in US-funded or other media, said to be critical of economic, social or human rights matters in Cuba.
· communicating with international human rights organisations.
· having contact with entities or individuals viewed as hostile to Cuba’s interests, including US functionaries in Cuba and hardline figures or groups in the Cuban exile community in the United States and Europe.(90)
· distributing or possessing material, such as radios, battery chargers, video equipment or publications, from the US Interests Section in Havana.
· being involved in groups which have not been officially recognised by the Cuban authorities and which were accused of being counterrevolutionary, including among others unofficial trade unions, professional associations such as doctors’ and teachers’ associations, academic institutes, press associations and independent libraries.
Despite the Cuban government’s claims that such acts threatened national security and therefore warranted prosecution, the above activities constitute legitimate exercise of freedoms of expression, assembly and association, and cannot in themselves justify the authorities’ repressive reaction.

Some examples of US government funding for Cuba
Radio Martí was established by the the 1983 Radio Transmissions for Cuba Act. It began broadcasting from the US into Cuba in 1985, with a budget for this fiscal year of US$ 15,000,000. (Source: [url=http://www.martinoticias.com/mision.asp]http://www.martinoticias.com/mision.asp)[/url]

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) provides funds for work on Cuba pursuant to the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act and the 1996 Cuban Liberty and Solidarity (‘Libertad’) Act (Helms-Burton Act). The goal of the program is to “promote rapid, peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba, helping develop civil society.” The program description states that USAID policy precludes recipients from using grant funds to provide cash assistance to any person or organisation in Cuba.

Recipients under the project for “Building solidarity with Cuba’s human rights activists” include:

· Freedom House: Cuban Democracy Project ($1,325,000): “promotes the formation of civil and political leadership in Cuba by linking professional organizations in Cuba to one another and to those in free democracies.”
· Grupo de Apoyo a la Disidencia (Dissidence Support Group) ($2,700,000): “provides humanitarian assistance and informational materials to political prisoners and their families and other victims of repression.”
· International Republican Institute ($2,174,462): “helps create and bolster international solidarity committees in Latin America and Europe to provide material, moral and ideological support for democratic activists in Cuba.”
Recipients under the “Giving voice to Cuba’s independent journalists” project include:

· Cuba Free Press ($280,000 - completed): “published the work of professional and independent writers and journalists inside Cuba.”
· CubaNet ($833,000): “expanding its comprehensive internet on-line coverage of Cuba’s independent journalists, and other national and international press reports on Cuban human rights and economic issues.”
The “Helping develop independent Cuban NGOs” project recipients include:

· Pan American Development Foundation ($553,500): “establishes linkages between Cuban NGOs and counterpart NGOs operating elsewhere in the Americas, to demonstrate how NGOs function within democratic societi

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