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Human Rights in Cuba: Nothing Has Changed / Jeovany Jimenez Vega
Posted on January 17, 2016

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 11 December 2015 — Seven years have passed since
the signing of two United Nations’ covenants on civil, political,
economic, social and cultural rights, and exactly one week from the
first anniversary of the announcement of the resumption of diplomatic
relations between Cuba and the United States. Now at the threshold of
2016, it would be worth reminding ourselves how we got here.

In the past year some have advocated lifting the tools of political
pressure to which the Cuban government is still subject. Basically these
are understood to be the US embargo and the European Union’s common
position. However, the alleged reforms undertaken by Raul Castro in
recent years are still a frequent source of argument.

If we accept the premise that since 1959 Cuba has been a one-party state
— and evidence indicates that the presidency of Raul Castro is in
essence a continuation of the presidency of Fidel Castro — we can also
assume with a high degree of certainty that the psychology of the regime
is exactly the same as it has always been. This logically leads to the
following question: Is there reason to hope that, if the sanctions were
lifted, the military oligarchs would finally grant the Cuban people the
rights outlined in the above-mentioned UN conventions, whose
ratification and implementation by Cuba have been pending since February
2008?

Optimists would point to the reforms initiated by Raul, but anyone who
takes a closer look at the so-called “transformations” would see that
very few of them led to a practical, beneficial or immediate turnaround
in the lives of Cubans inside or outside the country.

But if we approach this in good faith, we would have to acknowledge that
some measures represent a more drastic and positive turnaround than
others. Among them are the restoration of the right to travel overseas
and authorization for private individuals to buy and sell their homes.

We cannot forget, however, that the 2013 emigration law stipulates that
some professionals may not travel freely “in light of regulations aimed
at preserving a qualified work force.”

Nor can we dismiss the fact that the Cuban government may also prevent
persons from entering the country who have been accused of “organizing,
encouraging, carrying out or participating in actions hostile to the
Cuban state… when reasons of defense and national security so suggest;”
or that the government may “bar entry into the country to those who have
been declared undesirable or who have been expelled.” This makes clear
just how wide a margin this delicious tool of coercion gives the
repressors to maneuver.

In terms of the authorization to buy and sell houses, let us remember
that this law is saddled with a series of burdensome regulations
pertaining to sale prices that allow the government to meddle in
something in which it has no business, a reminder that here nothing good
ever lasts for very long.

However, a glance at the rest of the package does reveal a curious
mindset in these so-called reforms. It is extremely difficult to accept
the sincerity of the “authorization” to buy used cars when they are set
at stratospheric prices; or the corrupt approach by the managements of
new cooperative businesses when they remain subordinate to inefficient
state enterprises; or the imposition of exorbitant taxes on private
businesses when they are deprived of a wholesale commodity market; or
all the limitations that have led to an obviously failed agricultural
policy, to name a few

But more serious than these economic trifles is the persistence of
repressive policies that continue to promote the duet between the
Communist Party and State Security. From the offices of what is still
the only legally recognized political party, they are still drafting
tactics and strategies that will later be put into practice in the
street by the political police’s henchmen.

Arbitrary arrests and the weakest of legal protections are persistent
problems in Cuba in 2015. They are the bastard offspring that result
when there is no separation of powers. Physical assaults and acts of
repudiation are still being perpetrated with impunity while no one in
authority can be bothered to intervene.

Government henchmen are ordered to stab opposition leaders and harass in
broad daylight women who are carrying no weapons other than white
gladiolas. An iron-fisted and absolute censorship of dissident thought
persists while the regime continues to exercise a tight monopoly on the
media and the press.

It still vetoes easy access to the internet, something now well-advanced
in the second decade of the 21st century. We can therefore conclude that
the changes that have been introduced in Cuba up to this point are
insubstantial and of a purely cosmetic nature.

These military oddballs are no longer capable of offering up anything
new, so it is only logical to question their good intentions for the
future and their ability to conceive a plan for real prosperity,
especially if the formula requires any change of course.

It remains to be seen whether these reforms reflect a sincere desire to
open the door to a globalized economy for the Cuban people. It is more
reasonable to assume that they amount an endless series of delaying
tactics by the same old oligarchs to hold onto power.

But in the event that the international community, the Cuban people and
the Cuban opposition decide to give them a vote of confidence, would
this guarantee that the above-mentioned UN conventions would be ratified
and implemented, and that this would result in a turn towards democracy?

In the light of psychological mindset thus far exhibited by the regime,
logical reasoning would lead to the undeniable and unmistakable
conclusion that this would never happen, that it would only result in a
sudden transfusion to all the repressive resources of the regime and its
receiving unwarranted international recognition.

There is no chance the Cuban government will become any more
economically efficient, only that it can rely on having more resources
to squander and more millions in its overseas accounts to feed its
delusions of grandeur. Once a beast has tasted blood, nothing else will do.

And once liberated from these instruments of political pressure — and
with the tacit international approval that this implies — an autocratic
government like that of the Castros will never ratify the UN
conventions. On the contrary, it will become even more vicious, as has
already been made clear by its repression of dissidents from a
comfortable and relaxed position.

History has definitively shown us that some people never change. Three
decades of marriage to the Soviet Union demonstrated that the Cuban
people were never the intended recipients of all that wealth. If it was
not the case then, why would we suppose it would be any different now,
especially after so many years of corrupt and lethargic governance?

Clearly, freedom in Cuba is not dependent on the actions of any foreign
government. Instead, it depends on the courage and wisdom demonstrated
by its people. But unconditionally accepting every international
condition without the island’s people having to suffer, struggle or
expect anything would not seem to necessarily be helpful.

2015 ends without there being the slightest indication of accommodation
regarding our civil rights or of even something as basic as ratification
of the aforementioned human rights conventions. In this context, making
unconditional concessions to the totalitarian regime in Havana, just as
Caracas is teetering on the brink, would be a strategic disaster for my
people and would delay by several decades the arrival of democracy, for
which as the Cuban nation has waited so long.

Source: Human Rights in Cuba: Nothing Has Changed / Jeovany Jimenez Vega
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