Lack of human rights monitoring, more restrictive laws, and machete attacks: Human rights situation worsens in communist Cuba

John Suarez in Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter:

Cuba’s worsening human rights situation: Machete attacks, more restrictive laws, and zero human rights monitoring

“The ultimate obscenity is not caring, not doing something about what you feel, not feeling! Just drawing back and drawing in, becoming narcissistic.”? Rod Serling
Sirley Avila Leon following the May 24, 2015 machete attack

Cuban human rights defender Sirley Avila Leon, a victim of repression, on September 24, 2018 addressed the UN Human Rights Council on what agents of the Cuban government had done to her.

“On May 24, 2015 living in Cuba I suffered an attack orchestrated by agents of the state, I was attacked with a machete to kill me cutting off my left hand and right shoulder while I covered my head with them, then cut my knees leaving me disabled for life, This was not the first attack I suffered, I was previously attacked several times, physically and verbally by the political police in Cuba: they burned my bed, I suffered arbitrary arrests, death threats, economic damages.  Only for demanding better living conditions for the peasants and their children in a rural area of ??Las Tunas. My case is not isolated. In Cuba, the state continues to violate the human rights of Cubans, murders, imprisons and banishes those who demand rights and repress their families. To save my life, in 2016 I escaped from Cuba, since then my son, Yoerlis Peña Avila, has been threatened with death and repressed on several occasions. At this moment I fear for his life.”

Sirley had been elected to a local peoples’ power assembly at the municipal level. She thought she could help those who needed help, but the reality of the existing system demonstrated otherwise.

Expectations are high that a constitutional “reform” in Cuba and a new president “could help democratize the country,” but instead changes are going in the wrong direction.

The existing constitution in Cuba was not decided in a free and democratic vote nor the “reforms” that are being drafted now. It is taking an existing anti-democratic document and making it even more restrictive. For example, in the old constitution there existed a clause that a citizen initiative required 10,000 signatures for it to be officially recognized, now under the draft of the proposed constitution it raises that requirement to 50,000 signatures. They never thought 10,000 Cubans would sign a document calling for human rights reforms, because of the consequences to the signatory and their families, but with the Varela Project over 30,000 signatures were gathered. In the existing constitution there is a freedom of religion and conscience clause, but in the new draft it is just freedom of religion. Although, in practice, religion in Cuba remains subject to Communist Party control and discrimination.

Raul Castro handed over the office of the presidency to his handpicked successor Miguel Díaz-Canel on April 19, 2018. This was done to give the impression that a transition is underway in Cuba. This is not the case. General Raul Castro remains head of the Cuban Communist Party and in control of the government. General Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, Raul’s son-in-law, runs the economy. Raul Castro’s son, Colonel Alexandro Castro, who negotiated the normalization of relations with the Obama Administration is an intelligence officer with close ties to the secret police. Diaz-Canel, like Osvaldo Dorticos who was president of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, answers to General Raul Castro. The succession does not empower Miguel Díaz-Canel but maintains the Castro dynasty in power.

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