Ever since they appointed Miguel Diaz Canel as a sock puppet president, Cuba’s socialist Castro dictatorship has mounted a public relations campaign to convince everyone nothing has changed in Cuba. On propaganda posters and all over social media you will find Cuban regime officials using the hashtag #SomosContinuidad (we are continuity).
They are not lying. In socialist Cuba, “we are continuity” means no matter which sock puppet holds the title of “president,” the Castro family dictatorship remains in complete control and the brutal oppression continues.
What does ‘continuity’ mean for human rights in Cuba?
Late last year, in a country where the Internet remains state-controlled and censored, Cuba’s new president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, launched a twitter account. Since then, one of his favourite hashtags has been “#SomosContinuidad” (We are continuity). But what does “continuity” mean for human rights in Cuba?
Just a month after the president took office, the UN conducted a review of Cuba’s human rights record. As in previous reviews, Cuba’s authorities continued to reject a host of recommendations by other UN member states to ratify even the most basic international human rights treaties. They also refused multiple recommendations to strengthen the independence of the judiciary or to bring Cuba’s criminal laws in line with international law.
“Continuity” also means that Cuba will remain the only country in the Americas that Amnesty International, and most other independent human rights monitors, cannot visit. In September, we publicly reiterated our multiple requests to enter Cuba. After years, Cuba’s ambassador to the UN finally gave us a response: “Amnesty International will not enter Cuba, and we don’t need their advice.”
But we won’t be deterred. Although not being able to visit Cuba makes our job harder – because we always prefer to sit down with governments and hear their version of events – we will keep finding ways to get around this. For example, in 2017, when thousands of Cuban migrants were crossing South and Central America and heading to the United States, we went to find and interview more than 60 of them in Mexico. Many had sold everything they owned, crossed about eight countries, and walked through the Darién Gap – a wild and perilous stretch of jungle between Colombia and Panama – in search of a life where they didn’t feel weighed down and suffocated by Cuba’s oppressive state machinery.
The report we produced after many hours of interviews with ordinary Cubans detailed how trumped-up charges for common crimes, and politically motivated dismissals from state employment, continue to be used as tactics to silence those who even vaguely criticize the country’s political or economic system.
President Díaz-Canel seems to only want to strengthen this web of control over freedom of expression. In April 2018, one of the first laws he signed was Decree 349, a dystopian prospect that stands to censor artists, who will need prior authorization from the state in order to work, or risk sanction. So far, authorities have reportedly arbitrarily detained independent artists who have dared to protest the law. Of course, this is nothing new. Amnesty International has documented repression of independent artists in Cuba since at least the 1980s.
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