Forced labor camps in Cuba denounced at United Nations

Marabou charcoal

From our Bureau of Twenty-First Century Neoslavery with some assistance from our Bureau of Socialist Social Justice and our Bureau of Praiseworthy Quixotic Gestures

Here we go again. The United Nations has received a formal complaint denouncing the existence of forced labor in Castro, Inc.’s prisons. This denunciation comes on the heels of a new resolution passed at the European Parliament forbidding EU from importing goods manufactured by slave labor. The denunciation focuses mainly on the production and export of marabou “artisanal” charcoal. It is estimated that at least a thousand Cuban prisoners are being forced to harvest and burn marabou weed under atrocious conditions. This is nothing new. Back in the 1980’s the Swedish firm IKEA sold furniture made by Cuban prisoners. Will the UN do anything to stop Castro, Inc. from such practices? Well . . . surely, you know the answer to that question.

Loosely translated from Diario de Cuba

The Cuban Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH) reported to the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights the violation of labor rights for hundreds of individuals deprived of liberty in Cuba, who are subjected to forced labor for commercial production purposes.

The OCDH’s complaint emphasizes the production of marabou charcoal destined for export, which is carried out “in inhumane conditions,” according to a press release from the organization based in Madrid sent to DIARIO DE CUBA.

The statement indicates that prisoners’ work “is often carried out through vice or against the prisoner’s will under clear forms of coercion/intimidation, due to the special vulnerability and factual and legal subordination conditions of inmates to the prison system; or because they have no other option to avoid the precarious living conditions and existing insecurity in prisons than to accept work in charcoal.”

The OCDH recalls that such practices “are not new” in Cuba. “The Cuban representation has been strongly condemned in previous complaints of the current mandate for promoting forced labor in different circumstances of labor relations, with state-owned enterprises playing a striking and typical role in the promotion and indiscriminate use of the described scourge and the special impunity enjoyed by its perpetrators due to the existence of a legal regime legitimizing the situation and a lack of autonomy in the powers/functions of the State/Government technocrats to end the situation,” the complaint says.

The Observatory identifies the General Directorate of the Penitentiary System and the Company for Various Productions (PROVARI), belonging to the Ministry of the Interior, as “directly responsible for such degrading practice.” It also holds the Ministry of Labor and Social Security and the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Cuba accountable.

The organization conducted an investigation involving a significant number of individuals deprived of liberty, forced to produce charcoal in penitentiary “farms or camps.”

Provinces such as Matanzas, Villa Clara, Cienfuegos, Sancti Spíritus, Ciego de Ávila, and Camagüey stand out for concentrating the highest number of inhumane practices of forced labor or semi-slavery, according to the summary of testimonies and compiled data.

The OCDH asserts that at least nearly a thousand prisoners in Cuba are forced to work under conditions of illegality, lack of protection, inhumanity, and compelled —under threat of punishment or real affliction— to fulfill unattainable labor obligations through the practice of forced labor.

Therefore, the Observatory requests the United Nations to admit and urgently examine the allegations and grounds and to investigate the causes and conditions of the phenomenon, so that those responsible can be judged and condemned and appropriate political/legal measures and actions can be taken.

“The right not to be subjected to slavery and its variants, such as forced or compulsory labor, is a peremptory norm of international law that does not allow for any agreement to the contrary and creates an obligation erga omnes (towards all) for all States regarding the protection of this right,” the complaint adds.

Last week, the European Parliament approved by a large majority—555 votes in favor, six votes against, and 45 abstentions—a new regulation that allows the bloc to “prohibit the sale, import, and export of goods manufactured through forced labor,” even online.

The European prohibition on any product manufactured with forced labor could mark a turning point in the importation of items from authoritarian countries such as Cuba and China unless Brussels continues its policy of turning a blind eye to certain regimes.

A report by DIARIO DE CUBA recently exposed how thousands of prisoners on the Island produce marabou charcoal for export to Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Spain, Portugal, and other countries, under conditions of overcrowding, repression, mutilations, and wage theft, while European companies advertise the product as “sustainable agricultural practice” on the Island.

Continue reading HERE in Spanish

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