05 April 2007
New Reports Condemn Human Rights Violations in Cuba, Venezuela
U.S., Organization of American States portray bleak conditions in both
By Eric Green
USINFO Staff Writer
Cuba's "Ladies in White," or Damas de Blanco, march through Havana in
December 2006 to celebrate International Human Rights Day. The Ladies,
relatives of political prisoners, have since 2003 marched each Sunday in
silent protest against the Cuban Government's incarceration of their
loved ones.(Courtesy of Ladies in White)
procession of Ladies in White
Cuba's "Ladies in White" march through Havana in December 2006 to
celebrate International Human Rights Day. (Courtesy Ladies in White)
Washington — The United States and the inter-American community are
united in condemning human rights repression in Cuba and Venezuela.
The State Department said in a new human rights report, released April
5, that Cuba had at least 283 political prisoners and detainees at the
end of 2006.
The report said thousands more citizens in Cuba served sentences in 2006
for "dangerousness," in the absence of any criminal activity. In
addition, the report said beatings and abuse of detainees and prisoners,
including human rights activists, were carried out with impunity, and
that harsh and life-threatening prison conditions included denial of
The Cuban government uses the concept of "dangerousness" in an attempt
to justify detaining its citizens, saying these people supposedly have a
"special inclination" to commit crimes.
In a separate development, a human rights body of the Organization of
American States (OAS) says in its own new report that the Cuban people
endure a "permanent and systematic violation" of their fundamental
rights. Thirty-four nations of North, South and Central America, as well
as the Caribbean, participate in the OAS. Cuba, also a member state, has
been suspended from participation since 1962.
The OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed concern in
its report, released March 29, about the "precarious" detention
conditions of 79 leaders of the Cuban dissident movement sentenced to
prison in April 2003, as well as the situation for other political
prisoners. Several people detained have been physically mistreated by
prison authorities and subjected to long periods of isolation, causing
serious deterioration in their physical and mental health, said the
commission's report. (See related article.)
A State Department spokesman, Eric Watnik, told USINFO April 4 that the
OAS commission over the years consistently has cited the Cuban
government's "abysmal human rights record, underscoring the
responsibility of states, under the OAS charter, to respect the
fundamental individual rights of their citizens."
The State Department, said Watnik, believes the OAS can play a
"constructive role in assisting a genuine transition to democracy in
Cuba, and [the OAS] report sets an important marker in noting the right
of the Cuban people to enjoy the essential elements of representative
democracy as enshrined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter."
SITUATION IN VENEZUELA
Regarding Venezuela, the State Department report said the human rights
situation for 2006 was characterized by "politicization of the judiciary
and harassment of the media and of the political opposition."
The report said the human rights violations in Venezuela included
unlawful killings, disappearances reportedly involving security forces,
torture and abuse of detainees, harsh prison conditions, arbitrary
arrests and detentions and attacks on the independent media.
The U.S. strategy for promoting democracy and human rights in Venezuela
is to support the effort of the country's citizens to strengthen
independent civil society, said the report.
The OAS commission's report on Venezuela said it was concerned about the
administration of justice in that country, the problem of sicariato
(paid killings) and the "impunity that surrounds reports of
extrajudicial executions at the hands of agents" of the Venezuelan
Extrajudicial killings are a particular concern in Venezuela. More than
6,370 people were victims of homicides committed between 2000 and 2005
by the "agents" of Venezuelan state security forces, said the
commission. Only about 100 such agents have been convicted of those
murders, it said.
The commission expressed particular frustration with the Venezuelan
government's lack of cooperation in allowing an on-site inspection of
human rights conditions in Venezuela. The commission's last on-site
visit to Venezuela was in May 2002. Since then, the commission said it
has "fruitlessly sought the consent of the State, both verbally and in
writing," to visit Venezuela again.
The commission said the "impossibility" of its representatives visiting
one of its member states "due to lack of consent or political will" by
the Venezuelan government "runs contrary to the very spirit that led"
the OAS to create a system for protecting human rights in the Western
The Western Hemisphere section of the State Department report,
Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2006, is
available on the department's Web site.
The sections of the OAS report dealing with Cuba and Venezuela are
available on the organization's Web site.