New Reports Condemn Human Rights Violations in Cuba, Venezuela
5 April 2007
U.S., Organization of American States portray bleak conditions in both nations
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 medical care.
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.
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 government.
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 Hemisphere.
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.
For more information on U.S. policy in the region, see The Americas.
(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)