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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08HAVANA213 2008-03-03 22:32:00 CONFIDENTIAL US Interests Section Havana
Cable title:  

HUMAN RIGHTS IN CUBA: SAME REPRESSION WITH

Tags:   CU PGOV PHUM PINR PREL 
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SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CCA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/02/2017
TAGS: CU PGOV PHUM PINR PREL
SUBJECT: HUMAN RIGHTS IN CUBA: SAME REPRESSION WITH
DIFFERENT TACTICS

REF: A. REFTEL A: HAVANA 207

B. REFTEL B: HAVANA 84

C. REFTEL C: HAVANA 159

D. REFTEL D: HAVANA 181

E. REFTEL E: 07 HAVANA 1190

F. REFTEL F: HAVANA 168

Classified By: COM: M.E. Parmly : For reasons 1.4 b/d



1. (C) Summary: Since Raul Castro assumed control of the
Cuban government in July 2006, but especially since his July
26, 2007 speech, there has been a change in regime tactics
for suppressing dissent. Focusing on the limited release of
some political prisoners and the willingness to air different
opinions in certain controlled fora, some in the media and in
the international community see a reduction in the level of
repression in Cuba. In fact, the regime acts to quash
dissent as swiftly as ever. It is apparent that the
government is trying to avoid adding to the number of
political prisoners. However, the government effectively and
forcibly acts to break up demonstrations relying on short
term detentions rather than lengthy prison sentences. The
GOC has moved from organizing large mobs to intimidate
pro-democracy activists to making more subtle threats
privately. According to USINT contacts, repression remains
more open and aggressive in areas outside of Havana, far from
the scrutiny of foreign embassies and the international
press. Repression of youth normally escapes notice because
the government targets anyone who is considered a potential
threat, and not only those politically involved. The end
result is that the GOC still denies its citizens freedom of
expression and freedom of assembly without attracting a lot
of negative publicity. End summary.




2. (C) The actions of Cuban police and security forces on
March 1 to stop a group of pro-democracy from passing out
copies of the UN Declaration of Human Rights (reftel a)
typifies the new pattern of the Cuban government in dealing
with public protests. Plain clothes members of the security
surround the group, sometimes beating the participants.
Uniformed police stand by and do nothing to prevent violence
from the security personnel, posing as angry members of the
public. The demonstrators are then dragged into cars and
either driven directly home or held in detention until
transportation to their home provinces can be arranged.
Invariably to date all participants are released from custody
and no charges are filed. It is striking that Cuba's most
vocal opposition figure, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ("Antunez"),
has been beaten by police and detained nearly every week
since his release from prison in 2007, without any formal
charges yet being filed.



3. (C) Cuban state security still keeps opposition groups
under close surveillance as demonstrated by the fact that
they are often able to stop every person intending to travel
to a demonstration, even when people are traveling from many
different locations. Police stop some people at their homes,
or grab others as soon as they get off a train or bus. Those
detained are then held for as long as it takes to ensure
that they are unable to get to the protest. For example, the
police detained over a hundred people who were trying to
participate in actions to commemorate Human Rights Day on
December 10. In every case those detained were eventually
released without charges.



4. (C) In January of 2008 the Cuban Commission for Human
Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) released its end
of year report on political prisoners in Cuba. The report
lists 234 political prisoners, a drop from 246 named in the
July 2007 report, and from the 316 political prisoners held
in July of 2006 when Fidel Castro temporarily ceded power to
his brother Raul (reftel b). Understandably much of the
criticism of Cuba's human rights record is focused on the
political prisoners. As a result, the GOC now seems to see
these prisoners as bargaining chips to curry favors,
especially from European governments. The strategy seeks to
avoid new arrests, and to let the numbers dwindle due to a
combination of cases where the prisoner served his entire

sentence and small targeted releases credited to the
intervention of an important foreign visitor. An example of
the latter is the recent release to Spain of four of the
group of 75 jailed in the massive crackdown in 2003 (reftel
c). In this case Spain can say its policy of engagement is
working and Cuba gets favorable publicity while the prisoners
go into exile and cannot pose problems for the regime.



5. (C) Before Raul took command, it was common for angry
mobs, sometimes of hundreds of people, to surround
dissidents and shout threats andoM= v/pe~ays
and the guards plucked hairs out of his head. He further
described how on February 23 a mob surrounded for several
hours the house of his organization's president, Roberto
Marero, hurling insults. In Havana now it is unusual for
protesters to be held for more than a couple of hours.



7. (C) International organizations and the international
press have rarely commented on the escalating repression of
Cuban youth (reftel f). The police routinely profile,
harass, detain and forcibly transport out of Havana youths
due to dress, race, sexual preference and attitude. Several
human rights organizations think that arrests for
"dangerousness", an offense that requires no proof of a
crime, have gone up in the last year. "Dangerousness" carries
penalties from fines to four years imprisonment. The vast
majority of those convicted are not politically involved, but
are young adults who in some way have offended the local
police.



8. (C) Comment: It is clear that repression in Cuba has not
lessened, but the tactics are changing. Cubans are still
systematically denied of the right of free expression and of
any right of association. This may be indicative of Raul's
more pragmatic, results-oriented approach. Raul does not
seem to possess Fidel's tendency to vindictively punish his
opponents. Rather, Raul's goal seems to be to silence
opponents with the minimum of bad publicity and focus on his
overall goal of maintaining full control.


PARMLY