News from Cuba: July – September 2013

Sections: NationalHuman Rights


  • Cuba marked the 60th anniversary of the assault on the Moncada Barracks, the first armed assault led by Fidel Castro. President Raul Castro headed the ceremony, which was held in the city of Santiago de Cuba and attracted some 10,000 Cubans and foreigners.
  • The North Korean ship Chong Chon Gang sailing from Cuba was seized by the Panamanian police at the entrance to the Panama Canal on July 16. Inspection revealed that hidden under 10,000 tons of sugar there were containers with undeclared military equipment.
  • August has seen the highest number of cases of political repression in Cuba so far this year. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation verified at least 547 cases of politically motivated arbitrary detentions.


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Raul Castro admits that dual currency is a major obstacle for Cuba
July 08

There are two currencies in Cuba: the Cuban peso (CUP), in which most Cubans get their salaries and which they use to pay for products and services, and the convertible peso (CUC), created in 1994, which is equivalent to 24 Cuban pesos and is thus comparable to the American dollar.
The plan of economic reforms introduced by General Raul Castro includes action to be taken to achieve monetary unification. Our goal, said the Cuban President, is “to ensure that all citizens feel encouraged to work legally” in line with the socialist principle of distributive justice: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his work”.
Currently, the average monthly salary of Cuban public administration employees is 466 Cuban pesos (around USD 20).
The government admits that low salaries are a “general” problem on the island and argues that low incomes are due to the fact that Cubans do not have to pay for basic services such as healthcare and education and that prices of many other services are subsidized.

North Korean ship seized in Panama
July 16

The North Korean ship Chong Chon Gang sailing from Cuba was seized by the Panamanian police at the Atlantic ocean entrance to the Panama Canal on July 16. The police first wanted to search the ship only to check whether it was carrying drugs, but the inspection revealed that hidden under 10,000 tons of sugar there were containers with undeclared military equipment.
Later on, the Cuban Foreign Ministry explained that the illegal cargo consisted of 240 tons of “obsolete defensive weaponry” including two Soviet-made anti-aircraft systems, various dismantled missiles, two MiG-21 planes and 15 engines for this type of aircraft, which the Cuban government was sending to North Korea for repair.

First anniversary of the death of Oswaldo Paya
July 22

On the occasion of the first anniversary of the death of Oswaldo Paya in an alleged car accident, Cuban opposition group Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) in Miami called for an independent investigation into his death and emphasized the value of his political legacy. Paya was the leader of the movement.
“Once again we are calling for an independent investigation that would uncover and bring to light the truth” about the circumstances of the death of Paya on July 22, 2012, in Cuba, said Efe Antonio Diaz Sanchez, coordinator of the Miami branch of the opposition group.
Both the family and MCL argue that Paya’s death was not caused by a car accident and support their claim with several facts including the testimony of the driver of the crashed car, Spanish politician Angel Carromero, who told Rosa Maria Paya that the car had been rammed from behind.
Cuban authorities maintain that the accident was caused by speeding on an unpaved section of the road, where, however, appropriate road signs were used.

Cuban high-ranking government officials and regional leaders celebrate the anniversary of assault on Moncada Barracks
July 26

Cuba marked the 60th anniversary of the assault on the Moncada Barracks, the first armed assault led by Fidel Castro. President Raul Castro headed the ceremony, which was held in the city of Santiago de Cuba and attracted some 10,000 Cubans and foreigners.
“This revolution, which has first and foremost been a revolution of dignity and self-esteem for the people of Latin America, has filled us with dreams, it has turned us into Quixotes. We were sure that we would be able to create a totally different society in some 15 or 20 years but history has proved us wrong,” said Jose Mujica, President of Uruguay.
“We are the children of Chavez,” said the first speaker in the event, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, to introduce the delegation of military and political leaders of his country.
“Being in Cuba always fills one with inspiration against imperialism and capitalism,” said the president of Bolivia, Evo Morales.
The event was further attended by the Foreign Minister of Ecuador, Ricardo Patino, and by the prime ministers of the Dominican Republic, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and of Antigua and Barbuda: Roosevelt Skerrit, Kenny Anthony, Ralph Gonsalves and Baldwin Spencer, respectively.

Fidel Castro’s 87th birthday remembered using Chavez’s words
August 13

“Fidel not only belongs to Cuba, he belongs to this world of ours, to this Our America.” These words of Hugo Chavez were quoted by Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), to pay tribute to Fidel Castro on the occasion of his 87th birthday.
Today is the eighth birthday of Fidel Castro since he resigned as president in 2006 due to an intestinal disease. Since then he has made only rare public appearances.
Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, who met with Castro in July during his visit to the island, said that the former president is currently absorbed in studying biology and described him as an “old man with a fresh mind”, who has “difficulties to move”.

Less tourists in Cuba from Europe, more from America
August 28

The National Bureau of Statistics and Information (ONEI) informed that the number of tourists who visited various destinations in Cuba in the first half of the year was 1,596,883, which is by 2% less than in the previous period, when there were some 1,626,469 visitors, which is by 30,000 less.
According to the report, Canada has maintained leadership among countries from which most tourists come to Cuba with the total of 706,766 visitors. Argentina ranked first among Latin American countries and fifth worldwide, after Canada, Germany, UK and France.
Nevertheless, the Bureau concealed that the second place in the ranking actually belonged to the United States with 628,713 visitors, of which 521,314 were Cuban Americans and the rest were tourists who travelled to Cuba under the presidential directive “people-to-people”.

The regime imposes “indefinite” sanctions against Robertico Carcasses
September 15

Musician Robertico Carcasses has been “removed from the music industry” for an indefinite period of time as punishment for his criticism of the regime. On Thursday, during a concert for the release of four spies held in jail in the United States, Carcasses called for “freedom of access to information”, “direct presidential election” and “the end of the blockade and self-blockade”.

The 17th annual Forum 2000 took place in Prague
September 18

After two days of intense discussions, globally renowned personalities analysed the transition to democracy in different parts of the world and challenges and dangers faced by the countries in transition.
This year’s edition of Forum 2000 hosted five Cuban dissidents, who came directly from the island and said they were able to share valuable experiences related to various models of transition to democracy followed in different parts of the world.
Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, one of the participants, talked about the situation of electronic media in her country: “Who would like to have a website in a country where only three percent of the population have the possibility to access the cyberspace and connect to the world wide web? But would the press give me the floor? No, it wouldn’t. So, you see, the blog and the Internet were not something I chose – there was no other possibility.”

Oscar Espinosa Chepe dies in Madrid
September 23

Three years ago, Cuban opposition economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe rejected an opportunity to travel to Spain to undergo treatment of chronic liver disease after he learned that the government would not allow him to return to the island.
Espinosa Chepe died on Monday in hospice near Madrid after having finally received treatment. This spring, the Cuban government promised him that it would let him return to his homeland. He was 73.
Espinosa Chepe regularly criticized Raul Castro’s reforms, which were in his opinion too mild and poorly implemented to have any significant impact on the paralysed Cuban economy. Espinosa Chepe also called for democracy and respect for human rights.
He criticized the United States for the embargo and travel restrictions and stood against remittances to the island. He even denounced Cuban exiles who made remittances, arguing that the money sent to Cuba only helps keep the Castros in power.
Espinosa Chepe was born on November 29, 1940. He graduated in economics at the University of Havana and worked in Fidel Castro’s Economic Advisory Council in the 1960s until being expelled for questioning certain economic decisions.

13,000 Cubans entered the U.S. through Mexico
September 30

The Mexican border is the point where most Cubans illegally enter the United States. By the end of the fiscal year 2013 (September 30), the number of Cubans entering the United States from Mexico exceeded 13,000. It has been the largest wave of illegal immigrants from the island in the last decade.
39,373 Cubans have entered the U.S. in the last five years. They often started the journey in some of the countries in Central America or in Ecuador.
The number of illegal entries of Cubans into the United States has risen as a result of the immigration reform introduced on January 14 of this year.

A. I. disappointed at Cuba’s failure to ratify human rights charter
September 30

Amnesty International is disappointed that Cuba has been unable to ratify key human rights instruments such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which were signed by the Cuban government in 2008.
The human rights organization regrets that four and a half years after its first examination by the Human Rights Council of the UN, Cuba continues to claim that it needs to hold consultations and carry out legal analysis before ratifying these agreements.
Amnesty International is also disappointed about Cuba’s continuing inability to abolish the death penalty in spite of the fact that the last execution was carried out in 2003.

Human Rights

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In July, the Hablemos Press information centre registered a total of 255 arbitrary detentions in Cuba. The government continues to use various strategies to hide such acts of repression against peaceful opposition members from the eyes of the international community. In recent months, for example, it has resorted to short-term detentions, when the arrested are driven several kilometres from home and left alone on the outskirts of a town or in a remote neighbourhood, from which they must get home on their own. There’s yet another form of preventing activists from taking part in various events, meetings or demonstrations that the regime has been using: to detain them, make them get into the police car and drive them around the city as long as necessary.
The dissident and human rights activist Ivan Hernandez Carrillo from the Matanzas Province was severely beaten on July 14. He was assaulted by Secret Police agents dressed in civilian clothes, who swooped on him, hit him repeatedly and threatened him with assassination.


August has seen the highest number of cases of political repression in Cuba so far this year. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation verified at least 547 cases of politically motivated arbitrary detentions.
With the increase of violence against the Ladies in White movement, a group of independent lawyers known as CubaLex appealed to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) for precautionary measures to be taken to protect the 237 members of the movement.
In August, the province of Matanzas saw an alarming increase of violence against the Ladies in White on Sundays, as well as assaults against activists and human rights defenders. The case of Ivan Hernandez Carrillo deserves special attention: in the period between July and August, the Cuban activist and union leader was repeatedly beaten and detained.


Angel Yunier Remon Arzuaga, member of Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) and rap singer in the duo of “Los hijos que nadie quiso” (“The children whom nobody wanted”) remains in prison since March. In September, Remon Arzuaga wanted to marry his partner, the mother of his son, but the wedding was cancelled because prison authorities refused to allow Jose Daniel Ferrer, dissident and ex-prisoner of the Group of 75, to act as witness to the wedding ceremony.
September saw the 24th round of sessions of the Human Rights Council, in which Cuba had to respond to recommendations of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, which took place on May 1.
According to statements from September 19, Cuba accepted 230 of the recommendations, rejecting 20 and taking into account 42. Unfortunately, the 20 rejected recommendations include a number of fundamental freedoms, which have been systematically denied in Cuba and which will thus remain off the political agenda of the government.
It must be emphasized that the recommendations that Cuba refused to accept include the requirement to allow an independent investigation into the death of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero; ensure legal safeguards for human rights defenders; release political prisoners; respect freedom of expression; allow citizens to access the Internet; respect freedom of assembly and association; recognize human rights organizations as legal entities and allow them to obtain official registration; eliminate legal precepts such as “pre-criminal social dangerousness”; allow freedom of press and information and stop the repression against independent journalists; and abandon the practice of short-term and arbitrary detentions.
The prosecution has requested a 10-year sentence for the dissident Sonia Garro (3 years for assault, 5 years for public disorder and 8 years for attempted murder, which make a combined sentence of 10 years). The 35-year-old Sonia Garro remains in custody since March 2012 together with her husband Ramon Alejandro Munoz Gonzalez. The activist is known as a member of the Ladies in White movement and founder of the Independent Afro-Cuban Association.

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