Amnesty International Says that Cuba Uses Labor as a “Tool of Repression”
November 16, 2016
The government of Cuba uses its control over the labor market and the threat of dismissals as a “tool of repression” to silence criticism, the human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) denounced today in a report, informed dpa news.
“Many Cubans feel suffocated by a web of state-control over their daily lives. Part of that control is: if you want to hold a job, you have to agree with everything the government,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.
AI, based in London, interviewed 64 Cuban migrants who were in transit in Mexico between March and May, since the organization lacks authorization to make official visits to the island.
The more than 100 hours of interviews served as the basis for the report “It is a mental prison, Cuba: Mechanisms to control free expression and its intimidating effects in daily life,” was presented in Mexico City.
“The authorities use their control over the labor market as an additional layer of repression and to silence even the most subtle criticisms,” said AI Caribbean researcher Louise Tillotson.
The report indicates that approximately 72 percent of the workforce in Cuba is employed in the public sector and the rest in the private or self-employed sector that is heavily regulated.
According to AI, “the disproportionate use of criminal law and discriminatory dismissals have resulted in self-censorship and a deep climate of fear in Cuba.”
Tillotson affirmed that Cuba has ratified 90 agreements of the International Labor Organization, of which one has to do specifically with labor discrimination, and indicated that by signing it Cuba is legally bound to respect it.
“The last few years have been a bittersweet period for those who trust that the authorities will soften their iron fist policy with which they oppress the people’s right to freedom of expression and assembly in Cuba,” the report said.
Despite some openness in the government of Raul Castro, “Those who even delicately disapprove of the Cuban government’s policies are either arbitrarily dismissed from their jobs or harassed by the state until they feel they have no option but to resign or leave the country. Once dismissed from state employment for expressing a critical view, it is nearly impossible for people to find other state employment,” the report adds.
A waiter employed in a state restaurant told AI that he was dismissed from his job on May 2, 2015 for not participating in the Labor Day march, while one athlete said he had been excluded from his sport for criticizing the lack of economic support.
AI pointed out that it is not its role to make value judgments about the political or economic systems of the countries, but to analyze the situation of human rights, and in this sense he asked the Government of Cuba to allow the access of independent observers.
The organization asked Cuba to review the legal provisions, including Article 62 of the Constitution, which limit the right to freedom of expression and association and refrain from using terms that stigmatize or discriminate against critical people as “deserters”, “traitors” and “counterrevolutionaries”.
The report also contains a recommendation for the United States: end the economic embargo against the island.
Guevara called the embargo an “emblematic example of the nefarious policies” that end up punishing the population as a whole and regretted that the Trump government has returned to the “rhetoric of the Cold War.”