Raúl Castro has failed to improve Cuba’s respect for individual freedoms, Human Rights Watch charges in a new report. Rights advocates had hoped that Raúl would improve the island nation’s rights posture after taking over from his brother, Fidel. But that has not been the case.
“In his three years in power, Raúl Castro has been just as brutal as his brother. Cubans who dare to criticize the government live in perpetual fear, knowing they could wind up in prison for merely expressing their views,” Jose Miguel Vivanco, HRW’s Americas director said in a press release.
According to the report, “New Castro, Same Cuba,” the younger Castro has relied heavily on a Cuban law that allows authorities to detain individuals in anticipation of criminal activity. Raúl has also refused to release dozens of people imprisoned in 2003 during a crackdown on dissidents, contributing to a widespread climate of fear among the dissident community.
Detained dissidents are subject to systemic due process violations, beatings, denial of legal representation and procedurally questionable trials. Once imprisoned, prisoners face abysmal conditions, including overcrowding, insufficient food and water, and denial of medical treatment.
Cuban authorities rejected the report’s findings. “HRW is an organization that analyzes this issue from a discriminatory, selective and above all politicized perspective. Its evaluation of human rights in Cuba is illegitimate and illegal,” Alberto Gonzalez of the Cuban diplomatic mission in Washington said in statement.