Amnesty International Says that Cuba Uses Labor as a “Tool of Repression”

Foto: Amnesty International

HAVANA TIMES – 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.”

Foto: AI

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.”

  • Raphael Stephen-Pons

    Cuba is a capitalist country. It has a capitalist mode of production, things like threatening workers by firing them happens in EVERY capitalist country, workers get threatened all the time. And in some countries bosses will molest and rape women and force them to commit sexual acts or else they will be fired

    • Kennedy Earle Clarke

      Brother Raphael, What nonsense are you talking about Cuba being a capitalist country? Even brother Eden Wong find your comment to be hilarious. Each business place in Cuba has a union representative who has a say in the welfare of the worker. In the USA they are trying to kill the Trades Unions, so that the workers will be vulnerable to exploitation by their bosses. See what is happening to the integrity of women who can be groped at will and nobody defends them in the bastion of Democracy and the unofficial defender of human rights abuses??

      • Raphael Stephen-Pons

        I am not pro-US, I support Cuba against their imperialist endavors to dominate Cuba. I also acknowledge the participatory democracy that exists in Cuba. However, I am talking PURELY economics, my thing about sexual harassment was in reference to other capitalist economies. What I mean that Cuba is a capitalist economy, is that they have a capitalist mode of production. There is labor power that can be exchanged and sold on a market, (why Cuba has a unemployment rate similar to other countries although lower than most) primitive accumulation of capital with the legalization of small capital. And the exchange of products on a market instead of a centrally planned regulator.

  • Raphael Stephen-Pons

    State enterprises produce for profit, market economy dominates the country, wage labor exists as in labor is exchanged on a market for profit. Not to mention the unregulated small capital and cooeperatives that don’t act according to a plan, ensuring workers competing against each other

    • Hans Frankfort

      You have a point, Raphael, the only capitalist owner in Cuba is the Communist Party which owns the government for the purpose of making money for profit while holding its workers as hostages in low paying jobs, or sequestering most of their salaries leaving only a small stipend to live on like the doctors they send overseas. It is not unlike nineteenth century capitalism at its worst! Totalitarian parties, not only Communist, want to hold on to power indefinitely by spreading fear, intimidation and voter suppression. By improving the standard of living in Cuba, this will have to change!

      • Raphael Stephen-Pons

        Capitalism isn’t defined by having low living standards, I was talking about economic relations. Also state enterprise runners don’t receive surplus value, but they sell labor. As in labor is treated as a commodity on a market.

        • Hans Frankfort

          Thanks for clarifying, Raphael. Capitalism only works when we all have a chance to take personal responsibility in our lives; it isn’t easy but it can be done.

    • Eden Wong

      Raphael, what planet are you living on? Have you ever actually been to Cuba?

      State enterprises produce profit for the government only. Market economy does not dominate, it barely exists. Almost no one exists on their government wage alone. Nothing is unregulated whatsoever. Competition is almost non existent.

      • Hans Frankfort

        Raphael is living on the right planet, Eden. The Communist Party needs hard currency, not their worthless money, to stay in business; they’re hypocrites by using capitalist methods while denying that privilege to their own citizens. China and Vietnam are Communist in name only but in reality they’re more capitalist than the US, especially China as the world’s second largest economy with a strong currency. Even North Korea is profiting from next door China. I agree that the market economy should be competitive but even that is threatened in the US, e.g., drug companies having a monopoly without competition at the expense of ordinary Americans, driving many into bankruptcy!

        • Eden Wong

          Hans, you’re arguing to agree with me on every point I made. You didn’t refute one single point I made referring to Raphael’s inaccurate comments.

          • Hans Frankfort

            I must have misunderstood you, Eden, due to my aging brain. My apologies.

      • Raphael Stephen-Pons

        Nonexistent? Have you read the economic reform laws? Farmers sell all their surplus product on a market. There are no state distribution of products, even state owned distributors put things to be sold on a market. And as I said before Cubans must sell their labor power to a capitalist, hundreds of thousands of Cubans are unemployed because of the reserve army of labor that exists in Cuba. Have you been to Cuba? Do you not see the gigantic market places? The accumulation of capital that is happening with the legalization of small businesses and the competition, advertisement, and market competition that coops put towards each other?

        • Eden Wong

          Raphael, with all due respect you’re completely out to lunch. You sound like the typical ivory tower academic who has never actually been anywhere, and if you did leave your office then it was a dog-and-pony show specifically designed to keep you in the dark.

          The surplus that farmers are allowed to sell is a miniscule fraction of total production. There is HUGE state control/distribution of products, how in the world could you be so mislead? That is absolutely nuts! The “accumulation of capital” in private hands is inconsequential.

          If you ever actually get to Cuba drop me a line, I’m happy to give you a real tour.