University of Minnesota

Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Cuba, Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II.48, Doc. 24 (1979).





A. General observations

1. The Commission has received a number of denunciations alleging violations of human rights in Cuba that especially affect individuals who had been detained for political reasons.1

Some of those denunciations are analyzed in this chapter; they concern the right to freedom of expression, freedom to leave the country, and penalties for being in a postcriminal, socially harmful condition.

B. Denunciations concerning freedom of expression

1. Case 2299:

A communication dated May 9, 1977, denounced the violation of the human rights of Cuban poet Angel Cuadra Landrove, in the following terms:

Angel Cuadra was born in Havana on August 29, 1931, and received a degree in Law and Dramatic Arts from the Universidad de La Habana. He published his first book of poems (Peldaño) in 1959, some months after the triumph of Castro's Revolution; later these were translated into Russian and included in a number of anthologies. In 1960 he attended and was a member of the Roundtable of Poets, Writers and Artists, organized by the deceased Rolando Escardó and held in the Province of Camagüey. But in 1964 he was not allowed to travel to Spain, where he had been invited as a poet by the Instituto de Cultura Hispánica. At the end of April of 1967, he was imprisoned under charges of being “an enemy of and spreading propaganda against the People's Government—charges that could not be proved--, for which he was condemned to fifteen-years imprisonment instead of the death penalty, which the Prosecuting Attorney himself said he would have deserved had some proof been found against him. He spent eight years in various political prisons on the Island, and was tortured and harassed; then he spent two more years in labor camps for prisoners.

During his years of confinement, interest in his work grew among those studying Cuban literature and among poets from various countries.

Amnesty International included his case among those of other dissident poets in Communist countries. Recently some of his poems were translated into German and what he has written in prison is beginning to be compiled for publication abroad, where it has gone, bit by bit, through relatives and friends...

Recently, the publishing house Solar de Washington published Cuadra's poems, Impromptus, written entirely in prison. (...) I address this Commission, on behalf of his entire family and all his friends, in order to request that his case be denounced. I do so because Angel Cuadra, who was released on December 17, 1976, was imprisoned again in mid-March 1977 in Havana and was not given an opportunity to defend himself or the guarantees; the only reason or his only crime has been his poetry.

On March 11, 1977, during his brief period of freedom, Angel Cuadra wrote a letter (to the published of his poetry abroad) which was submitted to the Commission and which sheds light on his motive:

You call this type of testimonial a document full of life and how happy I am that you find it so. When in prison, I always wanted to write something that would go beyond what others under such circumstances had written; as a rule they feel compelled to give an account, describe a struggle, curse, or express some hope, but always within the limits of the immediate. But I wanted all of that to settle, leaving only that which had filtered through. True, that kind of peace is necessary; the kind of peace the soul is left with after experiencing deep pain and that blossoms there like magic so that everything that was for so long nebulous and detached, might appear from deep within, with that clarity that you point out. And you discover me. Now I understand, because of you. I remember that González Martínez once said: “Poetry is like wine: It withstands the test of time and it is time that lends it clarity.” You place me alongside two of my favorite poets: Vallejo and Miguel Hernández. I am unworthy. But if that helps to point to some other poetic possibility, another possible realm, and if it helps you to find it, then... then I am most humbly satisfied.

On July 18, 1977, the claimant again wrote to the Commission and transmitted the following additional information on the second arrest and subsequent detention of Angel Cuadra.

Angel disappeared abruptly from his place of work on March 24, 1977. No one knew of his whereabouts until three weeks later, during an exhaustive search of house conducted by the police. They said that he was at G2 (the headquarters of the regime's political police), while they conducted a thorough survey of his writings and correspondence. They made the following comment: “Too many letters from the United States.”

During one of the few and very brief visits allowed, he appeared to be extremely thin, in a pathetic state of physical and emotional depression. Then he was taken to a forced labor camp near Havana, a camp for making crushed glass.

All letters from his parents and brothers and sisters (who live in the United States) were withheld from him, as well as any opportunity to defend himself. The alarming news that reaches Havana seems to indicate that they intend to involve him, along with other poets and writers, in a death penalty case for publication of some of his works abroad.

According to the most recent news, received some five days ago from Havana, he is in a “recovery” camp. We would like to point out that Angel Cuadra was in good health before he spent those three weeks in isolation at the G2.

Angel Cuadra, condemned to 15 years imprisonment in 1967, without any evidence of having committed any crime against the state, was released under conditional freedom nine years later, following a lengthy and difficult appeal. Four months later he was again imprisoned, without retrial and without being given the opportunity to have legal defense. Now (November 1979) Cuadra is in Boniato Prison, where he was taken with Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo and other “intransigent” political prisoners from Combinado del Este.

2. Case 3943:

The Commission also received a denunciation to the effect that “a considerable number of members of the religious sect 'Jehovah's Witnesses', prisoners solely by virtue of their religious belief, have been confined in various prisons and concentration camps, classified as common criminals and forced to live alongside and work with common criminals.” At the “Nuevo Amanecer” women's prison, in La Habana Province, estimates are that there are around fifty women prisoners who are members of Jehovah's Witnesses.

C. Denunciations concerning freedom to leave the country

1. Case 2286:

The case of Feliciano Miguel Sales is illustrative of the problems of those members of the generation subsequent to the Revolution, who wished to leave the country.

Born on January 24, 1951, he managed to leave Cuba by swimming the stretch that separates Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from the U.S. Naval base. He did this because of pressure being brought to bear against him by Cuban authorities, to force him to adopt the country's political system. He reached the United States on July 1, 1974; but because he had had to leave his wife and little daughter in Cuba, he decided to take advantage of an opportunity: two friends, 24 and 25 years of age, respectively, planned to go to Cuba in a small boat, in order to bring their families to the United States. He decided to make the journey with them so as to be reunited with his wife and daughter. They were taken by the authorities and condemned to 25 years in prison.

When Miguel claimed that the sentence imposed was excessive, the prosecuting attorney said before the court, the accused and their relatives, that the authorities had proven that the accused had gone to find their families, but because these were three young men that had gone to the United States to sell themselves to imperialism, they were condemned to 25 years; with Miguel protesting, they were removed from the court room by force. Months later, when it was learned in Cuba that Miguel's poetry had received an award from the New York Circle of Ibero-American Writers and Poets, they punished him by suspending his visits for a period of two months.2

As for legal assistance, during the trial conducted before the Revolutionary Tribunal in La Cabaña, he was not allowed to have an attorney. His wife requested the services of an attorney and the attorney replied that to collaborate on the Sales case would be to risk imprisonment.

After two and a half years in La Cabaña prison, Miguel Sales was removed to Combinado del Este, where after two and a half years he was released unexpectedly on September 28, 1978. At the present time he lives with his wife and daughter in the United States, in Florida.

2. Case 3882:

In 1977, a Cuban fisherman, Roger Regino Pérez Rojas, was tried and condemned to five years imprisonment for a crime “against the integrity and stability of the Nation.” The crime was that the fisherman in question wished to remain in Mexico after having been rescued, along with two other companions, from a Cuban fishing vessel which had run out of fuel in Mexican waters. Consular authorities at Puerto Progreso, Mexico, took him to the Cuban vessel “Júcaro”, and he was then taken to Cuba, tried and sentenced.

With the 1973 Law on Organization of the Judicial System (replaced in 1977 by another Law of the same title), the Revolutionary Tribunals set up in 1959 to take cognizance of an pass judgment on counterrevolutionary crimes, were abolished. The new system set up a People's Supreme Court and three levels of subordinate courts: People's Provincial Courts, People's Municipal Courts, and Military Tribunals.

The Chamber for Crimes Against the Security of the State of the People's Provincial Courts (whose judgments can be appealed before the Chamber for Crimes Against the Security of State of the People's Supreme Court) has jurisdiction over crimes classified as such under the Penal Code. The claimant for the Pérez Rojas case obtained a copy of the sentence handed down in the trial conducted by the Chamber for Crimes Against the Security of the State and sent it to the Commission. Pérez Rojas was pardoned, along with 499 other prisoners, in July 1979.

3. Case 3992:

Various claimants have requested the Commission's assistance for relatives who wish to leave Cuba. One of these was presented on behalf of Clara Abrahante Boitel, the mother of Pedro Luis Boitel,3 who died in Boniato prison after a long hunger strike in 1972. Mrs. Abrahante Boitel “has taken a number of steps to receive permission to leave the Island, but has been unsuccessful thus far.”

4. In an interview with the Secretariat of the Commission, the case of Siro del Castillo was denounced; because the individual in question opposed the regime of President Fidel Castro and was a militant member of the Student Revolutionary Council. In 1961, when he was 17 years old, he was sentenced for a crime “against the powers of the State.” In 1964 he was released when he reached 21 years of age.

In 1964 he requested permission to leave the country together with his family, but the request was rejected as he was old enough to be drafted, despite the fact that he had been exempted for a disability—blindness in one eye, with no possibility of recovery. On May 15, 1970, he turned 27, the age at which one is no longer obligated to perform military service. But on May 1, 1970, the regime ceased to grant requests to leave the country.

In order to leave the country the requirements were as follows: to resign from one's job; after the resignation, the Labor Bureau confirmed the resignation so that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs might deliver the passport.

Castillo took all the necessary steps in 1965 and received a passport to leave with his family.

Even though the Government was not authorizing exits, and since Castillo tried to leave the country for political reasons, he resigned from his job and thus became an out-of-work “intransigent.”4 Subject to the 1971 Vagrancy Law and to the provisions of Article 77 (f) of the Penal Code, which prohibits any able-bodied individual from being unemployed, and because of his “precriminal state,” he was confined, without trial, in a work camp. He had to spend the maximum time—six months—in the work camp. His blindness in one eye qualified him for partial disability and he had to return to his home to wait for them to send him to another place for individuals so classified. He could not leave his house because at that time the authorities checked the work identification cards; he did not have one because he did not have a job. Today, said Castillo, the Government imposes a fine of 25 pesos if someone does not have his identification papers with him. On page 22 of the identification papers of former prisoners, there is a triangle with the acronym CIRP in the center, which means “Carnet de Identidad de Registro de Población” (Population Records Identification Card.) Former prisoners maintain that their identification cards are the only ones marked with this triangle, which serves to identify them, and results in their being subjected to various forms of discrimination on jobs, education, and so on.

Every six months Castillo refused to be placed by the Ministry of Labor in a normal job, preferring to continue in the camp for the partially disabled. Nevertheless, the work was hard and no concessions were made for disabilities. The farm housed around 800 individuals—both men and women--, 70 percent of whom were seeking to emigrate. Castillo left for the United States in 1973.

D. Penalties for being in a postcriminal, socially harmful condition

1. Case 3836:

Of the 26 such cases acknowledged by the Cuban Government in 1977, the case of Servando Infante Jiménez was denounced to the Commission. On August 16, 1977, political prisoner Servando Infante Jiménez, confined in Combinado del Este, was retried. He was accused of throwing a plate of food against a wall, of causing a scandal, of insulting Dr. Fidel Castro and Lenin, and of exhibiting a poster that mentioned Pedro Luis Boitel, a student who died on May 25, 1972, while on a hunger strike. The prosecuting attorney asked for another 10 years imprisonment in addition to the 12-year sentence he was already serving under an earlier sentencing.

The claimant for this case obtained a copy of the prosecuting attorney's provisional conclusions.

2. Case 3347:

Tomás Fernández Travieso was a Cuban student who was detained in Havana on March 29, 1961, together with his friends Alberto Tapia Ruano and Virgilio Campanería Angel, accused of committing crimes against the powers of the State. These three Cuban students were tried on April 18, 1961, by Revolutionary Tribunal Nº 1. Alberto Tapia Ruano and Virgilio Campanería were given the death penalty by firing squad. They died, murdered that same morning at the La Cabaña fortress. Because he was not of age at the time, Tomás Fernández Travieso was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment.

During the 18 long years he spent in prison, Tomás Fernández Travieso developed his early literary stirrings in the form of stories, poetry and a play, most of which have not been published. Prometeo, a play with a message of love and forgiveness, was staged for the first and only time on May 20 and 21, 1976, by the Miami Drama Group—Dade Community College, in the city of Miami. The performance was typical of one given by an educational center and not an eminently political act.

However, a number of months later, its author, Tomás Fernández Travieso, who was on his way to being released after having served more than half of his 30 year sentence under the so-called “progressive plan,” was transferred again to a maximum security prison—Combinado del Este in Havana--; he was brought to trial again and the charge this time was that his play had been staged, for which he was not and is not responsible. Even though he was not tried, since in this case a postcriminal penalty did not have to be applied against him, Fernández Travieso has been kept in that prison since that time, under the worst of all possible conditions.

Now Tomás Travieso has become an “intransigent” prisoner. In September of last year, when representatives of the Cuban community in exile met with President Fidel Castro in Havana, they explained to him that Travieso was not to blame that his play had been staged. Dr. Fidel Castro replied that if those responsible wrote him, Travieso would be restored to his earlier position under the “progressive plan”. Those responsible wrote, but Fernández Travieso was not reincorporated.

Fernández Travieso was released in October of 1979.

3. The sole purpose of the individual cases listed below is to point out that certain individuals were resentenced before the expiration of their sentences, while others, who have served their sentences, continue to remain in prison, presumably in application of a postcriminal security measure. The Commission cannot have knowledge of all cases, nor can it determine whether individual in question did something to warrant an extension of his sentence. What does concern the Commission is the juridical system in force, which makes it possible to extend a sentence, without the due process that would allow the individual to defend himself in accordance with basic guarantees.

4. Presented below is a table that lists cases of individuals who have been “resentenced”5



Pablo Guerra Santos

12 years
Eduardo Roque Escollies
12 years
José Cruz Chavez
15 years
Francisco Grau Sierra
12 years
Juan González Rojas
12 years
Giraldo Cribeiro
12 years
Gastón Juí Sierra
Miguel Groero Morales
15 years
Fermín Alvarez
8 years
José Queijeiro
15 years
Eduardo Cuencio Sobrino
10 years
Heriberto Trujillo
10 years
César Ja Morales
10 years
Carlos Mosquera Prado
10 years
José Sánchez Calderín
6 years
Luis Alarcón Martínez
10 years
Armando R. Rufino
10 years
Rigoberto Acosta Díaz
12 years
Pedro O'Farrill Días
10 years
Mario Pacheco Valdés
12 years
Elio V. Manes Santana
12 years
Juan Roque Maya
15 years
Erasmo Peraza Rodríguez
12 years
Rolando Carballo Collado
12 years



1 Since the Commission's approval of the Fifth Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Cuba, on June 1, 1976, 22 denunciations have been received on alleged violations of human rights in that country.

2 Miguel Sales also wrote poems the first time he was in prison, when he was barely 17 years old. At that time, he served four years in prison for having attempted to leave the island clandestinely.

3 Case number 1604 was considered by the Commission in the second and fifth reports on the situation of human rights in Cuba.

4 This is a self-devised label that refers to the fact that like the “intransigents” in prison, he refused to work because of his political convictions, and was awaiting his exit permit, during which time he could not work.

5 Extrajudicial extension of imprisonment after the sentence has been served.


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