CUBA: Job sector, a tool of repression as perceived critics face jobless life

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29 Nov 2017
[International Secretariat]
Region: CUBA

Ordinary Cubans perceived to be even subtly critical of life in the country face a future of harassment at work, or unemployment as authorities use their control over the job market as an additional tool of repression, Amnesty International said in a new report today.

Cuba remains the only country in the Americas where Amnesty International is not allowed to officially visit. The organization’s researchers spoke to more than 60 Cuban migrants in Mexico to document their testimonies about daily life in a country where freedom of expression has been historically restricted.

Most of the people interviewed had never been overtly critical of Cuba’s political or economic system and were not involved in any form of activism or political opposition. Still, approximately half said they were arrested and imprisoned at least once, mostly accused of crimes that are inconsistent with international law.

For example, one woman, a former shop assistant, told Amnesty International that she had spent eight months in prison in 2011 for “illegally buying beef”, before a judge acquitted her after finding there was insufficient evidence for her detention.

Cuba’s Penal Code also provides for a range of sanctions based on the proclivity of an individual to commit a crime, and the perceived likelihood of potential future actions that could be considered “anti-social”. It also punishes those who have relations with people considered by the authorities as “potentially dangerous for society” or who “pose a threat to the social, economic or political order of the socialist state”.

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.

Most people who spoke to Amnesty International said that when they approached new potential state employers, after being dismissed from a previous job, they were rejected and simply told “you aren’t trustworthy” (no eres confiable). The phrase – explicitly used to mean an individual is not politically trustworthy in terms of state ideology – was frequently the only explanation the individual was given by potential employers for not getting a job.

Jorge Luis, a champion sportsman, said that after saying the Cuban government didn’t finance sport during an interview on state television, he began to be progressively excluded from his sport and was fired from his job with the state. He was simply told he no longer met the requirements to work.

He said he was given 20 days to find another job, because otherwise the police said they would charge him with “dangerousness” for not working. He found it impossible to find another job, as everywhere he went potential employers told him he was a “counter-revolutionary”. Unable to support his family he decided to leave Cuba.

“As Raúl Castro prepares to step down in February 2018, Cuba has an opportunity to open a meaningful dialogue on human rights. It is imperative that the country starts making the necessary changes for freedom of expression to become a reality for people.”

Authorities in Cuba must review all criminal laws that are inconsistent with international standards and end the discriminatory and wrongful dismissals and harassment of workers as a way to silence even the most subtle criticism. Until that is done, the country will continue to be a prison for their people’s minds.

The Cuban government is the largest employer in the country - approximately 70% of the jobs available are in the public sector.

16 November 2017

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