Spanish settlers established the raising of cattle, sugarcane, and tobacco as Cuba's primary economic pursuits. As the native Indian population died out, African slaves were imported to work the ranches and plantations. Slavery was abolished in 1886.
Cuba was the last major Spanish colony to gain independence, following a lengthy struggle begun in 1868. Jose Marti, Cuba's national hero, helped initiate the final push for independence in 1895. In 1898, after the USS Maine sunk in Havana Harbor on February 15 due to an explosion of undetermined origin, the United States entered the conflict. In December of that year Spain relinquished control of Cuba to the United States with the Treaty of Paris. On May 20, 1902, the United States granted Cuba its independence but retained the right to intervene to preserve Cuban independence and stability under the Platt Amendment. In 1934, the amendment was repealed, and the United States and Cuba agreed to continue the 1903 agreement that leased the Guantanamo Bay naval base to the United States.
Independent Cuba was often ruled by authoritarian political and military figures who either obtained or remained in power by force. Fulgencio Batista, an army sergeant, organized a non-commissioned officer revolt in September 1933 and wielded significant power behind the scenes until he was elected president in 1940. Batista was voted out of office in 1944 and did not run in 1948. Both those elections were won by civilian political figures with the support of party organizations. Running for president again in 1952, Batista seized power in a bloodless coup 3 months before the election was to take place, suspended the balloting, and began ruling by decree. Many political figures and movements that wanted a return to the government according to the Constitution of 1940 disputed Batista's undemocratic rule.
Fidel Castro, who had been active politically before Batista's coup, on July 26, 1953 led a failed attack on the Moncada army barracks in Santiago de Cuba in which more than 100 died. After defending himself in a trial open to national and international media, he was jailed, and subsequently was freed in an act of clemency, before going into exile in Mexico. There he organized the 26th of July Movement with the goal of overthrowing Batista, and the group sailed to Cuba on board the yacht Granma, landing in the eastern part of the island in December 1956.
Batista's dictatorial rule fueled increasing popular discontent and the rise of many active urban and rural resistance groups, a fertile political environment for Castro's 26th of July Movement. Faced with a corrupt and ineffective military itself dispirited by a U.S. Government embargo on weapons sales to Cuba and public indignation and revulsion at his brutality toward opponents, Batista fled on January 1, 1959. Although he had promised a return to constitutional rule and democratic elections along with social reforms, Castro used his control of the military to consolidate his power by repressing all dissent from his decisions, marginalizing other resistance figures, and imprisoning or executing thousands of opponents. An estimated 3,200 people were executed by the Castro regime between 1959-62 alone. As the revolution became more radical, hundreds of thousands of Cubans fled the island.
Castro declared Cuba a socialist state on April 16, 1961. For the next 30 years, Castro pursued close relations with the Soviet Union until the demise of the U.S.S.R. in 1991. Relations between the United States and Cuba deteriorated rapidly as the Cuban regime expropriated U.S. properties and moved toward adoption of a one-party communist system. In response, the United States imposed an embargo on Cuba in October 1960, and, in response to Castro's provocations, broke diplomatic relations on January 3, 1961. As the revolution became more radical, hundreds of thousands of Cubans fled the island. Castro declared Cuba a socialist state on April 16, 1961. During the Kennedy administration, the United States staged the ill-fated "Bay of Pigs" invasion of Cuba, using 2,000 Cuban expatriots, but the invasion failed, primarily because it lacked the expected support of the Cuban people. Subsequently, Cuba sought more support of Russia, and the "Cuban missile crisis," provoked a confrontation between the Kennedy administration and Moscow, which subsequently backed down and removed the missile sites. Tensions between the two governments peaked during the October 1962 missile crisis. In 1977, Castro permitted the emigration of Cubans by boat from the port of Mariel, secretly releasing prisoners and mental hospital patients who accompanied the refugees. More than 100,000 refugees departed from the port of Mariel, and most have merged into the mainstream of American society. Some were kept in detention in the United States with 2,700 returned to Cuba in 1984, and as of 1987 4,000 Marielitos remain confined in federal and state institutions in the United States.
Today, Cuba is a totalitarian state controlled by President Fidel Castro, who is Chief of State, Head of Government, First Secretary of the Communist Party, and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. President Castro exercises control over all aspects of life through the Communist Party and its affiliated mass organizations, the government bureaucracy headed by the Council of State, and the state security apparatus. The Communist Party is the only legal political entity, and President Castro personally chooses the membership of the Politburo, the select group that heads the party. There are no contested elections for the 601-member National Assembly of People's Power (ANPP), which meets twice a year for a few days to rubber stamp decisions and policies previously decided by the governing Council of State. The Communist Party controls all government positions, including judicial offices. The judiciary is completely subordinate to the Government and to the Communist Party.
The economy has been centrally planned, with some elements of state-managed capitalism in sectors such as tourism and mining. The country's population was approximately 11 million. The economy has depended heavily on primary products such as sugar and minerals, but also on its recently developed tourism industry. The economy performed poorly during the year 2002, mainly due to inefficient policies. The 2001-02 sugar harvest was poor, remittances from abroad decreased, and tourist arrivals declined 5 percent below 2001 levels. In November 2001, Hurricane Michelle severely affected agricultural production, which did not begin to recover until midyear. Government officials announced that the economy had grown by 1.1 percent during the year. Government policy was officially aimed at preventing economic disparity, but persons with access to dollars enjoyed a significantly higher standard of living than those with access only to pesos. During the year, the Government issued a moratorium on new licenses for small private businesses in the service sector, many of which have been fined on unclear grounds or taxed out of existence. A system of "tourist apartheid" continued, whereby citizens were denied access to hotels, beaches, and resorts reserved for foreign tourists.
The Cuban Government continues to adhere to socialist principles in organizing its state-controlled economy. Most of the means of production are owned and run by the government and, according to Cuban Government statistics, about 75% of the labor force is employed by the state. The actual figure is closer to 93%, with some 150,000 small farmers and another 108,000 "cuentapropistas," or holders of licenses for self-employment, out of a total workforce of about 4.4 million people.
The Cuban economy is still recovering from a decline in gross domestic product of at least 35% between 1989 and 1993 as the loss of Soviet subsidies laid bare the economy's fundamental weaknesses. To alleviate the economic crisis, in 1993 and 1994 the government introduced a few market-oriented reforms, including opening to tourism, allowing foreign investment, legalizing the dollar, and authorizing self-employment for some 150 occupations. These measures resulted in modest economic growth; the official statistics, however, are deficient and as a result provide an incomplete measure of Cuba's real economic situation. Living conditions at the end of the decade remained well below the 1989 level. Lower sugar and nickel prices, increases in petroleum costs, a post-September 11, 2001 decline in tourism, and a devastating November 2001 hurricane created new economic pressures on the country, threatening to take back the few improvements made in the mid- and late 1990s. Shortages of food and fuel increased dramatically.
In the mid 1990s tourism surpassed sugar, long the mainstay of the Cuban economy, as the primary source of foreign exchange. Tourism figures prominently in the Cuban Government's plans for development, and a top official cast it as at the "heart of the economy." Havana devotes significant resources to building new tourist facilities and renovating historic structures for use in the tourism sector. Roughly 1.7 million tourists visited Cuba in 2001, generating about $1.85 billion in gross revenues. However, the government's hope for continued growth in this sector was unrewarded by the 2001 global economic downturn and the negative effects of September 11 on regional tourism; in 2002, 1,683,716 tourists visited the island, generating revenue of $1.5 billion.
Remittances play a large role in Cuba's accounts, accounting for between $800 million and $1 billion per year to an $18.6 billion economy. The majority of remittances come from families in the United States that are permitted by U.S. law to send to the island up to $1,200 in a year. This provides nearly 60% of the Cuban population with some access to dollars. The Cuban Government tries to capture these dollars by allowing Cuban citizens to shop in state-run "dollar stores," which sell food, household, and clothing items at a high mark-up averaging over 240% of face value. The global economic slump and reduced remittances have contributed to Cuba's faltering economic growth. Sugar, which has been the mainstay of the island's economy for most of its history, has fallen upon troubled times. In 1989, production was more than 8 million tons, but by the mid-1990s, it had fallen to around 3.5 million tons. Inefficient planting and cultivation methods, poor management, shortages of spare parts, and poor transportation infrastructure combined to deter the recovery of the sector. In June 2002, the government announced its intention to implement a "comprehensive transformation" of this declining sector. Almost half the existing sugar mills were closed and more than 100,000 workers were laid off. The government has promised that these workers will be "retrained" in other fields, though it is unlikely they will find new jobs in Cuba's stagnant economy. Moreover, despite such efforts, the sugar harvest continued to decline, falling to 2.1 million tons in 2003, the smallest since 1933.
To help keep the economy afloat, Havana actively courts foreign investment, which often takes the form of joint ventures with the Cuban Government holding half of the equity, management contracts for tourism facilities, or financing for the sugar harvest. A new legal framework laid out in 1995 allowed for majority foreign ownership in joint ventures with the Cuban Government. In practice, majority ownership by the foreign partner is practically nonexistent. Of the 540 joint ventures formed since the Cuban Government issued the first legislation on foreign investment in 1982, only 397 remained by the end of 2002. In addition, the number of joint ventures formed each year has been steadily declining since 1997, and foreign direct investment flows decreased from $448 million in 2000 to $39 million in 2001. Many of these investments are loans or contracts for management, supplies, or services normally not considered equity investment in Western economies. Investors are constrained by the U.S.-Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act that provides sanctions for those who "traffic" in property expropriated from U.S. citizens. As of August 2002, 18 executives of two foreign companies have been excluded from entry into the United States. More than a dozen companies have pulled out of Cuba or altered their plans to invest there due to the threat of action under the Libertad Act.
In 1993 the Cuban Government made it legal for its people to possess and use the U.S. dollar. Since then, the dollar has become the major currency in use. The gap in the standard of living has widened between those with access to dollars and those without. Jobs that can earn dollar salaries or tips from foreign businesses and tourists have become highly desirable. It is common to meet doctors, engineers, scientists, and other professionals working in restaurants or as taxi drivers.
To provide jobs for workers laid off due to the economic crisis, furnish services the government was having difficulty providing, and to try to bring some forms of black market activity into legal--and therefore controllable--channels, Havana in 1993 legalized self-employment for some 150 occupations. The government tightly controls the small private sector by regulating and taxing it. For example, owners of small private restaurant can seat no more than 12 people and can only employ family members to help with the work. Set monthly fees must be paid regardless of income earned, and frequent inspections yield stiff fines when any of the many self-employment regulations are violated. Rather than expanding private sector opportunities, in recent years, the government has been attempting to squeeze more of these private sector entrepreneurs out of business and back to the public sector. Many have opted to enter the informal economy or black market, and others have closed. These measures have reduced private sector employment from a peak of 209,000 to approximately 53, 000 in 2003. Moreover, a large number of those people who nominally are self-employed in reality are well-connected fronts for military officials. No recent figures have been made available, but the Government of Cuba reported at the end of 2001 that tax receipts from the self-employed fell 8.1% due to the decrease in the number of these taxpayers.
Prolonged austerity and the state-controlled economy's inefficiency in providing adequate goods and services have created conditions for a flourishing informal economy in Cuba. As the variety and amount of goods available in state-run peso stores has declined, Cubans have turned increasingly to the black market to obtain needed food, clothing, and household items. Pilferage of items from the work place to sell on the black market or illegally offering services on the sidelines of official employment is common, and Cuban companies regularly figure 15% in losses into their production plans to cover this. Recognizing that Cubans must engage in such activity to make ends meet and that attempts to shut the informal economy down would be futile, the government concentrates its control efforts on ideological appeals against theft and shutting down large organized operations. A report by an independent economist and opposition leader speculates that more than 40% of the Cuban economy operates in the informal sector.
Cuba's precarious economic position is complicated by the high price it must pay for foreign financing. The Cuban Government defaulted on most of its international debt in 1986 and does not have access to credit from international financial institutions like the World Bank, which means Havana must rely heavily on short-term loans to finance imports, chiefly food and fuel. Because of its poor credit rating, an $11 billion hard currency debt, and the risks associated with Cuban investment, interest rates have reportedly been as high as 22%. In 2002, citing chronic delinquencies and mounting short-term debts, Moody's lowered Cuba's credit rating to Caa1 - "speculative grade, very poor." Dunn and Bradstreet rate Cuba as one of the riskiest economies in the world.
Cuba's state-controlled economy has failed to provide adequate housing to Cubans. Multi-family occupation of often unsafe housing is common. The government uses scarce resources to restore and preserve historic sites intended for tourist use.
Cuba is a multiracial society with a population of mainly Spanish and African origins. The largest organized religion is the Roman Catholic Church, but evangelical protestant denominations are growing rapidly. Afro-Cuban religions, a blend of native African religions and Roman Catholicism, are widely practiced in Cuba. Officially, Cuba has been an atheist state for most of the Castro era. In 1962, the government of Fidel Castro seized and shut down more than 400 Catholic schools, charging that they spread dangerous beliefs among the people. In 1991, however, the Communist Party lifted its prohibition against religious believers seeking membership, and a year later the constitution was amended to characterize the state as secular instead of atheist.
While the Cuban constitution recognizes the right of citizens to freedom of religion, the government de facto restricts that freedom. Unregistered religious groups experience various degrees of official interference, harassment and repression. The Ministry of Interior engages in active efforts to control and monitor the country's religious institutions, including through surveillance, infiltration and harassment of religious professionals and practitioners. The Catholic church is the largest independent institution in Cuba today but continues to operate under significant restrictions and pressure imposed on it by the Cuban regime. The Cuban Government continues to refuse to allow the church to have independent printing press capabilities; full access to the media; to train enough priests for its needs or allow adequate numbers of foreign priests to work in the country; or to establish socially useful institutions, including schools and universities, hospitals and clinics, and nursing homes. All registered denominations must report to the Ministry of Interior's Department of Religious Affairs.
The visit of Pope John Paul II in January 1998 was seen as an important, positive event for bringing a message of hope and the need for respect of human rights. Unfortunately, these improvements did not continue once the Pope left the island. While some visas were issued for additional priests to enter Cuba around the time of the visit, the regime has again sharply restricted issuance of visas. The Cuban Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2003 openly criticized the government's strict control over the activities of the Catholic Church, especially state restrictions on religious education and Church access to mass media.
Other Cuban religious groups--including evangelical Christians, whose numbers are growing rapidly--also have benefited from the relative relaxation of official restrictions on religious organizations and activities. Although particularly hard hit by emigration, Cuba's small Jewish community continues to hold services in Havana and has pockets of faithful in Santiago, Camaguey, and other parts of the island.
Under Cuban law, an act is a crime only if it is prohibited by the law and is socially dangerous or harmful (socialimente peligrosa). Violations of law that do not rise to the necessary level of social harm are considered to be infractions (contravenciones), that is, a noncriminal citation offense. Crimes in Cuba are divided into felony and misdemeanor offenses. Felony crimes are those with a potential sentence exceeding one year imprisonment or a fine of more than 300 cuotas. (Cuotas are units of a fine that have variable value. Thus, one person may be subject to a fine of 100 cuotas at one peso each while another may be subject to the same fine but at a rate of two pesos per cuota.) Offenses that meet this standard are prosecuted in provincial courts. Less serious misdemeanor offenses are adjudicated in municipal courts and carry maximum penalties below the one-year/300-cuota level. Felony-equivalent crimes in Cuba encompass a standard array of offenses against persons or property including murder, rape, assault, death or injury by vehicle, robbery, burglary, larceny, vehicle theft, arson, and drug trafficking. Except for murder, rape, and robbery, each of these offenses also has a less serious, misdemeanor equivalent. In addition to standard crimes against persons, property and social order, the Cuban penal code enumerates various offenses against socialist organization. Central among these are misuse of employment in a state enterprise for illegal personal gain (malversacion), obtaining money or property illegally channeled from some state economic venture (receptacion), trading in foreign currency (trafico de divisas), slaughter and distribution of livestock outside the socialist distribution system (sacrificio ilegal), and attempting to leave the country without complying with formal emigration requirements (salida ilegal). Rather than being occasional crimes, these offenses constitute a regular part of the criminal case load in Cuba.
In 1988, the Cuban Penal Code delineated the following range of sentences: execution, incarceration, correctional labor with confinement to the work site, correctional labor without confinement, probation, fines, and public chastisement (la amonestacion). Prison sentences for serious crimes range from 15 to 20 years for first degree murder to 2 to 5 years for offenses such as trafficking in foreign currency and burglary of an uninhabited dwelling. The sentences for some misdemeanor crimes can extend beyond the maximum one year incarceration that distinguishes them from felony offenses. For instance, simple possession of illegal drugs or second degree theft can carry a penalty of 6 months to 2 years of incarceration. The jurisdictional level in these cases is determined by the level of the penalty sought by the prosecutor The death penalty is reserved for "heinous" crimes such as multiple murders, murder of a child, murder associated with torture, or for treason. Execution is by firing squad. Persons who were under the age of 20 or pregnant at the time of the offense or at the time of sentencing cannot be subject to the death penalty.
INCIDENCE OF CRIME
Cuba has provided data neither for United Nations nor INTERPOL surveys of crime; however, an estimate of crime is given in the United States State Department's Consular Information Sheet according to which the following information has been provided.
Photographing military or police installations or personnel, or harbor, rail and airport facilities is forbidden.
In the opening months of 2003, there were numerous attempts to hijack aircraft and ocean-going vessels by Cubans seeking to depart from Cuba. In several cases, these attempts involved the use of weapons by the hijackers. Cuban authorities attempted to resolve these incidents peacefully, but they were not able to do so successfully in all cases. U.S. citizens, although not necessarily targets, may be caught up in any violence during an attempted hijacking. Accordingly, U.S. citizens may wish to avoid travel by public transportation within Cuba.
The United States Government has publicly and repeatedly announced that any person who hijacks (or attempts to hijack) an aircraft or vessel (common carrier or other) will face the maximum penalties pursuant to U.S. law, regardless of that personís nationality. In Cuba, hijackers will be sentenced to lengthy prison terms at a minimum, and may be subject to the death penalty; on April 11, 2003, the Government of Cuba executed three suspected hijackers, nine days after taking them into custody.
The waters around Cuba can be dangerous to navigate. Since 1993 there have been at least eight shipwrecks involving U.S. citizens. U.S. boaters who have encountered problems requiring repairs in Cuba have found repair services to be expensive and frequently not up to U.S. standards. The government of Cuba often holds boats as collateral to assure payment for salvage and repair services. Transferring funds from the U.S. to pay for boat repairs in Cuba is complicated by restrictions codified in U.S. law relating to commercial transactions with the Government of Cuba. A Treasury license is required for such payments.
Although crime against U.S. and other foreign travelers in Cuba has generally been limited to pickpocketing, purse snatching, or the taking of unattended items, the Interests Section has received increased reports of violent assaults against American citizens in connection with robberies. In cases of violent crime, Americans should not resist if confronted, as perpetrators are usually armed with a knife or machete and often work with partners.
Pickpocketings and purse snatchings usually occur in crowded areas such as markets, beaches, and other gathering points, including Old Town Havana. Travelers should use caution in all such areas and are advised not to leave belongings unattended, nor to carry purses and bags loosely over one shoulder. Visitors should avoid wearing flashy jewelry or displaying large amounts of cash.
The post revolutionary era in Cuba can be divided into four periods. The first period, extending from 1959 to the early 1970s, was characterized by revolutionary experimentation in all areas of social organization, including government management and control of production and distribution. The most notable experiment within the justice system during this time was the creation of Peoples' Courts (tribunales de base). These courts emphasized informal procedures, and utilized ordinary citizens as lay prosecutors, lay advocates, and lay judges rather than filling these positions with formally trained jurists. The second major period of the revolution began in the early 1970s, and was characterized by institutionalization of the new economic and political order. This included the passage of a new Cuban constitution, reorganization of most administrative structures, and replacing the pre-revolutionary legal system with one more suited to the ideology and practice of a socialist political economy.
In 1973, the Cuban government promulgated a new Law of Judicial Organization. This law established a hierarchical and more formal court system, replaced the private practice of law with law collectives known as bufetes colectivos, and strengthened the emphasis on "socialist legality." This period was also marked by increasingly close relations with the Soviet Union, and increased economic dependence on COMECON - the trading bloc of socialist nations.
The mid-1980s initiated a period focused on "rectification" of earlier errors. One component of this era was passage of a new penal code that decriminalized a number of political offenses, reduced penalties for crimes overall, and instituted a broader range of alternatives to incarceration. In the early 1990s Cuba's socialist trading partners disappeared with the collapse of the Soviet bloc, ushering in an era of economic contraction termed the "special period" by the nation's leaders. In an effort to find alternative routes to continued socialist development, the Cuban government legalized the use of foreign currency by citizens and liberalized laws governing foreign investment.
The Cuban legal system is a composite of the three major stages of Cuban history. Reflecting its past as a Spanish colony, Cuba is a civil law state that emphasizes written codes rather than precedent as the source of law, and the utilization of an inquisitorial system of criminal procedure similar to that of Spain and France. Intermingled with this are elements of Anglo-American law such as habeas corpus, and a greater separation of courts and prosecutors than is normally characteristic of Marxist-Leninist states. Finally, thirty years of development guided by Marxist legal theory, and shaped by close ties to the former Soviet Union have added a clearly socialist character to the Cuban legal system. Key elements of Cuba's "socialist legality" are: (1) an emphasis on substantive rather than juridical measures of justice, (2) the use of law as a pro-active tool for socialist development, (3) limited use of formal legal mechanisms for the resolution of private disputes, (4) the use of informal "social courts" to resolve conflicts such as housing and labor disputes, (5) direct citizen involvement in the judicial and crime control procedures, and (6) a system of state-organized law collectives to provide low-cost legal services nationwide.
The Ministry of Interior is the principal entity of state security and totalitarian control. Officers of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), which are led by Raul Castro, the President's brother, have been assigned to the majority of key positions in the Ministry of Interior in the past several years. In addition to the routine law enforcement functions of regulating migration and controlling the Border Guard and the regular police forces, the Interior Ministry's Department of State Security investigates and actively suppresses political opposition and dissent. It maintains a pervasive system of surveillance through undercover agents, informers, rapid response brigades (RRB's), and neighborhood-based Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR's). The Government traditionally uses the CDR's to mobilize citizens against dissenters, impose ideological conformity, and root out "counterrevolutionary" behavior. During the early 1990's, economic problems reduced the Government's ability to reward participation in the CDR's and hence the willingness of citizens to participate in them, thereby lessening the CDR system's effectiveness. RRB's consist of workers from a particular brigade (construction workers, a factory, etc.) that are organized by the Communist Party to react forcefully to any situation of social unrest. The Government on occasion used RRB's instead of the police or military during such situations. Other mass organizations also exert government and Communist Party control over citizens' daily activities at home, work, and school. Members of the security forces committed numerous serious human rights abuses.
As discussed above, policing in Cuba is organized under the auspices of the Ministry of the Interior (MINIT), which is directly responsible to the Council of State. The MINIT is divided into three directorates: Security, Technical Operations, and Internal Order and Crime Prevention. The Internal Order and Crime Prevention Section is subdivided into subdirectorates for corrections, fire protection, and policing. The subdirectorate for policing is responsible for the National Revolutionary Police (PNR). The PNR encompasses uniform policing, criminal investigation, crime prevention, juvenile delinquency, and traffic control. The PNR is divided into municipal divisions, each with its own police chief. These local police agencies are responsible to the national directorate of the PNR, through a hierarchical structure that incorporates provincial levels of oversight. The Security division of MINIT is responsible for policing crimes such as espionage, sabotage and other offenses against the state security. The Ministry of the Interior and the National Revolutionary Police have been closely integrated with the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) since the revolutionary victory of 1959. In addition to formal policing by the PNR, the Cuban system of control utilizes the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) as auxiliary eyes and ears of the police. The CDR maintains nightly neighborhood watches known as la guardia to prevent crime. They deal with juvenile deviance and assist crime victims. The CDR is also responsible for promoting compliance with a variety of non-criminal requirements such as water and electricity conservation, pet inoculation, and public health requirements. Active CDR members (cederistas) may also provide the police or MINIT with information about activities they consider suspicious or deviant.
Police may use necessary force to apprehend suspects and to defend their person or that of any other citizen. Cuban law places few formal limits on police discretion to stop or interrogate citizens. This reflects Cuba's character as a civil law state with an inquisitorial judicial system. A central juridical assumption of this system is that no criminal case exists until an initial investigation (fase preparatoria) has demonstrated that a crime has been committed, and that a particular person is the probable offender. Consequently, because there is no formal criminal case, the argument claims that citizens have little need for procedural protection at this stage of the investigative process. A planned revision of the Cuban law of penal procedure will permit attorneys to enter cases as soon as an individual has been arrested or is the target of an investigation. This change will constitute a significant move away from a pure inquisitorial criminal process. Because arrests are usually part of the pre-case, investigative stage, the warrant procedure characteristic of Anglo-American legal systems is not part of the Cuban penal process. The Cuban constitution requires that warrants be obtained from a court in order to conduct a home search. Warrants must specify the place to be searched and the nature of the material being sought. A warrant is not necessary, however, if a domicile is also the scene of the crime. In this case, procedural law permits investigators to search the premises and to remove any items deemed as evidence.
Cuban procedural law prohibits violence or force in obtaining a confession, and specifies that no one is required to testify against him or herself. Suspects can make whatever formal statements they wish regarding the charges against them, including confessions of guilt. These statements are made orally, and then presented in writing to the suspect for signature. Minors under the age of 16 can only make these statements in the presence of parents or other legal guardians. While criminal suspects can confess guilt, they cannot be convicted solely on the basis of a confession. Rather, Cuban law requires that all criminal cases be proven at trial utilizing evidence beyond the suspect's statement of guilt.
In terms of human rights violations, there have been problems with the police. There were no reports of politically motivated killings in 2001. The Constitution prohibits abusive treatment of detainees and prisoners; however, members of the security forces sometimes beat and otherwise abused human rights advocates, detainees, and prisoners. There have continued to be numerous reports of disproportionate police harassment of black youths. The Government has continued to subject persons who disagreed with it to acts of what it called repudiation. At government instigation, members of state-controlled mass organizations, fellow workers, or neighbors of intended victims are obliged to stage public protests against those who dissent from the Government's policies, shouting obscenities and often causing damage to the homes and property of those targeted; physical attacks on the victims sometimes occur. Police and state security agents often are present but take no action to prevent or end the attacks. Those who refuse to participate in these actions face disciplinary action, including loss of employment.
Although the Constitution provides for the inviolability of a citizen's home and correspondence, official surveillance of private and family affairs by government-controlled mass organizations, such as the CDR's, has remained one of the most pervasive and repressive features of daily life. The State has assumed the right to interfere in the lives of citizens, even those who do not oppose the Government and its practices actively. The authorities utilized a wide range of social controls. The mass organizations' ostensible purpose is to improve the citizenry, but in fact their goal is to discover and discourage nonconformity. Citizen participation in these mass organizations has declined; the economic crisis both has reduced the Government's ability to provide material incentives for their participation and has forced many persons to engage in black market activities, which the mass organizations are supposed to report to the authorities. The Interior Ministry has employed an intricate system of informants and block committees (the CDR's) to monitor and control public opinion. While less capable than in the past, CDR's have continued to report on suspicious activity, including conspicuous consumption; unauthorized meetings, including those with foreigners; and defiant attitudes toward the Government and the revolution. The Government controls all access to the Internet, and all electronic mail messages are subject to censorship. The Interior Ministry's Department of State Security often reads international correspondence and monitors overseas telephone calls and conversations with foreigners. The Government also monitors domestic phone calls and correspondence.
Cuban procedural law specifies that police cannot detain a suspect longer than 24 hours without submitting the case to an investigator. The investigator in turn must submit the case to the scrutiny of a prosecutor within 3 working days. The prosecutor's office then has a maximum of 3 working days within which to either release the suspect or submit to judicial review the plan to keep the suspect in custody until trial. This review must be made by the court that will adjudicate the case. The court is required to either approve detention or order release within 3 days, and its decision is final.
According to law, in felony cases, pre-trial incarceration (prision provisional) is supposed to be limited to those who have committed crimes that caused public fear (murder, rape, robbery), who are suspected of multiple offenses, or who may flee prosecution. Pretrial incarceration is deemed inappropriate in all misdemeanor cases unless the person has produced false identification or given indications of imminent flight from prosecution Defendants may be released on bail pending trial to the oversight of a work place, a union, or other recognized social organization, or on their own recognizance.
A 1988 study of 982 defendants served by a law collective in Havana revealed that 35% were incarcerated at the time of indictment. (Crime specific rates of detention ranged from 61% for felony property crimes to 33% for felony offenses against state security and 19% for traffic offenses leading to death or injury. Felony crimes against the economy had a pre-trial detention rate of 40%.)
Arbitrary arrest and detention have continued to be problems, and they remained the Government's most effective tactics for harassing opponents. The Law of Penal Procedures requires police to file formal charges and either release a detainee or bring the case before a prosecutor within 96 hours of arrest. It also requires the authorities to provide suspects with access to a lawyer within 7 days of arrest. However, the Constitution states that all legally recognized civil liberties can be denied to anyone who actively opposes the decision of the Cuban people to build socialism. The authorities routinely invoked this sweeping authority to deny due process to those detained on purported state security grounds.
The authorities routinely engaged in arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights advocates, subjecting them to interrogations, threats, and degrading treatment and unsanitary conditions for hours or days at a time. The CCHRNC reported an increase in the number of short-term detentions during the year 2001. Members of the Human Rights Party of Cuba affiliated with the Andrei Zajarov Foundation (PPDHC) in the municipalities of Guane and Sandino in the province of Pinar del Rio claimed that they were subjected to 455 repressive actions by state security personnel during 2000. On January 11, UPECI reported that of these 455 actions, 93 activists received official citations to appear at police stations ("actas policiales") from local police. At the end of 2000, Amnesty International recognized the increase of arrests and harassment of dissidents, particularly around the December anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, when the authorities arrested approximately 200 persons to prevent them from participating in a celebration of that anniversary. Human rights activists characterized this escalation as the worst in a decade. The authorities have continued to detain human rights activists and independent journalists for short periods, often to prevent them from attending or participating in events related to human rights issues. The authorities also placed such activists under house arrest for short periods for similar reasons.
Time in detention before trial counted toward time served if convicted. Bail was available, and usually was low and more equivalent to a fine.
The Penal Code includes the concept of "dangerousness," defined as the "special proclivity of a person to commit crimes, demonstrated by his conduct in manifest contradiction of socialist norms." If the police decide that a person exhibits signs of dangerousness, they may bring the offender before a court or subject him to therapy or political reeducation. Government authorities regularly threatened prosecution under this provision. Both the U.N. Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) and the IACHR have criticized this concept for its subjectivity, the summary nature of the judicial proceedings employed, the lack of legal safeguards, and the political considerations behind its application. According to the IACHR, the so-called special inclination to commit crimes referred to in the Criminal Code amounts to a subjective criterion used by the Government to justify violations of individual freedoms and the due process of persons whose sole crime has been an inclination to hold a view different from the official view.
The Government also used exile as a tool for controlling and eliminating the internal opposition. Amnesty International has noted that the Government detains human rights activists repeatedly for short periods and threatens them with imprisonment unless they give up their activities or leave the country. The Government used these incremental aggressive tactics to compel independent journalists Maria de los Angeles Gonzales and Luis Alberto Rivera to leave the country on May 10 and on July 31 respectively.
The Government also has pressured imprisoned human rights activists and political prisoners to apply for emigration and regularly conditioned their release on acceptance of exile. Human Rights Watch observed that the Government routinely invokes forced exile as a condition for prisoner releases and also pressures activists to leave the country to escape future prosecution. Amnesty International has expressed particular concern about the Government's practice of threatening to charge, try, and imprison human rights advocates and independent journalists prior to arrest or sentencing if they do not leave the country. According to Amnesty International, this practice "effectively prevents those concerned from being able to act in public life in their own country."
Accused persons have the right to a trial by a judicial panel. For felony-equivalent cases heard in provincial courts, these panels consist of five judges, three of whom are trained jurists with law degrees, and two of whom are citizens chosen to serve as lay judges. Less serious criminal offenses are adjudicated by municipal court panels consisting of one jurist and two lay judges. Cuban defendants have the right to a defense counsel. A nationwide system of law collectives (bufetes colectivos) are designed to provide public access to legal counsel at state-set fees. During the fase preparatoria, police investigators and/or prosecutors assemble a body of evidence and witnesses. If this evidence is deemed sufficient, the prosecutor issues the equivalent of a bill of indictment (conclusiones provisionales). This document is sent to the court of first instance and to the accused's defense attorney, if one has been identified at that time. If a case is a felony equivalent the prosecution normally will be represented by a prosecutor (fiscal) from the provincial office of the attorney-general during trial. If it is a misdemeanor-equivalent offense, prosecution is most often represented by a police investigator. At this time there are no alternatives, such as plea bargaining, to the requirement that all crimes be adjudicated at trial. All crimes must be adjudicated at trial.
The Cuban court system consists of a Supreme Court, Provincial Courts, Municipal Courts, and Military Courts. The Supreme Court is subdivided into areas of responsibility (salas) for penal, civil and administrative, labor, state security, and military cases. Provincial courts are similarly divided, with the exclusion of a military sala. There is no formal division of Municipal Courts into jurisdictional areas, although larger municipal courts may subdivide into sections with specific responsibilities. There are no special courts other than the divisions described above. All family matters such as divorce, custody, and child support are handled in the general civil sala of provincial courts. Juvenile problems that are not crimes are handled outside the formal court structure.
Sentences are determined by the same judicial panel that heard testimony and determined guilt. In municipal courts, sentences are almost always dictated at the time of trial. Sentences for felony offenses adjudicated in provincial courts may be dictated at the time of the trial, but are more often issued several weeks after the trial. Cuban law requires that all criminal cases be completed within 6 months after the initial indictment is issued. One study found that although about 20% of cases exceed this limit to some degree, over 90% of all cases were completed within 8 months of indictment. Cuban judicial procedure does not separate assessment of the facts of a case from consideration of the character of the accused. Trial and pre-trial documents as well as in-court testimony normally incorporate information concerning the social character, work history, personal associations, and prior criminal record of the defendant, which judges then incorporate into their sentencing decisions. Consequently, there are no special sentencing hearings, and no formal procedures for gathering pre-sentencing information beyond what is revealed at trial.
The Constitution provides for independent courts; however, it explicitly subordinates the courts to the ANPP and the Council of State, which is headed by President Castro. The ANPP and its lower level counterparts choose all judges. The subordination of the courts to the Communist Party, which the Constitution designates as the superior directive force of society and the State, further compromises the judiciary's independence. The courts undermined the right to a fair trial by restricting the right to a defense and often failed to observe the few due process rights available to defendants.
Civilian courts exist at the municipal, provincial, and supreme court levels. Panels composed of a mix of professionally certified and lay judges preside over them. Military tribunals assume jurisdiction for certain counterrevolutionary cases and are governed by a special law. The military tribunals process civilians if a member of the military was involved with civilians in a crime. There is a right to appeal, access to counsel, and the charges are known to the defendant.
The law and trial practices do not meet international standards for fair public trials. Almost all cases are tried in less than 1 day; there are no jury trials. While most trials are public, trials are closed when there are alleged violations of state security. Prosecutors may introduce testimony from a CDR member about the revolutionary background of a defendant, which may contribute to either a longer or shorter sentence. The law recognizes the right of appeal in municipal courts but limits it in provincial courts to cases such as those involving maximum prison terms or the death penalty. Appeals in capital cases are automatic. The Council of State ultimately must affirm capital punishment.
Criteria for presenting evidence, especially in cases involving human rights advocates, are arbitrary and discriminatory. Often the sole evidence provided, particularly in political cases, is the defendant's confession, usually obtained under duress and without the legal advice or knowledge of a defense lawyer. The authorities regularly denied defendants access to their lawyers until the day of the trial. Several dissidents who have served prison terms reported that they were tried and sentenced without counsel and were not allowed to speak on their own behalf.
The law provides the accused with the right to an attorney, but the control that the Government exerts over the livelihood of members of the state-controlled lawyers' collectives compromises their ability to represent clients, especially when they defend persons accused of state security crimes. Attorneys have reported reluctance to defend those charged in political cases due to fear of jeopardizing their own careers.
Human rights monitoring groups inside the country estimate the number of political prisoners to be between 249 and 300 persons. In July the CCHRNC reported that there were an estimated 249 political prisoners in the country; in July 2000, the CCHRNC reported 314 political prisoners. The CCHRNC noted that since the Government refuses to publish the number of prisoners in the country, its figures are based on information obtained from family members of prisoners. A spokesperson for the CCHRNC attributed the decrease in political prisoners to the fact that the Government has changed its tactics from prison sentences to increased detentions. The authorities have imprisoned persons on charges such as disseminating enemy propaganda, illicit association, contempt for the authorities (usually for criticizing President Castro), clandestine printing, or the broad charge of rebellion, which often is brought against advocates of peaceful democratic change. In July another illegal NGO, the National Coordinator of Prisoners and Former Political Prisoners, listed 262 political prisoners. This NGO also reported that an additional 179 prisoners were convicted over a 1 year period of piracy (stealing a boat belonging to the Government in an attempt to leave the country), and illegal attempt to leave the country.
The Cuban penal system consists of prisons and granjas. Prisons are fenced and sometimes walled facilities, especially in the case of older prisons. Granjas are open farms without gates or fences. Granjas house offenders convicted of relatively minor offenses, while prisons are reserved largely for felony-equivalent violators. Separate school-like facilities are maintained for delinquents under the age of 16. By 1990, the prison population in Cuba had dropped to around 19,000 as a result of the liberalized penal code that went into effect in 1988. This number yields a rate of imprisonment of approximately 190 per 100,000 population. Cuban prisons are administered nationwide through the Penal Directorate of the Ministry of Justice.
Cuban inmates are expected to complete the equivalent of a high school degree if they do not have one. If they do not have a trade, they are expected to learn one. Inmates not involved in an educational program are expected to work. Prisoners are paid the same wage for their work in prison that they would receive on the outside. They are expected to contribute one-third of this income to their upkeep in prison, the remainder is devoted to supporting any dependents, and for assorted purchases in prison.
Cuban inmates receive medical care comparable to that outside the prison. Both male and female prisoners are permitted conjugal visits from formal or common-law spouses approximately every 2 months. The actual number of visits may be increased or decreased according to conduct.
Cuban citizens cannot be extradited for crimes committed in other countries. Non-Cubans can be extradited for crimes committed in other countries in accordance with bi-lateral extradition treaties. As an expression of Cuba's socialist and "anti-imperialist" ideology, Cuban law specifies that anyone sought for an offense related to "fighting imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, fascism, racism or for defending the democratic principles or rights of working people" cannot be extradited. In 1993, Cuba returned two drug traffickers caught in Cuban waters to the United States to stand trial. This was viewed by many as marking a new era of cooperation between the United States and Cuba in the war against drug traffic in the Caribbean.
Prison conditions have continued to be harsh and life threatening, and conditions in detention facilities also have been harsh. The Government claims that prisoners have rights, such as family visitation, adequate nutrition, pay for work, the right to request parole, and the right to petition the prison director; however, police and prison officials often denied these rights in practice, and beat, neglected, isolated, and denied medical treatment to detainees and prisoners, including those convicted of political crimes or those who persisted in expressing their views. Human Rights Watch reported that in 1999 the Government revised the Penal Code to prohibit the use of corporal punishment on prisoners and the use of any means to humiliate prisoners or to lessen their dignity; however, the revised code failed to establish penalties for committing such acts, and they continued to occur in practice. Detainees and prisoners, both common and political, often are subjected to repeated vigorous interrogations designed to coerce them into signing incriminating statements, to force collaboration with authorities, or to intimidate victims. Some endured physical and sexual abuse, typically by other inmates with the acquiescence of guards, or long periods in punitive isolation cells. Pretrial detainees are held separately from convicted prisoners. In Havana there are two detention centers; once sentenced, persons are transferred to a prison. Prisoners sometimes are held in "punishment cells," which usually are located in the basement of a prison, are semi-dark all the time, have no water available in the cell, and have a hole for a toilet. No reading materials are allowed, and family visits are reduced to 10 minutes from 1 or 2 hours. There is no access to lawyers while in the punishment cell. Prison guards and state security officials subjected human rights and prodemocracy activists to threats of physical violence, to systematic psychological intimidation, and to detention or imprisonment in cells with common and violent criminals, sexually aggressive inmates, or state security agents posing as prisoners. Political prisoners are required to comply with the rules for common criminals and often are punished severely if they refuse. They often are placed in punishment cells and held in isolation. There are separate prison facilities for women and for minors. Conditions of these prisons, especially for women, do not take into account the special needs of women. Human rights activists believe that conditions are poor.
Violent crime rarely has been reported in the press, and there has been no publicly available data regarding the incidence of domestic violence and rape; however, human rights advocates reported that violence against women has been a problem. The law establishes strict penalties for rape, and the Government appears to enforce the law; however, according to human rights advocates, the police do not act on cases of domestic violence.
The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women visited the country in 1999 and issued a report of findings in February 2000. The report stated that most government officials did not view violence against women as a prevalent problem. However, activists at the grassroots level were very attuned to problems of violence affecting women. The Rapporteur urged the Government to take comprehensive steps to enhance the legal protection against violence against women and specifically urged the adoption of legislation to address domestic violence and sexual harassment.
Prostitution is legal for persons over 17 years of age; however, pandering or otherwise benefiting from prostitution is a felony. Prostitution has increased greatly in the last few years. Press reports have indicated that tourists from various countries have visited specifically to patronize inexpensive prostitutes. A government crackdown on prostitution that began in late 1998 initially had some effect, but prostitutes (known as "jineteras") still were visible in Havana and other major cities during the year 2001. Police have obtained early success in their efforts by stationing officers on nearly every major street corner where tourists were present. Some street police officers have been suspected of providing protection to the jineteras. Most observers believe that the Government clamped down on prostitution to combat the perception that the Government promotes sex tourism. The Government has set up centers to take prostitutes off the streets and reeducate them. In a February 2000 report, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women recommended that the Government dismantle the centers and find "other mechanisms that do not violate the rights of the prostitutes." There was no information available regarding whether or not the Government dismantled these centers.
There was no societal pattern of abuse of children. However, child prostitution has been a problem, with young girls engaging in prostitution to help support themselves and their families. It is illegal for a person under 17 years of age to engage in prostitution. The police began to enforce this law more actively in late 1998 and continued to do so during the year 2001 as part of a general crackdown on prostitution. However, the phenomenon continues as more cabarets and discos open for the growing tourist industry, which made it easier for tourists to come into contact with child prostitutes.
Police officers who find children loitering in the streets or begging from tourists frequently intervened and tried to find the parents. If the child was found bothering tourists a second time, police frequently fined the child's parents.
TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS
The Penal Code prohibits trafficking in persons through or from the country and provides for penalties for violations, including a term of 7 to 15 years' imprisonment for organizing or cooperating in alien smuggling through the country; 10 to 20 years' imprisonment for entering the country to smuggle persons out of the country; and 20 years to life in prison for using violence, causing harm or death, or putting lives in danger in engaging in such smuggling. These provisions were directed primarily at persons engaging in organized smuggling of would-be emigrants. In addition, the revised code made it illegal to promote or organize the entrance of persons into or the exit of persons from the country for the purpose of prostitution; violators were subject to 20 to 30 years' imprisonment.
Child prostitution was a problem, with young girls engaging in prostitution to help support themselves and their families. It is illegal for a person under 17 years of age to engage in prostitution. The police enforced this law during the year as part of a general crackdown on prostitution; however, the phenomenon continued as more cabarets and discos opened for the growing tourist industry, which made it easier for tourists to come into contact with child prostitutes.
The lack of authoritative information about the illegal narcotics situation in Cuba makes it difficult to assess the severity of Cuba's drug use and smuggling problems. Cuba's location between the United States and the hemisphere's principal drug-exporting countries makes it a logical transshipment point for traffickers. In 1998, traffickers' use of Cuba's airports, airspace, and vast territorial waters for transshipment appears to have increased. The Cuban authorities seem to have focused their apparently limited capability on law enforcement efforts at Cuban airports, not at drop sites at sea. Cuban officials repeatedly cited Cuba's proximity to the U.S. and the growing number of tourists coming to the island as the cause of the increasing, though still low-level, drug use and trafficking problems. Cuba and the United States continued to exchange drug-related law enforcement information on a case-by-case basis. Cuba is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.
The Government of Cuba (GOC) does not publish comprehensive information on its drug problem. The island does not appear to be a significant site for cultivation or production. There are indications, however, that drug trafficking, particularly transshipment via "mules" transiting Cuban airports and drugs dropped from planes over waters off Cuba's northeast coast, is on the rise. There were no reports of money laundering in Cuba in 1998.
Sources indicate a moderate overall rise in drug use in Cuba, by Cubans as well as foreigners. 1998 marked the first time Cubans reported the presence of crack cocaine on the island. The GOC continued to attribute drug use in Cuba to the foreign influences associated with Cuba's opening up to business and tourism from abroad. During 1998 Cuban officials continued to deny publicly that drug addiction and drug trafficking were a serious problem in Cuba. In a January 1999 public address, however, Fidel Castro acknowledged that Cuba was increasingly being used as transit point for regional drug traffickers, leading to the birth of a domestic market for drugs, which he described as a "mortal venom for our youth and people." Castro attributed part of the consumption problem to the availability of U.S. dollars following the 1993 legalization of the possession of U.S. currency by Cubans.
Cuban officials blame their lack of resources for the GOC's inability to patrol its territorial waters. As U.S. Coast Guard reports attest, drug traffickers appear to be taking advantage of that inability to an increasing extent.
Article 190 of the Cuban Penal Code provides for three to eight years imprisonment for the production, transport, trafficking, possession with intent to traffic, or procurement for others of toxic drugs, hallucinogens, or hypnotic or narcotic substances. For "relatively large" amounts, sentences can range from seven to fifteen years. Simple possession is punishable by sentences of six months to three years.
The lead law enforcement agency on drugs in Cuba is the Ministry of the Interior's National Anti-Drug Department. The National Drug Commission is an interagency coordinating body nominally under the Ministry of Justice. The Ministries of the Interior, Foreign Affairs, Public Health, Customs and Border Guards are also represented on the Commission.
In 1998, Cuba enhanced anti-narcotics cooperation with several countries, including the United Kingdom, Italy, The Bahamas, and France. In May, the Cuban press reported that Cuba had received more than $500,000 in counternarcotics assistance (equipment, assistance and training) from the UNDCP. In October, the United Kingdom announced it would provide $265,000 for the training of Cuban customs officials. A team of French customs officials began a 10-week canine technique training course for their Cuban counterparts at Havana's Jose Marti International Airport in December.
Cuba's anti-narcotics efforts in 1998 were most noticeable at Havana's Jose Marti International Airport, where British-trained customs officials used drug-sniffing dogs to detect illegal narcotics as well as explosives.
While sources indicated an increase in drug arrests, particularly of foreigners, in 1998, the Cuban media reported specific instances of drug enforcement only on an infrequent basis.
The GOC did not publish complete statistics for domestic arrests or prosecutions. The GOC continued to maintain that it had no serious domestic consumption or trafficking problem, but in June, state media sources indicated that domestic trafficking had risen due to the increased number of tourists--over a million--who visited Cuba. Domestic demand for drugs, such as cocaine, is believed to be low, but anecdotal evidence indicates a rise in cocaine use, as well as the first reports of crack cocaine use in Cuba. Several "drug houses" reportedly sell much of the cocaine available in Havana, using prostitutes to market the drug to foreign tourists.
While Cuba discussed the idea of exchanging prisoners with some countries, the exchange does not appear to be directed at drug offenders. There were no reports of GOC extradition of drug offenders (or receipt of extradited drug offenders), but neither were there reports of potentially extraditable offenders.
Reports of the transit of drugs through Cuban airports and via airdrops rose in 1998. Several European and Colombian drug traffickers were arrested in 1998 attempting to transit from Central America through Cuba to Europe. Most reportedly believed that law enforcement authorities would not suspect travelers of carrying drugs into Cuba, a country with a small consumer market, or from Cuba, a country not known to be a drug-producing country and therefore, they presumed, less closely watched by European customs officials.
Cuban authorities arrested 18 foreign "tourists" (7 Canadians, 7 Jamaicans, and 4 Britons) in November for attempting to transport 53.5 kilograms of cocaine and 1.3 kilograms of hashish from Jamaica, through Cuba, to the United Kingdom, according to press reports. Cuban authorities called this the largest seizure ever made at a Cuban airport. In 1998, there was a much more visible presence of transit cooperation with European governments, particularly in the areas of customs training and drug-sniffing dogs, visible at Havana's international airport.
The GOC notes that it does not have the "naval means" necessary to patrol its extensive coastline and many keys. In June, a Justice Ministry official said that some of the boats the Cuban government used to chase smugglers at sea dated from World War II. Drug seizures made in Cuban waters were reported by Cuban authorities to have been the result of drug traffickers' failed "drops." In September, a Cuban press report indicated that in 1994 thirty-four "bundles" of drugs were found in Cuban waters, the apparent results of abandoned or failed drops. In the first six months of 1998, said the report, 220 such seizures were made. Cuban authorities reportedly seized "95 million doses" of pure cocaine between 1994 and 1997. A March press report said 53 Colombians were being held in Cuban jails after trying to transport cocaine from Colombia through Cuba to Europe.
In early January 1999, Fidel Castro publicly announced that 216 foreigners had been arrested during the three-year period 1996-1998, of whom 165 were still in jail. He placed the number of drug seizures during the first eleven months of 1998 at 269, nearly double the previous year. According to Castro, total seizures (marijuana, cocaine, and hashish combined) amounted to 3.52 metric tons.
There is no evidence that Cuba is a significant drug-producing country. According to the GOC, small quantities of marijuana are grown around Havana and in eastern Cuba, but are unsuitable for export because of the low THC content of the crop. The GOC published no reports regarding crop size estimates, crop yields, or eradication efforts.
According to GOC officials and press reports, transshipment of illegal narcotics in 1998 took place in the waters off of Cuba's northeastern coast and at Cuban international airports. In the cases at sea, the narcotics were reportedly dropped by aircraft crossing over east-central Cuba, and picked up by "go-fast" boats waiting nearby. On numerous occasions, the U.S. Coast Guard reported in real-time to the Cuban Border Guards incidents of suspicious aircraft over-flying Cuban airspace, dropping something, and returning south. None of the planes involved was apprehended. Cuban authorities did, in one known instance, recover 22 airdropped bales of marijuana.
The head of Cuba's National Drug Commission noted in July that a "national prevention program" was underway to deter drug use in Cuba. The head of the Commission said that the program employed the education and public health sectors to detect and prevent drug use, particularly among Cuban youth. He also said that the Cuban criminal code did not penalize drug consumption in Cuba.
Internet research assisted by Iran Garcia and Maria Olivas