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Report assails Cuban rights record

June 10, 1997

WASHINGTON (AP) _ In July 1996, Erasmin Quesada Alvarez, 25, a Cuban political prisoner, was given a few days of freedom to visit with his family. When he did not return to the prison as scheduled, State Security agents went to his home and shot him to death.

The anecdote is recounted in a generally scathing report on rights conditions in Cuba by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States.

Another victim of police, according to the report, was Renso Salvello Gallego, 29, who was detained by a police lieutenant while riding on his bicycle in Havana in September 1996. With no words passing between them, the officer ``shot a projectile that went through his head, causing his death instantly.″

These two incidents are among many the commission said it was informed of concerning Cuban agents. As a rule, the report said, these cases ``are not duly investigated and the perpetrators not punished.″

It said Cubans who dissent are punished by ``deprivation of liberty, temporary detentions, harassment, threats, loss of employment, home searches, adoption of disciplinary measures, etc.″

There exists in Cuba a ``negative climate of uncertainty and fear among the citizenry, which is reinforced by the weak state of procedural guarantees, especially in trials that may directly or indirectly affect the system of power that exists in Cuba today,″ the report said.

Journalists are routinely barred from trials with political overtones. The role of defense attorneys is limited to the trial stage since they are not permitted to meet with their clients until an hour before the trial or until the moment it gets under way, the study said.

It called for the unconditional release of the 1,173 Cubans who it said are imprisoned for political crimes.

On prison conditions, the report said beatings of inmates ``are used habitually and systematically by Cuban state agents as a means of punishment or intimidation. Particularly serious, according to the information provided, is that the complaints of mistreatment brought before competent authorities never go anywhere.″

Beyond that, the report expressed ``profound concern″ over the lack of medical care or insufficient care in prisons.

The report said the testimony ``reflects the gravity of the prison situation in Cuba, and merely confirms that the Cuban state has not adopted any measures to comply with the minimum international standards for the treatment of prisoners.″

Cuban officials see the human rights situation in a far different light.

A draft platform prepared for the Communist Party Congress set for October says that since the revolution, ``there has not been a single political crime, not one tortured or disappeared person. No more workers and students have been repressed, no more peasants harmed or repressed.

``The revolution feels proud of the record it can show in the field of human rights. It gave to the Cuban people a free, independent and democratic country, where the full dignity of man reigns,″ the platform asserts.

``We guarantee the right to life. Infant mortality has dropped from more than 60 per 1,000 live births to less than eight nowadays, life expectancy has increased by 20 years to more than 75 years, figures that place Cuba in first place in the Third World and which are comparable to those of highly industrialized countries.″

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