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Embassy Row: Repressive Cuba

- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 26, 2013

Cuba is still politically repressive, poor and largely cut off from the Internet two years after the communist government adopted modest reforms such as term limits on politicians and allowing the sale of private property, a U.S. survey has found.

"Repression of free speech and civil liberties remains high," the International Republican Institute said of its annual poll of Cubans' attitudes toward their government.

The report also found that detentions of dissidents have increased.

"In 2012 alone, more than 6,000 politically motivated arrests and short-term detentions were recorded by the Cuban Commission on Human Rights Reconciliation," the survey said.

Cubans also reject the island's one-party Communist system, established after the 1959 Cuban revolution. Sixty-four percent of those surveyed said Cubans, instead of the Cuban Communist Party, should choose their president. Only 14 percent support the current system.

Fifty-three percent accused the government of political repression, while 20 percent defended the regime of President Raul Castro. Another 20 percent declined to answer that question on the survey, and 7 percent said they did not know.

Sixty-nine percent said the government prohibits free speech, despite Mr. Castro's 2011 promises of political reform. Only 21 percent claimed they could speak their minds openly.

"Repression and intimidation from the Cuban government is still a pervasive force in the lives of Cubans," the institute said. "Many respondents were reluctant to answer certain questions they may have deemed sensitive."

Cuban also live mostly without Internet service; only 4 percent of those surveyed said they could access the Web or email.

The Cuban economy continues to suffer, especially with cuts in government jobs and little private employment. Many are driven to a growing black market, the survey found.

The Washington-based pro-democracy group interviewed 688 Cubans throughout the island's 14 provinces in January and February. The survey has a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points.

DIPLOMATIC TRAFFIC

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Wednesday

Meenakshi Gopinath, the first woman to serve on India's National Security Advisory Board and now principal of Lady Shri Ram College for Women in New Delhi. She discusses women's rights in India at a briefing at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Thursday

Viktor Kheifets of Russia's St. Petersburg State University and Vladimir Rouvinski of Colombia's Icesi University. They address the Inter-American Dialogue about Russia's renewed interest in Latin America.

Jakkie Cilliers, executive director of the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, South Africa, who discusses potential conflicts in Africa in a briefing at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Friday

Rached Ghannouchi, president of Tunisia's ruling Ennahda Party who addresses the Brookings Institution on the future of democracy in the country that sparked the Arab Spring uprisings.

Embassy Row is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. James Morrison can be reached at jmorrison@washingtontimes.com or @EmbassyRow.

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