State Dept. Reports Major Human Rights Abuses by Cuba's Communist Regime

By Penny Starr | March 21, 2016 | 2:06 PM EDT

President Obama, right, and Cuban President Raul Castro met Saturday at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama. It was the first formal meeting in more than half a century between the leaders of the United States and Cuba. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – President Obama’s visit to Cuba includes a meeting with Communist dictator Raul Castro as well as a meeting with Cuban dissidents, and administration officials have said human rights will be on the table during Obama’s time on the island.

But according to the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014, Cuba is an “authoritarian state” responsible for ongoing human rights abuses.

“Cuba is an authoritarian state led by Raul Castro, who is president of the council of state and council of ministers, Communist Party (CP) first secretary, and commander in chief of security forces,” the executive summary on Cuba stated.

“The principal human rights abuses included those involving the abridgement of the ability of citizens to change the government and the use of government threats, extrajudicial physical assault, intimidation, violent government-organized counter-protests against peaceful dissent, and harassment and detentions to prevent free expression and peaceful assembly,” the summary stated.

“The following additional abuses continued: short-term, arbitrary unlawful detentions and arrests, harsh prison conditions, selective prosecution, denial of fair trial, and travel restrictions,” the report stated. “Authorities interfered with privacy, engaging in pervasive monitoring of private communications.

“The government did not respect freedom of speech and press, restricted internet access, maintained a monopoly on media outlets, circumscribed academic freedom, and maintained some restrictions on the ability of religious groups to meet and worship,” it stated. “The government refused to recognize independent human rights groups or permit them to function legally.

“In addition the government continued to prevent workers from forming independent unions and otherwise exercising their labor rights,” the summary added.

“Most human rights abuses were committed by officials at the direction of the government,” it stated. “Impunity for the perpetrators remained widespread.”

The remainder of the report details the human rights abuses and offers praise for some of the regime’s practices, including support for homosexuals in Cuba, which the report stated should go even further.

“Mariela Castro, President Castro’s daughter, headed the national Center for Sexual Education and continued to be outspoken in promoting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons,” the report stated.

“Throughout the year the government promoted the rights of LGBT persons, including nonviolence and nondiscrimination in regional and international [forums].

“In May the government sponsored a march and an extensive program of events to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia,” it stated.

“Nonetheless, nongovernmental rights activists asserted the government had not done enough to stop harassment of LGBT persons,” the report added.