Friday, November 4, 2011

Property and human rights in Cuba

Without human rights the "right" to buy and sell property is a right to expropriate the poor.

Newsrooms around the world are reporting with great excitement that Cubans will be able for the first time in half a century to buy and sell property. It is being hailed as an expansion of economic freedom. The reality is much more somber. Human rights are non-existent in Cuba. There is a powerful elite known as the nomenklatura that has the power, in practice, to do whatever it wants regardless of the "law." Property rights are human rights. Human rights are non-existent in Cuba. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, according to the dictatorship, is a subversive document to be cited in court proceedings after being confiscated from the home of a dissident not something to to be taught in schools.

Human rights and the rule of law exist in order to protect those without power from the abuse of the powerful. Even in the United States this concept has been eroded with the 2005 Supreme Court decision Kelo vs. City of London which ratified the right of using government power to condemn private homes to benefit a property developer. However, in a communist state where the rule of law and human rights are not existent such as China for example Beijing has been described by Richard A. Epstein of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University as "Kelo-on-steroids: neighborhoods are ripped down as skyscrapers go up."

"Enough of Evictions"

In reality, property can be taken from one owner and given to another with greater political influence. What has until now been a de facto practice for decades will be given a legal veneer in order to give the rich, powerful and politically connected [i.e. the nomenklatura] in Cuba the right to plunder the island. Variations of this took place in Russia and China. A practice that has already been going on for years in Cuba. Now the Cuban communists will become the oligarchs of a post-Castro Cuba.

Guillermo Fariñas arrested and beaten up for visiting hunger striker in hospital

Meanwhile, the level of violence against human rights defenders is increasing. EFE and AFP newswires reported that Guillermo Fariñas was arrested on Wednesday, November 2, 2011 while visiting hunger striker Alcides Rivera Rodríguez at the hospital. Guillermo's mother Alicia Hernandez told AFP that
"According to what I was told by someone who was with him, he was on his way in and (state agents) told him no, and there was some kind of melee and they arrested him. One of the agents held him, kept him in place, while another beat him. They have him in the police unit. They had never before physically abused him."
Jorge Luis Perez "Antunez" and Yris Pérez Aguilera
arrested and beaten for visiting hospitalized hunger striker

Three days earlier on October 31, 2011 around 4:00pm, activists Jorge Luis Perez "Antunez", Yris Pérez Aguilera [Antunez's wife], in the Arnaldo Milian Castro Hospital visiting Rivera Rodriguez, were beaten and arrested by State Security agents.

Also violently arrested before hand at around 3:15pm were activists Damaris Moya Portieles, Idania Yánez Contreras, Julio Columbié Batista and Yanisbel Valido among others totaling 20, who were gathered in the hospital lobby. Damaris Moya Portieles described what happened:
We were taken out of the hospital, dragged and beaten up to the cars of the Special Brigades, the patrol cars that state security had and well, the police. [...] From there we were taken to police instruction better known as "UPOC" and when we got there dragged out of the cars, and beaten up. I was already inside the unit and standing in front of the occupation room when my sister Idania Yanez Contreras arrived with three female guards from the Guamajal prison. They arrived hitting her with a closed fist to the abdomen, to the head, everywhere. There, I run to where the sister Idania Yanez Contreras is and try to take them off her although it is one of these women on top, she physically hold her hands completely peacefully saying please do not hit me any more. One of these women takes me by the hand and leads me to the front of the occupations room pushing me where the other two brought Idania by the hair and beat her and punched her.

Then I free myself from this woman that was holding me and I go to where my sisters Idania Yanes Contreras and Yanisbel Valido Pérez where. They were almost strangling Yanisbel because the color of her face was red, red, red and they were punching Idania a lot. Then a guard from Guamajal grabbed me who is a really tall and bulky woman who collides with me and my head falls on top of a fence. I'm hit on the head and there I have a very big bump, really huge. From there my hands and feet start to feel numb. It felt like my feet were inflamed ,they swelled up and they leave me lying on the floor and attack Idania with hits and punches she's dragged inward to the cell.
Idania Yánez Contreras badly beaten in the past and again this past week

Unfortunately, there is much more about this brutal episode and it is available in Spanish. Its disappointing that these three women and the other 17 activists, not being high profile international figures, suffer these brutal assaults and arrests that go unreported in the news wires. As in the case of Guillermo Fariñas they have suffered brutal beatings and arrest because they demonstrated their solidarity with a man who has spent a month on hunger strike demanding an end to the violence against nonviolent activists. The regime's response is to attack his visitors.

Both Idania Yánez Contreras and Yris Pérez Aguilera have been so badly beaten in the past that the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights had issued precautionary measures concerned about both women's physical integrity in 2011. Changes are taking place in Cuba but it is going from bad to worse. Without the rule of law, respect for human rights and escalating violence against nonviolent activists things are bound to get a lot worse.

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