The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHRC) made an alert call on December 13 in relation to the new repressive methodologies of the Cuban government. Today, FHRC wants to draw attention to new threats to citizens’ rights now masked as prophylactic measures against the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.
We base ourselves on the following premises:
- In open societies, pandemics present a political risk to governments that are unable to manage the crisis. But in closed societies with totalitarian regimes, pandemics also present opportunities for the power elites to intensify their repressive controls, justifying them on the basis of health prophylaxis. In the case of Cuba, the pandemic can become a catalyst for rebellion ─if people think that the State is abandoning them and exposing the population to unnecessary risks─ or for renewed submission ─if they think that only under the guidance of the State they have some possibilities to survive.
- In Cuba, the State is trying to exploit the pandemic for financial and political gains. Politically speaking, it intends to strengthen social and police control over its citizens just at the time it was cracking under pressure of increased protests. In the financial field, it is intensifying its efforts to export medical services and medicines, in addition to welcoming tourists up to the last minute, even those stranded on virus-infected cruise ships that were rejected by other ports. In the domain of political propaganda, the government is in the business of relaunching its fake image as a “solidarity, humanist and disinterested” regime, through the continued exploitation of doctors exported as slave labor to other countries.
- The regime intends to establish a new repressive “normality”. Cuba’s power elite has begun to move from the Police State we are accustomed to towards a circumstance of even tighter social control and information censorship, as well as greater violations of the rights of expression and movement.
We are concerned about the application of measures such as the ones specified below:
- In a country where it is not possible to carry out independent health tests, activists are at the expense of those carried out by “health” authorities, who can easily declare them suspects of being carriers ─even asymptomatic─ of the virus, which enables them to order their mandatory house arrest and isolation from other citizens. This tactic has already been selectively used by the Cuban government against opposition activists, relying on false HIV positive tests. The security officers who have been stationed nearby the dissidents homes might henceforth cover up their repressive role as members of the national public health system. Arbitrary national or international travel regulations for dissidents and political opponents might in coming months be justified as measures of prophylaxis to prevent the spread of the virus.
- Public protests of economic and social nature such as those that have been building up throughout the country on issues of housing, self-employment and others, could now be declared a threat to public health and therefore banned, based on such “non-political” claim. The State will be the one to determine when, for what activities, and in what way the end of social distancing will be decreed in the future. The right to protest certainly will not be among its priorities.
- Ever-increasing measures of information censorship and repression of independent journalists will be justified from now on as regulations to guarantee the veracity of the news and ensure public tranquility in the face of this pandemic.
- Measures that will become unavoidable in the short term, such as the paralysis of transportation due to the increasing scarcity of Venezuelan fuel, will now be presented as planned decisions of preventive health nature, thus masquerading the regime’s geopolitical weaknesses.
- Last but not least, the health emergency may open the door to a “constitutional” transition to an open militarization of the state ─hitherto concealed under the guise of “civilian” institutions and government officials-by placing all institutions under the authority of the National Defense Council. (Title X, Chapter II, Article 28: “The National Defense Council is the highest organ of the State, whose fundamental mission is to organize, direct and prepare the country, during peacetime, for its defense, and to ensure compliance with the current regulations related to the defense and security of the nation. During exceptional situations and disasters, it directs the country and assumes the powers that correspond to the organs of the State, with the exception of the constituent power.”)
In short: under Cuba’s current circumstances, health prophylaxis can become a disguise to stealthily move towards totalitarian political prophylaxis, which will thus be sold to the Cuban people as something “normal” and necessary.
We alert democratic forces inside and outside the Island to pay close attention, denounce, and resist the new repressive trends that from now on could be camouflaged using the pandemic as a pretext.