Cuban dissident movement

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Cuban dissident movement is a political movement in Cuba whose aim is to replace the current government with a liberal democracy.[1] According to Human Rights Watch, the Marxist-Leninist Cuban government represses nearly all forms of political dissent.[2]

Some dissident groups in the Cuban diaspora received both funding and assistance from the U.S. Intelligence Community during the Cold War, which has caused the Communist Party of Cuba to allege that all dissidents are part of a United States strategy to covertly destabilize the Party's control over the country.[3]


1959 Cuban Revolution[edit]

Fidel Castro came to power with the Cuban Revolution of 1959. By the end of 1960, according to Paul H. Lewis in Authoritarian Regimes in Latin America, all opposition newspapers had been closed down and all radio and television stations were under state control.[4]

Homosexuals as well as other "deviant" groups who were excluded from military conscription, were forced to conduct their compulsory military service in work camps called "Military Units to Aid Production" in the 1960s, and were subjected to political "reeducation".[5][6][7] Some of Castro's military commanders brutalized the inmates.[8]

In nearly all areas of government, loyalty to the regime became the primary criterion for all appointments.[9]

Government authority[edit]

  • The media is operated under the Cuban Communist Party’s Department of Revolutionary Orientation, which "develops and coordinates propaganda strategies".[10]
  • A Human Rights Watch 1999 report on Cuba notes that Cuba has penalties for anyone who "threatens, libels or slanders, defames, affronts (injuria) or in any other way insults (ultraje) or offends, with the spoken word or in writing, the dignity or decorum of an authority, public functionary, or his agents or auxiliaries". There are even harsher penalties for those who show contempt for the President of the Council of the State, the President of the National Assembly of Popular Power, the members of the Council of the State or the Council of Ministers, or the Deputies of the National Assembly of the Popular Power.[11]
  • There is a three-month to one-year sentence for anyone who "publicly defames, denigrates, or scorns the Republic's institutions, the political, mass, or social organizations of the country, or the heroes or martyrs of the nation".[11]
  • Cubans are not allowed to produce, distribute or store publications without informing the authorities.[11]
  • Social dangerousness, defined as violations of socialist morality, can warrant "pre-criminal measures" and "therapeutic measures".[12]
  • Regarding institutions, the Human Rights Watch report notes that the Interior Ministry has principal responsibility for monitoring the Cuban population for signs of dissent.[13]
  • In 1991, two new mechanisms for internal surveillance and control emerged. Communist Party leaders organized the Singular Systems of Vigilance and Protection (Sistema Unico de Vigilancia y Protección, SUVP). Rapid Action Brigades (Brigadas de Acción Rapida, also referred to as Rapid Response Brigades, or Brigadas de Respuesta Rápida) observe and control dissidents.[13] The regime also "maintains academic and labor files (expedientes escolares y laborales) for each citizen, in which officials record actions or statements that may bear on the person's loyalty to the regime. Before advancing to a new school or position, the individual's record must first be deemed acceptable".[13]

Situation today[edit]

In 2017, Cuba was described as one of only two "authoritarian regimes" in the Americas by The Economist's 2017 Democracy Index.[14] The island had the second highest number of imprisoned journalists in the world in 2008, second only to the People's Republic of China, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an international press organization.[15] The military of Cuba is a central organization; it controls 60 percent of the economy and is Raúl Castro's base.[16]

According to a paper published in the Harvard International Review, dissident groups are weak and infiltrated by Cuban state security. Media is totally state-controlled. Dissidents find it difficult to organize and "Many of their leaders have shown enormous courage in defying the regime. Yet, time and again, the security apparatus has discredited or destroyed them. They do not represent a major threat to the regime."[17]

Jorge Luis García Pérez assailed the Cuban thaw as a capitulation to the Castro's regime

The paper Can Cuba Change? in the National Endowment for Democracy's Journal of Democracy states that about nine-tenths of the populace forms an economically and politically oppressed underclass and "Using the principles of democracy and human rights to unite and mobilize this vast, dispossessed majority in the face of a highly repressive regime is the key to peaceful change".[16] Working people are a critical source of discontent.[16] The only legal trade union is controlled by the government and strikes are banned.[16] Afro-Cuban dissidents have also risen, fueled by racism in Cuba.[16]

In 2012, Amnesty International warned that repression of Cuban dissidents was on the rise over the past two years, citing the Wilmar Villar hunger strike death, as well as the arrests of prisoners of conscience Yasmin Conyedo Riveron, Yusmani Rafael Alvarez Esmori, and Antonio Michel and Marcos Máiquel Lima Cruz.[18] The Cuban Commission of Human Rights reported that there were 6,602 detentions of government opponents in 2012, up from 4,123 in 2011.[19]

Dissident groups[edit]

There are a number of opposition parties and groups that campaign for political change in Cuba. Though amendments to the Cuban Constitution of 1992 decriminalized the right to form political parties other than the Communist Party of Cuba, these parties are not permitted to engage in public political activities on the island.[citation needed]


Black Spring[edit]

During the "Black Spring" in 2003, the regime imprisoned 75 dissidents, including 29 journalists.[29][30][31][32] Their cases were reviewed by Amnesty International who officially adopted them as prisoners of conscience.[33] To the original list of 75 prisoners of conscience resulting from the wave of arrests in spring 2003, Amnesty International added four more dissidents in January 2004. They had been arrested in the same context as the other 75 but did not receive their sentences until much later.[34] These prisoners have since been released in the face of international pressure. Tripartite talks between the Cuban government, the Catholic Church in Cuba and the Spanish government were initiated in spring 2010 in reaction to the controversial death of political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo in February 2010 following a hunger strike amid reports of massive abuse at the hands of prison staff. These negotiations resulted in a July 2010 agreement that all remaining prisoners of the 'Group of 75' would be freed. Spain offered to receive those prisoners who would agree to be released and immediately exiled together with their families. Of the 79 prisoners of conscience 56 were still behind bars at the time of the agreement. Of the total group, 21 are still living in Cuba today whereas the others are in exile, most of them in Spain. The final two prisoners were released on 23 March 2011.[35]

Notable people[edit]

Antonio Rodiles, Jorge Luis García Pérez and Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat in 2017

Independent bloggers[edit]

The Foreign Policy magazine named Yoani Sánchez one of the 10 Most Influential Intellectuals of Latin America, the only woman on the list.[38] An article in El Nuevo Herald by Ivette Leyva Martinez,[39] speaks to the role played by Yoani Sanchez and other young people, outside the Cuban opposition and dissidence movements, in working towards a free and democratic Cuba today:

Amid the paralysis of the dissident movement, bloggers, with Yoani Sánchez in the lead, rebel artists such as the writer Orlando Luís Pardo, and musicians such as Gorki Aguila are a promising sign of growing civic resistance to the Cuban dictatorship. And "el castrismo", without doubt, has taken note. Will they succeed in sparking a popular movement, or at least consciousness of the need for democracy in Cuba? Who knows. The youngest sector of Cuban society is the one least committed to the dictatorship but at the same time the most apolitical, the one most permeated with political skepticism, escapism, and other similar "isms". It would seem, however, that after 50 years of dictatorship, public rejection of that regime is taking on more original and independent forms. Finally, a breeze of fresh, hopeful air.

On 29 March 2009, at Tania Bruguera's performance where a podium with an open mic was staged for people to have one minute of uncensored public speech, Sánchez was among people to publicly criticize censorship in Cuba and said that "the time has come to jump over the wall of control". The government condemned the event.[40][41] Sánchez was then placed under surveillance by the Cuban police.[42]

June 2010 letter to United States Congress[edit]

On Thursday, 10 June 2010, seventy-four of Cuba's dissidents signed a letter to the United States Congress in support of a bill that would lift the US travel ban for Americans wishing to visit Cuba. The signers include blogger Yoani Sanchez and hunger striker Guillermo Farinas, as well as Elizardo Sanchez, head of Cuba's most prominent human rights group and Miriam Leiva, who helped found the Damas de Blanco, or Ladies in White, a group of wives and mothers of jailed dissidents. The letter supports a bill introduced on 23 February by Rep. Collin Peterson, a Minnesota Democrat, that would bar the president from prohibiting travel to Cuba or blocking transactions required to make such trips. It also would bar the White House from stopping direct transfers between US and Cuban banks. The signers stated that:

We share the opinion that the isolation of the people of Cuba benefits the most inflexible interests of its government, while any opening serves to inform and empower the Cuban people and helps to further strengthen our civil society.[43]

The Center for Democracy in the Americas, a Washington-based group supporting the bill, issued a press release stating that "74 of Cuba's most prominent political dissidents have endorsed the Peterson-Moran legislation to end the travel ban and expand food exports to Cuba because in their words it is good for human rights, good for alleviating hunger, and good for spreading information and showing solidarity with the Cuban people. Their letter answers every argument the pro-embargo forces use to oppose this legislation. This, itself, answers the question 'who is speaking for the Cuban people in this debate?' - those who want to send food and Americans to visit the island and stand with ordinary Cubans, or those who don't. If Cuba's best known bloggers, dissidents, hunger strikers, and other activists for human rights want this legislation enacted, what else needs be said?"[44][45] The Center also hosts English[46] as well as the Spanish[47] version of the letter signed by the 74 dissidents.

Hunger strikes[edit]

Pedro Luis Boitel, a poet who died on hunger strike[48]

On 3 April 1972, Pedro Luis Boitel, an imprisoned poet and dissident, declared himself on hunger strike. After 53 days on hunger strike without receiving medical assistance and receiving only liquids, he died of starvation on 25 May 1972. His last days were related by his close friend, poet Armando Valladares. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the Cólon Cemetery in Havana.

Guillermo Fariñas did a seven-month hunger strike to protest against the extensive Internet censorship in Cuba. He ended it in autumn 2006 with severe health problems, although still conscious.[49] Reporters Without Borders awarded its cyber-freedom prize to Fariñas in 2006.[50]

Jorge Luis García Pérez (known as Antúnez) has done hunger strikes. In 2009, following the end of his 17-year imprisonment, Antúnez, his wife Iris, and Diosiris Santana Pérez started a hunger strike to support other political prisoners. Leaders from Uruguay, Costa Rica, and Argentina declared their support for Antúnez.[51][52]

Orlando Zapata Tamayo, an imprisoned activist and dissident, died while on a hunger strike for more than 80 days.[53] Zapata went on the strike in protest against the Cuban government for having denied him the choice of wearing white dissident clothes instead of the designated prisoner uniform, as well as denouncing the living conditions of other prisoners. As part of his claim, Zapata was asking for the prisoners conditions to be comparable to those that Fidel Castro had while incarcerated after his 1953 attack against the Moncada Barracks.[54]

In 2012, Wilmar Villar Mendoza died after a 50+ day hunger strike.[55]

Cuban exiles[edit]

More than one million Cubans of all social classes have left the island to the United States,[56] and to Spain, the UK, Canada, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and other countries.


Cuban dissident groups have received millions in funding from the USA government and are considered by the Cuban government to be part of the United States strategy for Cuba to destabilize the country.[3][57]

Vice Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio told Reuters in 2022:

"In any nation, [having people who act as foreign government agents] is illegal, That is precisely what the United States is trying to promote in Cuba today . [The U.S.A is] depressing the standard of living of the population and at the same time pouring millions of US taxpayer dollars into urging people to act against the [Cuban] government,"[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Utset, Xavier (16 June 2008). "The Cuban Democracy Movement: An Analytical Overview" (PDF). Florida International University. Archived (PDF) from the original on 21 January 2022. Retrieved 12 January 2023.
  2. ^ "Cuba". Human Rights Watch. 18 January 2006. Archived from the original on 14 November 2008.
  3. ^ a b c Sherwood, Dave (2 September 2022). "Cuba slams US funding to "promote democracy" as illegal". Reuters. Retrieved 30 May 2023.
  4. ^ Paul H. Lewis. Authoritarian regimes in Latin America.
  5. ^ Katherine Hirschfeld. Health, politics, and revolution in Cuba since 1898.
  6. ^ Ian Lumsden. Machos, Maricones, and Gays.
  7. ^ Dilip K. Das; Michael Palmiotto. World Police Encyclopedia. p. 217.
  8. ^ Ian Lumsden. Machos, Maricones, and Gays. p. 70.
  9. ^ Clifford L. Staten (2003). The history of Cuba. Greenwood Press. ISBN 9780313316906.
  10. ^ "10 most censored countries – The Committee to Protect Journalists". Archived from the original on 22 December 2010.
  11. ^ a b c "III. IMPEDIMENTS TO HUMAN RIGHTS IN CUBAN LAW". Human Rights Watch. 1999.
  13. ^ a b c "VIII. ROUTINE REPRESSION". Human Rights Watch. 1999.
  14. ^ "Democracy continues its disturbing retreat". The Economist. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  15. ^ "CPJ's 2008 prison census: Online and in jail". Committee to Protect Journalists. Archived from the original on 29 March 2014.
  16. ^ a b c d e Gershman, Carl; Gutierrez, Orlando (January 2009). "Ferment in civil society" (PDF). Journal of Democracy. 20 (Can Cuba change?, number 1): 36–54. doi:10.1353/jod.0.0051. S2CID 144413653. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 September 2009. Retrieved 26 August 2009.
  17. ^ "Challenges to a Post-Castro Cuba" (PDF). Harvard International Review. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 June 2010.
  18. ^ Paul Haven (21 March 2012). "Amnesty denounces detentions of Cuba opposition". The Guardian. Associated Press. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  19. ^ Jeff Franks; Jane Sutton; Paul Simao (3 January 2013). "Cuban group says political detentions rose dramatically in 2012". Reuters. Archived from the original on 26 June 2013. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
  20. ^ "Cuba Jails 3 Men as Suspects in Sabotage Plot". The New York Times. AP. 22 June 2001. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  21. ^ "Andres Nazario Sargen, 88; a Leader of Alpha 66, an Anti-Castro Group". Los Angeles Times. 9 October 2004. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  22. ^ Treaster, Joseph B. (23 July 1983). "SUSPECTED HEAD OF OMEGA 7 TERRORIST GROUP SEIZED". Miami (Fla); Cuba; New Jersey; Washington (Dc). Retrieved 9 July 2016.
  23. ^ "Cuba puts leading dissident on trial, his supporters say". Reuters. 26 February 2020. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  24. ^ "Sobre nosotros". Patriotic Union of Cuba | UNPACU. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  25. ^ "Cuba Dissidents Win Award but Not Obama Audience". Retrieved 9 July 2016.
  26. ^ "Dueling positions on Cuba on display at Obama's State of the". 21 January 2015. Retrieved 9 July 2016.
  27. ^ "Cuban police raid HQ of dissident San Isidro Movement". BBC News. 27 November 2020.
  28. ^ "Yo No Coopero Con La Dictadura website". Archived from the original on 26 October 2013.
  29. ^ Carlos Lauria; Monica Campbell; María Salazar (18 March 2008). "Cuba's Long Black Spring". The Committee To Protect Journalists. Archived from the original on 30 August 2011.
  30. ^ "Black Spring of 2003: A former Cuban prisoner speaks". The Committee to Protect Journalists. 17 March 2009. Archived from the original on 30 August 2011.
  31. ^ "Three years after "black spring" the independent press refuses to remain in the dark". The Reporters Without Borders. Archived from the original on 21 March 2009.
  32. ^ "Cuba: No surrender by independent journalists, five years on from "black spring"" (PDF). The Reporters Without Borders. March 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 July 2009.
  33. ^ "Cuba: "Essential measures"? Human rights crackdown in the name of security". Amnesty International. 3 June 2003. Retrieved 4 December 2016.
  34. ^ "Cuba: Newly Declared Prisoners of Conscience". Retrieved 4 December 2016. Amnesty International, 29 January 2004
  35. ^ "Fecha histórica: concluye liberación de prisioneros del Grupo de los 75". Archived from the original on 25 June 2011. In: Café Fuerte, 22 March 2011
  36. ^ "Castro opponent free after 17 years in jail". Reuters. 23 April 2007. Archived from the original on 15 June 2009.
  37. ^ "Castro Speech Data Base - Latin American Network Information Center, LANIC".
  38. ^ "Foreign Policy Espanol: Los 10 intelectuales mas influyentes de iberoamerica". Archived from the original on 16 July 2012. Retrieved 21 February 2009.
  39. ^ "El Nuevo Herald: The wall of the dissidence". Archived from the original on 28 February 2009. Retrieved 25 February 2009.
  40. ^ "Cuba accuses blogger of "provocation"". Reuters. 1 April 2009. Archived from the original on 5 April 2009.
  41. ^ "Participants in art show branded as 'dissidents'". Miami Herald. 1 April 2009.[dead link]
  42. ^ "Yoani sends a thank you note to her spies". France24. 17 February 2009. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011.
  43. ^ Cuban dissidents cheer bill to end US travel ban
  44. ^ "74 of Cuba's Leading Dissidents Urge Congress to End Travel Ban and Increase Food Sales to Cuba". Archived from the original on 12 December 2013.
  45. ^ 74 of Cuba’s Leading Dissidents Urge Congress to End Travel Ban and Increase Food Sales to Cuba Archived 13 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  46. ^ English version of the letter by Cuban dissidents (PDF)
  47. ^ Spanish version of the letter by Cuban dissidents (PDF)
  48. ^ "Foreword to 'Boitel Vive'". Archived from the original on 14 November 2013.
  49. ^ "Guillermo Fariñas ends seven-month-old hunger strike for Internet access". Reporters Without Borders. 1 September 2006. Archived from the original on 22 February 2008.
  50. ^ "Cyber-freedom prize for 2006 awarded to Guillermo Fariñas of Cuba". Reporters Without Borders. Archived from the original on 20 June 2008.
  51. ^ "Additional Latin American Leaders Join in Solidarity with Antúnez". Archived from the original on 27 October 2012.
  52. ^ "Young Uruguayans Support Antúnez, Cuban Political Prisoners". Archived from the original on 27 October 2012.
  53. ^ "BBS News: Americas". BBC News. 24 February 2010. Archived from the original on 16 August 2011. Retrieved 20 May 2010.
  54. ^ The Prison Letters of Fidel Castro, by Ann Louisse Bardach and Luis Conte Aguero
  55. ^ "Jailed Cuba dissident dies in hunger strike". Reuters. 20 January 2012. Archived from the original on 26 June 2013.
  56. ^ Pedraza, Silvia 2007 Political Disaffection in Cuba's Revolution and Exodus (Cambridge Studies in Contentious Politics)) Cambridge University Press ISBN 978-0-521-68729-4, ISBN 978-0-521-68729-4 p. 2 and many other sections of this book
  57. ^ "Biden Must Reprogram US Funds Assigned for Subversion in Cuba, Analysts Say". Resumen LatinoAmericano English. 5 March 2021. Retrieved 30 May 2023.

External links[edit]

General links[edit]

Opposition groups[edit]