Cuba

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Persistent violations
  • Sexual exploitation of children[1]
  • Detention of minors with adults. Children above the age of 16 who have been sentenced are held in juvenile detention centres together with adults up to 27 years old[2]
Footnotes
  1. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Universal Periodic Review
  2. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences



Introduction

Cuba is the largest island State in the Caribbean in terms of area and population. A one-party socialist State since 1959, the country remained under the leadership of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro for nearly 50 years before his younger brother Raul took over as Head of State in 2008. The State has been widely criticised for the repression of its people’s civil and political rights and for its intolerance of opponents of the regime, human rights activists and journalists.


Geography

The Republic of Cuba is an archipelago in the Caribbean Sea. Its territory comprises the main island – Isla de la Juventud (Youth Island), a series of keys, islets and small islands surrounding the main islands. The country's neighbours are the United States and the Bahamas to the north, Mexico to the west, the Cayman Islands and Jamaica to the south, and Haiti and the Dominican Republic to the southeast. The country's capital and main city is Havana.

The United States continues to lease naval base Guantanamo Bay in the east of the island under a 1903 treaty which is disputed by Cuba.

Population and Language

Cuba has a population of approximately 11,205,000 inhabitants,[1] of whom 2,441,000 are under 18[2].

Sixty per cent of the population is Afro-Cuban, 39 per cent Caucasian and one per cent Chinese-Cuban.

Spanish is the country's official language.

History and Politics

Cuba became a one-party socialist State in 1959 following the Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro. The United States has maintained a commercial, economic, and financial embargo on Cuba since 1960 in response to the nationalisation of US citizens' properties and corporations.

In 2008 Fidel Castro stepped down as president in February 2008 after nearly 50 years at the helm of the Communist Party, as a result of ailing health, and handed power to his younger brother, Raúl. Raúl Castro is Head of State and President of the Council of Ministers, which is the highest executive and administrative branch of Cuba.

Economy

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union was Cuba's main political and economic ally. Cuba exchanged sugar for fuel from the Soviet Union. However, the fall of the Soviet Union, coupled with more than 40 years of economic and political sanctions established by the United States, has taken its toll on the Cuban economy and led to rationing of food and energy supplies.

Cuba's economy has for many years relied heavily on sugar cane exports. However, a combination of under-investment, natural disasters and falling sugar prices on the international commodities market have contributed to a sharp decline in the country's sugar production. In 2002, more than half of Cuba's sugar mills were shut.

Other exports include nickel, tobacco, fish, medical products, citrus, and coffee. Tourism is now the main industry. Remittances from Cubans in the US are also important for the economy.

Cuba's main trading partners are now China and Venezuela. Venezuela gives Cuba oil in exchange for medical professionals being sent to work in Venezuela.

Since 2008, Raul Castro has moved to reduce the State's role in the economy and encourage private enterprise in response to the growing economic crisis – for example, in September 2010, the government announced that one million public sector jobs would be cut in the following six months[3]. Reforms have included allowing Cubans to buy, sell and inherit property and indications that the government will grant licences to 250,000 workers to set up businesses.

There are also plans to gradually dismantle subsidies which have kept prices of basic amenities and foodstuffs low.

Media and Civil Society

Since the beginning of the century, opposition to the Cuban government within the island has been growing, particularly among journalists and human rights defenders, who lobby heavily against restrictions on freedom of the press and expression. According to the World Index of Press Freedom 2010 of the organisation Reporters Without Borders, Cuba is ranked 166 out of 179 countries. However, the press freedom NGO reports that in 2008 Cuba had the second highest number of journalists in prison after China, but that in April 2011, the last dissident journalist was released, although brief arrests of dissidents are still commonplace.[4]

Human Rights and Children's Rights

Cuba has been widely criticised for the repression of its people's civil and political rights in particular. Opponents of the regime, as well as human rights activists and journalists, have been subjected to torture, arbitrary imprisonment, unfair trials, and extrajudicial executions (known as "El Paredón").

Cuban citizens must request permission to leave or enter the country.

Footnotes:

  1. UNDP,Cuba country profile
  2. UNICEF: Statistics, 2009
  3. BBC, "Cuba to cut one million public sector jobs", 14 September 2010
  4. Reporters Without Borders, "No more journalists left in Cuban prisons after dissidents flown to Spain", 8 April 2011

Sources:


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