While the Cuban government lobby and its friends continue to distribute a Potemkin narrative of Cuba, the facts on the ground remain.

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor of the U.S. State Department just released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016. The Cuba section says that"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 constitution recognizes the CP as the only legal party and the leading force of society and of the state. The government conducted the April 2015 municipal elections with relative administrative efficiency, but they were neither free nor fair." [More]

The Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation released a report on April 3, 2017 documenting the continuing deplorable situation of human rights in Cuba during March. According to the Commission over the course of the month there were 432 arbitrary detentions, 11 cases of physical assaults, 8 of harassment and at least one act of vandalism all carried out by the secret political police and parapolice elements.   The statistics do not indicate any significant change in the situation. For example during the month of February there were482 arbitrary detentions, 16 cases of physical assaults, 18 of harassment. You may read herethe full Commission Report in Spanishdetailing what happened to many Cubans during the period in question.  [More]

Finally, The Heritage Foundation released its 2017 Index of Economic Freedom that ranks the economic freedom of 186 countries. The section on Cuba reports that "State control of Cuba’s economy is both pervasive and inefficient, hampering any meaningful development of a job-creating private sector. As the largest source of employment, the bloated government sector soaks up much of the labor force. After decades without effective economic reform, the government has eased the rules on private employment in an effort to reshape the economy and improve efficiency. Cuba’s potential entrepreneurs have long been shackled by tight government control and institutional shortcomings. No courts are free of political interference, and private property is strictly regulated. Excessive bureaucracy and lack of regulatory transparency continue to limit trade and investment." [More]

A comparative view helps appraise the situation. 

Mostly Free
10 Chile  

Moderately Free
41 Jamaica
63 Costa Rica

Mostly Unfree
140 Brazil
156 Argentina

178 Cuba
179 Venezuela
180 North Korea

As we completed this CubaBrief we learned that the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation held a briefing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building this afternoon. The keynote speaker was Rosa Maria Payá. Also speaking were Congressman Dennis Ross (R- FL), Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). Senator Cruz has introduced a bill renaming the street where the Cuban Embassy is located in Washington [Oswaldo Payá Way]. Senator Marco Rubio discussed Cuba in the context of numerous foreign policycrises confronted by the United States today including the gassing of Syrian children by dictator Bashar Hafez al-Assad. Senator Rubio mentioned that many years ago during the Reagan Administration the street where the Russian Embassy was located was named Andrei Sakharov Plaza.