Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions
Cuba, with a population of approximately 11.2 million, is a totalitarian state led formally by President Raul Castro. In February 2008 the National Assembly unanimously elected Raul Castro to succeed his brother, Fidel Castro, as chief of state, president, and commander in chief of the Armed Forces. Fidel Castro remains officially the first secretary of the Communist Party. The government continues to deny its citizens basic human rights and commits numerous serious abuses of internationally recognized civil rights. Among these are mistreatment of detainees and prisoners; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions including denial of medical care; systematic harassment, beatings, and threats against political opponents by government-recruited mobs, police, and state security officials; arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights and worker rights advocates, independent trade unionists, and members of independent professional organizations; denial of fair trial; and interference with privacy, including pervasive monitoring of private communications. There are also severe limitations on freedom of speech and press; denial of peaceful assembly and association; restrictions on freedom of movement, including selective denial of exit permits to citizens and the forcible removal of persons from Havana to their hometowns; restrictions on the free exercise of religion; restrictions on the rights of workers to associate freely; and refusal to recognize domestic human rights groups or permit them to function legally.
Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
U.S. priorities are to channel support through on-island programs, as requested by the country's citizens, and to build an independent civil society and a free media. Secondly, the U.S. Government supports the free flow of information to, from, and within the country, particularly through the use of cutting-edge technology. Finally, the U.S. Government seeks to offer youth educational opportunities that foster a free exchange of ideas.
Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
To increase the free flow of information, the U.S. Government uses substantial public diplomacy and targeted assistance to independent journalists and libraries. The United States also operates the largest free and uncensored Internet facilities in the country.
To support independent civil society, U.S. officials invite prodemocracy advocates to a wide variety of mission functions and programs. These include activities such as the annual Fourth of July reception, events commemorating Human Rights Day and African-American History Month, and training programs conducted by digital video conference. The United States also supports efforts to assist civil society groups, including faith-based organizations, to hold courses in computer skills, English language learning, critical thinking, and other topics.
To raise international awareness about the treatment of political dissidents and other victims of the government, U.S. officials meet regularly with representatives of various groups suffering human rights abuses, documenting incidents for later publication.
In keeping with U.S. policy goals in the region, long-standing initiatives focused on youth have been expanded to include Cuba.