May 2023 | Report reveals dire prison conditions amid violent protest crackdown
Protests erupted in eastern Cuba on 6 May against widespread fuel and food supply shortages and deteriorating living conditions. Conflicting narratives portraying the protests as both isolated incidents and significant uprisings emerged on social media, with videos that show dozens of demonstrators marching through the streets. The government’s repressive response has been criticized, with violent police crackdown resulting in injuries and arrests, accompanied by internet shutdowns to suppress freedom of expression and dissent. Economic hardship has sparked increased protests since July 2021, and many have been met with repression. A recent investigation by NGO Prisoners Defenders reveals widespread human rights violations in Cuban prisons, including overcrowded, unsanitary conditions, the use of solitary confinement, and denial of medical care. Political prisoners face physical and psychological torture. The UN emphasizes the urgent need for accountability and action. As of April 2023, 1,048 Cuban dissidents remain in jail.
March 2023 | Record low turnout as Cuba holds parliamentary elections without opposition
Cuba held parliamentary elections on 26 March to select 470 deputies of the National Assembly, with no participation of international observers. The electoral process has been condemned by Cubans, and internationally denounced as ‘undemocratic’. Official participation figures have raised doubts, and human rights groups have highlighted acts of repression with coercion tactics and repression against activists in the context of the election. All opposition was barred from access to power, with only 470 candidates contending for the same number of seats, of which 55.3 per cent will be held by women. In view of the severe political restrictions, opposition groups called on Cubans to abstain from voting, claiming elections in the country’s unchallenged one-party system are fraudulent, with no formal or international oversight.
Official government reports claim voter turnout was 75.92 per cent, marking an increase from the 68.5 per cent participation registered in municipal elections last November. This was, however, a poor turnout by Cuban standards and the lowest seen for legislative elections since the 1959 Revolution. The trend of growing abstention over the last decade indicates an erosion of confidence in Cuba’s communist regime with increasing public discontent amid socio-economic hardships.
December 2022 | Cuba’s new criminal code sparks major concerns
A new Penal Code that activists and human rights organizations warn could further limit fundamental rights, entered into force in Cuba. The new criminal code replaces legislation dating back to 1987 and could be used by Cuban authorities to reprimand dissent more easily. It includes a provision that allows anyone who “endangers the constitutional order and normal functioning” of the government to be punished with prison sentences. It also prohibits the receipt and use of funds made to finance activities “against the Cuban state and its constitutional order,” which human rights groups say could be used against independent journalists and NGOs
November 2022 | Cuba holds local elections with lowest turnout in 40 years
On 27 November Cubans went to the polls to elect over 11,500 delegates to municipal assemblies. The elections took place at a critical moment for the country, which is facing a grave economic crisis and increasingly deteriorating living conditions. According to government figures, Cuba saw the highest abstention rate (31.5 per cent) in local elections since at least 1976. The sharp drop in voter turnout, in elections that are not competitive, with only one party on the ballot, followed calls from Cuba’s opposition to refrain from voting in protest of the administration of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel.