Washington. Sept 16. 2018. On August 16, Cuba categorically denied the existence of racial discrimination in Cuba to the group of independent experts of the United Nations (UN) that form the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) during the review of Cuba under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The purpose of the review is for Cuba to present information on how it has implemented action plans to combat racial discrimination.
Rodolfo Reyes Rodríguez represented Cuba at the review and stressed during his presentation on behalf of the Cuban state that Cuba does not have a structural or institutional racism problem. He also emphasized that in Cuba, racial and ethnic minorities do not experience any difference in treatment legally, politically, or socially and that the concepts of “Afro-Cuban” or “Afro-descendant” do not exist in Cuba because this population is not regarded as any different from the rest of the population. He stated that according to the results of the 2012 population census, 9.3% of the population identified as Afro-descendant because of the mixed heritage of the population. He explained that all citizens self-identify themselves as white, mixed or black just based on the color of their skin, but all are considered Cuban citizens with the same inherent rights and responsibilities. (You can read the full presentation of the Cuban representative here)
In response to the information presented, the CERD Committee issued its report of recommendations on August 31. In the report, the Committee finds that, contrary to the information presented by the Cuban state, the Afro-descendant population in Cuba continues to suffer from racism and structural discrimination as a result of the historical legacy of slavery. The report also concludes that this discrimination is demonstrated by and results in this population being unable to exercise economic, social, and cultural rights to the same extent as other Cubans. According to the report, the Committee is concerned about the challenges the Afro-descendant population faces in accessing the labor market; the low levels of Afro-descendants in decision-making positions, both in the public and private sector; and the disproportionate levels of poverty affecting this population.
In its list of recommendations, the CERD Committee also expresses great concern that the methodology used in the census does not result in objective information that accurately presents the racial composition of the country. In this regard, the Committee calls on the Cuban State to review its methodology for collecting demographic data in the census in order to design questions and strategies with the input of the Afro-descendant population that will result in their self-identification and generate more accurate results.
The CERD Committee report calls on the Cuban State to include a clear and explicit definition of racial discrimination in its Constitution, which is currently being updated.
The Committee also recommends that the State include a gender focus in its policies and strategies to combat racial discrimination in order to address the many forms of discrimination affect women, particularly Afro-descendant women, who face greater obstacles in accessing the labor market. The Committee also stressed the need to create as opportunities for women to participate in politics and to hold decision-making roles.
The CERD Committee condemned allegations of harassment, intimidation, and hostility against those who defend the rights of Afro-descendants.
Specifically, the CERD Committee’s Rapporteur for Cuba, Silvio Albuquerque, mentioned violations of the right to freedom of movement. Juan Antonio Madrazo, Coordinator of the Citizen’s Committee for Racial Integration (Comité Ciudadano por la Integración Racial), was prevented from leaving Cuba to participate in the review, and Roberto Mesa, Coordinator of the Black Brotherhood (Cofradia de la Negritud) was arbitrarily detained a few days before he was scheduled to travel. The representative for Cuban denied any acts of repression taking place against human rights defenders, instead asserting that these individuals pass themselves as human rights defenders but are mercenaries of the United States, paid to make false allegations of human rights violations. In its report, the CERD Committee laments the Cuban government’s denial of these violations and their failure to take measures necessary to investigate them and prevent them from occurring.
Race and Equality observes the statements presented by the Cuban government to the UN CERD Committee with great concern. The lack of specific and conclusive information provided by the government as well as its flat denial of the discrimination and human rights violations suffered by Afro-Cubans is further evidence that discrimination and structural racism are alive and well in the country.
Race and Equality thanks the CERD Committee for the recommendations offered to the Cuban government, which are to be implemented into the laws and policies of the country in order to effectively guarantee the protection of the human rights of all Afro-descendants in Cuba.