• Since 2011, the Cuban government has relied less on long-term prison sentences to punish dissent and has relaxed draconian travel restrictions that divided families and prevented its critics from leaving and returning to the island. Nevertheless, the Cuban government continues to repress individuals and groups who criticize the government or call for basic human rights. Officials employ a range of tactics to punish dissent and instill fear in the public, including beatings, public acts of shaming, termination of employment, and threats of long-term imprisonment. 

  • Raúl Castro speaks at a rally in Camagüey, Cuba, in July 2007, a year after being handed power by his ailing brother, Fidel Castro (depicted in the bas-relief in the foreground).

    In 2010 and 2011, Cuba’s government released dozens of political prisoners on condition they accept exile in exchange for freedom. Since then, it has relied less on long-term prison sentences to punish dissent and has relaxed draconian travel restrictions that divided families and prevented its critics from leaving and returning to the island. 



  • Dec 18, 2014
    President Barack Obama’s historic decision to overhaul US policy toward Cuba is a crucial step toward removing a major obstacle to progress on human rights on the island.
  • Apr 18, 2013
    Cuba remains the only country in Latin America that represses virtually all forms of political dissent. In 2012 the government of Raúl Castro continued to enforce political conformity using short-term detentions, beatings, public acts of repudiation, travel restrictions, and forced exile. During its first UPR review, Cuba rejected all recommendations addressing the arbitrary detentions of political prisoners, the lack of protection of human rights defenders, and restrictions on freedom of expression. Since then, Human Rights Watch has continued documenting cases of serious abuses of these rights.
  • Jul 23, 2012

    Human Rights Watch issued the following statement on the death on July 22, 2012 of the Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá, founder of the Varela Project, which challenged the government to undertake democratic reforms.

  • Mar 23, 2012
    The Cuban government should immediately halt repression aimed at silencing dissent before and during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Cuba.
  • Jan 20, 2012
    The death of the 31-year-old dissident Wilman Villar Mendoza on January 19, 2012 following a 50-day hunger strike highlights the ongoing repression in Cuba. The Cuban government should immediately put an end to the threats against his wife, Maritza Pelegrino Cabrales, and the group Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), which supports her, and drop any measures that would prevent her and dissidents from attending Villar Mendoza’s funeral.
  • Dec 15, 2011
    The US Congress should not approve rules to restrict the right of Cuban Americans to visit relatives on the island.
  • Jun 22, 2011
    Human Rights Watch would like to reiterate its support for OFAC travel regulations that allow for “purposeful travel” to Cuba by academic, religious, and cultural groups, as well as for regulations that allow Cuban Americans to travel freely to Cuba and send remittances to their families on the island.
  • Jun 1, 2011
    The conviction of six dissidents in summary trials for doing no more than exercising their fundamental rights highlights the continuing abuse of the criminal justice system to repress dissent in Cuba. Raúl Castro's government should immediately release the prisoners, who were given sentences ranging from two to five years in prison, and cease all politically motivated repression against Cubans who exercise their fundamental freedoms.
  • Feb 23, 2011
    The Cuban government should immediately and unconditionally release the human rights defenders, journalists, and other dissidents who have been arbitrarily detained in the last two days, including those under house arrest.
  • Jan 19, 2011
    Human Rights Watch supports the new rules announced by US President Barack Obama on January 14, 2011, which will allow religious, educational, and other civil society groups from the United States to travel to Cuba. The new regulations will also permit Americans to send remittances to assist Cuban citizens. The reforms represent a step towards dismantling the US embargo policy, which for decades has failed to improve human rights in Cuba and caused considerable harm for the Cuban people.

    Human Rights Watch calls on the US Congress to build on the executive orders by ending the ban on travel to Cuba for all Americans, and pursue more effective, multilateral policies to press the Castro government to halt its repressive practices.