The Castro regime: Repression of the rights to life and liberty
by Jonathan Abbamonte
Freedom is never free. The passing of Fidel Castro is a keen reminder that many liberties so often taken for granted in the West, even as they are rapidly diminishing in the face of radical secularism, are still not a given for many.
For over 55 years, the Castro regime perpetrated numerous human rights abuses. Basic civil liberties and freedom of the press were non-existent. Political opponents were detained, tortured or killed without cause. Liberalization of the nation’s abortion law quickly led the modestly sized island nation to become a country with one of the highest abortion rates in the world.
In the days following the revolution, Castro’s opponents were systematically rounded-up, put on trial in kangaroo courts and lined-up before firing squads. Castro’s own Agrarian Reform Chief promised that the regime “will erect the most formidable execution wall in the history of humanity.” Private property was nationalized and seized from both corporations and private individuals. Many Cubans lost everything.
Over the intervening decades, millions have fled the island, some so desperate as to venture out on the open ocean in tiny boats in the hopes of reaching the Florida Keys or to make a long roundabout trek through Central America. “I have more here [in the U.S.] in eight days than I ever had in my 42 years in Cuba,” one recently arrived refugee told the New York Times.
Anyone who dared to speak out against the injustices of the regime was arrested and handed-down sentences of ten or twenty years for “crimes” such as “dangerousness” or “pre-criminal activity.” Political prisoners were left to languish in squalid conditions in tiny, vermin-infested jail cells with almost no ventilation under the oppressively hot and humid Havana sun. Prisoners of conscience were either crammed into overcrowded jails or restricted to solitary confinement for years on end. Prison conditions in Cuba are so uninhabitable that from 2010-2011 alone, 202 prisoners died in confinement, according to statistics reported by the Cuban Government, a number that the U.N. Committee against Torture has characterized as “high.”
The Castro regime sought to maintain control over even the most minute and private details of people’s lives. The regime set-up an organization called the Comités de Defensa de la Revolución (Committees in Defense of the Revolution, or CDR) that was responsible for monitoring people’s personal lives and reporting them to the police for any signs of “counter-revolutionary” activity. Every block of every city across the country was assigned to a CDR. The CRDs became a crucial state mechanism for rooting out dissidents. Anyone perceived as against the regime or its Marxist ideals were arrested or subjected to picketing and harassment from citizen brigades mobilized by the police. Other times, however, the regime would resort to quicker and easier options, commissioning extrajudicial killings to permanently silence their critics.
Emigration, high abortion rates, and low fertility rates have suppressed Cuba’s population growth to a crawl and have suppressed the fertility rate to levels more akin to the West than to other countries with similar levels of economic development.
Like every Communist regime, Castro allowed unfettered access to abortion on-demand. Abortion quickly became a primary method of birth control and the abortion rate skyrocketed. The island nation of only 11 million people soon surpassed not only the United States in the number of abortions per woman of reproductive age, but even Communist China where forced abortions were widely performed under the one-child policy.
In 2013, over 84,000 abortions were performed on the island, according to the Cuban Government, which comes out to about one abortion for every 39 women of reproductive age in that one year alone. The number of abortions performed in Cuba in 2013 was nearly the same number of abortions performed Spain in 2004, a country, which at that time, had a population nearly four times that of Cuba.
But even these staggering numbers fall far short of illustrating the true scale of unborn life lost under the regime. The Cuban Government doesn’t report abortions performed during the five weeks of gestation, very likely the most common time during which women have abortions performed. Abortions carried out during the first five weeks gestation do not require confirmation of the pregnancy or parental consent and are hidden under the euphemistic guise of “menstrual regulation,” which is simply another name for an early abortion via vacuum aspiration. At clinics across Cuba it is in not uncommon for women to wait in long lines for an abortion, lines that are sometimes so long that they wrap around the building.
Abortion in Cuba is available on-demand for any reason up to 10 weeks gestation and up to 12 weeks with confirmation of pregnancy. Minors require parental consent for abortion, but only after 5 weeks gestation. In the U.S., Most states allow abortion virtually on-demand up to 24 weeks gestation and for reasons of “health” thereafter.
In an effort to prop-up the image of Cuba’s utopian health care system (where aspirin is hard to come by and where patients receive better care if they bring soap with them for doctors to wash their hands with) the Castro regime made lowering the infant mortality rate a priority. Doctors were under such great pressure to reduce the infant mortality rate that women were often pressured to abort any child that they feared could drive up the mortality statistics. Premature infants were often not given medical attention and left to die so they would not have to be reported. Infant mortality in Cuba was so low largely because at-risk infants were often either aborted prior to birth or neglected after birth.
For late-term abortions, the Rivanol method was often employed because it was considered safer for the mother than surgical abortion, an important consideration for doctors under pressure from the government to lower the maternal mortality rate. While the Rivanol method is highly effective in inducing labor, infants are sometimes born alive.
Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet, a Cuban physician who had practiced medicine on the main island for years, became disturbed when he learned of the abortion methods used by some health care workers. To see for himself the extent to which the brutal Rivanol method was being employed, Dr. Biscet carried out an undercover investigation and discovered that in several places, infants born alive from the procedure were suffocated in paper bags or left to bleed to death from their severed umbilical cords. Dr. Biscet found that the Rivanol method was being used particularly on girls as young as 12 years old who became pregnant while fulfilling their cultural education requirement to work in their countryside far from their parents for months at a time.
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