About 100 supporters of Cuba’s government aggressively heckled dissidents from the communist-run island attending a civil society forum Wednesday at the start of the Summit of the Americas in Panama, AP reports.
A group of Cuban dissidents, including Leticia Herrería, of the Ladies in White (left) and Orlando Gutiérrez, with the Cuban Democracy and Resistance Directorate, were reportedly assaulted Wednesday as they tried to lay flowers at the bust of Cuban independence hero José Martí close to the Cuban embassy, The Miami Herald adds.
Fifty-eight percent of Cubans give negative ratings to the ruling Communist Party, and 53 percent say they are dissatisfied with their political system, with half of this group saying it does not offer enough freedoms, according to a new survey of Cuban citizens, The Washington Post reports:
But they are doubtful that the diplomatic detente [with the U.S.] will bring political reforms to their communist country….The poll of residents on the island shows a people unhappy with the political system, eager to end the U.S. embargo and disenchanted with their state-run economy. More than half of Cubans say they would like to leave the country for good if they had the chance.
“Inevitably, the economic changes will open up political debate and I think there will be political relaxation and opening,” said Geoff Thale, program director at the Washington Office on Latin America. But he added, “No one expects a multi-party electoral system in the next three years.”
With Cuba’s restricted news media and limited Internet and phone access, getting an accurate sense of public opinion in the country can be difficult, The Post adds:
Public surveys are very rare; opinion research is strictly controlled by the Cuban government. … On the island, Cubans have an aversion to discussing politics: three-quarters of those surveyed in the Univision poll say they feel they need to be careful about expressing themselves. While some believe the Cuban government privately conducts focus groups and surveys, there are not regular public polls.
Cubans report broad problems with the economic and political systems. Nearly 8 in 10 are dissatisfied with the economic system, with one-third receiving money sent from family or friends abroad. … While over 6 in 10 expect renewed U.S. relations to change the economic system, more than half expect the political system to remain the same.
“Cuba is a closed and closely monitored society,” said Tom Garrett, vice president of the International Republican Institute, an arm of the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy —that has conducted its own polls in Cuba. “It’s one of the toughest places we’ve worked.”
“The Cuban government routinely and arbitrarily detains and harasses citizens who speak out for human rights or who seek to organize political activities or protests,” says Brookings analyst Ted Piccone. “In addition to the growing number of short-term detentions of human rights activists, journalists and artists, Cuban authorities and party watchdogs engage in beatings, public acts of ‘repudiation,’ termination of employment and benefits, and forced exile,” he tells World Politics Review.
“While outspoken dissidents, particularly those who receive support from the U.S., are regularly repressed, there are a range of civil society actors, artists and bloggers who organize, question and criticize the Cuban government through magazines, town halls and online debates,” he adds.