The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in Cuba to promote democracy and human rights. For background on Cuba's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Reports at 2009-2017.state.gov.
Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
U.S. priorities are to promote a more inclusive and participatory society in Cuba, and to support an independent civil society, including a free media and respect for freedom of expression. The United States also supports increased communications between the United States and those residing in the country, including promoting the free flow of information to, from, and within the country.
Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
To increase the free flow of information, the U.S. Government uses substantial public diplomacy and targeted assistance to independent journalists and libraries. The United States also operates the largest free and uncensored Internet facilities in the country, and provides free software to those interested. In addition, the U.S. continues to broadcast prodemocracy programming into Cuba via Radio and TV Martí, although the Government of Cuba actively works to block these signals.
To support independent civil society, the United States supports programs that promote awareness, acceptance, and respect of human rights. In support of greater communication and exchange of ideas, the United States reaches out to the local community through activities such as the annual Fourth of July reception, events commemorating Human Rights Day and African-American History Month, and training programs conducted by digital video conference. The United States also supports efforts to assist civil society groups, including faith-based organizations, to hold courses in computer skills, English language learning, critical thinking, and other topics.
The United States also works with the international community to support the peaceful activities of human rights activists and to raise awareness about abuses of basic rights in the country. The United States, together with other members of the international community, regularly observes peaceful demonstrations by groups like the Damas de Blanco ("Ladies in White"), who advocate for the release of their relatives who are recognized internationally as political prisoners. The U.S. also meets regularly with independent organizations that monitor the conditions in Cuba's prisons, with a particular focus on the approximately 200 political prisoners.
In keeping with U.S. policy goals in the region, long-standing initiatives focused on youth have been expanded to include programs in the country. These include educational scholarships in cooperation with U.S. and third country universities, and online distance learning programs offered through the U.S. Interests Section. Cuba has resisted the implementation of these programs, however, by discouraging participation in the programs and refusing exit visas for students who intended to participate.
With bilateral diplomacy, U.S. officials raise a range of human rights concerns with the government, including persons we consider to be unjustly detained and the circumstances and conditions under which they are held. Also discussed are the restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, and refusal to issue exit visas to persons eligible for our educational exchange, refugee, or immigrant programs.