Cuba is an authoritarian state led by Raul Castro, who is president of the Council of State and Council of Ministers, Communist Party (CP) first secretary, and commander in chief of security forces. The constitution recognizes the CP as the only legal party and the leading force of society and of the state. A CP candidacy commission preapproved all candidates for the April municipal elections. The government ran these elections with relative administrative efficiency, but they were neither free nor fair; the government treated non-CP candidates differently. The national leadership, including members of the military, maintained effective control over the security forces.
In January the government released 53 political prisoners after official announcements that the United States and Cuba would re-establish diplomatic relations. Six of these prisoners were rearrested for various activities during the course of the year and were given longer-term prison sentences.
The principal human rights abuses included the abridgement of the ability of citizens to choose their government; the use of government threats, physical assault, intimidation, and violent government-organized counterprotests against peaceful dissent; and harassment and detentions to prevent free expression and peaceful assembly.
The following additional abuses continued: harsh prison conditions; arbitrary, short-term, politically motivated detentions and arrests; selective prosecution; denial of fair trial; and travel restrictions. Authorities interfered with privacy by engaging in pervasive monitoring of private communications. The government did not respect freedom of speech and press, restricted internet access, maintained a monopoly on media outlets, circumscribed academic freedom, and maintained some restrictions on the ability of religious groups to meet and worship. The government refused to recognize independent human rights groups or permit them to function legally. In addition the government continued to prevent workers from forming independent unions and otherwise exercising their labor rights.
Officials at the direction of the government committed most human rights abuses. Impunity for the perpetrators remained widespread.