In the hearing “Human rights situation of persons with disabilities in Cuba,” held during the 150th period of sessions on March 25, 2014, participants noted that despite Cuba having ratified the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (“CRPD”) in 2007, the government has still not guaranteed the rights of such individuals.516 The participants based this assertion on the fact that there are no laws that uphold the standards derived from the CRPD, and on the lack of disaggregated statistical information on persons with disabilities and their living conditions.
The hearing petitioners stated that persons with disabilities generally have a low standard of living and furthermore do not feel like they are represented by the organizations that are supposed to assist them. Specifically, with regard to the right to education, the petitioners expressed their concern at how the right to an inclusive education for persons with disabilities fails to be recognized.
Based on official Cuban government documents on the subject, the Commission highlights that the first important precedent on the matter was the First National Action Plan for Attention to Persons with Disabilities [Primer Plan de Acción Nacional para la Atención de Personas con Discapacidad](1995-2000), which was made up of several programs that addressed, among other issues, health, employment, social security, and accessibility. In the context of this Plan, the National Council for Attention to Persons with Disabilities [Consejo Nacional para la Atención a Personas con Discapacidad] (CONAPED) was founded.517 In order to follow up on the First National Action Plan, the Second National Action Plan for Attention to Persons with Disabilities was implemented for the years 2001 to 2005. It included three main areas of intervention: health, integration into economic life, and integration into the life of the community. The final update to government actions on the matter of which this Commission is aware, was the Third Action Plan for Attention to Persons with Disabilities, which was in force from 2006 to 2010 and addressed the following rights: health, economic integration, community life, and accessibility.518
This Commission also granted a precautionary measure for persons with disabilities. On September 10, 2014, the Commission granted protective measures to Mr. Julio César Cano Molina, who has a mental and intellectual disability, and who was reportedly being held in the detention center known as “Kilometer 5 ½” in the province of Pinar del Río, in critical condition and without access to medical care. The Commission received information from the petitioners to the effect that even though Mr. Cano Molina allegedly suffered from a number of health problems as a result of an accident that occurred in 1989, apparently he was not receiving the necessary medical treatment. In this regard, the petitioners alleged that Mr. Cano Molina’s body was inflamed, that he had a serious infection and a number of bleeds from the urethra, which would require specialized medical care and a surgery that had been recommended by specialists starting in 1995. This situation was apparently exacerbated by the alleged poor detention conditions and the lack of adequate food, all of which had the potential to aggravate his health status. In this context, the Commission asked the Cuban State: a) to adopt the measures necessary in order for Julio César Molina Cano to receive specialized medical care, taking into account his specific circumstances and his needs, in accordance with his health status and his disability; b) to ensure that the beneficiary’s detention conditions adhere to international standards; and c) to conclude the measures to be adopted with the beneficiary and his representatives.519
Situation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Nationally, the Commission observes that Cuban authorities are invested in promoting and fulfilling ESCR. According to the United National Development Programme’s 2014 Human Development, Report, Cuba’s Human Development Index (HDI), which measures long-term progress in three dimensions of human development: “a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living” is 0.815. This ranking places Cuba in the “very high human development category,” and positions the country at 44 out of 187 countries and territories.520
The Commission further notes that Cuba provides free health care and education, as well as subsidized day care and unemployment compensation. According to the Bertelsmann Transformation Index 2014 Country Report on Cuba, this social safety net is in many respects without equal in the Latin American context. Life expectancy is comparable to that of European countries, while Cuba’s fourth graders score in international mathematics tests at levels similar to that of East Asians.521
Of concern to the Commission, however, is the quality of the social safety net. Information available to the Commission suggests that wait lines have lengthened for health care provision partly because Cuba exports medical services to other countries, and also acts as a health tourism destination. Moreover, recent economic reforms have reportedly raised and will continue to raise social inequalities. Such economic reforms include “a cut in state subsidies, the gradual elimination of rationing cards, a reduction in the number of state jobs and the implementation of market mechanisms as a means of allocating resources to a more significant degree than before.” 522
In relation to the right to food, information available to the Commission indicates that Cuba imports an estimated 80% of its domestic food requirements. Cuba’s vulnerability to hurricanes and droughts, as well as the increase in global food prices and the financial crisis, makes achieving national food security difficult. The Commission is aware of various measures being taken to increase food production, including the allocation of fallow land to private actors, as well as the reduction of the amount of land used for sugar cane cultivation.523
According to the World Food Programme (WFP), difficulties in access to food, as well as inadequate food intake including of iron-rich food, insufficient dietary supplements coupled with deficiencies in water and sanitation and inadequate hygiene practices, inhibit iron absorption in individuals, which has contributed to Cuba’s main public health problem: anemia. According to the WFP, prevalence of anemia among children under the age of 24 months in the east is 56.7% and 20.1% amongst those between the ages of 2 and 5. 524
Finally, in relation to labor rights, the Commission has noted that Cuba published its revised Labor Code in 2014. This revision process resulted in the modification of 101 items, including 28 New Standards and a complete revision of Chapter II concerning Trade Unions, article 2 on the principles governing Labor Law and a partial modification of Chapter XV Concerning Working Authorities.525 According to various sources, the consultation process for revising the Labor Code was widespread and considered positive by stakeholders. The Washington Office on Latin America noted that according to official government statistics, more than 2 million workers in nearly 7,000 local meetings discussed the initial draft Labor Code released in 2012.526
Furthermore, the Commission recognizes a number of positive elements in the revised Labor Code, including a) the removal of previous restrictions on the number of employees that a self-employed individual can hire;527 b) the stressing of a ban on child labor and special protections for young people between 15 and 18 years old; c) regulating worker's rights to improve; and iv) the inclusion of worker’s right to daily and weekly breaks, and annual paid vacation time.528
The Commission notes with concern, however, a number of problems associated with the revised Labor Code. According to information received by the Commission, the Labor Code does not a) specify how employees should negotiate collective contracts with their employers in order to protect their economic interests in the self-employed private sector; b) distinguish between the interests of the employer and the employee in this sector;529 or c) include anti-discriminatory articles regarding gender identity and harassment at work.530