LONDON – Former Cuban President Fidel Castro’s human rights legacy is “a tale of two worlds,” providing access to public services to the island’s people while engaging in systematic repression, Amnesty International said Saturday.
“Fidel Castro’s legacy is a tale of two worlds. The question now is what human rights will look like in a future Cuba. The lives of many depend on it,” Amnesty International Americas director Erika Guevara-Rosas said in a statement.
The 90-year-old Castro, iconic leader of the Cuban Revolution and an inspiration to revolutionaries around the world during his long presence on the world stage, died Friday night.
“There are few more polarizing political figures than Fidel Castro, a progressive but deeply flawed leader,” Guevara-Rosas said.
After taking power in 1959 following the Cuban Revolution, Castro oversaw vast improvements in the provision of basic services, such as health care and housing, as well as unprecedented advances in literacy across the island.
“Access to public services, such as health and education for Cubans, were substantially improved by the Cuban Revolution and for this, his leadership must be applauded. However, despite these achievements in areas of social policy, Fidel Castro’s forty nine year reign was characterized by a ruthless suppression of freedom of expression,” Guevara-Rosas said.
Castro’s “darkest legacy” is in the area of freedom of expression in Cuba, “where activists continue to face arrest and harassment for speaking out against the government,” the AI official said.
AI noted that over many years it documented the stories of hundreds of people arrested for peacefully exercising the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
“Repressive tactics used by the authorities have changed in the last years with fewer people sentenced to long-term prison for politically motivated reasons, but the control of the state over all the aspects of Cubans’ life remain a reality,” AI said.
The human rights group said that the government continues to limit Internet use as a way of controlling access to information and freedom of expression, with just 25 percent of Cubans having access to the Internet and barely 5 percent of homes being connected to the global computer network.