CUBA: Religious Freedom Violations Continue to Rise

Despite government claims of increased respect for religious freedom, reported violations of religious freedom in Cuba continued to increase dramatically over the 19 months covered by this report. From the beginning of 2014 to mid-July, CSW recorded 170 separate religious freedom violations, many of which involved dozens of victims. This followed the record of 180 documented cases in 2013, compared with 120 in 2012 and 40 in 2011. Religious groups across the spectrum all reported varying degrees of hostility from the government. Only a few reported any notable improvement.

Government agents continued to employ more brutal and public tactics than witnessed in the first decade of the millennium. CSW continued to receive regular reports of severe and sustained harassment and sporadic reports of violent beatings of Protestant pastors and lay workers in different parts of the country. Week after week, scores of women were physically and violently dragged away from Sunday morning services by state security agents. Most were arbitrarily detained until after the conclusion of religious services. There were also increased reports of threats of forced closure, confiscation and demolition of church buildings, including historic, registered churches; some of these threats were carried out. The government continued to employ a strategy of frequent, temporary arbitrary detention to target those it views as political dissidents. This tactic is also applied to religious leaders who are viewed as problematic, for whatever reason, by the authorities. A significant number reported being temporarily detained and imprisoned multiple times over the course of the past year.