Death penalty retentionist
Population 11.2 million
Life expectancy 78.5 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 9/6 per 1,000
Adult literacy 99.8 per cent
Civil and political rights continued to be severely restricted by the authorities. Government critics continued to be imprisoned; many reported that they were beaten during arrest. Restrictions on freedom of expression were commonplace. The government continued to curtail freedom of association and assembly. The US embargo against Cuba remained operational, despite increasing opposition to it within and outside the USA.
Relations between Cuba and the USA improved during the year. Both governments initiated dialogues relating to migration issues and the re-establishment of a direct postal service between the two countries. Representatives of the US Congress visited Cuba in April and met the Cuban President.
The Council of Ministers underwent a major reshuffle in March and key ministers during Fidel Castro's last years in power were replaced.
In June, Cuba's 47-year suspension from the Organization of American States (OAS) was lifted. However, Cuba's participation in the OAS is conditional on its adherence to OAS principles.
In February, Cuba's human rights record was assessed under the UN Universal Periodic Review. Cuba adopted some broad undertakings but rejected most of the recommendations relating to the protection and promotion of civil and political rights. Cuba was re-elected to the Human Rights Council for another three-year term in May. The visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, planned for October, was postponed by the Cuban authorities until 2010.
Prisoners of conscience
At the end of the year, 55 prisoners of conscience continued to be detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression. Prisoner of conscience Nelson Aguiar Ramírez, was released during 2009 on health grounds and Reinaldo Miguel Labrada Peña completed his sentence.
- Human rights defenders Darsi Ferrer and his wife, Yusnaimy Jorge, were arrested on 9 July at their home in Havana City and charged with possessing or receiving illegally obtained merchandise (receptación). They were due to lead the "Stroll of Your Dreams" march along the Malecón, Havana's sea front, later that day. Darsi Ferrer, a physician and President of the Juan Bruno Zayas Independent Health and Human Rights Centre, which supports marginalized members of Cuban society in Havana City, was beaten by seven police officers at the Aguilera Police Station in Lawton. The couple were conditionally released shortly after midnight the same day. On 21 July, Darsi Ferrer was re-arrested and charged with "contempt of the authorities". He was refused bail and taken to Valle Grande Prison in Havana Province, a maximum security prison for convicted criminals. He remained detained awaiting trial at the end of the year.
Freedom of expression, assembly and association
Freedom of expression continued to be severely restricted. All mass media and the internet remained under state control. The authorities continued to block access to the websites of bloggers and journalists critical of the government. Criminal charges such as "dangerousness” continued to be used to restrict dissidents from exercising freedom of expression, association and assembly. Independent journalists and bloggers faced harassment. Some were threatened with criminal prosecution and a number were detained.