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. The government conducted the April 2015 municipal elections with relative administrative efficiency, but they were neither free nor fair; a CP candidacy commission prescreened all candidates and the government treated non-CP candidates differently.
In 2016, 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 counter protests 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 significant monitoring and censoring of private communications. The government did not respect freedoms of speech and press, restricted internet access, maintained a monopoly on media outlets, circumscribed academic freedom, and maintained some restrictions on the ability of unregistered religious groups to gather. 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.
Government officials, at the direction of their superiors, committed most human rights abuses. Impunity for the perpetrators remained widespread.