Human Rights Advances in Brief

The government of Cuba on July 7 agreed to free 52 political prisoners, after an agreement was brokered by the Catholic Church and state authorities. The government said in late July that it would eventually free all of its political prisoners, though it was not clear just how many there are on the island. The next day, Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas ended his hunger strike, which he had started on Feb. 24. The 52 dissidents will be freed and sent to Spain, gradually. The prisoners of the so-called Group of 75 were jailed in March 2003 following summary trials and sentenced to between 14 and 30 years in prison for “attacking Cuba´s independence and economy.”

The government of Panama delayed putting a new labor law in force that would cut workers´ rights, and reduce environmental controls, four days after protesting workers – mostly banana workers – and police clashed in Changuinola, in the northeastern Bocas del Toro province. Protesters said the law will weaken labor unions. Two people were killed and at least 120 were injured. Labor groups said they would continue protesting until the law was revoked, and the National Organized Workers´ Council called for an independent commission to investigate the violence.

Argentina became the first Latin American country to recognize same-sex marriage when its Senate approved a bill July 15 for the state to give homosexual couples inheritance rights, shared social benefits, and the ability to adopt children. The law removes the words “man and woman” to describe a married couple from the civil code, changing it to “spouses.” Colombia and Uruguay recognize same-sex civil unions, but without the same rights that married couples are granted. Homosexual marriage is recognized by the government of Mexico City.

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