Human rights group says abuses in Cuba are growing
Posted on Wednesday, 07.06.11
Activists in Cuba disagreed on the exact number of detentions and
whether they rose because of an increase in dissident activities or a
spike in government repression.
But they uniformly reported that the level of physical violence against
dissidents increased significantly in the first six months of the year,
and that the number of detentions more than doubled.
"The most disquieting … and notable thing in this report is the really
unprecedented increase in violence," said Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz of
the Cuban Committee for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.
His committee's report for June, issued Tuesday, noted that the
"physical violence employed by the political police, its agents or
para-police elements against peaceful opponents during the month has
been particularly disquieting."
Sánchez's report also documented a 110 percent increase in the number of
"persons detained temporarily for political reasons" — from 821 in the
first six months of 2010 to 1,727 in the same period this year.
The list included male and female dissidents reportedly beaten during or
after their detentions, and Wilfredo Soto Garcia, who died after an
alleged police beating. The government has denied the allegation.
Sparking the crackdown is "the visible increase in social discontent" in
recent years, Sánchez added by telephone. "And this has been reflected
in an increased activism by dissidents throughout the country."
He also noted that a significant portion of the detentions and violence
took place in eastern Cuba — historically wary of any Havana government
— and the central province of Villa Clara, which appears to a focus of
opposition to the island's communist system.
What Sánchez described as a "low intensity repression" has come as the
Raúl Castro government freed more than 125 political prisoners over the
past year following unprecedented talks with Cuba's Catholic Church.
Another Havana activist, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva, said he agreed with
Sánchez on the increased violence and arrests, but not on the numbers.
His Cuban Council of Human Rights Reporters documented more than 3,000
"temporary detentions" so far this year.
Such detentions, from a few hours to a few days, are designed to
intimidate dissidents or block planned opposition gatherings. Gonzalez
Leiva called it "state terrorism, to maintain control."
John Suarez, international secretary for the Miami-based Cuban
Democratic Directorate, said Castro had made an apparently approving
reference to the violence during a speech in April.
"We will never deny the people's right to defend the Revolution," Castro
told the closing session of a Communist Party congress, the party's most
important gathering in 14 years.
Suarez also noted eight dissidents were sentenced to up to five years in
prison this year, compared to two in all of 2010. Others put the number
of dissidents tried or in jail while awaiting trial at closer to 20.
Gonzalez Leiva said his council also has documented increased numbers of
"repudiation acts," or harassments of dissidents by government-organized
mobs. Many have taken place in small towns and villages that had never
before seen such attacks on government opponents, he added.
"In general terms, one could speak of a sharp deterioration" in Cuba's
human rights record, he added, "that has been seen rarely in previous
In Sanchez's report, the month with the most temporary detentions was
February with 390 — most of them linked to government efforts to avert
gatherings marking the one-year anniversary of the death of political
prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo during a hunger strike.