Cuban dissidents say political arrests top 1,000 in February
BY DANIEL TROTTA
HAVANA Mon Mar 3, 2014 6:56pm GMT
(Reuters) – Politically motivated arrests in Cuba topped 1,000 for a
third straight month in February as the result of wider public
demonstrations against the one-party state, a leading human rights
organization said on Monday.
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation said
arrests in the past three months have nearly doubled from the monthly
averages of the previous two years.
The commission reported 1,051 arrests in February that it considered
arbitrary and politically motivated, although all the people jailed were
released, usually within a few hours.
The February number was similar to the 1,052 reported in January and
down from 1,123 in December.
Reuters could not independently verify the numbers, which the
commission’s president, Elizardo Sanchez, said were based on first-hand
reports from activists around the island. The commission excludes any
arrest report that it cannot verify, Sanchez said.
The Cuban government says the commission is illegal and
counterrevolutionary, and normally does not respond to its monthly reports.
A Reuters request for government comment was not immediately answered on
The commission said the December number was the highest on record since
March 2012, when Pope Benedict visited Cuba. It has been keeping records
since 2010, and says the arrests rise when there are international
events in Cuba, such as a summit of Latin American and Caribbean leaders
in late January.
The numbers have stayed high largely because a growing number of
citizens now publicly oppose the communist government, Sanchez said.
The report details each case by name, date and reason for the arrest,
with many detentions coming before, during or after organizing meetings
or public protests. Other dissenters were held on their way to or from
church, the report said.
“There are more demonstrations of the people’s discontent,” Sanchez said
in telephone interview from Spain, where he is meeting with human rights
activists from Cuba and other countries.
Human rights groups say Cuba in recent years has avoided jailing
dissidents for lengthy periods, instead choosing to detain them for
several hours or days.
As a result, estimates of the number of political prisoners are in the
single digits, compared with numbers in the thousands decades ago.
Amnesty International reported seven new prisoners of conscience in
2013, of whom three were released without charge.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Kieran Murray and Andre Grenon)
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