Political Detentions in Cuba Top 5,000
Some await trial, while many are detained for shorter periods to disrupt
their work as journalists or rights activists.
By Ivette Martínez - Latin America
23 Nov 12
More than 5,600 Cuban dissidents, journalists and rights activists were
detained or arrested between January and the start of November, a
leading human rights group reports.
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation,
CCDHRN, recorded 520 detentions in October alone, bringing the total for
the year to 5,625. The figures were "consistent with the high level of
political repression in Cuba over recent years", the group said.
The Hablemos Press Information Centre, CIHPRESS, gave a lower figure of
4,542 for the same ten-month period, although its records do not cover
all of Cuba's provinces.
The two groups targeted most were Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) –
women campaigning for the release of relatives imprisoned in the "Black
Spring" of 2003 – with 23 detentions in October; and the Patriotic Union
of Cuba with 28.
CIHPRESS noted 22 cases where independent journalists and bloggers were
detained in the same month.
One reason for the high number of detentions is the Cuban authorities'
tactic of using repeated short-term internment to harass anyone who
criticises the system.
For example, Yoani Sánchez, perhaps Cuba's most famous blogger, was
arrested on October 4 en route to attend a trial, held for 30 hours and
Sánchez had been following the trial of Spanish politician Ángel
Carromero, who was charged in connection with the death of Cuban
dissidents Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero in a car crash in July. On
October 15, Carromero was found guilty of manslaughter while driving,
and sentenced to four years in prison.
Similarly, journalist Yosbel Ramos Suárez was detained twice in October,
once to prevent him visiting human rights defender Vladimir Alejo, and
again to stop him attending a church service.
But not all detentions end quickly. Four dissidents were convicted in
October – Emilio Plana Robert and Rafael Matos Montes were given
three-and-a half and two-and-a-half years respectively; Reinaldo
Castillo Martínez was sentenced to a year and Alberto Ramos Prados to a
CCDHRN notes that six individuals arrested in September are still
awaiting trial, including independent journalist Calixto Ramón Martínez
Árias. He is accused of "disrespecting" Cuba's present and former
leaders Raúl and Fidel Castro – a criminal offence that can carry a
three-year sentence. (See Cuban Journalist Faces Charge of Insulting
Castros on his case.)
A number of political prisoners were also released.
Damas de Blanco member Niurka Luque Álvarez and 17 others from the group
were freed on October 5 after being held since March. And Amnesty
International reported that Antonio Michel Lima was released on October
26, two years and a day after he and his brother were arrested for the
crime of listening to hip hop music with lyrics criticising the lack of
freedom of expression.
Ivette Martínez is an independent journalist in Mexico. This story was
first published on IWPR's website.