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Arrests of dissidents in Cuba increase

Arrests of dissidents in Cuba climb
  • FILE

The persecution of dissidents in Cuba has climbed three times for 13 years. The recent figures again raised red flags of NGOs that fight for freedom of thought on the island.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) stated that there were 96 political prisoners in April 2016; there are 140 a year later. This tally does not include the thousands of people who remain in the 200 prisons, labor camps and penal settlements, and that have been arrested for political reasons.

The visit of former President Barack Obama to The Havana two and a half years ago did not lessen the persecution against those who differ from the communist regime, which now reaches 58 years of imposition. The NGOs hoped that their arrival and the reestablishment of relations between the United States and Cuba, to some extent could support the fight for human rights, but this has not happened.

The organization said that in April the dictatorship made at least 475 arrests for political reasons, 43 more than the previous month, and at least 11 physical attacks against dissidents.

So far this year, the CCDHRN, an underground operating NGO, has counted 1,867 cases of political arrest on the island. These include peaceful opponents subjected to the so-called "extra-criminal license".

And although there have been releases, these have not represented a real decrease in figures. Since the end of 2013 the rate has increased from 102 to 114 in one year, while 2004 opened with 294 political prisoners and closed with 333.

According to the Commission leader, Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz, "the Cuban government continues to be in the first place, in the Western Hemisphere and in most of the world, for the number of people convicted for political reasons," quoted by The New Herald.

The report explains that there were 9,940 arrests in 2016, which were mostly temporary. This is the largest number since 2010. In 2017, 8,899 were reported.

In these cases, NGOs have highlighted physical assaults, cases of harassment and acts of repudiation that were repeated during April.

Intimidation and espionage

In this sense, Sánchez explained the newspaper Diario de Cuba that President Raúl Castro’s government has intensified actions against the anti-communists.

"Now (repression) is more widespread in the field and is more selective, with less noise. The regime has begun to lead a preventive repression by using police threat and other intimidating strategies."

Persecutions, prohibitions from leaving the country, seizure of personal property such as cell phones, intimidation and espionage are some of the practices carried out by the regime to silence dissent.

Automatic asylum and looking for escape

The increase in repression and arrests on the island was a trigger for Vox, a group of legal advisers, as well as the Provincial Executive Committee of Madrid to recently submit a request for the European bodies to adopt the appropriate legislative measures for automatic application of the right of asylum for Cuban citizens, in any Member State of the European Union. They also requested it for Venezuelans.

These requests have not yet been answered.

The result of the increase in political persecution is reflected in the desire - persistent even today - of many Cubans to escape from the island. More than 600 Cuban migrants arrived in Panama in 2016 to reach the United States.

In January of this year, the Government of Panama announced that it will not make any concessions to the Cuban displaced persons, and will treat them in the same way as the rest of undocumented migrants, according to the National Migration Service Javier Carrillo.

292 Cubans remain currently in a Caritas Panama shelter, facing an uncertain status and wishing to know if they will be deported with the authorities of their country.

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