Cuba keeps intense pressure on rights advocates
By IVETTE MARTNEZ
The Institute for War & Peace Reporting
More than 5,600 dissidents, journalists and human-rights activists have
been arrested or detained in Cuba between January and the end of October
of this year, a leading human rights group reports.
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation
recorded 520 detentions in October alone. For the year, the group says
it has documented 5,625 cases, which is "consistent with the high level
of political repression in Cuba over recent years."
The Hablemos Press Information Center reported that 4,542 people had
been either arrested or detained during the same period. However, the
group's records do not include all of Cuba.
The two groups most aggressively targeted are the Ladies in White -
women campaigning for the release of relatives imprisoned in the "Black
Spring" of 2003 - and the Patriotic Union of Cuba. One reason for the
high number of detentions is the Cuban authorities' tactic of using
repeated short-term internment to harass anyone who criticizes the system.
For example, Yoani Sanchez, perhaps Cuba's most famous blogger, was
arrested on Oct. 4 while en route to attend a trial. He was held for 30
hours and then released.
Sanchez had been following the trial of Spanish politician Angel
Carromero, who was charged in connection with the death of Cuban
dissidents Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero in a car crash in July. On
Oct. 15, Carromero was found guilty of manslaughter while driving, and
sentenced to four years in prison.
Similarly, journalist Yosbel Ramos Suarez was detained twice in October,
once to prevent him visiting human-rights activist Vladimir Alejo, and
again to stop him from attending a church service.
But not all detentions end quickly. Dissidents Emilio Plana Robert and
Rafael Matos Montes were given three and a half and two and a half years
respectively, while Reinaldo Castillo Martinez was sentenced to a year
and Alberto Ramos Prados to a year and a half.
The human rights group notes that six individuals arrested in September
are still awaiting trial, including independent journalist Calixto Ramon
Martinez Arias. He is accused of "disrespecting" Cuba's current and
former leaders Raul and Fidel Castro - a criminal offense that can carry
a three-year sentence.
Meanwhile, a number of political prisoners were also released. Niurka
Luque Alvarez, a member of Damas de Blanco, along with 17 others from
the group, was freed on Oct. 5 after being held for seven months. And
Amnesty International reported that Antonio Michel Lima was released on
Oct. 26, two years and a day after he and his brother were arrested for
the crime of listening to hip-hop music with lyrics criticizing the lack
of freedom of expression.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Ivette Martinez is an independent journalist in Mexico. This article
first appeared on a website maintained by The Institute for War & Peace
Reporting, a nonprofit organization that trains journalists in areas of
conflict. Readers may write to the author at the Institute for War &
Peace Reporting, 48 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8LT, U.K.; Web site:
www.iwpr.net. For information about IWPR's funding, please go to
This essay is available to McClatchy-Tribune News Service subscribers.
McClatchy-Tribune did not subsidize the writing of this column; the
opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the
views of McClatchy-Tribune or its editors.
2012, The Institute for War & Peace Reporting
Posted on Thu, Nov. 29, 2012 07:17 AM