Human Rights Watch: Cuba More Repressive Than Ever
By Erik Maza, Thursday, May. 13 2010 @ 3:56PM
Cuba has been on a repressive kick since the beginning of a year. After
well-known critic Zapata Tamayo died in February, other Cubans took to
the streets in protest.
Another one, Guillermo Farinas, is said to be at death's door. The
government, in turn, responded by beating some them — the Ladies in
White — and branding others "mercenaries" of the United States.
The increased crackdown prompted a leading international NGO to go South
earlier this year to determine just how intense it was. Surprise,
surprise. In a new report, published in the New York Review of Books
Sunday, Human Rights Watch says the government is more repressive now
than it has been in years.
"More than one hundred political prisoners locked up under Fidel
remained behind bars, and Raúl's government had used sham trials to lock
away scores more," the report says. "These new prisoners included more
than forty dissidents whom Raúl had imprisoned for "dangerousness."
Human Rights' report unspools like a Harry Bosch mystery. Journalists
Daniel Wilkinson and Nik Steinberg, who actually traveled to Cuba,
called it the "most difficult research mission" the NGO has undertaken
in years. They traveled the entire island by car and never stayed in a
town more than one night.
"The fear we had sensed over the phone was even more palpable on the
ground," the report says. But six political dissidents, including
several of the writers on our Top Ten Cuban bloggers list, talked to
them. One of them, Eduardo Pacheco Ortiz, a former political prisoner,
says that despite increased visibility because of the recent protests,
most Cubans are still afraid of even talking to dissidents. "These
people–for fear of losing their jobs, for fear that [the authorities]
will take it out on someone in their family–simply stop talking to me."
It's easy to see why. As the report points out, the Cuban government
often jails critics for things as innocent as receiving fax machines —
"used systematically in sending information to counterrevolutionary
cells located in Miami" – or medicines -"with the explicit purpose of
winning over addicts to their cause."
But it was this part that caught our attention: some dissidents were
jailed simply for having access to "websites of enemy
publications…[and] counterrevolutionary dailies like the Nuevo Herald,
the Miami Herald, Agence France-Press, Reuters, and the American
television channel CNN." What gives Cuba, our muckraking stories on
Kardashian poop don't get us the counterrevolutionary label? We promise
to try harder, lest we be branded CIA spooks.