Ladies in White

Cuba’s crackdown on dissidents reached a record last year, rights group says
Published January 05, 2015 Fox News Latino

Cuban dissident Antonio Rodiles speaks during a gathering of Cuba’s
dissident group Ladies in White in Havana, Cuba, Sunday Dec. 28, 2014.
Cubaâs government has long narrowly defined the bounds of acceptable
speech, accusing many dissidents of being as agents of the U.S.
government or right-wing exile groups, and subjecting them to
surveillance, temporary detention and harassment. Advocates of a softer
line usually receive less harsh treatment. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
The Cuban government may have opened some economic doors in recent
years, but it maintains an iron fist when it comes to opposition to its
policies or to the revolution.

An independent human rights group on the island said on Monday that the
Cuban government undertook a record number of detentions last year of
dissidents and political activists.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation
recorded 8,899 short-term detentions of dissidents and activists in
2014. That was about 2,000 more than the previous year and four times as
many as in 2010, said the group’s head, Elizardo Sanchez.

The detentions can last for a few hours or a few days, but do not lead
to prison time. Some people have been detained several times in a month,
so the total number of people detained is lower.

Sanchez said his group counts about 90 people held in prison for
political reasons — less than half the figure five years ago.

The report also said dissidents inside Cuba did not know who was on the
list of 53 whom the U.S. asked Cuba to release as part of a detente
announced last month. Neither the U.S. nor Cuba has made the list public
or said openly whether any of those on it have been released.

A U.S. official said on condition of anonymity Monday that some of the
53 had been released but efforts to secure the release of the dissidents
was a “work in progress.” The official wasn’t authorized to provide
details on who has been freed. The official said the release of all the
dissidents wasn’t a prerequisite for planned talks in Cuba between the
Obama administration and Cuban officials later this month.

Cuba’s government has long narrowly defined the bounds of acceptable
speech, accusing many dissidents of being agents of the U.S. government
or right-wing exile groups, and subjecting them to surveillance,
temporary detention and harassment.

President Barack Obama pledged this month that easing the embargo on
Cuba and normalizing diplomatic relations would be a better way of
supporting Cuban civil society. Some experts said that lessening
U.S.-Cuban tensions would remove a pretext for repression of domestic
critics.

But Obama also said he was “under no illusion about the continued
barriers to freedom that remain for ordinary Cubans,” and Sanchez said
Monday that he expected no major short-term changes in Cuba’s treatment
of dissidents.

The list of those detained in December includes expatriate artist Tania
Bruguera, who was briefly held and released at least three times since
her return to Cuba late last month to organize a performance art piece
involving the installation of an open microphone in Havana’s Plaza of
the Revolution for Cubans to speak about their country. Authorities
launched a round of brief detentions on the day of the planned
performance, which did not take place.

Also included in the list is graffiti and performance artist Danilo
Maldonado, who other dissidents said was arrested last month in or near
a square in central Havana as he attempted to release two pigs labeled
“Fidel” and “Raul,” the first names of Cuba’s current and former
presidents. The right group’s report said he was being charged with the
crime of disrespect for authority, which carries a one- to three-year
prison sentence.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: Cuba’s crackdown on dissidents reached a record last year,
rights group says | Fox News Latino –
http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2015/01/05/cuba-crackdown-on-dissidents-reached-record-last-year-rights-groups-says/

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