Ladies in White

Cuba arbitrary arrests soared in 2016, dissidents say

Cuban opposition activists have said the number of arbitrary arrests of
dissidents rocketed to nearly 10,000 last year. The government on the
one-party communist island denies holding any political prisoners.

In a report published on Thursday, the Cuban Commission on Human Rights
and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) found that “a total of a total of
9,940 arbitrary detentions” were documented in 2016 – marking the
highest figure since 2010.
In June, some 82 dissidents were in jail, the group said. There was no
indication, however, of how many dissidents are currently in prison.
Surge after Castro death
The group found a particular increase in arrests following the death of
long-time revolutionary leader Fidel Castro in late November. A surge
was also noted ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit in March, when
dissidents were placed under house arrest.
The opposition group “Ladies in White” (Damas de Blanco) and the largest
opposition division Unpacu were particularly affected by the measures.
Like all opposition groups in Cuba, the CCDHRN – led by dissident
activist Elizardo Sanchez – is illegal, but is currently tolerated in
practice by Cuba’s governement.

Legal detentions
Human rights organizations have already criticized the fact that an
ever-increasing number of regime critics are being arrested for short
periods of time – amounting to anything from a few hours to a few days –
in order to prevent them attending demonstrations or assemblies.
Havana is legally permitted to carry out the detentions under a law
allowing preventative arrests. However the government in the one-party
state denies holding any political prisoners.
Prior to his death on November 25, Castro was hailed by supporters
across the world as a hero who stood up to the poor. But for many, the
90-year-old was regarded as a dictator who tolerated no dissent.
In 2006, after nearly 50 years in power, he transferred power to his
younger brother, Raul Castro, who became full president in 2008.

US-Cuba relations uncertain
Despite Castro’s death, many Cubans remain torn between staying on the
communist island or seizing the opportunity to travel to the US.
Following the economic demise of Venezuela – whose discount oil exports
once kept Cuba afloat – Cuba’s own economy has suffered greatly since
falling into a recession in the second half of 2016.
With Donald Trump also due to take office in the US on January 20, the
president-elect’s anti-immigration platform is another concern for some
would-be Cuban migrants in the States.
Ahead of his election in November, Trump campaigned on promises to
deport 11 million undocumented immigrants and vowed to halt the recent
thaw in US-Cuban relations if the Castro regime fails to allow more
democratic freedoms and economic reforms.

Source: Cuba arbitrary arrests soared in 2016, dissidents say | News |
DW.COM | 06.01.2017 –

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