HAVANA, Cuba, CMC – A Cuban human rights group has claimed that the number of prisoners held on political charges in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean island has doubled to 90 in the past 10 months.
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation said the arrests increased despite the Raul Castro-led government’s preference for short-term detentions to control dissent.
In its report, the commission notes that the number of Cubans convicted or awaiting trials on political crimes had risen from 45 in March of last year to 90 as of last week.
Commission leader Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz said the jump “reaffirms the Cuban government is first in the Western Hemisphere, and in most of the world, for the number of people sentenced to prison for political reasons.”
Sánchez said the number of political prisoners freed under the so-called “Temporary Penal Permits” – which are essentially paroles that are generally granted for health reasons but can be revoked any time – dropped from 18 to 16 because two left the country.
But he said the list of 90 political prisoners compiled by the commission does not include all of the cases because the government often jails dissidents on criminal rather than political charges. He said the commission counts as political crimes any cases tried in Cuba’s national security court system.
Sánchez said the list, therefore, includes people convicted of “crimes against the state,” such as trying to hijack boats and spying.
Cuba currently holds 60,000 to 65,000 prisoners in 150 to 200 prisons, jails, labor camps and other forced internment facilities, under conditions that are mostly “cruel, inhuman, degrading and unhealthy.”
“It is a sub-Orwellian world,” he charged, stating that the Cuban government does not permit any visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross or even independent Cuban observers.