Lowest ever number of jailed dissidents: Cuba rights group
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Last Updated: Tuesday, July 06, 2010, 10:04
Havana: The number of political prisoners in Cuba fell sharply in the past half-year and now stands at 167, the smallest number since the Cuban Revolution more than a half-century ago, a human rights activist has said.

Opposition activist Elizardo Sanchez said that at the beginning of the year the number of jailed dissidents stood at 201, but that the illegal rights commission he heads now puts the number at 167.

"It is the smallest number of political detainees since the 1959 Cuban Revolution," Sanchez said.

"But this doesn't mean that the human rights situation has improved," he said, "because at the same time there has been an increase in the number of arbitrary, short-term detentions -- some for a few hours, others for a few days."

Sanchez, who heads the outlawed but tolerated Cuban Commission for Human Right and National Reconciliation which monitors the plight of Cuban dissidents, said that there has been a "metamorphosis" in the climate of repression on the Communist island, even though the situation remains far from ideal.

His remarks came after the Communist Party daily newspaper Granma reported late last week that a prominent dissident, journalist Guillermo Farinas, was near death.

The Granma report omitted mention of the hunger strike that led to Farinas' grave condition. He has refused to eat in a protest action calling for the release of political prisoners in Cuba.

The Americas' lone one-party Communist regime, Cuba has been politically embarrassed by dissidents' recent hunger strikes. They have drawn international criticism and greater scrutiny of its human rights situation.

President Raul Castro has stated in the past that his government would never give in to hunger strikes used as "blackmail." But in May he scrambled to negotiate with Roman Catholic Church officials seeking to mediate in the Farinas controversy.

Another leading dissident, Orlando Zapata," died in February after an 85-day hunger strike.


First Published: Tuesday, July 06, 2010, 10:04

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