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