At least 482 arbitrary arrests” of peaceful dissidents took place in Cuba in the month of February, says the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN). The figure was slightly higher than those from the three preceding months: 359 arrests (November), 458 (December) and 478 (January).
“Our Commission also documented 16 cases of physical assaults and 18 cases of harassment perpetrated by undercover political police and paramilitary agents, with peaceful dissidents also their victims,” added the report.
Last month the Communist regime killed Afro-Cuban dissident Hamell Santiago Más Hernández (above), an inmate of one of its most notoriously brutal prisons, The Wall Street Journal adds:
Forty-five-year-old Más Hernández was a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, a group working for a peaceful transition to democracy. He was healthy when he was arrested in June and sentenced to four years in prison for “disrespect for authority”—a k a failure to bow to the masters of the slave plantation. His real crime was advocating for a free Cuba while black. There are few more lethal combinations.
Cuban security forces detained at least five members of the Unión Patriótica de Cuba (UNPACU), an organization that has publicized the plight of political prisoners in the country, Freedom House reports.
“The government of Cuba is trying to silence anyone bringing attention to the arrests and imprisonment of critics, including members of UNPACU,” said Carlos Ponce, director for Latin America programs. “The detention of Jose Daniel Ferrer, Jorge Cervantes García, Juan Eduardo Salgado Jurado, Yriade Hernández Aguilera, Carlos Oliva Rivery and other UNPACU members highlights for the need for the United States and other neighbors of Cuba to press for the government of Cuba to respect the rights of citizens to express their opinions.”
Cuba’s principal human rights abuses include the abridgement of the ability of citizens to choose their government; the use of government threats, physical assault, intimidation, and violent government-organized counter protests against peaceful dissent; and harassment and detentions to prevent free expression and peaceful assembly, says the 2016 U.S. State Department Report on Human Rights.
The following additional abuses continued: harsh prison conditions; arbitrary, short-term, politically motivated detentions and arrests; selective prosecution; denial of fair trial; and travel restrictions. Authorities interfered with privacy by engaging in significant monitoring and censoring of private communications. The government did not respect freedoms of speech and press, restricted internet access, maintained a monopoly on media outlets, circumscribed academic freedom, and maintained some restrictions on the ability of unregistered religious groups to gather. The government refused to recognize independent human rights groups or permit them to function legally. In addition, the government continued to prevent workers from forming independent unions and otherwise exercising their labor rights.
“Government officials, at the direction of their superiors, committed most human rights abuses,” it adds. “Impunity for the perpetrators remained widespread.”
The Cuba Decide Plebiscite is not a political platform, but rather a tool to initiate change if the Cuban people decide that change is warranted by a “Yes” vote that offers the possibility of alternatives, notes José Azel, a senior scholar at the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami:
A “No” vote would legitimize single-party permanent rule. In some ways, the plebiscite idea offers a Cuban leadership of Castro’s successors an elegant and accepted way to change course or, alternatively, to seek to legitimize their single-party rule. As events unfold in post-Castro Cuba, the youth-led Cuba Decide Plebiscite initiative may become a key component of a legitimate transition.