Wednesday, January 14, 2009
The More Things Change...
The more they stay the same.
According to the Cuban Commission on Human Rights, Cuba has 207 political prisoners. In July of 2006, when Raul was left in charge, Cuba had 316 political prisoners, according to the same group, headed by Elizardo Sanchez. This is a drop of over 34%. We might be tempted to assume that this means that Raul is warm and cuddly compared to his brother.
However, we must look at the short-term incarcerations that Cuba has been implementing since Raul took charge. In 2007, at least 325 (according to the CCPDH)people were arrested and released in a few hours, a few days at most. This kind of catch-and-release policy is used to scare people back into line.
The numbers for 2008 and more startling. The Council of Human Rights Rapporteurs of Cuba reported that from Jan-Nov 2008, there have been 1,107 arbitrary arrests, 139 instances of arbitrary house arrest, 72 activists tried for political activism, and 58 deaths in prison resulting from beatings or negligence.
The decrease in the number of political prisoners is an illusion. Simply because repression in Cuba has changed in appearance, that doesn't mean it's gone. The only difference is that this form of repression lets Raul look a lot better internationally and it may or may not be more effective in controlling political dissent, that is something that remains to be seen.