Jaime Darenblum describes Why Cuba Is Getting More Repressive
Raúl Castro’s economic reforms are less significant than his crackdown on dissent.
* During the first nine months of 2011, the independent Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCHRNR)documented some 2,784 “incidents of human-rights abuses,” compared with 2,074 in all of 2010.
* In March 2012, Amnesty International reported that, since 2010, there had been “a steady increase in the number of arbitrary detentions,” with the Castro regime waging “a permanent campaign of harassment and short-term detentions of political opponents.” One of Amnesty’s Cuba researchers affirmedthat “Cuba has seen worsening repression when it comes to human rights.”
* Over the next ten months, between March 2012 and January 2013, the number of political prisoners on the islanddoubled (from 45 to 90), according to the CCHRNR. Those figures only include prisoners jailed on explicitly political charges; the total number of Cuban political prisoners is much larger, since the regime is holding many dissidents on bogus criminal charges.
* In its latest Freedom in the World report, Freedom House says: “The Cuban government oversaw a systematic increase in short-term ‘preventative’ detentions of dissidents in 2012, in addition to harassment, beatings, acts of repudiation, and restrictions on foreign and domestic travel.”
* Overall, notes Miami Herald correspondent Juan Tamayo, Cuba witnessed “a record 6,200 short-term detentions for political motives” last year.
Then there is the story of Oswaldo Payá, a world-famous Cuban dissident and founder of the Varela Project who (along with fellow dissident Harold Cepero) died last July after a highly suspicious car accident. As Wall Street Journal columnist Mary O’Grady has written, Payá’s daughter, Rosa María Payá, believes that his car “was intentionally rammed from behind by another car,” and that her father’s death was “a probable murder.” In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Spanish politician Ángel Carromero, who was driving the car carrying Oswaldo Payá, said that they were rammed by a government vehicle whose occupants were “staring at [them] aggressively” before the collision. Carromero also said that, after the crash, he was drugged and threatened by Cuban authorities, who subsequently convicted him of manslaughter. (In December, Carromero was repatriated to Spain, and he has since been paroled.) Florida senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, has urged the United Nations to launch “a thorough independent investigation of the events leading up to Payá’s death.”
The death of Payá and the broader campaign of repression against Cuban activists are troubling enough. But for U.S. officials hoping to abolish or ease sanctions, the elephant in the room is the ongoing detention of USAID contractor Alan Gross, a Maryland resident who has been held in a Cuban prison for more than three years on ridiculous espionage charges. It is hard to argue that Havana either deserves or desires warmer relations with Washington when it continues to hold an American hostage. Gross, who turns 64 in May, has seen his health deteriorate, and has reportedly lost more than 100 pounds since his incarceration.
Events in the first quarter of 2013 point to an ongoing trend of a broader political crackdown on religious freedom in Cuba, while reported violations tripled in 2012.
Mary O’Grady reported on Sonia Garro, who has been held in prison without charge since March 18, 2012.
The reason for this trend, according to Darenblum, is that the dictatorial gerontocracy is afraid of the growing democracy movement. I would add that the gerontocracy is also aware of their mortality.
And they’ll fight to the death.