14ymedio, Madrid, 4 January 2016 – Last year closed with a balance of almost 1,000 more arbitrary arrests than in 2015, according to data from the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights, based in Madrid, which on Wednesday issued its annual report on the situation on the island.
In 2016, there was a total of 9,351 arbitrary arrests, 5,383 against women and 3,968 against men. A year earlier, there were 8,314 acts of this type.
Most of these arrests were “made by the political police to prevent the exercise of the rights of association, assembly and peaceful demonstration,” the entity says.
Organizations most affected have been UNPACU (with 138 detainees, 70 raided homes and 48 members currently in prison) and the Ladies in White, who have suffered harassment by the authorities every Sunday since they started street demonstrations almost two years ago.
The Observatory also cites the cases of two activists whose legal situation at the moment is delicate. One of them is Eduardo Cardet, national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), arrested on November 30 and for whom the prosecutor is requesting up to 3 years in prison for the alleged crime of “undermining the authority.” Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth), has been in prison since late November for a graffiti farewell to Fidel Castro – Se fue (He’s gone) – and his family knows very little about the details of his situation.
In addition to the opposition organizations or prominent members of the anti-Castro activism, the Observatory notes that there has been an extension of the repression of civil society, as, for example, against the Convivencia (Coexistence) project in Pinar del Rio, led by Dagoberto Valdes.
The current Law of Associations regulates the make up of these entities, the report says, but independent organizations claim that in practice they are not allowed to exercise their rights and there is no recognition of their legal status by the State. “In addition to these legal impediments, the political police ‘monitors,’ that is they talk, spy, threaten, repress and try to infiltrate every group,” it added.
The report describes the general situation of Cuba’s civil rights, noting that there has been no positive change despite the normalization of relations with Washington, initiated more than two years ago, and the rapprochement – “voluntary and with the acquiescence of the government” – with the European Union, which signed a new bilateral agreement with Cuba on December 12.
“We cannot assess the Cuban situation and the effectiveness of international changes related to Cuba, from a perspective that does not take into account the exercise of rights and freedoms,” reflects the organization.
The Observatory notes that there are still no elections nor political pluralism and that the year has ended without a new Electoral Law, repeatedly promised by the powers-that-be.
The economic conditions on the island continue to be negative the organization stresses, and although official propaganda calls for support for the self-employed sector, there have been withdrawals of licenses from several private workers “for making use of the citizen’s right to publicly disagree with the Cuban regime.”
The report adds that workers’ rights are permanently violated because workers cannot freely choose their employment or be remunerated according to their social contribution, which pushes them to the illegal market. Discrimination against Cuban workers is also addressed, recalling the case of the workers from India who worked on the Manzana de Gomez Hotel in Havana, at salaries of 1,400 to 1,600 dollars, while Cuban workers were receiving less than 100 dollars.
“In the last six years, the Cuban government […] has announced more repressive and disciplinary measures in the workplace under a model that aims to maintain the essence of the system: collectivism, state ownership of the means of production, planning, centralization of decisions and the prohibition of individual accumulation of wealth,” it adds. In addition, in early 2011 the Government launched a plan to lay off 1,300,000 state employees.
The text also refers to discrimination against organizations of vulnerable groups such as LGTBI or racial diversity, since they cannot defend the rights of their members, being outside of officialdom.
“The only solution to the problem of all Cubans is a comprehensive reform, that is, constitutional and legal changes that cover all spheres of social life [and are accompanied by] public policies that respond to the huge problems […] of the poorest and most destitute, which are the immense majority of citizens,” the report close