Santiago de Cuba/ Frankfurt am Main (7th of January 2013) - On the occasion of the Three Kings Day (Día de los Reyes Magos) the Cuban authorities arrested civil rights activists and their children. The International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) reports all in all about 80 people where arrested. ISHR explains that in Cuba, Three Kings Day has a similar significance as Christmas, because Cubans exchange gifts on this day. The Cuban government mainly took strong action against civil rights activists in the East Cuban province, Santiago de Cuba, in order to inhibit festivities for fear of protest manifestations, says ISHR.
Members of the Cuban democracy movement, mainly the "Patriotic Union of Cuba" (UNPACU) and the civil rights movement "Ladies in White," had organized lots of festivities in several parts of Cuba. Toys, cake, and drinks were distributed to the participating children in Havana, Pinar del Rio, Matanzas, Villa Clara and Santiago de Cuba. Because toys are very expensive and difficult to get, exile-Cubans who are living abroad donated the toys for the celebration.
According to ISHR, the majority of arrested individuals, both civil rights activists and their children, were on their way to these festivities and have been kept temporarily imprisoned in police stations. In Bayamo, the capital of the East Cuban province Granma, policemen in plainclothes already warned the people on Saturday against participating in the festivities that were organized by the civil rights actvists.
Dramatic increase of political arrests
In this context, ISHR would like to shed light on the dramatic increase of politically motivated arrests in Cuba. According to information provided by the prominent Cuban human rights defender, Elizardo Sánchez, at least 6602 arbitrary arrests occured in 2012. In 2011, this number was 4123.
Christmas should be abolished
ISHR points to the fact that Fidel Castro abolished Christmas in 1969 as an official public holiday. People who were caught celebrating, were warned against this or even punished. Instead, children should receive presents on Children’s Day, which takes place in July. Before this ban, Christmas Eve (La Nochebuena) had been celebrated with a feast, and presents were given on the 6th of January by the Three Kings. Castro reintroduced the 25th of December as an official public holiday in 1998 after 30 years - but only as an exception for that year. Festivities were officially allowed. The visit of Pope John Paul II in Cuba was the reason for this allowance. The following year, it was decided that Christmas would be reinstalled in the revolutionary public holidays calender.
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