Cuba is a dictatorship. Raul and Fidel Castro have ruled since the end of 1959. The oppression and persecution of dissenters is the sad standard in the country. The already high number of arbitrary arrests has continued to rise since 1960 in Cuba. The techniques have changed, and the number of arrests has reached new record highs. Since 2012, hundreds of people have been arbitrarily detained monthly on the Caribbean Island for wanting to practice their freedom of expression, or for demanding human rights and democracy. Those arrested are nearly always abused and threatened by Cuban state security forces or the police, before being released days later. Using tactics such as threats and intimidation are employed in order to crush the Cuban democratic movement.
Long-term Political Prisoners
Simultaneously, the Cuban one-party dictatorship imprisons civil dissidents for years without due legal process – or without any process. Apart from the ruling Communist Party of Cuba, all parties are banned. With the exception of the party newspaper of the government, all newspapers are prohibited. Additionally, internet is often impossible to access or to afford for almost all Cubans. Non-governmental independent media and trade unions are banned. Journalists, trade unionists, and Cuban democracy activists live in constant danger, and risk ‘disappearing’ for years into prisons under inhumane conditions. In many cases, the allegations are blatantly falsified – if any charges are filed.
High-Profile Releases - and New Arrests
Through the mediation of the Catholic Church of Cuba, an agreement was established with the Spanish government in 2010 in which the famous group of 75 political prisoners would be released in turn for their forced exile in Spain. These prisoners were sentenced in the wake of the Cuban ‘Black Spring’ in 2003 to prison terms between 6 and 28 years. The last of this group was released in March of 2011; since then however, the Castro regime has not ceased to intimidate and silence dissenters through repression and arbitrary arrests.
Through an agreement with U.S. President Barack Obama, Raul Castro released 53 political prisoners in December 2014 and at the beginning of 2015. Unfortunately, Cuban authorities have since continued to carry out targeted repression as well as short and long-term arrests of members of the democracy movement. Police and state secret service have made at least 768 politically motivated arrests in August 2015 alone; in September 2015, at least 50 critics of the regime were registered as political prisoners by the ISHR. In June 2015, Cardinal Jaime Ortega publicly stated that there were no political prisoners in Cuba, sparking a storm of indignation from Cubans and Cuban exiles. Prior to the visit of Pope Francis on September 19, 2015, Raul Castro pardoned 3,522 prisoners; tellingly, not even one of these was a political prisoner.