Cuban security agents made a record 6,602 short-term detentions of political dissidents last year and the number of political prisoners on the island rose by about 30, Havana human rights activist Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz reported Thursday.
The figure of 6,602 confirmed detentions in 2012 compared to 4,123 for 2011 and 2,074 for 2010, according to a year-end report by Sánchez’ Cuban Committee for Human rights and National Reconciliation.
Sánchez also reported separately that the number of political prisoners, which dropped to about 40 after ruler Raúl Castro freed more than 120 in 2010-2011, climbed again last year with the trials and convictions of about 30 Cubans on political charges.
The increased repression, he said, is the result of the growing opposition among Cubans to a government that all but strangled the economy and human rights during more than half a century of communist rule.
“The regime has accumulated an enormous disaster, and the popular dissatisfaction increases by the day,” Sanchez told El Nuevo Herald by phone from Havana. “It has only one answer: repression, pure and harsh.”
In the absence of significant changes, the year-end report added, it “forecasts that during the year 2013 the situation for civil and political rights and other fundamental rights will continue to worsen in Cuba.”
“The totalitarian model continues intact, as the regime continues to perfect and expand its powerful machinery for repression and bureaucracy that … carries with it an unbearable and ruinous cost to the nation,”
Sanchez’ committee, which is technically illegal but is tolerated by the government, also noted in its year-end report that the monthly averages for the short-term detentions spiked from 172 in 2010 to 343 in 2011 and 550 last year.
The vast majority of the 12,800 detentions for 2010-2012 — usually lasting a few hours and designed to harass dissidents or keep them away from opposition activities — also violated legal requirements like court orders and notifications to relatives, it argued.
The committee and other human rights activists “continue demanding that the government of Cuba recognize and respect the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights consecrated in various international declarations,” it added.
About 1,160 of the short-term arrests in 2012 were carried out in March, mostly to keep dissidents from attending masses and other Catholic events during Pope Benedict XVI’s three-day visit to Cuba.
Another 200-250 arrests reported last month were designed to block events marking International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10.
The U.S. State Department quickly condemned the December detentions, saying it was “deeply concerned by the Cuban government’s repeated use of arbitrary detention and violence to silence critics, disrupt peaceful assembly and intimidate independent civil society.”