U.S.: Short-term detentions in Cuba reach record levels

Cuba saw a record number of “politically motivated and at times violent short-term detentions” during 2012, according to the U.S. State Department’s “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices,” which was released Friday.

The report noted serious violations in all categories from prison abuses to labor and religious rights, with few apparent changes from 2011.

Cuba is “an authoritarian state,” it noted, the recent round of elections was “neither free nor fair” and domestic security forces “reported to a national leadership that included members of the military.”

“The principal human rights abuses were: abridgment of the right of citizens to change the government; government threats, intimidation, mobs, harassment, and detentions to prevent free expression and peaceful assembly; and a record number of politically motivated and at times violent short-term detentions,” according to the report.

Other abuse included “unlawful use of force, harsh prison conditions, arbitrary arrests, selective prosecution, and denial of fair trial. Authorities interfered with privacy and engaged in pervasive monitoring of private communications.

“The government did not respect freedom of speech and the press; severely restricted Internet access and maintained a monopoly on media outlets; circumscribed academic freedoms; limited freedom of movement; and maintained significant restrictions on the ability of religious groups to meet and worship.

“The government refused to recognize independent human rights groups or permit them to function legally. In addition, the government continued to prevent workers from forming independent unions and abrogated workers’ rights.”

The report said that “most human rights abuses were official acts committed at the direction of the government” and “impunity for the perpetrators remained widespread.”

The report mentions the death of dissident Oswaldo Payá, killed in a disputed car crash last year, in the section titled “Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life.”

“There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings,” it noted, adding, that Payá’s family has “called for an independent investigation into the July 22 car crash in which Payá and fellow dissident Harold Cepero were killed, alleging that their car was being pursued by state security. The government blamed the incident on the driver of Payá’s vehicle.”

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