No end in sight for harassment and repression in Cuba

Via the Institute for War & Peace Reporting:
Cuban Groups Say No End to Repression, Harassment
As well as formal detention, the authorities employ mobs to intimidate their critics.
By Camilo Ganga – Latin America
Dissidents in Cuba continue to be subject to arrest and harassment, human rights defenders say.

The non-government Cuban Commission for Human Rights and Reconciliation, CCDHRN, recorded 364 detentions on political grounds in January.

Typically, dissidents are held for a few days as a deterrent and just to take them out of circulation. But others are held for longer – for example, journalists Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, in custody since September, and  Héctor Julio Cedeño Negrín, held for 12 days in February. (See Five Months On, Cuban Journalist Still Held for Castro “Insult” and House Arrest for Cuban Journalist.)

CCDHRN highlighted the case of Damaris Moya Portieles, an opposition leader in Santa Clara province, who was detained with four others on January 26. Citing testimony from Moya Portieles, the group said that at the police station, “two female police offers stripped her… and inserted a pen into her vagina under the pretext…of looking for a mobile phone or some other electronic device”.

The Hablemos Press news agency says most of the individuals detained belong to the Damas de Blanco or “Ladies in White”, women campaigning for the release of relatives imprisoned in a 2003 clampdown,and the Patriotic Union of Cuba.

Hablemos Press also pointed to a rise in stage-managed “popular protests” against rights activists and dissidents.

In what are called “Acts of Repudiation”, crowds of people gather outside the homes of the individuals being targeted, shouting abuse, damaging property, and seizing equipment and literature.

These supposedly grassroots expressions of indignation are in fact organised by the Rapid ResponseBrigades or BRR, vigilante groups drawn from the Communist Party, the state security agency and the interior ministry.

“During these Acts of Repudiation, which are becoming more frequent, the BRR continually throws stones and other heavy objects at activists’ houses,” Hablemos Press reports. “They throw excrement and toxic substances at these homes, which has an effect on children and elderly, and sowing terror among the population.”

Camilo Ganga is the pseudonym of a journalist living in Havana, Cuba.