`New Castro, Same Cuba` Says Top Rights Group


CaribWorldNews, NEW YORK, NY, Thurs. Nov. 19, 2009: Fidel Castro may no longer be the President of Cuba but his brother is essentially continuing the same trend of human rights repression, a top global organization said Wednesday.

Human Rights Watch, in a 123-page report, claims that the Raúl Castro government has relied in particular on the Criminal Code offense of `dangerousness,` which allows authorities to imprison individuals before they have committed any crime, on the suspicion that they are likely to commit an offense in the future. This `dangerousness` provision is overtly political, defining as `dangerous` any behavior that contradicts Cuba`s socialist norms.

The body says the Raúl Castro`s government has locked up scores of people for exercising their fundamental freedoms and allowed scores more political prisoners arrested during Fidel Castro`s rule to languish in detention.

Rather than dismantle Cuba`s repressive machinery, Raúl Castro has kept it firmly in place and fully active, the report says. The report`s analysis was based on a fact-finding mission to Cuba and more than 60 in-depth interviews in which the government has imprisoned individuals under the `dangerousness` provision for exercising their basic rights.

Among them was Ramón Velásquez Toranzo, who set out on a peaceful march across Cuba to call for respect for human rights and freedom for all political prisoners, was arrested and sentenced to three years in prison for `dangerousness` in January 2007. Raymundo Perdigón Brito, a journalist who wrote articles documenting abuses by the government and published them on foreign websites, was sentenced to four years in prison for `dangerousness` in December 2006.

He has endured repeated beatings by guards and solitary confinement during his incarceration.  Alexander Santos Hernandez, a political activist who was sentenced to four years for `dangerousness` in 2006, told Human Rights Watch, `[The police] picked me up at 5:50 a.m. while I was at home sleeping, and by 8:30 that morning they were already reading me my sentence.` Santos was denied a lawyer, and the sentence he was given was dated two days before his trial took place.

`In his three years in power, Raúl Castro has been just as brutal as his brother,` said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. `Cubans who dare to criticize the government live in perpetual fear, knowing they could wind up in prison for merely expressing their views.`

HRW recommended that the Barack Obama administration secure commitments from the European Union, Canada, and Latin American allies to unite to press Cuba to meet a single, concrete demand: the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners within six months.

A spokesman for the Cuban Interests Section in Washington said in a statement that his country `does not recognize the legality or moral authority of this organization` that compiled the report.

The report comes as a hearing is set for today by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on whether to lift U.S. restrictions on travel to the island.


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