United States condemns the arrest of Cuban dissidents

LUCAS COIA

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The US government has expressed its disapproval with Cuba’s latest human rights violation despite recent aims to normalize relations

The United States has condemned the arrest of several Cuban dissidents involved in an alleged counter-revolutionary movement.

The U.S. Department of State said in a press statement that the government was “deeply concerned” regarding the unlawful detention of those arrested.

The arrests took place ahead of a planned open-microphone protest set to occur in Havana’s notorious Revolution Square.

Although the number of those detained cannot be verified, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation has stated that about fifty dissidents had been taken into custody prior to the planned event in Havana.

Among those detained was husband of well-known Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez and another dissident, Eliecer Avila. The Cuban authorities have failed to comment on the ordeal.

The U.S. branded the arrests as being “inconsistent with Hemispheric norms and commitments,” stating clearly that the Communist Party of Cuba must “end its practice of repressing these and other internationally protected freedoms and to respect the universal human rights of Cuban citizens.”

The statement comes only two weeks after it was announced that the U.S. and Cuba had agreed to formally normalize relations, as ties between the two countries had been frozen for more than 50 years.

Some have wondered whether a new era in US-Cuba relations would pave the way for a smooth transition into democracy for the island.

However, Cuban leader Raul Castro has made it very clear as of late that Cuba will retain its one-party system, despite renewed relations with the U.S. He explained in a state television address that Cuba would reassert its political system, leading to a “prosperous and sustainable communism.”

Cuba has been officially Communist since the Castro-led Revolution successfully ended in 1959, ousting dictator Fulgencio Batista and ushering in the authoritarian regime of the Castro family.

Since then, the Cuban government has been accused of depriving thousands of its citizens of basic human rights, such as freedom of religion, expression and peaceful assembly.

These recent arrests exemplify the use of intimidation when confronted with politically-charged opponents on behalf of the Cuban government.

Blogger Yoani Sanchez, whose husband was among those taken into custody by the police, runs a popular opposition website called Catorce y Medio. The website is one of many aimed at providing a voice for those Cubans seeking change in the country.

Another prominent critic of the Cuban government, Tania Bruguera, was directly responsible for organizing the planned protest in Havana.

In an interview with Reuters, Bruguera revealed that she had been planning a second protest upon release from detention on December 31. Bruguera was subsequently arrested once again as she travelled to Havana’s seaside avenue for the event.

“I’m not doing this as a dissident, I’m doing it as a normal person,” she said at her mother’s apartment prior to her second arrest. “I’m not a counter-revolutionary, like they say. I’m from a revolutionary family. … I’m going to continue the project.”

Planned January talks between President Obama and Raul Castro appear to remain unchanged following the United States’ strong condemnation of Cuba’s latest human rights violation.

Cubans face a range of challenges in their country today, such as dealing with economic hardship, poor living conditions and lack of guaranteed freedoms.

Although Cuba boasts about having one of the most developed healthcare systems in the world, with life expectancy at 79 years, and one of the world’s highest doctor-patient ratios, this matters little for the everyday Cuban who burdens the brunt of living under an oppressive dictatorship.

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