Cuba’s latest crackdown on pro-democracy activists has been condemned by the principal human rights body of the Organization of American States.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemned last week’s wave of arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders that has left at least 15 individuals still in custody.
Information the IACHR has received indicates that at least 37 individuals in Cuba have been arrested since November 7, 2012, especially in the cities of Havana and Camagüey. According to various sources, the first to be arrested was attorney Yaremis Flores, followed by Antonio Rodiles, Laritza Diversent, Veizant Boloy, and Ailer González. Various Cuban organizations indicated that several people—including Yoani Sánchez, Reinaldo Escobar, and other activists—had gone to the Acosta police station in Havana to seek the release of those who had been arrested, and ended up being arrested themselves. Human rights defender Berta Soler (above), the leader of the group Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), said that her husband, Angel Moya, was later arbitrarily arrested, along with Julio Aleaga, Librado Linares, Félix Navarro, Iván Hernández Carrillo, Eduardo Díaz Fleites, and Guillermo Fariñas Hernández.
Some defenders indicated that the arrests may have been intended to block a planned organizational meeting by signers of the Citizen Demand for Another Cuba, an advocacy effort seeking Havana’s ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The meeting had been planned for November 8, 2012.
“The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemns these acts, which violate people’s fundamental rights,” it said in a statement, “particularly the rights to freedom of expression and to a fair trial; the rights of assembly, association, petition, and protection from arbitrary arrest; and the right to due process of law.”
Some 520 people were arrested for political reasons in October alone, according to the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, which has recorded 5,625 cases of temporary detentions or prosecutions for political reasons this year.
The OAS condemnation coincides with another blow for the Communist regime: Cuban officials’ expectation that 20 billion barrels of oil reserves would rescue the island’s tattered economy have been shattered.
“Cuba’s hopes of reviving its economy with an oil boom have produced little more than three dry holes, persuading foreign oil companies to remove the one deepwater rig able to work in Cuban waters so it could be used for more lucrative prospects elsewhere,” The New York Times reports:
“The Cuban oil dream is over and done with, at least for the next five years,” said Jorge Piñon, a former BP and Amoco executive who fled Cuba as a child but continues to brief foreign oil companies on Cuban oil prospects. “The companies have better prospects by going to Brazil, Angola and the U.S. Gulf.”
The lack of a quick find comes at a difficult time for Cuba. The effects of Hurricane Sandy, which destroyed more than 100,000 homes in eastern Cuba, are weighing down an economy that remains moribund despite two years of efforts by the Cuban government to cut state payrolls and cautiously encourage free enterprise on a small scale.
Cuba had hoped to become energy independent, after relying first on Russia and now on Venezuela for most of its oil. But with its drilling prospects dimming, experts say, Cuban officials may be pushed to accelerate the process of economic opening. At the very least, it may embolden members of the bureaucracy looking for broader or faster changes in the economy.