07 July 2006

Cuban Prisoners of Conscience

DOW JONES NEWSWIRESJuly 5, 2006 1:50 p.m.HAVANA (AP)--More than 300 prisoners of conscience are still held in Cuba despite a slight drop in the number of such inmates during the first half of 2006, a veteran rights group said Wednesday. The Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation said in a
regular update that it had 316 documented political prisoners, down from 333 at the end of 2005. The new count reflects both new prisoners and people freed over the past six months. Commission head Elizardo Sanchez wrote in the report that the net drop of 17 inmates was "statistically irrelevant" and didn't indicate an improvement in human rights in Cuba. "Unless a miracle occurs, the international community should prepare itself, at least over the short term, to keep receiving only bad news when it comes to civil, political and economic rights in Cuba," the report said. Cuba's communist government denies holding prisoners of conscience, characterizing them as common criminals. A lesser-known Cuban rights group released its own list of political prisoners in recent days, saying it had documented 346 cases. Because there are no public records available about the prisoners, rights activists count on family members and others to bring cases to their attention. The Havana-based, non-governmental Cuban Commission on Human Rights and Reconciliation for years has released its report every six months, confirming information about individual cases through inmates' families.

Let’s take the high number: 346, i.e. according to a “ lesser-known Cuban rights group.”--tough to check that source, eh?--there are 350 documented cases of people incarcerated in Cuba for their political views.

Never mind that the Cuban government disputes any claim that they’re jailing people for registering dissent, for we all know that’s not true--although the real question is What are the conditions that make it possible for the Cuban government to crack down on dissent?

But since we’re not comfortable with where that question leads us, let’s set it aside too.We know that the best and highest number the US Congress could come up with in 1995 was 700, which they got from Amnesty International and in turn the number on which Congress based Helms-Burton. Now, I’ll defer to the number crunchers, but I think that’s a drop.

My point is that Communists have trapped us in a numbers game. And right now, all they need to do is to stay near the number of persons that America illegally detains. If they’re under it, so much the better.

Moreover, when one puts that 350 number in context with the 3,000 or so acts of resistances that the Administration’s boy Christopher Sabatini swore under oath to Congress happened in Cuba last year, another point emerges: The Cuban government is achieving its control in other ways besides fear.

I’m not sure what it is, but it’s obviously not sufficient to say fear alone.