HAVANA – The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation on Monday said that there were at least 1,416 arbitrary political arrests in Cuba during March, of which 498 took place during the March 20-22 visit of U.S. President Barack Obama.
“In the days of the historic and friendly visit to Cuba of President Barack Obama, the island’s government, instead of ensuring an atmosphere of public tranquility, unleashed a true wave of political repression and uncounted intimidating actions,” the dissident group said in its monthly report on repression by the Castro regime.
The figure of 1,416 arrests, most of them lasting just hours, is one of the highest monthly totals registered in the past five years, exceeded only by the 1,447 arbitrary arrests recorded in November 2015.
The commission, the only group to independently tally these incidents on the communist island, said that in March there were also 76 cases of physical attacks by state agents on opposition figures.
So far this year, there have been 3,971 arrests for political motives in Cuba, although the Commission says that the true number is much higher “since it’s impossible to make a comprehensive tally given the opaque and closed nature of the regime in power in Cuba for almost six decades.”
The Commission said that among the “most disturbing and condemnable” cases is that of opposition member Yuri Valle Roca, who received “brutal beating at the hands of secret political police agents on March 20” after he had been under arrest for three days.
The dissident group also mentioned Aliuska Gomez, a member of the Ladies in White group, who had to receive stitches on one of her ears after being hit “countless times” on March 29, and Rosa Escalona, whose ankle was broken “during an attack by regime agents on March 19.”
The Cuban government considers dissidents to be “mercenaries” and “counterrevolutionaries.”