The crackdown on political activists in Zimbabwe continues to get worse. Authorities have arrested, abducted, and tortured hundreds since the March 11th beating of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
According to Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change, more than six-hundred of its members were arrested or abducted in March and April. Three-hundred were hospitalized and three were killed. "The crackdown," said party spokesman Nelson Chamisa, "is intensifying."
Mr. Chamisa was beaten March 11th when he attempted to leave Zimbabwe for a conference. Opposition members are now seeking to avoid being abducted or assaulted. "It's very difficult for us to operate," said Mr. Chamisa.
U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said the brutality has to stop:
"It's shocking and appalling to see opposition leaders who are trying to simply demonstrate their views or trying to organize discussions about the political future of their country be savagely beaten by the security forces, be hauled off to jail, be denied medical treatment, and later, as in some cases, denied even the opportunity to seek that treatment after they've been freed."
Zimbabwe has been in political and economic decline since 2000, when President Robert Mugabe undertook a violent campaign to seize land owned by white farmers. The country's unemployment rate is now estimated at eighty percent. Inflation is now running at more than one-thousand seven-hundred percent -- the highest in the world.
The people of Zimbabwe, said State Department deputy spokesman Casey, should "have the right and the opportunity to choose their own leaders free from intimidation and repression." The United States is doing what it can to try to influence Zimbabwe's government to end its repressive and disastrous policies, and is encouraging other countries in the region to do the same.