According to the press freedom monitoring group Reporters Without Borders, there have been no improvements in respect for human rights or press freedom in Cuba since Raul Castro took over from his older brother Fidel as Cuba's acting president in July 2006.
Caleb McCarry, the U.S. State Department’s transition coordinator for Cuba, says the situation has actually gotten worse since the transfer of presidential power a year ago. "Independent journalists and young opposition leaders in Cuba are especially being targeted for repression," he said, adding that the Cuban government relies on intimidation against journalists and opposition groups "by threatening to kill them."
According to Reporters Without Borders, three journalists have been imprisoned since Raul Castro took over as acting president. Some forty others have been subjected to searches, summoned for questioning by the political police, physically attacked or threatened.
In April, Oscar Sánchez Madan, the correspondent of the Cubanet website in Matanzas province, was sentenced to four years in prison in a trial held behind closed doors immediately after his arrest. Raymundo Perdigón Brito, a founder of the independent Yayabo Press agency, was sentenced to four years in prison following his arrest in November 2006. Ramón Velázquez Toranso of the Libertad news agency was arrested in January of this year and sentenced to three years in prison. He went on a hunger strike in February. Each was convicted of being a so-called "pre-criminal social danger." Cuban authorities use that provision of the criminal code to silence political dissent.
The independent Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation says the Cuban government is currently holding two-hundred-forty-six prisoners of conscience, including twenty-five dissident journalists. Twenty of the jailed journalists, including Ricardo González Alfonso, the editor of the magazine De Cuba and Reporters Without Borders’ Cuba correspondent, were arrested in a March 2003 crackdown and received prison sentences ranging from fourteen to twenty-seven years. According to Reporters Without Borders, they continue to be mistreated by prison guards and held in cells that are unfit for habitation.
The United States encourages all democratic nations to join the call for the immediate, unconditional release of Cuban political prisoners, the restoration of fundamental freedoms, and a political transition that quickly leads to multiparty elections in Cuba.