This month marks the sixth anniversary of Cuba's Black Spring. During a three-day period in March 2003, the Cuban government arrested 75 human rights monitors, journalists, librarians, and civil society activists.
Those detained were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 6 to 28 years for their non-violent advocacy of political, social, and economic reforms in Cuba. Fifty-four of the original 75 detainees remain in prison, many of them under harsh conditions.
In its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008, the U.S. Department of State notes that during 2008, the government of Cuba "continued to deny its citizens their basic human rights and committed numerous, serious abuses."
These include beatings and abuse of detainees and prisoners, carried out with impunity. Cuban citizens were subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention; denial of fair trial; pervasive surveillance of private communications; severe restrictions on freedom of speech and press; denial of peaceful assembly and association; restrictions on freedom of movement; restrictions on freedom of religion, and refusal to recognize domestic human rights groups or permit them to function legally.
The repression continues. Early this month, the Committee to Protect Journalists, a non-governmental press freedom monitor, reported the arrest of Roberto de Jesus Perez Guerra, director of the Havana-based independent news agency Hablemos Press by Cuban State Security agents. Mr. Guerra's wife told the Committee to Protect Journalists that her husband was detained and released at least 50 times in 2008 and was repeatedly warned by authorities to stop working as an independent journalist.
Filling Cuba's prisons with journalists and dissidents is not the answer to Cuba's problems. Nor is it in the interest of Cuba's government or the people of Cuba. The United States calls upon the Cuban government to immediately release its political prisoners and undertake measures to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cuba.