Not long after President Obama struck a historic deal with Cuba to roll back restrictions against the communist island — and Havana released dozens of political prisoners as a good-faith gesture — the Castro regime is back to rounding up dissidents.
El Nuevo Herald reported on the high-profile arrests:
Cuban authorities arrested dissidents, independent journalists and a well-known artist Tuesday in an apparent attempt to block a rally in Havana’s revolutionary square organized by a new movement that calls itself #YoTambienExijo (I also demand).
Among those detained were journalist Reinaldo Escobar, editor of the online 14ymedio publication and husband of prominent blogger Yoani Sánchez; Eliecer Ávila, an activist; and Antonio Rodiles, who directs a human rights group called Estado de Sats. Sánchez, who founded 14ymedio, reported the arrests on Twitter.
Sánchez said she was placed under house arrest and also reported that several other 14ymedio contributors were visited by State Security officers and warned not to cover the event, which was scheduled to take place at 3 p.m. at the Plaza de la Revolución.
The demonstration called for participants to go before a microphone for one minute to share their thoughts, concerns or ideas about how Cuba’s future should unfold.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who will lead the Senate Foreign Relations Western Hemisphere Subcommittee in the new Congress, called it the “real human tragedy of the president’s new Cuba policy.”
“The Castro regime’s latest acts of repression against political dissidents in Cuba make a mockery of President Obama’s new U.S.-Cuba policy,” Rubio said in a statement. “The fact that the regime continues to violate the human rights of Cubans like this shows that it has even less incentive to change its ways since President Obama intends to give the Castros numerous unilateral concessions in exchange for zero steps towards more political freedom.”
“…President Obama should be ashamed of legitimizing and empowering the Castros while abandoning courageous Cuban dissidents like the ones who have been on the receiving end of the regime’s repressive tactics in recent days.”
State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said in a statement this morning that the U.S. is “deeply concerned about the latest reports of detentions and arrests by Cuban authorities of peaceful civil society members and activists.”
“We strongly condemn the Cuban government’s continued harassment and repeated use of arbitrary detention, at times with violence, to silence critics, disrupt peaceful assembly and freedom expression, and intimidate citizens,” Rathke continued.
“Freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly are internationally recognized human rights, and the Cuban government’s lack of respect for these rights, as demonstrated by today’s detentions, is inconsistent with Hemispheric norms and commitments. We urge the Government of Cuba to end its practice of repressing these and other internationally protected freedoms and to respect the universal human rights of Cuban citizens.”
The State Department added that they’ve “always said” they would “continue to speak out about human rights, and as part of the process of normalization of diplomatic relations, the United States will continue to press the Cuban government to uphold its international obligations and to respect the rights of Cubans to peacefully assemble and express their ideas and opinions, just like their fellow members of civil society throughout the Americas are allowed to do.”