230 POLITICAL PRISONERS.
The number of Cubans behind bars for political reasons rose by 20
to 230 people in the first half of this year, said the Cuban Commission
for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, reports Reuters (July 3,
2002). The rise ended a downward trend during the last decade and was
due to increased political repression on the island, mainly in February
and March, it said. The commission, headed by veteran activist Elizardo
Sanchez, is a dissident group with no legal recognition in Cuba but is
tolerated by President Fidel Castro's Government. Sanchez said he
did not have recent information on at least 30 more political prisoners
and believed they were still in jail. They were not included in the
tally of 230. Cuba is the only country in the hemisphere that does not
allow the International Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations
access to its jails, said Sanchez. The Castro Government considers all
dissidents to be pawns of the U.S. and maintains there are no political
prisoners in Cuba. It contends those listed by the dissidents were
jailed for common crimes. In May, a week before a visit by former U.S.
President Jimmy Carter, authorities freed Cuba's most known
political prisoner, Vladimiro Roca, after he served almost five years on
charges of subversion for a document he authored criticizing the
communist economic system.