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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.

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Publication:Caribbean Update
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Aug 1, 2002
Words:226
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