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US, rights groups condemn Cuba dissident detentions

The US State Department [official website], Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy websites] joined Tuesday to condemn the Cuban government's detentions of dissidents to keep them away from a Havana summit of hemispheric leaders. According to rights activists in Havana, an estimated 100 pro-democracy activists have been briefly detained [Miami Herald report] or put under house arrest for the two-day summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) [official website], which ends Tuesday. Thirty dissidents were detained when they gathered in Santiago de Cuba as Cuban ruler Raul Castro [BBC profile] was giving his opening address to the summit. CELAC is supposed work towards economic integration of its 33 member states. Dissidents were planning two "parallel summits" this week to discuss human rights and other issues. Argentine activist Gabriel Salvia was deported by Cuban authorities when he arrived in Havana to join the parallel summit. "It is unacceptable to not to be able to do in Cuba what can be done in any other country that belongs to CELAC," Salvia said on his twitter page [text, in Spanish].

Cuba has had a history of suppressing political dissent [HRW backgrounder] through the holding of prisoners of conscience or criminal prosecutions. In August, AI called for Cuba to release five prisoners [JURIST report] whom the group as called "prisoners of conscience," which AI believes is indicative of the continuing repression of speech that exists in the country. Last January various dissident groups, such as the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, said that the Cuban government imprisoned more than 6,000 political activists [JURIST report] in 2012. Last August AI called on Cuba to end its harassment [JURIST report] of political opposition. Last July both AI and the US government criticized [JURIST report] Cuba for how it treated political opposition. In December 2011 the government announced that it would grant amnesty [JURIST report] to and release 2,900 prisoners, including political prisoners. The announcement came after a scheduled visit by Pope Benedict XVI.

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