Human rights leader denounces rigidity of Cuban government

In a press release issued on Monday in Havana, Cuban dissident and leader of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, Elizardo Sanchez, criticized the rigidity of the government on issues of civil, political and economic rights, and he denounced the “unfair” prison system in the country.

Sanchez explained that the total number of political prisoners and the prison population in general in Cuba—estimated to be between 80,000 and 100,000—has not diminished and that it reflects the “rigidity” of the Castro government.

At the end of the first quarter in 2004, Sanchez added, 317 people were imprisoned for so-called “crimes against the State” and other similar charges.  His group says last year at this time the figure was 315.

Sanchez slammed the government for its radical rejection of calls by the international community to improve the civil rights situation in the country, and he denounced the refusal to allow delegates from the UN, the Red Cross and other organizations access to the prisons.

In his statement, Sanchez included a partial list of those sanctioned for political motives, including 84 prisoners adopted by Amnesty International, 75 of which are dissidents who were condemned last year to sentences of up to 28 years.  Seven of these 75 were released recently for reasons of health, but Sanchez said the government is ignoring calls to release all prisoners of conscience.  He also expressed his group’s concern for three political prisoners condemned to death.

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