Dissidents in Cuba
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U.N. rights expert: U.S. sanctions trigger repression

Posted on Wed, Mar. 08, 2006

CUBA
U.N. rights expert: U.S. sanctions trigger repression
A new report by a U.N. human rights expert says that tightening
sanctions in Cuba in 2003 and 2004 has led to more antagonism towards
the Cuban people.
BY ALEXANDER G. HIGGINS
Associated Press

GENEVA – A U.N. human rights expert said Tuesday the number of Cuban
dissidents arrested and sentenced to long terms increased in 2005,
claiming ”extreme tension” with the United States had played a role in
hampering freedom of expression on the island.

Christine Chanet, a French jurist who is the U.N. Human Rights
Commission’s expert on Cuba, said in a new report that tightened U.S.
sanctions have made life more difficult for Cubans in general — and
political opponents to President Fidel Castro in particular.

”United States laws and the funding provided for building democracy in
Cuba make members of the political opposition on the island appear to be
sympathetic to foreign influences and provide the Cuban authorities with
an opportunity to tighten repression against them,” she said.

Chanet has not been allowed to visit Cuba since she became the
commission’s Cuba expert in 2003. Her attempts to reach the government
this year went unanswered.

But she said she learned from other sources that “in 2005 more people
were arrested and given disproportionate sentences for expressing
dissident political opinions.”

U.S. officials were not immediately available to comment, but they have
previously defended the embargo as a legitimate tool to “accelerate
democratic change in Cuba.”

Cuban officials also were not immediately available for comment.

”The extreme tension between Cuba and the United States of America has
created a climate which is far from conducive to the development of
freedom of expression and freedom of assembly,” said Chanet.

She noted nearly 80 people were arrested and given long sentences in
”the unprecedented wave of repression that was unleashed in March-April
2003 in Cuba” in retaliation for U.S. encouragement of the opposition,
and she named the 60 still in prison.

But, she said, “It is impossible to ignore the disastrous and lasting
economic and social effects — compounded in 2004 — of the embargo
imposed on the Cuban population over 40 years ago, as well as its
impacts on civil and political rights.”

Tighter restrictions imposed by the U.S. in May 2004 have increased the
scope of the embargo, Chanet said.

The U.S. has had economic sanctions against Cuba since President Kennedy
imposed them in 1963, four years after Castro came to power.

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/world/americas/14043388.htm

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