Update from Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation

1.  The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, as of 9 a.m. Tuesday, has been unable to identify the name of the young man who shouted slogans in favor of freedom and against communism before the Mass held by Pope Benedict 16th yesterday (Monday, March 26) in Santiago de Cuba. So far, we do not know the whereabouts of this person who expressed himself peacefully and verbally and who was then assaulted by “unknown individuals in civilian clothes” and other paramilitary elements, who violently beat him on his head and neck, although he was already in custody and was offering no resistance to his arrest. These bits of information were reported to us by one of the faithful present at the Mass.

The Commission demands the Cuban government identify the person detained by the secret political police and to make his whereabouts public.

2.  The Commission estimates that, so far, the total number of dissidents detained throughout the country in relation to the Papal visit is more than 150.  We infer that the number of detentions will continue to grow between today and tomorrow (Wednesday, March 28), mainly in Havana and neighboring provinces, as a result of the presence of Benedict 16th in the western region and the Mass he will celebrate tomorrow in Cuba’s largest and main square.

3.  According to newly received reports, we now estimate between 200 and 300 beggars, drifters, and other homeless people continue to be detained in a hidden location, although it is expected that these poor fellows in Santiago de Cuba could be released today, and those in Havana on Wednesday afternoon, as we were assured by at least one staff member of “La Colonia,” one of the places earmarked for the detention of beggars in the capital.

4.  As part of the repressive measures taken by the regime, several hundred land-lines and cell phones, belonging to dissidents, independent journalists, bloggers and other civil society activists, have been disconnected, including all telephones of this Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

5.  Nearly 200 persons who are against dictatorial government have been forbidden from attending the public Masses held by Pope Benedict 16th and we foresee that the number of interdictions, prohibitions and house arrests will grow in number in Havana because of the Mass the Pope will celebrate in this city.

Elizardo Sánchez