In its latest report, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) found that the pro-democracy Cuban organization Unión Patriótica de Cuba (UNPACU) and the Ladies in White are two of the “most repressed” human rights organizations in Cuba. CCDHRN also reported a dramatic increase in the arrests of Cuban civil society members last month.
Ladies in White – a group of Cuban mothers and relatives protesting on behalf of political prisoners – have experienced intensified state-sponsored harassment for over 90 consecutive weeks. Last week, the harassment of UNPACU escalated when the Cuban National Revolutionary Police (PNR) attacked and raided the organization’s headquarters in Santiago, Cuba. During the raid, the PNR arrested and detained eight UNPACU members without charges; their current location is unknown, but their detainments mean there are now 55 members of UNPACU who are currently political prisoners. Carlos Ponce, Director of Freedom House’s Latin America programs and World Movement for Democracy participant, has lambasted the attacks as an attempt to silence opposition in Cuba.
On February 24, 2017, Cuban political prisoner and UNPACU member Hamell Santiago Más Hernández died after nearly 10 months behind bars at the Combinado del Este Prison in Havana, Cuba. During his arbitrary detention, Hernández lived under inhumane prison conditions and was denied access to a trial and medical assistance, all of which likely contributed to his tragic death. Cuban authorities arbitrarily arrested him for protesting, and accused the activist of “contempt and public disorder” last June.