Cuban group says political detentions rose dramatically in 2012

HAVANA Thu Jan 3, 2013 5:55pm EST

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HAVANA (Reuters) - Political detentions rose dramatically in Cuba in 2012 and will likely increase again in 2013 because of a lack of "real reforms" on the communist island, a Cuban human rights group said on Thursday.

The independent Cuban Commission of Human Rights said in its annual report there were 6,602 detentions of government opponents last year, compared to 4,123 in 2011 and 2,074 in 2010.

Elizardo Sanchez, head of the group, said the rise reflected growing discontent among Cubans and the government's attempts to keep a lid on dissent.

"Dissatisfaction is increasing because of the general poverty and the lack of hope," he told Reuters.

Cuban leaders counter that their opponents are largely the creation of the United States and others who provide money and other aid to help foment dissent against the government.

Havana also questions the validity of the commission's numbers, which cannot be independently verified.

Under President Raul Castro, who succeeded older brother Fidel Castro nearly five years ago, Cuba has launched market-oriented economic reforms aimed at increasing productivity and prosperity while assuring the continuance of the island's socialist system.

But Sanchez said the changes are small and have not improved human rights or living conditions on the Caribbean island, which he believes will lead to more dissent and detentions in 2013.

"This prediction is based on the refusal of the island government to introduce real reforms, especially regarding the system of laws," he said.

"The regime continues perfecting and increasing the size of its powerful machinery of repression and propaganda," he said.

Most of the detentions last only a matter of hours, but Sanchez said the number of Cubans going to prison for political reasons is on the rise, after most political prisoners were released in a government accord with the Catholic Church in July 2010.

(Reporting By Jeff Franks; Editing by Jane Sutton and Paul Simao)

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