[JURIST] Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] urged [press release] the Cuban government on Thursday to stop harassing and detaining political and human rights activists. AI's call for an end to harassment by Cuban authorities came in the wake of Cuba releasing prominent political activist Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia on Wednesday after detaining him for 36 hours. Ferrer Garcia is the coordinator of the Cuban dissident group Union Patriotica de Cuba (UNPACU) [advocacy website, in Spanish]. In the press release, James Burke, AI's campaigner on the Caribbean, compared Cuba's policy of detaining human rights activists to a game of cat-and-mouse:
The latest arrest and short-term detention of Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia continues the Cuban authorities' cat-and-mouse game with political dissidents and human rights activists. This practiceused as a form of harassment and intimidation to repress legitimate, peaceful activism and freedom of expressionmust come to a halt.UNPACU, which formed in mid-2011 as an umbrella group of Cuban dissident organizations, has been a repeated target of crackdowns by the Cuban government.
Cuba has had a history of suppressing political dissent [HRW backgrounder] through criminal prosecutions. In July, AI and the US government criticized Cuba [JURIST report] for arresting more than 40 activists who attended the funeral of prominent dissident Oswaldo Jose Paya Sardinas [personal website, in Spanish]. In December the government announced [JURIST report] that it would grant amnesty to and release 2,900 prisoners, including political prisoners. The announcement came in the wake of a scheduled visit by Pope Benedict XVI. Human rights activists have criticized the proposed amnesty because it was merely a protection of the country's image rather than a step towards a real reform. Alan Gross, a US contractor, who was sentenced [JURIST report] to 15 years in prison for attempting to undermine the communist government of Cuba, was not given amnesty.