The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCHRNR) reported yesterday that the number of political prisoners held by the Cuban government has declined over the past six months. According to the independent watchdog based in Cuba, the number of prisoners has fallen from 201 in January to 167 in July.
CCHRNR director Elizardo Sanchez said the drop is due in part to the government opting for brief arrests of dissidents over long-term detentions. Yet President Raúl Castro’s government is still guility of widespread human rights abuses of dissidents, most notably the late Orlando Zapata Tamayo and currently ailing Guillermo Fariñas.
Zapata died on February 23, 2010, following a prolonged hunger strike, after which Fariñas stopped eating solid foods in an attempt to pressure the government to release 26 sick prisoners. Though Fariñas’ frail condition continues to attract condemnation from the U.S. and EU, the CCHRNR report and the recent release of two prisoners may represent a changing policy toward political opposition in Cuba.