A leading Cuban human rights campaigner said Tuesday that brief detentions of dissidents nearly doubled in 2011 compared to the year before.
The report released by Elizardo Sanchez, who monitors arrests as head of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and Reconciliation, said there were 4,123 arrests of dissidents, nearly all of them lasting "for several hours or days," up from 2,074 in 2010.
Cuba's government, which calls dissidents "mercenaries" in the service of Washington, disputes Sanchez's statistics. A state-run website reported last year that several names on his list were Bolivian and Peruvian athletes and an 18th-century painter. He acknowledged the mistakes but said his people had been tricked by security agents pretending to be dissidents.
Sanchez also reported that arrests spiked to 796 in December, more than any other month, even as President Raul Castro's government announced it was releasing more than 2,900 prisoners, mostly common criminals serving long terms.
Cuba no longer has any inmates considered "prisoners of conscience" by Amnesty International after freeing the last of dozens of intellectuals and social activists in 2011. Many of those left the country for exile.