Fuzzy (and Dangerous) Math

Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Let's be absolutely clear -- one political prisoner is one too many.

Every effort must be made to ensure that every single political prisoner is freed -- not just released and forcibly exiled -- by the Castro regime.

Furthermore, every effort must be made to ensure that every Cuban is able to freely express their political views and opinions without the risk or fear of imprisonment.

Therefore, the media must be cautious in making non-factual assertions or to -- even unintentionally -- "gloss over" a single political prisoner.

For example, this headline by Reuters:

Number of Cuban political prisoners lowest since 1959

The number of political prisoners in Cuba has dropped to 167, the lowest total since the 1959 revolution that put Fidel Castro in power, a human rights group said on Monday.

The decline comes amid possible signs that the Cuban government is preparing to release more jailed dissidents, said Elizardo Sanchez, spokesman for the independent Cuban Commission on Human Rights.

The 167 prisoners is a decline from 201 at the end of 2009 and "is the lowest number in 51 years," said Sanchez, who is a former political prisoner.

The commission, which issues a report on Cuban human rights every six months, said Cuba had more than 15,000 political prisoners 45 years ago.

It said the number has steadily dwindled over the past seven years as the government realized "it does not need to have so many political prisoners to maintain almost complete social control."

Yet, according to the State Department's Cuba country report:

The government incarcerates people for their peaceful political beliefs or activities. The total number of political prisoners and detainees is unknown, because the government does not disclose such information and keeps its prisons off-limits to human rights organizations and international human rights monitors. One local human rights organization lists more than 200 political prisoners currently detained in Cuba in addition to as many as 5,000 people sentenced for "dangerousness."

And as Human Rights Watch explains,

Raúl Castro government has relied in particular on the Criminal Code offense of "dangerousness," which allows authorities to imprison individuals before they have committed any crime, on the suspicion that they are likely to commit an offense in the future. This "dangerousness" provision is overtly political, defining as "dangerous" any behavior that contradicts Cuba's socialist norms.

They too are political prisoners and should not be "glossed over."