In the last couple of years, “express detentions,” rather than long jail terms, have become the way the Cuban government “represses” dissenters. These detentions can last from a few hours up to a week, and are being carried out by different state agencies, such as the Ministry of the Interior, or the State Security, according to Micaela Hierro Dori, Program Coordinator for the Center for Opening and Development of Latin America (CADAL).
The use of “express detentions” is increasing, according to a 2012 report from Freedom House: the number of these arrests doubled – from 2,078 in 2010 to 4,123 in 2011.
The reasons for adopting this new practice go beyond overcrowding conditions in Cuban prisons. “Express detentions” have become the way to harass and intimidate any type of activity considered by the Castro regime as “counterrevolutionary.”
These arbitrary arrests typically increase during special days or visits by important foreigners, such as the celebration of Human Rights International Day, or during the March 2012 papal visit. At that time, Elizardo Sánchez, who heads the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) noted that 1,158 arbitrary arrests had been carried out.
In one month the same dissident can be detained from two to four times. For example, the renowned blogger Yoani Sánchez was arrested twice in the last month, first when she was on her way to observe the political trial of the Spanish citizen Angel Carromero in Bayamo and once again along with Guillermo Fariñas, recipient of the 2010 European Parliament‘s Sakharov Human Rights Award and 20 other dissidents when she was accused of “disturbance of the public order and lack of social discipline.”
This short-duration arrest tactic makes it difficult for the international human rights community to catch up with them. It’s dictatorship-harassment with a friendlier face. In 2011 on May Day in Cuba, these tactics were used against the leaders of the independent unions, whose houses were surrounded to prevent entrance or exit, and those approaching were subjected to quickie arrests and released several hours later.