Raúl Castro has given Cubans the chance to buy cell phones and computers, and to even spend a night in a tourist hotel. And he might even let Cubans travel overseas without government permission. Considering how much those can cost, it's good he's also increased some state salaries. Those decisions have been getting most of the headlines, and perhaps deservedly so.
But the story you may not have heard is that under Raúl Castro, the dictatorship he helped create and nurture is as vigilant as ever in identifying and cracking down hard on its opponents. Castro may be willing to provide a few economic sweetners to life under dictatorship, but that has not translated to a loosening of political controls and of the police state.
Erick Jesús Valdés Álvarez knows that too well.
Valdés, who at 25 represents the young Cubans who have given up any hope for Cuba under the Castros, was arrested April 25 and jailed at a State Security facility in Santiago de Cuba. The arrest amounted to a revocation of a type of probation Valdés had been serving since last November when he was convicted of being a "pre-criminal social danger" and sentenced to 3 years of "correctional work."
I guess his arrest last month means that Valdés, a member of the Youth Movement for Democracy, has graduated to become a full-fledged "danger" to the dictatorship.
One of the surest indicators of the repressive nature of the Castro regime is the jailing of several hundred political prisoners. To illustrate that reality, Uncommon Sense each week profiles one prisoner. There also is a Political Prisoner archive on the right sidebar. To suggest a prisoner for a profile, send me an e-mail.
For profiles of imprisoned Cuban journalists and related information, read the March 18 Project.