September, the first full month the U.S. Embassy in Havana was reopened and when Pope Francis visited the island, was a high-water mark for political repression in Cuba, according to a human right monitoring group.
The Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation reported Monday there were at least 882 politically motivated arrests across the island last month, the highest monthly tally since June 2014 when there 963. It was the third straight month where the count was higher than the month before, and brought the count for the year to at least 5,146,
The precise link between the embassy reopening and the papal visit and the worsening repression may be impossible to prove, but it would naive to conclude it's only a coincidence. Of the arrests recorded by the human rights group, at least 353 occurred before and during Pope Francis' visit, Sept. 19-22, repression that was met mostly with silence from the U.S. government.
The most-visible arrests occurred before Pope Francis said Mass on Sept. 20 in Havana, when three anti-Castro activists -- Zaqueo Báez, María Acon and Ismael Bonet -- were arrested after they approached the papal motorcade. More than two weeks later, they remained jail without formal charges being filed against them
Elizardo Sanchez, head of the human rights commission, said the trio may be deserving of international recognition as "prisoners of conscience."
For details on each arrest in September, go here.