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This report assesses human rights developments in Cuba from November to March , updating the Perspective Series report Cuba: Systematic Repression of Dissent issued in December Since then, Castro has disregarded similar pleas from Canada, the European Union and members of the Organization of American States, and a year after the Pope's visit Cuba remained under the totalitarian control of a one-party Communist state.
As Human Rights Watch noted in its annual report in December After an apparent opening early in , Cuba took firm action against nonviolent government critics as the year progressed with surveillance, harassment, and intimidation. Cuba used short-term, arbitrary detentions together with official warnings of future prosecution to urge activists to leave Cuba, abandon their opposition activities, or distance themselves from "counterrevolutionary" colleagues or family members.
As drew to a close, Cuba's stepped-up prosecutions and harassment of dissidents, along with its refusal to grant amnesty to hundreds of remaining political prisoners or reform its criminal code, marked a disheartening return to heavy-handed repression. Heightened repression continued into with renewed waves of detentions and, in March, with the convictions and sentencing of four of Cuba's most prominent dissidents on charges of "sedition," as described later in this section and in Section XII.
As the trial approached, at least dissidents, including human rights activists and independent journalists, were temporarily detained or placed under house arrest in an evident attempt to prevent them from campaigning on behalf of those being tried, or from attending or reporting on the proceedings. Although the number of those freed was unprecedented, the release fit Castro's historical pattern of pardoning prisoners as a way to gain favor with visiting foreign dignitaries, as discussed in Sections IV and VI.
Otherwise, the prisons will just fill up again. He stated that Cuba's laws would remain in place and that there would continue to be no tolerance for peaceful opposition to the government. He said that the release of prisoners "has not been made to stimulate acts of internal dissidence," and he made it clear that the government would take a stern view of "counterrevolution," the term the government habitually uses to refer to peaceful dissent.