The Cuban government is resorting more to mob action to stifle dissent and at levels of violence unseen for years, the Communist-run country’s main human rights organization said on Thursday.
The illegal but tolerated Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation said that on 24 different occasions in January groups of government supporters harassed dissidents.
Five were physically assaulted and five government opponents’ homes were searched, the commission said.
“The government has unleashed a major operation against its opponents,” a report issued by the organization said, adding incidents had taken place in eight of 14 provinces.
“Particularly worrisome is the level of physical and verbal violence used by individuals mobilized by the government in these actions, unprecedented in recent years,” the commission said.
The report described an incident where an angry mob surrounded the home of a blind dissident in central Cuba, another where a government opponent’s home in Havana was defaced with paint and another where a dissident was hit with iron bars in the eastern part of the country.
President Fidel Castro routinely charges Cuban dissidents are mercenaries and agents of the United States out to end the revolution that swept him to power in 1959.
The government denies it resorts to physical abuse of opponents.
Castro, in a major speech in 2005, warned Cubans would respond with “patriotic fervor” every time dissidents “overstep by a millimeter ... what the people are willing to tolerate.”
Human Rights Commission President Elizardo Sanchez said the government had opted for a strategy of intimidation to quell rising discontent over the country’s economic malaise.
“Popular discontent across the country appears unstoppable. The state is aware of the social unrest and is responding in this way,” the veteran opposition activist said.
The commission report compares the mob actions to those carried out by the Nazis against the Jews, echoing a recent statement by the top U.S. diplomat in Havana, Michael Parmly.
The commission said in January there were 333 political prisoners on the island and that 57 people were detained during the year for political reasons.
Amnesty International says Cuba has 80 prisoners of conscience, more than any other country in the Western Hemisphere.