Saturday, January 23, 2010

Obstacles to Recovery in Haiti May Prove Daunting Beyond Other Disasters


Damon Winter/The New York Times
Clenette Cermot screamed in pain as doctors treated her leg at a field hospital set up by Cuban doctors in Port-au-Prince. Rescue efforts wound down on Friday as the focus shifted from rescue to delivering shelter, water and medical care to injured, hungry and displaced Haitians.



Published: January 22, 2010
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The relief effort in Haiti could end up being the most difficult, faith-testing recovery from a modern disaster, perhaps even exceeding that from the 2004 Asian tsunami, according to United Nation officials and aid groups with experience in large-scale catastrophes.


Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Alsius Zillifette washed his 5-year-old son, Ashley Alsius, in a Doctors Without Borders field hospital in Port-au-Prince on Friday. The boy lost an arm when their house collapsed in the quake.

Damon Winter/The New York Times

Men ran for water in an American Army convoy on Thursday in Port-au-Prince. Soldiers jumped out and fended them off.

Haiti, already the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, was barely showing signs of recovery from the 2008 hurricane season when the earthquake flattened its capital, Port-au-Prince, crippling the country’s already weakened transportation and service delivery network.
Local aid groups that would normally help guide international efforts were damaged themselves, while the United Nations lost at least 70 staff members, and 146 more remain unaccounted for.
“You’re talking about a country that pre-earthquake had limited resources and capability, and what resources it did have were concentrated in the capital,” said Kim Bolduc, who is coordinating the relief effort for the United Nations. “This context helps explain why this emergency is probably the most complex in history, more than the tsunami, more than the Pakistan earthquake” of 2005.
The difficulties have confounded aid workers across the country, even those who have dealt with some of world’s worst disasters in recent years. At a first aid tent in the middle of a soccer field where hundreds of people are now living in Jacmel, a coastal city that was among the worst-hit, a French doctor threw his hands in the air.
“I am very, very surprised,” the doctor, François Sarda, a volunteer with Aides Actions Internationales Pompiers, said of the three days it took the aid group to get in and the chaos he found when he finally arrived. The group was forced to fly to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic and take a boat from there. “At least in the tsunami we had some infrastructure,” he said.
To help manage the chaos, the United Nations and the United States signed a two-page memorandum of understanding on Friday to formalize their roles and end the tensions that flared earlier in the week. The United Nations had complained about the American military’s handling of flights at the airport here, saying critical deliveries of food from the World Food Program were being unnecessarily delayed.
Under the memorandum, Haiti maintains overall control of the aid and rescue efforts, though the United Nations is in charge of coordinating the work. But the memorandum does not put American soldiers or other personnel under United Nations command. The Americans remain focused on delivering aid, while the United Nations handles peacekeeping.
Still, the United States is known for throwing its considerable weight around in international aid efforts, so it is unclear if the new agreement will solve the earlier problems.
Doctors Without Borders has complained about the American military’s running of the airport. The group has landed some planes, but has had others diverted, forcing it to truck in supplies from the Dominican Republic, according to Marie-Noëlle Rodrigue, deputy director for operations for Doctors Without Borders in Paris.
“It’s a very confusing situation and difficult to understand,” Ms. Rodrigue said. Jason Cone, a spokesman in New York, said much of the confusion involved who was coordinating matters. He said airport access had improved in recent days through direct contact with the Pentagon and the United States Agency for International Development.
Maj. Nathan Miller, with the Air Force’s 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, said that the military was not playing favorites, and that military planes now arrived during off-peak night hours to make more room for international aid flights.
The challenges faced by some Haitian organizations are confounding. Danièle Magloire, a senior director of Fokal, a Haitian human rights organization, began working from an empty room in a friend’s apartment building after her own home and office were damaged. The room still lacks electricity and water, like most buildings in the city. Residents of the neighborhood whose homes were destroyed camp outside on the street.
“We cannot possibly make it alone in the struggle to rebuild,” Ms. Magloire said. “The United Nations, with its immense bureaucracy, cannot make it alone. We need all the help we can get, and we know that it must come from the United States at this critical moment.”
Despite the troubles, the recovery effort is finding better footing by the day. Though rescuers are still hoping to defy the dwindling chances of finding anyone alive in the mountains of rubble 10 days after the earthquake, aid workers are shifting their focus to delivering shelter, water and medical care to hundreds of thousands of injured, hungry and displaced Haitians. They are racing against the approach of the rainy season, which aid groups fear could unleash disease.
United Nations officials said Friday that most surviving supermarkets would reopen next week, and that cellphone service should be fully restored by Saturday, with 40 banks also reopening. Lines for gasoline have also eased, with officials reporting that 30 percent of the city’s gas stations were now operational and that there was no longer a shortage of gasoline.
But problems persist bringing in diesel fuel, hobbling efforts to gear up aid distribution, Edmond Mulet, the chief United Nations official in Haiti, said in a videoconference with reporters.
Although enough food is on hand to reach many more people, only 100,000 received such aid on Thursday because of a lack of trucks and fuel, he said.
“We have the food to be distributed,” he said. “We just don’t have the vehicles.”
The United Nations needs to bring in 10,000 gallons of diesel per day from the Dominican Republic just to keep water trucks circulating, Mr. Mulet said.
Ms. Bolduc is coordinating the humanitarian efforts, but how many aid groups are now roaming the country is anybody’s guess, she said. About 375 have registered with her office, but she says she believes that there are many more that have found their own way into the country and are providing relief.
American rescue teams were among the first to experience the knot of troubles. Usually, when they set down in a country after a natural disaster, the local government has already identified buildings where there are known survivors so they can race to the scene. But here, without government input, they had to drive through the city themselves, making snap assessments about where survivors were likely to be found.
They had trouble getting their equipment; its arrival at the airport was delayed for several days. Then they faced a shortage of vehicles, gas and drivers at the United States Embassy.
“We have zero infrastructure here,” said Louie Fernandez, one of 80 rescuers from Miami-Dade County in Florida. “What are you supposed to do?”
Despite the monumental obstacles that must be overcome, Ms. Bolduc said, “It’s not mission impossible, if all the players work together.”

Reporting was contributed by Damien Cave and Simon Romero from Port-au-Prince, Neil MacFarquhar from the United Nations, and Doreen Carvajal from Paris.
S: The New York Times

Haiti rappers craft new 'Palace' from ration boxes

A man walks by a tent made of cardboard boxes with the sign AP – A man walks by a tent made of cardboard boxes with the sign 'National Palace' in the Delmas 40 refugee … 
 
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Haiti's National Palace lies in ruins, so the boys of Delmas 40 refugee camp built a cardboard substitute. The roughly 12-foot-wide (3.7-meter-wide) house of military ration boxes tops a ridge above a sprawling tent city near a base for the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne division. The boxes are unfolded and held up by wooden poles and coat hangers. A mini Haitian flag flies in front and a painted sign proclaims it the "palais national." When the white-sheet roof billows, you can almost see one of the tapered domes of the real palace that for eight decades crowned downtown Port-au-Prince. "I'd never been in a national palace before, so we built one," said Jhonny Narcisse, 32. He, like the others, form the rap group "D-Clan." Narcisse calls himself "B-Deep." Louissant Bennigchton, 25, is the front man, aka "J.B. Madjigriddi." His dreadlocks are partially covered by a burnt-orange knit cap. He has a black beard and horn-rim glasses. At night, 19 guys sleep on the dirt floor of the "palace" that looks down on a makeshift camp that has formed on a golf course. The musicians are working on a song about the quake that destroyed all their homes called "Bible Story," but that isn't finished. For now they freestyle a verse in English and Creole: "We need the food. We need to eat. We are heroes. We are heroes." They laugh and sway, beatboxing. There are other signs around the palace. One declares the southwest side as Port-au-Prince's new cathedral. And one facing the sunglass-wearing U.S. soldiers who direct food distributions to the 50,000 people sleeping in the valley below reads: "God Bless America 4 American Food." A food line snakes up the steep hill to the soldiers' position, housed behind the cracked clubhouse of the swank Petionville country club, which shares its grounds with the U.S. ambassador's home. Behind the ocean of tarps on the golf course are the cracked concrete houses the people here left behind. The D-Clan boys say the soldiers keep turning them away in line, so they pool their money to go out, buy rice, and cook it in a corner of their pseudo-palace. Where they buy it exactly, they don't say. The camouflaged soldiers behind the ropes say they don't turn anyone anyway; in fact, they usually let people take rations twice, as long as there's no shoving. One starts to comment on the new "government" building behind their post, but an officer calls him away. They'll probably have a lot of time to consider it, though. "This palace is here forever," Bennigchton said, his friends clapping in approval. "Until the owner wants the land back."

Volunteers in Haiti take a breath, find time to cry

By Arthur Brice, CNN
January 22, 2010 6:49 p.m. EST
Gary Garner is a doctor from Utah who has spent the week volunteering in Haiti.
Gary Garner is a doctor from Utah who has spent the week volunteering in Haiti.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Doctor from Utah looks for way home after 5 days of volunteering
  • Another volunteer frustrated by lack of cooperation from another country's doctors
  • Both have been too busy seeing patients to cry over what they've seen
Port-au-Prince, Haiti (CNN) -- Like many people who have done their time in Haiti, Gary Garner needs a good cry.
In the past five days, the Salt Lake City, Utah, physician has held a dying man in his arms and amputated more fingers and toes than he can remember. Now, he needs a rest.
Friday found him on the tarmac at the Port-au-Prince airport, searching for a way back to a normal life.
"We're going to go home and cry," Garner said in a low voice.
Then quietly, gently, with the suffering showing in his eyes as he looks away, he starts to cry. The pain can't wait for home.
Full coverage | Twitter updates
Elizabeth Bellino couldn't wait either. The New Orleans, Louisiana, pediatrician sat in her car Friday and wept because doctors at another nation's hospital would not accept a truckload of food and water from her. Nor would they let her pick up patients to take back to the University of Miami field hospital, where she's been volunteering this week.
"It's so frustrating," Bellino said afterward. "Why would they do that?"
Video: Haiti: What's next and needed
RELATED TOPICS
There's much crying in Haiti. There's certain to be more once caregivers and others get home.
For now, though, the work continues.
iReport: List of missing, found | Are you there?
Bellino had an increasing patient load at the hospital, located in a dusty field adjacent to the Aeroport International Toussaint L'Ouverture. A 5.9-magnitude aftershock Wednesday had given her new patients.
Even though Garner was trying to figure out how to get home, he still kept tending to patients being brought to a landing zone in three private helicopters.
Those helicopters belong to Utah businessman Jeremy Johnson, who offered to take a medical team to Haiti after last week's 7.0-magnitude earthquake killed tens of thousands and injured thousands more.
Garner was a last-minute addition to a team put together by financial adviser Craig Nelson, a neighbor in Utah.
Nelson had been to Haiti on a Mormon mission 20 years ago, along with Steve Hansen and Chuck Peterson, now both Utah physicians. When Nelson heard about the earthquake, he decided they needed to go. Hansen and Peterson readily agreed.
They were dropped off Monday at the coastal city of Leogane, nearly 20 miles (30 kilometers) west of Port-au-Prince. The city was at the epicenter of last week's earthquake, and some reports say up to 90 percent of Leogane's buildings were damaged or destroyed.
Impact Your World
The U.S. doctors were among the first caregivers to arrive and were later joined by teams from Cuba, Germany, Canada and other nations. Unlike what happened to Bellino in Port-au-Prince, everyone got along fine in Leogane.
"It was like the United Nations of medical work," said Nelson.
"There were no nationalities," Garner said.
They treated about 300 patients. The medicine was often rudimentary because of a lack of supplies.
One doctor used a Leatherman tool to amputate a man's lower leg. Doctors also used a rack from the back of a bicycle as a makeshift orthopedic splint, screwing it into the patient's leg bones.
The days were long, bleeding deep into the night. Sleep lasted three or four hours.
"We worked until our headlamps ran out of batteries and then people would bring us batteries," Garner said.
"You can sleep when you're dead," he said. "And I'll have plenty of time to sleep this weekend."
And, no doubt, have a good cry or two.

Fidel: Protect Morales from 'the empire'

Fidel Castro has asked the people of Bolivia to protect the life of (foto2) their president, Evo Morales, from the actions of the "empire," as the Cuban leader describes the United States.
On Friday, Morales began his second term as president; his mandate will last until 2015.
In a message to Morales, delivered Friday by Cuban Vice President Ramiro Valdés, Castro said that "to the degree that the empire overcomes its domestic opposition and Evo's leadership becomes ever stronger and more undeniable, [the empire] will escalate its actions to achieve its objectives.
"To care for Evo, protect his life and support him will therefore be one of the fundamental duties to perform under these circumstances," Castro's message said, according to the Bolivian Information Agency.
"Let us not deceive ourselves for a minute with the idea that this empire will resign itself to the existence of an independent and revolutionary Bolivia," the note continued. The Bolivian people's victory at the polls "is a formidable obstacle that rises at the right moment to block the imperialist plans," schemes that "ensure a greater plunder of the natural resources that will be increasingly scarce in this region."
To protect Morales "is to defend everything that life represents in the face of the threat to fall once more under the dominion of the forces of death," the note said. For a longer report on Castro's message, in Spanish, click here.
(PHOTO SHOWS: Morales, in ceremonial robes, at an Indian ritual Thursday.)
Posted by Renato Perez at 09:16 AM in Fidel Castro, The Americas
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Voice ofAmerica acknowledges Cuban role in Haiti, favors more 'bilateral cooperation'

Voice of America, a Washington-based news service that by its own definition "reflects the views of the United States government," this week acknowledged the accomplishments of Cuban health workers in Haiti and said that the government in Havana has "aided United States relief efforts by opening restricted Cuban air space to American planes flying medical evacuation missions."
(logo) In an editorial published Friday, VOA said that "the U.S. reached agreement with Havana for evacuation flights from the U.S. Navy base in Guantánamo Bay to pass through Cuba on their way to Florida." The overflights begin Sunday.
"An understanding had been in place allowing individual emergency flights to travel through the area," the editorial said, "but the new agreement expands that authority to a standing basis. Now planes that are carrying badly injured people for medical treatment in the U.S. won't have to be pre-cleared by Cuban authorities."
In what sounds like a statement from the State Department, the VOA editorial says that "the bilateral cooperation between the U.S. and Cuba reflects our overwhelming concern for the welfare of the Haitian people. We will continue to look for areas where cooperation between our two nations can support Haitian relief."
To read the entire editorial, click here. For an article in The Miami Herald about the overflights, click here.
Posted by Renato Perez at 12:02 AM in Current Affairs, Media, U.S.-Cuba relations
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S:Cuban Colada

"A Sense of Common Humanity" (Part 2)

Cooperation between Cuba and the U.S. has taken a step forward.

White House spokesman Tommy Veitor said yesterday: "We have coordinated with the Cuban government for authorization to fly medical evacuation flights from the U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay to Miami, through Cuban airspace, cutting 90 minutes off one-way flight time."

According to the New York Times, this was a U.S. request from a Guantanamo Base commander to the Cuban military. Occasional military communication between the two nations are the closest thing to diplomacy we have.

Cooperation and coordination between the two nations will only help the whole relief effort. Currently, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is receiving supplies and equipment for navy ships currently entering Haiti.

In the meantime, a report on the Cuban medical unit inside Haiti has emerged. According to this television report [in Spanish, video below], Cuban doctors have constructed a field hospital outside their home in Port-au-Prince.

One doctor, Rafael Reyes says that they had no other choice because most of the hospitals around the capital are closed or destroyed.

An additional emergency room of Cuban doctors has been opened at an ophthalmology center in Port-au-Prince, which before headquartered the Miracle Mission project, a Cuba-Venezuela initiative providing free eye surgery for the poor.

Inside the center, Dr. Frank Diaz, an orthopedic surgeon, reports that 90% of the injuries arriving are open fractures that require immediate attention. Dr. Diaz also mentions his experience operating in Peru during the aftermath of their earthquakes, but highlights that the injuries in Haiti have been much more severe.



[Photo by Reuters, Sea Hawk helicopters to embark aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson en route to Haiti.]

[BBC Special Reports from Haiti]
[Dr. Paul Farmer on Cuban doctors in Haiti]
[What You Can Do To Help Haiti]


LPP Archive...

Cuba: Presidente del PLRC realiza declaraciones sobre represión.


Silvio Benítez Márquez, presidente del Partido Liberal de la República de Cuba. Foto: Roberto Guerra.


Por Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez
Centro de Información Hablemos Press


La Habana, 2 de noviembre. —El presidente del Partido Liberal de la República de Cuba (PLRC), Silvio Benítez Márquez, dijo el martes en la Habana, que “la policía política reprimen a toda persona que tenga interés en integrar este partido” que prepara delegados para participar en las elecciones oficiales del 2010.
“El recrudecimiento, el acoso, la coacción y represión contra toda las personas que tengan interés en pertenecer al Partido Liberal, son parte de la campaña de la seguridad del estado”, dijo Benítez.
Benítez aseguró, “tengo indicios de que agentes están coaccionando las personas sobre cualquier tipo de conversación conmigo. Hay descalificaciones como no toquen ese tema es un contrarrevolucionario”.
Envió un mensaje al pueblo cubano y a los gobernantes así como a la opinión pública:si ser "contrarrevolucionario" significa estar en contra del sistema comunista y dictatorial que durante 50 años a gobernado por la fuerza, si enfrentarse a la seguridad del estado, luchar por los derechos humanos y civiles, denunciar los atropellos de la tiranía contra su pueblo, luchar pacíficamente contra todo lo que vaya en contra de la libertad de expresión y prepararse para participar en las elecciones es ser “contrarrevolucionario”, entonces yo soy un CONTRAREVOLUCIONARIO”.


El PLRC, es una organización opositora fundada el 18 de marzo del 2009, fecha en que en el 2003 fueron condenados 75 disidentes cubanos, prepara delegados para participar en las elecciones. Ya ha nombrado en Pinar del Rio, La Habana, Ciudad de La Habana y pretende extenderse a otras provincias.
“Al parecer están tratando de trasmitirle al pueblo, el miedo, el pánico y el terror contra aquellas personas que solo deseen un cambio pacifico. Solo deseamos unirnos en un proyecto participativo para que en la isla se realicen elecciones libre”, indicó.

Zapatero's Cuba initiative runs into opposition 

Published: Monday 18 January 2010   
The Spanish Presidency's hopes of reviewing the EU's long-standing position on Cuba were frustrated last week when influential representatives from Europe's leading political family proclaimed their opposition to the move.

Background:

Cuba is the only Latin American country which does not have a cooperation agreement with the EU, limiting European involvement to humanitarian aid programmes. According to 2009 figures from the European Commission's trade directorate, 22.6% of Cuban imports come from the EU.
The EU agreed a common position on Cuba in 1996, when Spain's José María Aznar was in power. The common position, which was heavily influenced by Aznar, maintains the stalemate in formal relations with Cuba insofar as no tangible improvements in respect of civil liberties are recorded on the island.
Between March 2003 and January 2005, the EU stepped up the level of diplomatic isolation towards Cuba in response to the jailing of 75 dissidents. These so-called 'Cocktail Wars' ended when Cuba released 14 of them in 2004.
The 1996 common position was confirmed in June 2009 under the Czech EU Presidency. The Spanish EU Presidency plans to modify the common position in a bid to smooth the bloc's relations with the island.

More on this topic:

Other related news:

A panel discussion organised by the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) and the Lech Wałęsa Institute in Brussels saw Spanish and Polish delegates reject moves by Spanish Prime Minister José Luiz Rodríguez Zapatero to rekindle relations with the dissenting Caribbean state.
Polish parliamentarians drew heavy comparisons between the situation of the people of Cuba and that of Polish citizens before 1989. Ryszard Schnepf, Poland's ambassador to Madrid, claimed that "Polish people have a special right to speak on this matter because of what we suffered. We Polish can prove that impossible things can indeed become possible".
Spanish members of the European People's Party (EPP), from the Partido Popular (PP), suggested taking lessons from Spain's peaceful democratic transition in the 1970s. "The internal dynamics are always the key. External factors can help, but are never decisive," said Jaime Mayor Oreja, EPP vice-president and leading Spanish candidate in last June's European elections.
MEPs also noticed that the Spanish Presidency's hopes of improving relations with Havana have been hindered by Cuba itself. On 3 January, Cuban airport authorities refused Spanish Socialist MEP Luis Yáñez-Barnuevoexternal  entry into the country.
The MEP, who is chairman of the European Parliament's delegation for relations with Mercosur, supports dialogue with democratic dissidents in Cuba.
EPP members defined this act as proof of the unfeasibility of the Spanish government's intentions. Yáñez-Barnuevo was himself in favour of a thaw in EU-Cuba relations, but said this would not be enough to make the island's authorities more receptive to dialogue.
Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos said Cuba had made a mistake by refusing the MEP entry, but claimed that this would not hinder the proposed review of relations between the EU and the Caribbean dictatorship. "Isolation, confrontation, the embargo and the blockade [against Cuba] have produced no result in 50 years."
Spain is likely to encounter a number of procedural difficulties. Firstly, in order to abrogate the common position, it will have to reach unanimity among the 27 EU member states. This is unlikely to happen considering the opposition that the leading Polish party Platforma Obywatelska has expressed through its leading MEPs.
Secondly, with the Lisbon Treaty's entry into force, Spain's Javier Solana lost the chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs Council, which brings together the EU 27's foreign ministers, to the benefit of Catherine Asthon, the new EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs.
Spain might decide to push for relations with Cuba to be placed on the agenda, but it will not be in a position to broker an agreement.
The choice will be in the hands of High Representative Ashton. However, it is unlikely that she will spend much of her political credit on such a potentially divisive issue as EU-Cuba relations during the first period of her tenure.

Positions:

Polish MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, a former chairman of the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee, stated that "the EU's open approach towards Cuba and the lifting of sanctions in 2008 has not been backed by lifting the regime's oppression against its citizens. Perhaps the Union's policy should be similar to the one on Belarus - sanctions should be suspended under the condition of improvement in the human rights situation".
Spanish Congressman Téofilo de Luis Rodríguez, who has Cuban origins, suggested creating a kind of "alert mechanism" at EU level under which Cuban ambassadors and consuls are immediately called to publicly explain and justify the internal development of the island as soon as breaches of human rights are reported.
MEP Jaime Major Oreja, head of the Spanish delegation to the European People's Party, warned that "the possibility of a change [...] does exist. This would be a risk, not an opportunity".
MEP José Ignacio Salafranca, chairman of the European Parliament's  delegation to the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly, said the authorities on the island are resilient to external influences, and this is why a change in the common position would not help to improve the situation.

Links

European Union Governments NGOs
Rights Situation Remains Poor in Cuba, Dissidents Say

HAVANA – The state of human rights in Cuba did not improve last year and is unlikely to get better in 2010, a dissident organization said Tuesday, though noting that the number of political prisoners declined from 205 to 201.

“Unless a miracle happens, the situation of civil, political and economic rights in Cuba will remain the same or worse in the course of 2010,” the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation said in a statement distributed to the press by its chairman, Elizardo Sanchez.

“Nothing indicates that the current governors are ready to initiate the judicial, economic and political reforms the country needs,” the document said.

Some in Cuba and abroad had hoped that the transfer of power from the ailing Fidel Castro to his younger brother would bring an easing of the Communist Party’s grip. But while Raul Castro has encouraged more open debate within official forums, he has shown no inclination to relinquish the government’s media monopoly.

In its report on 2009, the human rights commission attributes continuing repression to fear on the part of a “minority within the top nomenclatura (leadership) that continues exercising totalitarian power.”

That minority, according to the commission, is afraid that loosening the reins would be tantamount to opening a “Pandora’s box” of the communist regime’s past crimes.

The report cited an increase in authorities’ tendency to “replace political repression based on prolonged incarceration with other procedures, equally illegal but less costly from the political viewpoint, such as brief arbitrary detentions, threats and other forms of intimidation.”

One of those tactics involves the deployment of government supporters to verbally harass and – sometimes – physically accost dissidents as they try to mount peaceful protests.

A total of 869 government opponents were detained in 2009, some of them more than once, the commission said, frequently on the charge of “pre-criminal social dangerous,” an offense unique to the Cuban penal code.

Last year’s reduction in the total number of political prisoners was due largely to detainees’ completing their sentences, the commission said.

“Particularly disturbing” are the cases of Santiago Padron, Ihosvani Suris and Maximo Pradera, “radical anti-Castro opponents” who have been held without trial since 2001, the report said.

The commission also noted that while it is almost two years since the Cuban government signed two major U.N. human rights conventions, Havana has taken no steps to ratify or implement the accords. EFE
S:Latin American Herald Tribune