Rights group reports rise in political arrests in Cuba

A human rights group reported Friday a worrying rise in politically-motivated arrests in Cuba, which it linked to worsening economic conditions on the communist-ruled island.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation said authorities made 909 arrests of dissidents in October, one of the highest monthly totals in the past decade.

Most of the arrests were for brief periods, and often targeted the Ladies in White, a group of wives and mothers of political prisoners who stage weekly protest marches.

But the commission, which is officially banned but tolerated, also expressed concern about a "worrying increase" in acts of violence and harassment against regime opponents by the security forces.

"To the extent that the economic situation worsens, demonstrations of discontent increase, especially in the country's east, and consequently so do acts of repression against demonstrators," the rights group's leader Elizardo Sanchez told AFP.

Criticizing the government's failure to respect civil rights, Sanchez said "it's obvious we will continue to suffer high rates of political and social repression in parallel with the worsening economy."

So far this year, Cuba is averaging 454 politically motivated arrests a month, below the 550 monthly average for all of 2012, the commission said.