The title of the latest Human Rights Watch report on Cuba succinctly describes the dismal state of civil liberties on the island since Raul Castro took over for his ailing brother in July of 2006: "New Castro, Same Cuba."
Anyone who thought that the world's longest-serving little brother would offer a "revolution lite" brand of communism was bound to be disappointed. His decades-long record as the hard-line overseer of Cuba's loyal military forces contains no signs of flexibility or moderation, and his performance over the past 40 months in place of his brother shows no deviation from this trajectory.
He has attempted to be a more efficient manager of Cuba's meager resources, impatient with unproductive economic schemes, but little else sets his performance apart from that of his predecessor.
When it comes to human rights, the 123-page report offers overwhelming evidence that he has run a government every bit as repressive as Fidel Castro's. Not only does the state's all-seeing, punitive apparatus remain in place, but Raúl has made sure it stays busy.
Ramón Velásquez Toranzo is one of its victims. He set out on a peaceful march across Cuba to call for respect for human rights and freedom for all political prisoners, and was promptly arrested and sentenced to three years in prison for ``dangerousness'' in January 2007. The report documented more than 40 cases under Raúl Castro in which the government has imprisoned individuals like Velásquez Toranzo under the "dangerousness" provision for exercising basic rights that Cuba denies its citizens.
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