The Cuban Human Rights and National Reconciliation Commission opposition group on Monday said that at least 257 people were arrested for political reasons on the Communist-ruled island last month, most of them for short periods of time.

The figure is "demonstrative of the terrible situation for civil and political rights that continues to prevail in Cuba," the commission, which is outlawed but tolerated, said in a report.

Commission spokesman Elizardo Sanchez told Efe that during the first five days of December "at least 100 arrests" have occurred," most of them in the eastern provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo.

Still in custody on Monday were 21 of the 52 dissidents who were arrested last Friday for trying to stage a peaceful march in the town of Palma Soriano, in Santiago de Cuba province, Sanchez said.

"At this rate of repression, in December (the number of arrests) is going to be greater than in November," he said, adding that the situation was linked with Saturday's celebration of International Human Rights Day.

As a "positive piece of information," the commission report said that so far during 2011 "the number of (people) imprisoned or sentenced for political reasons diminished, relatively speaking," given that the Cuban government released "many prisoners before bringing them to trial."

He said that currently there are some 70 prisoners in Cuban jails who have been convicted or are on trial for so-called "crimes against the state."

The Cuban government considers the dissidents and the internal opposition to be "counterrevolutionaries and U.S.-paid "mercenaries." 

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