The opposition Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation reported Tuesday a decline in the number of political arrests in March compared with earlier months, a situation it attributed to the Communist government's interest in showing "a better image" with an eye toward its talks with the European Union.

In its monthly report, the commission reported slightly more than 800 "arbitrary arrests for political motives" during March, a lower figure than the more than 1,000 per month in December, January and February.

"The (commission) attributes this decline to the possible interest of the Cuban government in showing a better image with an eye toward the recently-initiated talks with the European Union, which we are hoping play a relevant role in everything concerning civil, political, economic, social, cultural, union and labor rights," said the group in a communique released on Tuesday.

The EU and Cuba are currently working on preparing for the start of the talks aimed at forging an agreement on political dialogue and cooperation.

Up to now, bilateral relations have been based on the "common position," a document adopted by the EU in 1996 that conditions relations with Havana on the promotion of democracy and respect for human rights on the island.

The start of negotiations on an agreement with Cuba was approved on Feb. 10 by EU foreign ministers and accepted by Cuba on March 6.

"The (commission) wishes European diplomacy the best success possible, but we cannot hide our profound skepticism due to the almost absolute lack of political will by the ruling regime in Cuba," the commission said.

The Cuban government considers dissidents on the island to be counterrevolutionaries and mercenaries in the service of the United States. EFE