WASHINGTON, Dec 31, 2014 (AFP) - The United States expressed concern Wednesday over the plight of several dissidents detained by Cuba, just two weeks after Washington's historic move to normalize relations with Havana.
"We are deeply concerned about the latest reports of detentions and arrests by Cuban authorities of peaceful civil society members and activists," the US State Department said in a statement.
"We strongly condemn the Cuban government's continued harassment and repeated use of arbitrary detention, at times with violence, to silence critics, disrupt peaceful assembly and freedom (of) expression, and intimidate citizens."
Cuban authorities detained or kept at home several dissidents Tuesday.
Elizardo Sanchez, a spokesman for dissidents in the Americas' only communist regime, said 10 people were confirmed as arrested or under house arrest, but that the number could be higher.
US President Barack Obama this month moved to revive diplomatic ties and ease a trade embargo, ending 50 years of hostility between the former Cold War foes.
Cuba's President Raul Castro has said he was ready to discuss any topic with Washington after the historic bilateral rapprochement, but has warned that he will not carry out political change.
The detentions seemed certain to revive criticism from those who disapprove of the rapprochement -- including many members of the US Congress -- who have said that the United States should first have secured concessions from Cuba on human rights.
The US government in its statement slammed Havana's "lack of respect" for "freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly," which it said are "internationally recognized human rights."
"We urge the Government of Cuba to end its practice of repressing these and other internationally protected freedoms and to respect the universal human rights of Cuban citizens," the State Department said.
"We have always said we would continue to speak out about human rights, and as part of the process of normalization of diplomatic relations, the United States will continue to press the Cuban government to uphold its international obligations and to respect the rights of Cubans to peacefully assemble and express their ideas and opinions -- just like their fellow members of civil society throughout the Americas are allowed to do."