Cuban journalist Manuel Alejandro León Velázquez, who has also been referred to as León Velázquez by the Committee to Protect Journalists; Manuel Alejandro by Ciber Cuba; and Manuel Alejandro León by Diario de Cuba, was arrested at about 4 p.m. on Thursday in Cuba's eastern Guantánamo province. Most recent reports indicate that the journalist remains in custody, and that the Cuban government has threatened to also imprison both León Velázquez's wife, Miriam Margarita Aranda Tejeda, and her mother.

"They forced me to sign a statement. They told me that if I did not collaborate with them, they would put my mother in prison for -- supposedly -- hiding the computer from the house, and me for covering up my mother," León Velázquez's wife was quoted as saying (from a translation).

Cuban State Security said to leverage journalist's wife

The journalist's mother, Belkis Velázquez, has stated that León Velázquez has been accused of suspicion of traveling to Spain to meet with Diario de Cuba associates, spreading information "against the ideals of the Cuban Government." This isn't the first time the Cuban government has detained León Velázquez. He was said to have been held during Cuba's brush with Hurricane Matthew, and again in February at a government "control point" at Rio Frio.

"Arresting a journalist in Cuba, accused of... Being a journalist," one Twitter user observed of León Velázquez's confinement. Ciber Cuba described the journalist being accused of taking part in "counterrevolution." Belkis Velázquez has expressed concern that the statement Miriam Margarita Aranda Tejeda was forced to sign would be used in an attempt to "blackmail" her son.

Almost 8,000 'arbitrary detentions' in first half of 2016

Along with being arrested, the journalist, who works with Diario de Cuba, was said to have had documents, a computer, a camera, and a copy of the Cuban Constitution seized.

León Velázquez is reported to have gained the attention of the government for reporting on a number of social issues, including Guantanamo, which authorities have been described as abandoning.

In its 2017 World Report, Human Rights Watch described Cuba as being actively engaged in efforts to "repress dissent and punish public criticism." The organization observed that "long-term" jail sentences with aim of punishing dissidents have become less common, but that "arbitrary" arrests lasting for shorter periods have "increased drastically" over recent periods.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, which is officially considered illegal by the Cuban government, reports that there were a staggering 7,900 "arbitrary detentions" in just the first eight months of 2016. The commission stated that this represented the "highest monthly average of detentions in the past six years."