Saturday, June 05, 2010

"37 arrested in Cuba crackdown"

From the Miami Herald:


The Cuban government harassed and detained dozens of opponents in the past two days, signaling a new wave of repression that deals a serious blow to its attempts in recent weeks to show compassion toward jailed dissidents.

Two major Cuban dissident groups -- Agenda para la Transición (Transition Agenda) and Unidad Liberal de la República de Cuba (Liberal Unity of the Republic of Cuba) -- were raided in Havana in the past 48 hours and 37 members arrested, group leaders said.

The temporary detentions were part ofan unsuccessful government attempt to prevent two meetings scheduled at activist Héctor Palacios' home in El Vedado neighborhood.

``It was like a war,'' Palacios said. ``The government says it's making concessions, but no one believes there will be a dialogue between the Church and the Cuban government.''

Palacios told El Nuevo Herald that the police arrested 14 people on Thursday and 23 more on Friday. The operations started Tuesday shortly after six inmates who are jailed for conscientious beliefs were relocated to prisons closer to their homes after historic negotiations between Cuban leader Raúl Castro and the hierarchy of the Cuban Catholic Church.

Palacios said that during the week Cuban State Security agents and police forces had mounted a strict watch around his house, harassing independent activists and detaining various opposition leaders at police headquarters in Havana.

Those who live outside the capital were sent back to their homes. Others were dropped far from their hometowns. The maneuvers against the opposition included a mobilization of police patrol cars and motorized forces, Palacios and others said.

``It has been a very logical reaction of the Cuban government,'' said Palacios' wife, Gisela Delgado Sablón, who participated in the meetings. ``Once again, it manifests its incompetence before those who want dialogue and the flexibility to be reasonable. They treat us with the typical ruthlessness of all totalitarian regimes.''

At least 19 opposition leaders were arrested on Friday before they reached the meetings. Meanwhile, other law-enforcement operatives sealed off the neighborhood to avoid traffic of people who did not live in the area.

``They began arresting people following a list the police had,'' Delgado said. ``Then they put them in a bus and police cars. We know of four or five people from Clara and Villafuegos who were taken this way.''

The meetings were called to address the island's political and economic crisis and opposition leader Guillermo Fariñas' hunger strike. A vote was also taken in solidarity with the Ladies in White, and they discussed the legacy of dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died in February after an 83-day hunger strike.

The repression against the opposition could not prevent 60 activists and leaders demanding political changes in the island from meeting Thursday and Friday.

Ana Margarita Perdigón Brito, spokeswoman of the Transition Agenda and the Liberal Unity of the Republic of Cuba, said Havana continues to use a hard fist to silence the people's demands and minimize the actions of leaders like Fariñas.

"This is very worrying to us. This is why the situation pushes us to express our full support to the Ladies in White and Fariñas,'' Perdigón said.

The activist added that other dissidents had been held in their houses to prevent them from attending the monthly meeting.

``There were various arrests close to activist Francisco Chaviano's house,'' Perdigón said. The house had been under watch since the beginning of the week.

In another case, dissidents from Santa Clara who were staying in the house of opposition leader Martha Crespo in El Vedado neighborhood, were ``visited'' by state security agents who photographed the property to intimidate its residents, opponents said.

Repression against the opposition has remained unchanged despite the government's agreements with the Catholic Church, said Elizardo Sánchez, activist and spokesman for the Cuban Commission of Human Rights Commission and National Reconciliation.

Sánchez said that early in May there were arrests and acts of repression in Santiago de Cuba against members of the Eastern Democratic Alliance. In a separate incident, there was also a wave of temporary detentions in Camagüey and Villa Clara against the Central Opposition Coalition.

``It's our daily bread to contain all opposition activity,'' Sánchez said. ``But none of this was discussed with the Catholic Church. The topic of prisoners was discussed but the issue of political repression never came up.''

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