Wednesday, July 04, 2012

"Jailed Cuban dissident rushed to hospital after long hunger strike"

From the Miami Herald:

By Juan O. Tamayo

Dissidents in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba reported Monday that jailed activist Frank Montero, who has been on a hunger strike for more than 30 days, was rushed to a hospital over the weekend.

Authorities have refused to inform Montero’s relatives about his health or whereabouts after he was removed from the Aguadores prison on Saturday, said Rolando González, like Montero a member of the opposition Cuban Patriotic Union.

Montero went on a hunger strike 36 days ago to protest his arrest on Feb. 19, along with his twin brother Daniel, on charges of trying to leave Cuba without the required permits ailing, González said. The brothers claimed they were going fishing.

Daniel Montero, who was also being held in Agujadores, told relatives Sunday by telephone that his brother had been rushed to a hospital. The brothers, who are 29 years old, are from the city of Santiago de Cuba.

Havana human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez said he first heard of Montero’s hunger strike about 19 days ago.

The deaths of political prisoners Orlando Zapata Tamayo and Wilman Villar Mendoza amid lengthy hunger strikes — Zapata in 2010 and Villar early this year — sparked broad condemnations of Cuba’s human rights record.

A member of the Ladies in White dissident group, meanwhile, alleged that police beat and humiliated her to block her from attending Sunday mass at the El Cobre Basilica of Our Lady of Charity in Santiago province.

“My whole body is black and blue,” a sobbing Yaqueline García said in a declaration recorded for Hablalo Sin Miedo, or Say it Without Fear, a Miami-based facility that receives and disseminates reports of human rights abuses on the island.

García said police detained her Saturday on her way to the shrine, dragged her in a police station until her pants almost came off and then released her late Sunday on a remote farm road after throwing her personal belongings at her feet .

Dissident José Daniel Ferrer García said police checkpoints established Saturday on the main road in the Santiago region, the Central Highway, detained or turned back about 20 Ladies in White as they tried to reach the El Cobre shrine for Sunday mass.

Another 11 managed to slip into the basilica, on a narrow road off the Central Highway, said Ferrer, who lives near El Cobre, 465 miles east of Havana. Most of the women detained were freed late Sunday and early Monday.

The Ladies in White in Havana are generally allowed to attend Sunday masses at the Santa Rita church in the capital and afterward stage brief street marches — the lone dissident protest tolerated by the government. But their eastern brethren have not been permitted to gather for the Sunday masses at El Cobre.

About 30 gay rights and other activists carrying rainbow flags and banners also walked down a Havana boulevard for Cuba’s second annual Gay Pride march Sunday, according to organizer Ignacio Estrada.

The marches went off without incident, although the activists were trailed by a van loaded with police men from an elite riot-control unit known as the Black Wasps.

Some black-rights activists, political dissidents and passersby also joined the two-hour march down Paseo El Prado, including some visiting Cuban-Americans and one apparent U.S. tourist, said Estrada.

Activists passed out pamphlets explaining gay rights under international conventions and at one point Estrada and his wife, Wendy Iriarte, went inside a cubicle made with bars, much like a prison cell, left on the boulevard from a recent art show.

“We went behind the bars because we feel imprisoned for our way of thinking,” said Estrada, who married Iriarte, a transgender woman, last year. Estrada calls himself a gay rights activist and political dissident.

Hablemos Press, an independent news agency, meanwhile, reported that it had received word that dissident Angel Frometa Lovaina in the far-eastern city of Guantánamo was sentenced to two years in prison last week for resisting arrest and disobedience.

Frometa claimed the charge stemmed from his street protest Dec. 11 demanding political reforms, according to the report. Another dissident in Guantánamo said local authorities have long been trying to seize a small farm that Frometa owns.

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