Dissidents ‘detained in Cuba’
Havana - Dozens of opposition activists have been detained in Cuba over the past five weeks, an outlawed rights group said on Tuesday, blaming President Raul Castro for the crackdown.
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, known by its Spanish acronym CCDHRN, said at least 65 men and women have been arrested by secret police, 29 of whom remain in custody in the Americas' only one-party Communist-ruled nation.
“For five weeks the government has carried out violent political repression against women and other peaceful dissidents” in Santiago de Cuba province in the south of the island, according to a statement signed by the rights group's founder and spokesman Elizardo Sanchez.
“Most were totally unarmed and suffered acts of police brutality,” it added.
According to the statement, several members of the “Ladies in White” group comprising wives and relatives of political prisoners were “beaten and arrested” on Sunday to prevent them joining a Mass in Santiago de Cuba.
A Ladies in White leader, Berta Soler, told AFP the group planned to meet Cardinal Jaime Ortega in Havana on Tuesday, and would ask him to intervene on behalf of dissidents, officially considered “mercenaries” in the pay of the US government.
A US State Department spokesman said Washington was “troubled by reports of increased violence by government-organised mobs against the Damas de Blanco in Havana and Santiago de Cuba in recent weeks.
“The use of government-organised mobs to physically and verbally abuse peaceful protesters is unconscionable,” the US spokesman added, noting: “We call for an immediate end to the harassment and violence committed against the Damas de Blanco.
“We support the Cuban people’s desire to freely determine their own future,” the US spokesman added.
Cardinal Ortega's 2010 dialogue with Castro led to the release of 130 political prisoners, many of whom left Cuba for Spain with their relatives.
Meanwhile, the Cuban singer and songwriter Pablo Milanes - who is on tour in America - hit out at the alleged mistreatment of Ladies in White members, but said he did not share their negative views of the government in Havana.
“When I see ladies in white dresses on the street who are protesting but being harassed by men and women, I cannot help feeling ashamed and indignant,” he said in an open letter published in Miami's El Nuevo Herald newspaper.
“Even though I do not agree with them at all I express solidarity with them,” the singer added of the wives, whose wearing of white clothes is meant to symbolise peace.
The CCDHRN called on foreign governments and international human rights groups to show “solidarity” with Cuban dissidents and urge Havana to end its “abusive practices.”
Cuban dissident Orlando Zapata died in Cuba on February 23, 2010 on the 85th day of his hunger strike. His death at the age of 42
drew global attention to the plight of political dissidents in Cuba. - Sapa-AFP