In Cuba, International Human Rights Day and the days leading up to it are not just like any other days; they are days of increased repression and violence.
Here is a rundown of the news regarding the wave of repression carried out by the Castro dictatorship that swept over the island to commemorate International Human Rights Day.
Cuba cracks down on dissidents on Rights Day
Cuban police have detained more than 100 dissidents and put another 100 to 150 under house arrest in an island-wide crackdown to block any gatherings marking International Human Rights Day on Monday, according to government opponents.
Among those detained were about 80 members and supporters of the Ladies in White, including dozens who were reportedly carted off roughly during roundups in Havana and on their way to the Our Lady of Charity Basilica in the eastern town of El Cobre.
Security agents also sealed off several homes in eastern Cuba to avert gatherings of dissidents to mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, said Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, head of the opposition Cuban Patriotic Union.
The U.S. government swiftly denounced the arrests, saying it was “deeply concerned by the Cuban government’s repeated use of arbitrary detention and violence to silence critics, disrupt peaceful assembly and intimidate independent civil society.”
“We call on the Cuban government to end” the arrests and violence “and we look forward to the day when all Cubans can freely express their ideas,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nueland said Monday.
Cuban police and State Security agents usually round up scores of dissidents on or before Dec. 10 each year to keep them from staging any sort of events marking the day. The government critics are then released after a few hours or days.
About 45 Ladies in White and 10 supporters were arrested in Havana following their traditional march outside the Santa Rita church after Sunday mass, said Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz, head of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.
The women usually are allowed to go home without incident after the marches, but this weekend were harassed by government agents. When they sat down in protest, police dragged them roughly to three waiting buses, Sanchez said. Most were released by Sunday night.
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HAVANA – Cuba’s Ladies in White reported that dozens of women belonging to that dissident group suffered temporary arrests across Cuba on the eve of International Human Rights Day.
The group’s spokeswoman, Berta Soler, told Efe that in Havana more than 40 woman were detained by police as they prepared to make their usual march home after Mass on Sunday, which on this occasion was being dedicated to Human Rights Day.
“We put up some resistance, we sat on the ground but they took us by force to a police station at Tarara Beach and at 4:30 p.m. they began letting us go,” Soler said.
The activist also reported temporary detentions of a dozen other members of the opposition, one of them being her husband, former political prisoner Angel Moya, who was released hours after his arrest.
The Cuban government considers dissidents to be counterrevolutionaries and “mercenaries” in the pay of Washington.
Government-aligned blogger Yohandry Fontana wrote Sunday that the Ladies in White, whom he describes as “pro-U.S.,” received “a strong response from the people” in Havana’s Miramar neighborhood when they tried to stage “a provocation” and “a show for the media” after ending their usual march. EFE
US speaks out on Cuban activist arrests
WASHINGTON — The United States on Monday voiced concern over Cuba’s detention of almost 100 Ladies in White activists, and urged Havana to stop making arbitrary arrests.
“We are deeply concerned by the Cuban government’s repeated use of arbitrary detention and violence to silence critics, disrupt peaceful assembly and intimidate independent civil society,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.
Nuland said Washington was aware that 94 members of the group were detained and beaten on Sunday during their “weekly gathering, church attendance, and peaceful march to focus attention on continued human rights abuses in Cuba.”
“We call on the Cuban government to end the increasingly common practice of arbitrary and extra-judicial detentions, and we look forward to the day when all Cubans can freely express their ideas, assemble freely and express their opinions peacefully,” Nuland said.
The group, which won a European Parliament Sakharov human rights prize in 2005, was set up by wives and relatives of jailed political prisoners who have since been freed.
President Raul Castro’s government charges that they and all other dissidents are “mercenaries” who are supported financially by the United States.
In Cuba, the only one-party communist regime in the Americas, it is illegal to speak out against the government, news outlets are controlled by the state, and access to the Internet is tightly controlled.