Latin American Herald Tribune
Cuban dissidents on Thursday said that the government briefly detained between 60 and 100 people to prevent them from taking part in opposition activities marking the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The head of the outlawed Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, Elizardo Sanchez, told Efe that on Wednesday the government launched “a new wave of political repression” by detaining “between 60 and 100 people,” although almost all of them have now been released.
“We’re still identifying the names. That’s normal, and it is to be expected that it will be confirmed,” said Sanchez, adding that by Monday - in all likelihood - they will have definitive information about the number of arrests.
He said that the detentions were carried out in every one of the country’s provinces and that “almost all have been released at this time, as always.”
The Cuban government demanded on Wednesday the defense of human rights “without discrimination or manipulation” at an international workshop held to celebrate the event.
Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque told reporters at the workshop that the ratification of the U.N. human rights conventions Cuba signed 10 months ago is an ongoing process.
“Normally, countries take their time in the internal constitutional process, but there must be no doubt that our decisions are serious, they’re principled and coherent. We will never do something for the sake of public propaganda,” he said.
The Ladies in White, a group comprising relatives of the 75 Cuban dissidents jailed in Spring 2003, marched Wednesday without incident through Havana on International Human Rights Day, but another planned opposition event failed to materialize.
Dr. Darsi Ferrer, who since 2005 has led an annual Dec. 10 protest in a park opposite the offices of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, was among the dissidents detained by authorities.
Around 30 members of the Ladies in White marched through downtown Havana carrying flowers and Cuban flags, which they handed out to passers-by.
Group founder Laura Pollan demanded before reporters that the regime free all political prisoners and show respect for human rights on the communist-ruled island.
In remarks to Efe, Pollan accused Perez Roque of “demagoguery” for trying to project the image of a country in which basic rights are respected.
“It was not two months ago in Spain that he said that in Cuba there are no political prisoners, and we, their relatives, know they exist,” she said.
“Therefore, we’re taking to the streets to protest and to ask that human rights be respected,” she added, going on to say that “the government is like a coin: it presents one face to the world and the other is the one it presents inside the country.”
Sanchez’s rights commission estimates that the Cuban government is holding around 225 political prisoners.
The head of the opposition group Agenda for the Transition, Martha Beatriz Roque, told Efe that at least 30 people who should have participated in one of that organization’s events were arrested, but all of them have now been released and only opposition member Alcides Rivera was formally accused of “disobeying” authorities.
In addition, she complained that State Security agents visited a number of people who had been planning to attend the activity for the purpose of intimidating them.
“This was a special year, it’s been 60 years, a special anniversary. The activities were more than at other times and evidently the government didn’t want to allow that and preferred to pay the price it paid - a high political price - by detaining so many people,” she said.