By Vanessa Bauza | Sun-Sentinel
Cuban authorities on Friday detained at least 20 opposition activists, including three prominent dissident leaders, who had organized a demonstration for the freedom of political prisoners, relatives and human rights monitors in Havana said.
Also Friday, government supporters prevented several other dissidents from leaving their homes to participate in the demonstration at the French embassy.
Among those detained by state security agents were Martha Beatriz Roque, Felix Bonne, and Rene Gomez, said veteran human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez.
Roque, Bonne and Gomez are all former political prisoners and close collaborators who head a dissident coalition known as the Assembly to Promote Civil Society. In May they held a landmark opposition meeting, which drew 150 dissidents.
Assembly members on Friday scheduled a demonstration at the French embassy in Havana to call for the release of political prisoners. Gomez was not planning to be there, but Roque and Bonne were. They never arrived.
Roque’s friend and houseguest, Yarai Reyes, said Roque went missing after leaving home on Friday morning.
“I haven’t had any news of her. I am worried because she is like disappeared,’’ Reyes said.
It was impossible to confirm whether any of the opposition leaders were temporarily detained for questioning or arrested.
Groups of government supporters gathered outside the homes of at least three dissidents in different neighborhoods to prevent them from attending the planned demonstration.
In the Havana neighborhood of Vedado about 30 government supporters stood on the sidewalk outside the home of dissident Leon Padron Azcuy and noisily accused him of being a mercenary paid by the U.S. government to subvert Cuba’s socialist system. Cuban dissidents and the U.S. government deny the charge.
They shouted “down with the mercenary,’’ as Padron looked on from his third floor balcony.
“This revolution is of the Cubans, we defend it in the streets,’’ neighbor and government supporter Jorge Fernandez, 43, shouted. Others sang the Cuban national anthem.
Friday’s actions continue a wave of government detentions meant to squelch public dissident demonstrations.
On July 13, about 30 dissidents were detained after congregating at Havana’s seawall to commemorate the deaths of 41Cubans killed in 1994 when Cuban patrol boats sprayed water hoses and rammed their stolen tugboat as they tried to flee the island. The dissidents clashed against a larger group of government supporters who pushed and shoved them, deriding them as “worms’’ and “mercenaries.’‘
Six dissidents, who are still being held, will be charged with disturbing the peace, Sanchez said. ___