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Posted April 02, 2003 by publisher in Castro's Cuba

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HAVANA (AP) - Cuba has enough evidence to prosecute dozens of dissidents arrested on accusations of working with U.S. diplomats to undermine the government, the head of the island’s parliament said Monday.

The Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, has said 78 people have been arrested in a crackdown on the island’s opposition that began March 18.

All are in jail awaiting charges. They include independent journalists, directors of non-governmental libraries, members of opposition political parties and activists seeking laws to ensure civil rights such as freedom of speech.

Communist officials accuses the arrested dissidents of working with American diplomats in Cuba to subvert Fidel Castro’s government.

“Cuba is going to do everything necessary to ensure that its enemies don’t do as they like,’’ National Assembly speaker Ricardo Alarcon said, speaking outside the annual meeting of the U.S.-Cuba Sisters Cities Association. The group matches communities from both countries.

Alarcon offered no details about the evidence gathered for the trials.

The Bush administration denounced the arrests as “an appalling act of intimidation.’’

The crackdown was launched after Cuban officials mounted an attack on the head of the American mission in Havana, James Cason, for his active support of the island’s opposition.

U.S. officials based in Havana have stepped up contacts with Cuban dissidents in recent months, inviting them to receptions, offering them free Internet access inside the mission and giving them radios, pamphlets and other material Castro’s government considers subversive.

Cason has met publicly with dissidents and criticized Castro’s government to international journalists.

“They are all financed’’ by the American government, Alarcon said of the island’s dissidents. “The (U.S.) policy is to create these groups, to finance them.’’

“The idea of manufacturing an opposition began in 1959,’’ he added, referring to the year of the Cuban revolution that Castro led.

The crackdown has been criticized by international human rights and press groups, former American president and Nobel laureate Jimmy Carter, the European Union and U.S. President George W. Bush.

Cuba’s Roman Catholic Church also condemned the arrests, urging Castro’s government not to treat its critics as criminals for opposing official ideology.

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