Cuba Politics

Castro backers, dissidents clash in Havana

Posted July 14, 2005 by mattlawrence in Cuba Politics.

A ceremony along Havana’s coastal highway commemorating a 1994 tugboat sinking turned into a shoving match between government supporters and dissidents.


Associated Press

HAVANA - Several dozen dissidents commemorating a deadly 1994 tugboat sinking clashed Wednesday with a larger group of government supporters who shoved and shouted them down.

International reporters, including an Associated Press Television News team, witnessed at least two dissidents being detained after the run-in near Havana’s Central Park. No major injuries were reported.

The midday incident occurred after the dissidents tossed flowers into the ocean from Havana’s coastal highway to remember the 41 would-be immigrants who drowned 11 years ago in a tugboat sinking in Havana Bay.

The dissidents were walking inland along Prado, a major boulevard in central Havana, when government supporters began shouting revolutionary slogans at them. Several dissidents were shoved, but no one was reported hurt.

International journalists saw dissidents Manuel Perez and Lázaro Alonso put into vehicles by men who appeared to be plainclothes police officers after they spoke to the reporters. It was not immediately known if they were formally arrested.

The dissidents carried signs with photographs of people who died in the tugboat sinking, which opponents blame on the government and which authorities maintain was an accident.

Cubans trying to leave the island with their families seized the government-owned wooden craft on July 13, 1994, and were chased seven miles out to sea by three steel-hulled tugboats.

Survivors said the pursuing government boats used high-pressure water hoses and deliberately rammed the wooden craft. Cuba’s communist government has said the boats accidentally collided.

‘‘We are revolutionaries,’’ said Martha Torres, among several hundred government supporters who confronted the opponents Wednesday. ``We are here to respond to these dissidents who sell out their nation.’‘

In Miami, the Cuban exile group Democracy Movement planned a mass Wednesday night at La Ermita de la Caridad Catholic Church in Coconut Grove, followed by a waterfront vigil just outside the church, director Ramon Saúl Sánchez said.

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