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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

Protests lead to arrests in Cuba

Posted July 15, 2005 by mattlawrence in Cuba Politics.
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At least 11 Havana residents were detained for participating in demonstrations deemed anti-government.

BY NANCY SAN MARTIN

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At least 11 protesters who participated in demonstrations in Havana commemorating a deadly 1994 tugboat sinking remained in custody Thursday, according to a human rights activist on the island.

The arrests came after clashes Wednesday along the seaside Malecon highway between a small group of protesters and a much larger contingency of government supporters, as well as a separate, more violent incident near the Plaza de la Revolucion in central Havana.

Elizardo Sánchez, head of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation in Havana, said his organization confirmed the detention of 11 people, including two women, but have reports of as many as 20 arrests.

‘‘There are no charges against them and they remain incommunicado from family members,’’ Sánchez told The Herald in a phone interview.

Sánchez said the repressive actions—veiled as counter-protests—were carried out in four separate incidents, three of them along the Malecon and a fourth near the Plaza de la Revolucion that involved ‘‘punching and kicking’’ by rapid-response brigades.

‘‘It is a great pity that the Cuban government’s fear of its own people prompts it to attack people who were simply demanding their own human rights,’’ Kevin Whitaker, the State Department’s coordinator of Cuban affairs, said Thursday on Radio Martí.

The hostile acts were similar to a verbal attack in March against the wives of some of the 75 dissidents imprisoned in 2003. About 150 members of the state-run Federation of Women surrounded the wives, known as the ‘‘Ladies in White,’’ and shouted insults and slogans as the wives tried to carry out a silent protest to bring attention to their plight.

Beatriz Pedroso, wife of imprisoned dissident Julio Cesar Gálvez, said that ‘‘tempers are flaring’’ as the country continues to struggle with extended blackouts and a shortage of food, made worse by Hurricane Dennis.

Several spontaneous anti-government acts, including vandalism against government buildings, have been reported across the island in recent days.

‘‘The scarcities are worse than ever. We just got rid of one hurricane, but we’ve been dealing with another one for more than 40 years,’’ Pedroso said by phone from Havana.

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