http://havanajournal.com/politics/entry/police-beat-dissidents-in-santiago-de-cuba-church/

HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

Police beat dissidents in Santiago de Cuba church

Posted December 06, 2007 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
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Reuters

Plainclothes police kicked their way into a Roman Catholic church in eastern Cuba, beat and used pepper spray on a group of dissidents, church officials and rights activists said on Wednesday.

They said seven people were arrested on Tuesday when police entered the parish church of Santa Teresita in Santiago, Cuba’s second-largest city, in search of government opponents.

“I thought the church was on fire when I heard all the shouting,” parish priest Jose Conrado Rodriguez said by phone.

He said police handcuffed the detainees who were among a group of two dozen people who had marched through the streets protesting the arrest of a fellow dissident.

The dissidents, dressed in black, arrived at Rodriguez’s church to attend Mass and mingled with parishioners.

“I told the police they acted like barbarians. They kicked their way into the parish, beating people and spraying gas in their eyes,” the priest said.

Rodriguez, an outspoken critic of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, said the police action was led by a lieutenant colonel of the state security forces, who was dressed in civilian clothes and gave him no explanations.

During a sermon in 1994, Rodriguez read a letter he wrote to Castro criticizing the Cuban Coast Guard for ramming a tugboat that had been commandeered by people attempting to sail to the United States. The tug sank and 40 drowned.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Cuba deplored Wednesday’s incident, which occurred at a time of improved relations between Cuba’s ruling Communist Party and the church.

“We hope it is an isolated thing. The fact that the police burst into a church is serious,” said Jose Felix Perez, a spokesman for the bishops.

The Cuban government had no immediate comment.

Cuba’s main rights group, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, condemned what it termed a “most serious and almost unprecedented act of political repression” and called for an official inquiry.

A woman who was beaten and arrested in the church was released early on Wednesday because she had recently given birth, the group said. Another man who took part in the dissident march was picked up by police on Wednesday, it said.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle, editing by Philip Barbara)

Member Comments

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On December 06, 2007, HavanAndrew wrote:

So this is what will happen next to the brave souls that dare to speak out in Santiago. I know as some people in my Cuban life have protested and were also arrested, their crime was printing posters against Castro. Half of the family were arrested and found guilty then shipped off to do their time in the other end of the country. This act in itself punished the rest of the family as they do not have the financial means to travel 12 hours on a Viazul bus ( in CUCs ) on their one day off a week to visit the other family members.. Let the people speak, let them choose to make Cuba better. If the system is good then it should be able to take criticism. Libertad!

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On December 06, 2007, publisher wrote:

Thanks for sharing that.

I think Raul has a lot to be afraid of. When Fidel dies all eyes will focus on Raul and he does not like attention. He does not have the psychological armor that his brother has and there will be immense internal and external pressures on him for change…radical and quick change not just slow bullshit change.

Anyway, I give the dissidents “ink” whenever I can. So, people say the Havana Journal is not objective. Too bad.

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On December 07, 2007, publisher wrote:

Here’s a follow up on the story from the BBC: (some lines removed)

Elizardo Sanchez says the political mood has hardened recently Dissident groups in Cuba say harassment and detentions by police have recently increased as part of a new tactic by the authorities.

Rights activist Elizardo Sanchez said he believed the aim was to deter dissidents from marking International Human Rights Day on 10 December.

Church leaders meanwhile say officials have apologized for arresting several people at a church on Tuesday.

The Roman Catholic archbishop in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, Dionisio Garcia Ibanez, told the BBC that all 11 people had been released.

He said he had met communist party officials who described the incident as regrettable.

The arrests took place after a group of dissidents marched to the church to protest about the arrest of another government opponent.

The Cuban authorities have not made any public statement about the incident.

But the group, illegal but tolerated by the authorities, says there has been a marked increase in police activity in recent weeks.

Its head, Elizardo Sanchez, said the authorities were using a new tactic which he called “preventative repression”.

“For example, if a group is going to meet in a house or park, they will detain people so they can’t get there,” Mr Sanchez said.

“Before, it wasn’t so subtle, just pure hard repression, straight to prison. Now the authorities are being more careful.”

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On December 07, 2007, publisher wrote:

Apologized? Really? Regrettable? Really? Now that’s a new one.

December 10 should be very interesting.