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Dozens of dissidents reported arrested in Cuba

This news story was published on February 27, 2012.
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By Juan O. Tamayo, McClatchy Newspapers –

MIAMI — Police briefly arrested more than 100 Cuban dissidents over the weekend in a multipronged campaign to prevent public demonstrations marking the anniversaries of the deaths of five Castro opponents, activists reported Monday.

Former political prisoner Angel Moya and nine other government opponents also were also detained Monday and there was no word on their whereabouts as of late Monday, said his wife, Bertha Soler, leader of the dissident Ladies in White group.

“There’s a kind of state of paranoia” in which security agents are sweeping up anyone they consider a threat, said Havana human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz, who put the confirmed weekend arrests at more than 100.

Most were freed hours or days later, not in time to join protests marking the Feb. 23, 2010, death of political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo after a lengthy hunger strike or the deaths of four South Florida men whose Brothers to the Rescue airplanes were shot down by Cuban fighter jets on Feb. 24, 1996.

One surprising crackdown was against the Ladies in White in Havana, which have been largely unmolested over the past two year when they attended Sunday Mass at the Santa Rita church and then afterward marched around the neighborhood.

But police and pro-government mobs have not allowed the women any other type of protests, and swiftly arrested 20 of them when they appeared to be taking their march outside their usual boundaries, Soler told McClatchy Newspapers.

“We walked to our usual bus stop and about 15 got on a bus that filled up, so the rest of us started walking to another bus stop, and all of a sudden we were surrounded by police cars, motorcycles, buses, everything,” she added.

Two of the buses were filled with people in civilian clothes who would have staged a so-called “act of repudiation” against them if necessary, Soler added. Instead, she and 19 others Ladies in White were shoved into the empty third bus and driven away.

They were held on the bus for more than four hours, Soler said. Most were then driven close to their homes, but one was dropped off in a farming area about 20 miles from her home.

Dissidents reported that in other parts of the island police tried to avert weekend protests by beating and insulting dissidents and surrounding their homes, while mobs of government supporters threw rocks at some and threatened and insulted others.

Police on Saturday detained three young Cubans well known as government critics — rock musician Gorki Aguila, graffiti artist Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado and singer Ismael de Diego — to break up a planned concert at a park. They were freed Sunday.

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