Cuba cracks down on dissidents ahead of summit
By Carlos Batista, AFP
January 28, 2014, 12:10 am TWN
HAVANA -- Dozens of dissidents have been detained in a "wave of political repression" ahead of a major international summit in Cuba, activists said Sunday.
The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit hosting heads of state from across the region provides opportunities for dissidents in the Americas' only one-party Communist-ruled state to try to raise their profiles and seek world leaders' ears.
"The government is carrying out a wave of political repression ahead of the summit" in Havana that ends Wednesday, warned dissident Elizardo Sanchez.
One dissident who planned to attend an event on the summit's sidelines, Jose Daniel Ferrer, was arrested Friday after meeting with European diplomats, Sanchez said.
"As of now, he is technically missing. No one knows where he is," said Sanchez, who heads the outlawed Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation.
Dissident Guillermo Farinas said he has been placed under house arrest to keep him from taking part in an opposition forum on the summit sidelines.
"Today is the third day they won't let me go out," Farinas told AFP by telephone from his home in Santa Clara, 280 kilometers east of Havana.
"There is a police operative who stays a block away from my house during the day but is in front of it at night," he said.
Farinas, who was awarded the European parliament's Sakharov prize in 2010, is a veteran of hunger strikes seeking political opening on the communist-ruled island.
The 52-year-old psychologist said he had planned to take part in a "democratic forum about international relations and human rights" that Cuban dissidents have called for Tuesday in Havana.
The meeting is timed to coincide with the opening of the two-day CELAC summit. The organization counts 33 members.
And the higher-profile dissident group Ladies in White, made up of political prisoners' relatives, said that as many as 100 of its members have been arrested to keep them from taking part in the dissident forum.
The Ladies in White, who won the 2005 Sakharov prize, were out on the streets in Havana marching as they do each week.
Police strength had been boosted discreetly but 56 of the group's members marched on Fifth Avenue, calling for political opening after mass.
"More than 100 members of the Ladies in White have been called in by the police since Friday, taken to police stations," said Ladies in White leader Berta Soler.
"They have been threatened, warned by the force of repression, State Security, that today Sunday, they should not be here on Fifth Avenue.
"The people who are not here (marching), are all being detained," she added.
The Ladies in White are the only group whose demonstrations are approved by the government. President Raul Castro, 82, agreed to the arrangement in 2010 with mediation from the Roman Catholic church.