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December, 4, 2016

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Dissidents lie low following Fidel's death

HAVANA -- Cuban dissidents called off a regular protest on Sunday as the communist island prepared for days of tributes to the late revolutionary icon Fidel Castro.

The Ladies in White movement decided to stay home "out of respect" for those who mourn Castro and to avoid being accused of committing any act of "provocation in the streets," said the group's leader, Berta Soler.

"We are not happy about the death of a man, a human being. We are happy about the death of dictators," Soler told AFP as Cuba prepared a week of events to bid farewell to Fidel Castro, who died Friday at age 90.

The Ladies in White group was founded in 2003 after Fidel Castro's regime imprisoned 75 dissidents. While all have since been granted conditional releases, the group has held a protest almost every week.

Fidel Castro had transferred power to his brother Raul after falling ill in 2006, and Soler predicted that the communist regime would not change.

"It will be the same Cuba with one dictator instead of two. The dictator Fidel Castro died and the dictator Raul Castro remains," said Soler, 53, a former microbiology technician.

Dissidents were also lying low in Santiago de Cuba, the eastern city where Castro's ashes will be laid to rest next Sunday.

"We are not happy (about Fidel's death) and we will stay quiet, even though he is the main person responsible for the misery and lack of political rights in Cuba," said former prisoner Jose Daniel Ferrer.

"We won't conduct any actions against the regime in the streets in the next days, especially out of caution in the face of the repression we could face," he said.

Marta Beatriz Roque, one of the 75 people detained in 2003, said Fidel's passing could prompt Raul Castro to enact more reforms.

"Raul has a freer hand to do things that he couldn't do before ... out of respect for his brother," Roque said from her home in Havana.

Roque was watching television in her home on Friday night when Raul Castro appeared to announce his brother's death.

While she was imprisoned by Fidel's government, she said that due to her Catholic faith, "I am not happy about the death of anybody — even if it was the devil."

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