Saturday, March 20, 2010

Cuban Arrests Of Women Relatives Shows Hardening On Rights Issue

Cuban Arrests Of Women Relatives Shows Hardening On Rights Issue
Published on March 19, 2010
by EU News Network

Cuba's detention of 30 women relatives of political prisoners showed no
sign of an early resolution as European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek
issued a sharp condemnation of Havana's actions aimed at crushing dissent.

Washington condemned the move and, earlier this month, European
Parliament voted to demand release of all political prisoners after
dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo died Feb. 23, succumbing following an
83-day hunger strike.

Cuba's defiant response focused attention on the fact that, apart from
the United States and Europe, the human rights issues in the country
found no response in Central and South America, analysts said.

The women relatives of the prisoners were seized during protests in
Havana. A further crisis was brewing over the possible fate of
journalist Guillermo Farinas, who went on hunger strike three weeks ago
as a protest against the death of Zapata. Farinas is reported to be very
weak because of the fast.

Farinas has said he hopes his fast will lead to the release of 26
dissident prisoners who are in need of medical treatment but the
government reacted with a further hardening of its stance.The 26 are
part of a group of at least 50 dissident prisoners who are still

in prison.

The women's protest march was organized by the Women In White movement
and led by Zapata's mother.

More than 300 supporters of the Cuban government taunted the women and
disrupted the protest. Female police officers intervened, only to arrest
the Women In White protesters.

Cuba's defiance has much to do with the Latin American silence on the
issue of political prisoners in the country, analysts said.

Aside from unquestioning supporters of Cuba, such as Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez, the moderate leaders in Latin American ranks also
have chosen to remain silent. Latin American leaders have shied away
from criticism of Cuba lest they be branded as supporters of Washington,
analysts said.

The Cuban government reinforces the argument, by frequently calling the
dissidents paid stooges of Washington and common criminals.

Human rights activists' attempts to get Latin American leaders involved
also have gone unheeded. In the latest episode, officials close to
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said the president had
received a letter from the imprisoned dissidents but hadn't read it.

The five-page letter, signed 50 Cuban dissidents, urged Lula to
intercede with Cuban leader Raul Castro to review their sentences,
Brazilian media reported.

Lula has said in published comments he disagrees with any recourse to
hunger strike to seek improved conditions for human rights in Cuba.

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