Thu Mar 18, 2:54 pm ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US State Department said Thursday it is
"dismayed" that authorities in communist Cuba disrupted a demonstration
by women relatives of political prisoners.
President Barack Obama's administration, which has tried to engage
diplomatically with Havana, is "dismayed that a peaceful march was
disrupted by the Cuban government authorities, department spokesman
Gordon Duguid said.
The authorities, he said, "interfered with the right of Cuban citizens
to peacefully assemble and express their support for their family
members who are prisoners of conscience."
Hundreds of government supporters heckled members of the "Ladies in
White" rights group as they silently marched in protest Thursday through
the streets of downtown Havana. Police removed some 30 women during a
march on Wednesday.
"We are concerned about the welfare of the" women, Duguid said.
The women -- wives and mothers of political prisoners -- have been
marking the seventh year of the arrest of 75 opponents of the regime
headed by President Raul Castro.
The group has staged marches every day this week to observe the
anniversary of the 2003 crackdown, carried out under then-president
Fidel Castro. Fifty-three of those arrested are still behind bars.
Those marching included the mother of Orlando Zapata, who died in a
prison hunger strike February 23.