Saturday, April 24, 2010

Miami project spotlights Cuba dissidents' attackers

Miami project spotlights Cuba dissidents' attackers
By Pascal Fletcher
Saturday, April 24, 2010; 10:53 AM

MIAMI (Reuters) - Four Cuban American lawyers and a Miami-based
television station have launched a campaign to identify and publicly
name Cuban state security agents and pro-government militants who attack
dissidents on the island.

Called "Cuba, Repression ID," the project that began this week solicits
public support from the Cuban exile community in the United States and
also from people inside Cuba to identify, through photographs and film
footage, individuals seen beating or harassing unarmed critics of Cuba's
communist government.

In recent weeks, TV footage of Cuban state security agents and mobs of
pro-government supporters heckling, harassing and forcibly breaking up
dissident rallies and marches has drawn widespread international
criticism of Cuba's rulers and renewed calls for them to free political
prisoners on the island.

Cuba's government led by President Raul Castro, who took over from
ailing elder brother Fidel Castro in 2008, rejects the criticism and
calls dissidents U.S.-backed mercenaries.

The promoters of the "Repression ID" initiative backed by
Spanish-language Channel 41 AmericaTeve say they want to name and shame
identified persecutors of Cuban dissidents, both as a historical record,
for possible future legal action, and as a way of trying to halt such
violence and intimidation.

"Here are the images, the faces of repression," reads the advisory on
AmericaTeve's website, above a gallery of 28
photographs of men and women who were captured on film breaking up
peaceful rallies by Cuba's Ladies in White dissidents. Members of the
public are requested to e-mail or call in the identities of those shown.

"Who are they? What are their names? Where do they work? Where do they
live?" the website asks.


Since Wednesday, the TV station in its A Mano Limpia (A Clean Swipe of
the Hand) current affairs program has also been broadcasting the faces,
inviting viewers to put a name to them. The initiative's promoters, who
request several sources for an identification, say several have been
identified so far.

"We're hoping to provide a bit of protection and support to those who
are suffering. We also want to make it known to those who abuse
defenseless people in Cuba that they can't act with impunity," one of
the Cuban American lawyers involved in the project, Wilfredo Allen, told
Miami's Spanish-language El Nuevo Herald in comments published on Saturday.

Although Internet access, along with the media, is tightly controlled in
Cuba, advances in telecommunications technology, and greater Cuban
American travel to the island opened up by President Barack Obama, mean
that much more information and images of what happens on the island are
coming out.

"Beating defenseless people is equivalent to torture," Luis Fernandez
Arena, another of the lawyers in the initiative, told El Nuevo Herald.
"These abusers have to be identified, because in the future they could
come to the United States and try to seek asylum as though nothing had

Cuba's government portrays the Cuban exile community in Florida as a hub
of U.S.-backed "counterrevolution" aimed at overthrowing its socialist
system. Havana says Cuban exiles, with Washington's blessing and
support, have launched numerous armed incursions and terrorist attacks
against Cuba since Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution overthrew dictator
Fulgencio Batista.

The "Repression ID" initiative may find it hard to identify full-time
Cuban state security agents -- these mostly use assumed names while
working, to protect their real identities.

But the promoters of the project hope that members of the Cuban security
services who have defected to the United States over the years can help
by identifying former colleagues.

The Obama administration has eased curbs on Cuban Americans traveling
and sending money to Cuba and initiated talks with Havana on migration
and mail service. But Obama has said the longstanding U.S. economic
embargo on Cuba will stay until its rulers improve human rights and free
political detainees.

(Editing by Will Dunham)

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