Monday, April 26, 2010

Political prisoners' wives harassed in Havana

Political prisoners' wives harassed in Havana

Wives and mothers of political prisoners' in Cuba have again been
prevented from marching in Havana.

Six women - known as the Ladies in White - were surrounded by an angry
mob of pro-government supporters and then pushed off the street into a park.

The women stood silently for several hours as the crowd shouted insults
and pro-revolutionary slogans.

The women, who are demanding freedom for their husbands and sons, were
similarly treated last week.

On Sunday Cubans voted in municipal elections, described by the
authorities as proof of democracy on the communist island.

Officials said some 93% of the voters had cast their ballots shortly
before the voting ended.

The Communist party is the only legal political organisation in Cuba.

Stand-off in park

The confrontation in Havana started at afternoon, when the Ladies in
White tried to hold their weekly gathering after Sunday's mass.

Cuban pro-government citizens surround and shout slogans to the Ladies
in White in Havana

On leaving the church they were surrounded by an angry mob and shoved
off the street and into a park.

They were surrounded for about seven hours, with pro-government
supporters shouting insults.

The women responded by staying on their feet, silently staring their
opponents in the face.

They have been staging weekly marches in Havana for several years, but
government loyalists began breaking up the protests earlier this month
with the help of security officials.

Cuban officials say the women do not have a permit to march in the capital.

Until recently very few people in Cuba were aware of the Ladies in
White, and there is still very little sympathy for their cause, the
BBC's Michael Voss in Havana reports.

But this sort of intimidation and violence is doing serious damage to
Cuba's reputation abroad, our correspondent adds.

The marches have been closely monitored by western diplomats, and the
women have received verbal support from the United States and European

Cuban President Raul Castro has accused the West of launching a campaign
to discredit Cuba by provoking such incidents, our correspondent adds.

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