Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dissidents' wives protest outside Cuban prison

Dissidents' wives protest outside Cuban prison
Dec 11 12:42 AM US/Eastern

Female relatives of jailed political dissidents held an unprecedented
protest outside Cuban prisons, angry that the island's communist
government has not met its pledge to release 11 political prisoners.

Meanwhile, some 50 political dissidents were briefly arrested late
Thursday and early Friday in different parts of the country to prevent
protests on International Human Rights Day, said rights leader Elizardo

"These are preventive detentions, lasting just a few hours, but still
unacceptable," Sanchez said.

The women, belonging to the Ladies in White group, marched carrying
flowers and chanting "Freedom for the prisoners! and "Zapata lives!" --
a reference to Orlando Zapata, a dissident who died in February after an
85 day-long hunger strike.

The women marched unopposed outside two prisons and the national
Directorate of Prisons.

While the women were not harassed by government supporters at the
prison, late Thursday members of the group were surrounded and heckled
by a crowd in downtown Havana.

Under a deal brokered by the Catholic Church, President Raul Castro
agreed in July to release 52 of the political prisoners.

Of those, 40 agreed to emigrate to Spain with their families and one
stayed in Cuba, but the remaining 11 are still in jail and refuse to be

The agreed-upon deadline for their release expired on November 7.

"Some prisoners were released but in essence, nothing has changed," said
Ladies in White leader Laura Pollan, whose husband Hector Maseda is one
of the jailed dissidents.

"The regime remains as totalitarian and repressive as always," she said.

The government considers the opposition "mercenaries" in Washington's
pocket. It insists there are no political prisoners in the Caribbean
nation but rather criminals jailed for threatening national security.

The head of Cuba's legislature, Ricardo Alarcon -- speaking at an event
celebrating the International Human Rights day -- accused Washington of
violating the rights of five Cubans being held a spies in a Florida prison.

Meanwhile, in a sign of economic stress on the island, six Cubans who
fled the island landed on a Honduran beach aboard a home-made raft, the
first since 2008.

The Cubans arrived after 16 days at sea, said Edgardo Ramirez, the mayor
of the town of La Rosita, where the group made landfall.

The Cubans "were jumping with joy -- they had no water, or food, and
they needed help, which we gave them," said Ramirez.

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