Members of the dissident group Ladies in White staged brief protests in
front of two prisons while pro-government Cuban youth's danced salsa in
the park as islanders marked a comparatively peaceful international
Human Rights Day on Friday.
In contrast to years past, there were no known clashes between
government opponents and supporters, but at least two dissidents were
reported detained by authorities on their way to a demonstration.
Cuban leaders, who launched significant economic reforms in September,
appeared intent on avoiding conflict and the international condemnation
that has accompanied it in previous years.
The annual Human Rights Day marks the anniversary of the December 10,
1948, adoption by the United Nations of the Universal Declaration of
At the Combinado del Este prison on the outskirts of Havana, 15 of the
Ladies in White stood outside the gate and shouted "Freedom" and "Long
live human rights" as they demanded the release of political prisoners
in Cuban jails, including 11 of their family members imprisoned since a
2003 government crackdown.
They are the last of 52 prisoners President Raul Castro agreed to free
in a July deal brokered by the Catholic Church, and some are in the two
"We come to denounce violations of human rights," Ladies in White leader
Laura Pollan said at the Combinado del Este. "We demand the release of
the political prisoners."
Another group of Ladies in White staged a similar protest at the 1580
prison in the Havana suburbs, and in both cases they did so without
On Thursday, the group marched through Havana, where about 200 students
and government workers surrounded them while shouting derogatory slogans.
Last year on December 10, they and other dissidents were greeted by
hostile mobs backing the communist-led Cuban government, which views
dissidents as traitors in the employ of its ideological enemy, the
Cuban dissidents Darsi Ferrer and his wife Yusnaimy Jorge Soca had
planned an anti-government march on Friday in a park in Havana's Vedado
neighborhood but were detained before their arrival, diplomats and
Instead, youthful government supporters filled the park, where they
danced salsa and at one point held up pictures of victims of a 1976
Cubana Airlines plane bombing Cuba blames on anti-Castro exile Luis
Posada Carriles now living in Miami.
Cuban leaders say the free education and health services they provide
all Cubans show their respect for human rights.
Public protests are rare in Cuba, but the Ladies in White stage a march
each Sunday in Havana, usually without incident.