Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cuban officials detain dozens of protesters honoring Zapata

Posted on Wednesday, 02.23.11

Cuban officials detain dozens of protesters honoring Zapata

Cuban security officials expanded a clampdown on dissidents Wednesday,
detaining dozens, putting others under house arrest and threatening
still others in a bid to avert street protests marking the anniversary
of Orlando Zapata Tamayo's death.

Only 12 relatives of the political prisoner made it to his grave in the
eastern town of Banes to pray for Zapata Tamayo, who died Feb. 23 2010
after a lengthy hunger strike to protest prison beatings and other abuses.

"We managed to get to the cemetery despite a big police deployment," his
mother, Reina Luisa Tamayo, told El Nuevo Herald. "We prayed, put
flowers, observed a minute of silence and shouted 'Zapata Lives!."

Tamayo said she was pleased but surprised her group was allowed to walk
to the grave, because of the flurry of reports from elsewhere in Cuba
about security officials' efforts to prevent other ceremonies marking
her son's death.

Havana human rights activist Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz said he had
confirmed reports of about 45 dissidents detained and nearly 60 confined
to their homes in what he called "a wave of preventive repression."

Cuban security officials regularly detain dissidents to keep them from
attending opposition gatherings, and release them hours or days later.
It was not clear how many of those reported detained over recent days
remained in jail Wednesday.

Dissidents also reported anti-government marches in two cities to mark
Zapata Tamayo's death, but there was no immediate way to confirm how
many people participated and what happened during the marches.

Government critics on the island are known to have been trying to
organize street protests to mark Zapata Tamayo's death, but never
announced their exact plans in an attempt to keep security officials off
their trail.

Among those reported under house arrest was Guillermo Fariñas, who
became one of Cuba's best-known dissidents when he launched his own
hunger strike, one day after Zapata Tamayo's death, to press for the
release of 26 political prisoners.

Berta Soler, one of the leaders of the Ladies in White, reported that 13
members of the group had managed to gather at the home of another
leader, Laura Pollán, despite security officials' attempts to intercept
members heading there.

Officials also visited other members at home and warned that they could
jeopardize the government's ongoing process of releasing political
prisoners if they joined the anti-government protests planned for
Wednesday, according to Pollán.

The Raúl Castro government has freed more than 60 political prisoners
since July, but still holds seven of the 75 dissidents arrested in a
2003 crackdown known as Cuba's Black Spring, plus an estimated 100 other
political prisoners.

U.S. State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley issued a statement
Wednesday noting that Zapata Tamayo's death "highlights the injustice of
Cuba's detention of political prisoners'' and urging Castro "to
immediately and unconditionally release all remaining political
prisoners, not just those arrested in the Black Spring."

"We also deplore the continued intimidation and harassment by the Cuban
government of activists and their family members, including Zapata's
mother Reina Luisa Tamayo, who are working to promote human rights on
the island," Crowley added."

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