Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cuban dissidents blocked from leaving home

Posted on Saturday, 09.24.11

Cuban dissidents blocked from leaving home
Associated Press

HAVANA -- A raucous pro-government crowd shouting insults and slogans
blocked a group of Cuban dissidents from launching a protest march in
Havana on Saturday.

Carrying placards and waving tiny Cuban flags, hundreds of people massed
outside the home of Laura Pollan, one of the leaders of the dissident
group Ladies in White, more than an hour before the group had planned to
march three miles (five kilometers) from her working-class Havana
neighborhood to a church.

"Down with the worms!" and "Get out!" they shouted at the 34 white-clad
dissidents gathered inside. Many in the pro-government crowd were women
and university students, and they strung huge Cuban and revolutionary
flags from the roof of Pollan's home, staking their claim to the street
and also sheltering themselves from the sun.

When some of the Ladies tried to push their way outside to start the
march, they were blocked from leaving the doorway when a scrum broke
out, with government security agents standing between the two groups.
Authorities pulled a bus up to the door of the residence, but it soon
left without any of the Ladies on board. It was unclear why the bus was
brought to the scene.

Beyond the pushing and yelling, no violence broke out. Crowds often
gather to shout at Cuban dissidents in so-called acts of repudiation.
The government claims the acts are spontaneous rejections of
anti-revolutionary sentiment, although little effort is made to conceal
coordination with state security agents on the scene.

In recent days, pro-government blogs have called for Cuban youth to turn
out in counterprotest.

The Ladies in White, who formed to press for the release of their
husbands, intellectuals and social commentators jailed in a 2003
crackdown, have historically marched to commemorate the day of the
Virgin of Mercedes, the patron saint of prisoners.

Their loved ones were freed over the past year under a deal brokered by
the Roman Catholic Church, but the Ladies say they intend to keep
protesting for greater freedom. They have refocused their agenda by
demanding freedom for some 50 prisoners convicted of politically
motivated but violent crimes like sabotage and hijacking.

Pollan said her home had been monitored since the previous day and she
didn't know why her group was not allowed to march Saturday as they have
on Sept. 24 in past years. She accused the state of coordinating the act
of repudiation.

"These are people who are brought in because they're always the same
ones," Pollan said.

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