Sunday, September 18, 2011

Cuban Officials Cracking Down on Dissidents

Cuban Officials Cracking Down on Dissidents
September 17, 2011 9:53 AM EDT

Officials in Cuba have detained more than 30 anti-government protesters
in an effort to prevent them from staging a demonstration in the town of
Santa Clara.

One of the activists who were arrested (but later released) was
Guillermo Farinas – a psychologist and journalist who has conducted
almost two dozen hunger strikes to protest the regime.

According to reports, Farinas and his cohorts were planning to hold a
rally to demand "the end of the crackdown against opposition activists
and the liberation of all political prisoners".

At least seven other dissidents have also been released, according to
Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN).

Opposition and human rights activists claim that Havana authorities have
upgraded their harassment and persecution of dissident groups in the
Communist country.

CCDHRN President Elizardo Sanchez told the Associated Press that the
government pressures and intimidates pro-democracy activists through the
instrument of short-term detentions.

The government is using "minimal political repression; they are simply
neutralising initiatives, nothing more," he added.

Havana officials typically describe dissidents as mercenaries who are
seeking to foment disorder to prompt aggression by the United States.

However, in recent years, the Communist government has made some
reforms. President Raul Castro (brother of Cuban icon Fidel) has freed
many political prisoners after reaching agreements with the Catholic
Church. Many of the former inmates have since relocated to exile in Spain.

The government has made other reforms as well, including the
encouragement of private enterprise and the reduction of the state's
excessively large bureaucracy. Most dramatic, Cuba plans to lay off
1-million state workers, eliminate state subsidies on goods and
services, reduce Havana's heavy hand in the agriculture, retail and
construction sectors and encourage the formation small private businesses.

Raul Castro has also proposed to ease travel restrictions.

Still, U.S. President Barack Obama has charged that Havana is not doing

"You are seeing enormous changes taking place in the Middle East just in
the span of six months, you are seeing there are almost no authoritarian
communist countries left in the world, and here you have this small
island [Cuba] that is a throwback to the [19]60s," Obama told media.

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