Sunday, September 25, 2011

Havana's patience with protests may be running thin

Posted on Friday, 09.23.11

Havana's patience with protests may be running thin

A blog that supports the Cuban government also warned the Ladies in
White that their demonstrations won't be allowed.

A decision by Cuban prosecutors to put 11 dissidents on trial and a
pro-government blog's threat against the Ladies in White might signal
that the government has lost its patience with a recent wave of
protests, activists said.

"State Security agents have told us they prefer to pay the political
costs of having new political prisoners than allow the growth of our
movement," said dissident Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, freed this spring
after eight years in prison.

Cuban authorities generally prefer to detain dissidents for a few hours
to disrupt their plans, rather than risk condemnations by throwing them
in jail for long periods. In the past year the government freed 52
dissidents jailed during a mass roundup in 2003.

But this year has seen a wave of activism. Cuban courts have convicted
eight dissidents, compared to only two convictions in 2010, and
sentenced them to prison terms of up to five years.

The threat of a crackdown against the Ladies in White came in Cambios en
Cuba — Changes in Cuba — a pro-government blog that accused the women of
trying to provoke a military intervention in Cuba like the NATO attacks
in Libya.

The women, all relatives of political prisoners, and their supporters
plan to gather for Mass on Saturday at the Church of Las Mercedes to
give thanks for the release of the 52 dissidents and pray for the
release of all other jailed opposition activists.

"The result of this announced provocation is already predictable: As
many times as needed, our youths and women will block the so-called
Ladies from [creating] … public disorders. Put simply, they will not be
allowed," the unsigned blog post noted.

Government-organized mobs have broken up attempted protests around Cuba
this year with so-called "acts of repudiation" that sometimes involve
the use of force and violence against opposition activists.

The blog alleged that the Ladies in White want to be "the little spark
that sets off the social explosion that converts Cuba into a NATO
shooting range."

Responding to the blog's allegations, Berta Soler, Ladies in White
spokeswoman, said she did not understand "how some women dressed in
white could be a provocation."

Ferrer said prosecutor Olga Virgen Despaigne Correoso, handling two
cases against 11 dissidents in the eastern town of Palma Soriano, had
issued written decisions that they should go to trial. Charges of
creating public disturbances will be filed against seven men arrested
Aug. 28 during an incident in which dissidents alleged that police used
tear gas and deployed a riot-control squad to block a street protest by
about 30 government critics, Ferrer said.

The four others were arrested Sept. 8 after a verbal street
confrontation with a government supporter, he said. They were charged
with creating a public disturbance and assault.

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