Cuban police detained three dissidents Thursday who were handing out leaflets on a Havana corner in support of a human rights initiative that activists said has prompted the recent string of house searches around the island.
Yosvel Ramos, Idalberto Acuña and Santiago Cardozo, members of the Cuban Patriotic Union, were arrested on a busy corner of the Marianao neighborhood, said Jose Daniel Ferrer García, a leader of the opposition group.
Ramos was on his cellphone with another dissident during the arrest and was recorded screaming that police were hitting him and spraying him with pepper gas inside their patrol car, Ferrer noted.
The three men were handing out leaflets supporting the Citizens Demand for Another Cuba, an initiative by a broad range of dissidents and activists demanding that the government ratify and enact two international human rights agreements it signed in 2008.
Ferrer said the unusually high number of police searches of dissidents homes reported in recent weeks was the result of government efforts to seize leaflets reproducing or supporting the Citizens Demand.
The 41-year-old former political prisoner said he was detained for 36 hours earlier this month while traveling from his hometown of Palmarito de Cauto to Havana, to keep him from attending an organizational meeting on the initiative.
The initiative is nevertheless gathering steam, he added, with more than 500 Cubans signing a digital page endorsing it and several musicians, graffiti artists and performance artists working on ways to spread its message around the island.
The document says the signers want to talk publicly about the exercise of democracy as well as government restrictions on migrations and the rights of Cubans to obtain a dignified salary, start economic initiatives and access the Internet.
Cubas government also should fully adopt two United Nations agreements on human, political and civil rights that it signed five years ago but has never officially approved or put into effect, it added.
Among the first signers of the declaration were Ferrer and dissidents Guillermo Fariñas, winner of the European Parliaments Sakharov prize in 2010, and Sara Martha Fonseca, as well as bloggers Yoani Sánchez and Miriam Celaya, authors Raúl Rivero and Carlos Alberto Montaner and artist Geandy Pavón.
Also signing the document on June 11 were human rights activist Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz and Antonio G. Rodiles, director of Estado de Sats, a Havana-based movement promoting discussions on Cubas situation.