Cuba

Cuban dissidents detained; Yoani Sánchez released

 

A group of political dissidents were detained near a Havana police station. Among them: blogger Yoani Sánchez, who was later released.

jchavez@ElNuevoHerald.com

Cuban authorities ordered the temporary detention of several dissidents who had gathered in front of a Havana police station Thursday to demand freedom for a group of activists and independent lawyers.

Among those detained were blogger Yoani Sánchez, former political prisoner Guillermo Fariñas, and writers Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, Angel Santiesteban and Eugenio Leal. Several former political prisoners from the Group of 75 also were detained. They included Angel Moya, Félix Navarro, Julio Aleaga, Eduardo Díaz Fleitas and Librado Linares.

Yoani Sánchez was freed late Thursday, according to a Twitter message from her husband, Reynaldo Escobar.

The activists were detained outside a police station at Acosta and 10 de Octubre in a Havana neighborhood called La Víbora where they were demanding the immediate, unconditional release of more than a dozen activists who had been detained at midweek.

A pro-government group that blogs under the name Yohandry said on Twitter that Sánchez was detained for creating a “public disturbance” and for “social indiscipline.”

“A wave of repressive has been noted in the capital. It has a spiral or domino-effect,’’ Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz, a spokesman for the Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation told El Nuevo Herald.

The arrests coincided with reports of a critical situation for human rights and zero tolerance on the part of the Castro government for requests for freedom and democracy.

Sánchez Santa Cruz added that the arrest of dissidents and police threats mark a new chapter of indiscriminate repression.

On Wednesday, police arrested independent lawyers Yaremis Flores, Laritza Diversent and Veisant Boloy.

The commission also confirmed the arrest of the director of State of Sats Project, Antonio Rodiles, and activists Andres Perez and Mario Morales. The project is a movement based in Havana, which promotes the exchange of ideas. On several occasions, the group has made written demands for an end to the Cuban government’s censorship practices. In this context, it organizes monthly meetings, panel discussions and analyses on art and social activism.

The organization has repeatedly asked the government not to prohibit entry into the island of various intellectuals and artists now barred by the government because they do not fit in with the island’s political expectations.

Wilfredo Vallín, a Havana lawyer who heads the Cuban Law Association, described the arrests as a new expression of intolerance and authoritarianism in Cuba.

“We do not know what the condition of these people arrested and have no information of their whereabouts. These arrests were made without any legal basis,’’ Vallín said. “We’ve heard that some of them were beaten. Obviously, this cannot be allowed to continue.”

Others detained were Vladimir Torres, Rolando Reyes, Reinaldo Figueras and Luis Manuel Fumero. All were taken to police stations run by the Cuban State Security.

“At this time, most of those arrested are unaccounted for, but we know they have been placed in prison cells at different stations of the national revolutionary police and being held incommunicado,” Sánchez Santa Cruz said.

The wave of oppression against the ranks of dissidents continue to aggravate the already critical situation inside the island. In October, the Cuban rights commission identified 520 arrests of dissidents for political reasons. The report described a high level of consistent repression, harassment and persecution.

In early October, Yoani Sanchez was briefly detained in a research center in the eastern city of Bayamo along with her husband, an independent journalist, and blogger Agustín Lopez.

At the time, the trio was traveling to attend the trial of Angel Carromero, a Spanish citizen charged in the July death in a car crash of famed dissident, Oswaldo Payá. A second dissident, Harold Cepero, also died in the accident.

Minutes before her arrest on Thursday, Sánchez sent a Twitter message about the repression the activist were encountering.

“They released Ailer Gonzalez but the rest are still behind bars, the group being held at the Acosta police station is still here,” Sánchez tweeted.

Rodiles, who also is in police custody, had been arrested in July in Havana and released hours later. At that time, no charges were levied against him, but authorities did not explain the reason for his arrest. Rodiles’ release came after several of his friends and independent journalists staged a “sit-in” at the station where he was being held incommunicado.

In Miami, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on Thursday condemned the crackdown against opposition ranks in an email to El Nuevo Herald.

“Just one day after Obama’s reelection, the brutal Castro regime continues to do what it does best: arresting and beating peaceful pro-democracy activists,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “I have hope that this administration [Obama] will see these despots and tyrants for what they are.”

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