CUBA

Cuban police free the last of the dissidents detained on Human Rights Day

 

jtamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

Cuban police have freed the last of the more than 150 dissidents detained during International Human Rights Day, including Estado de SATS founder Antonio G. Rodiles and rocker Gorky Aguila.

Opposition activists, meanwhile, said they worried about a member of the Ladies in White who underwent emergency surgery for what a doctor described as a hernia and the woman complained was the result of a police beating.

Rodiles, 41, said he was freed late Wednesday along with Aguila, blogger Walfrido Lopez, journalist Calixto Martínez and artists Kizzy Macías and Aldito Menéndez, all hauled away by police after a scuffle earlier in the day outside Rodiles’ home in Havana.

The independent Estado de SATS movement was hosting the last day of the First Congress on Human Rights in the home when security officials organized a group of children to write pro-government slogans on the sidewalk, Rodiles said.

He and his girlfriend went outside to look at the slogans, a government photographer shoved a camera in her face and he intervened, Rodiles said. The other men came out of the house, a shoving match ensued and police hauled away the six men.

Five American students from the Semester At Sea program aboard the MV Explorer cruise ship, docked in Havana, spent nearly two hours in the home speaking with dissidents and were “shocked” by what they saw, he added. He did not get their names.

Police and State Security agents had sealed off the streets leading to Rodiles house since early on Tuesday, the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in an attempt to disrupt the two-day Estado de SATS conference.

Authorities also planned a concert outside the home by the band Arnaldo y su Talismán but cancelled it because of rain, he added. U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican, said he had a report that the band planned some U.S. appearances, and urged the State Department to revoke their visas.

Authorities carried out more than 150 brief detentions on Tuesday to avert or break up planned marches and other protests against Cuba’s human rights record, according to human rights activists on the island.

José Daniél Ferrer, leader of the opposition Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU), meanwhile, said Arlenis Pérez Alarcón, a member of the Ladies in White in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, had emergency surgery after a confrontation with police Tuesday.

Ferrer said a report from the Military Hospital in Santiago that he received from Perez’ daughter, Yudileisi Mendoza Perez, said the surgery was for a hernia caused by a “brusque movement.”

But Perez claims she was repeatedly kicked during the confrontation between police and about 20 Ladies in White on Tuesday, Ferrer said. “She says the only thing brusque was the stomping she received,” he said.

The daughter also complained that the hospital discharged Perez late Wednesday, despite the seriousness of the surgery, under pressure from a State Security officer, according to Ferrer.

Repeated El Nuevo Herald calls to Mendoza Perez’s telephone rang continually busy.

The State Department, meanwhile, issued a statement noting that the crackdown on pro-democracy activists came on the same day that President Barack Obama famously shook hands with Cuban ruler Raúl Castro.

“We note with strong concerns that on the same day, International Human Rights Day, the Cuban government detained more than 20 members of the Ladies in White in Havana and dozens more peaceful ... activists across Cuba, in come cases using violence,” it said.

“We condemn the use of force against citizens peacefully exercising their human rights, and we support the rights of all Cuban citizens to freely express themselves … (and) determine their own future,” the statement added.

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