Friday, December 10, 2010

Peaceful protests mark human rights day in Cuba


By Nelson Acosta

HAVANA | Fri Dec 10, 2010 3:17pm EST

HAVANA (Reuters) - Members of the dissident group Ladies in White staged brief protests in front of two prisons while pro-government Cuban youths danced salsa in the park as islanders marked a comparatively peaceful international Human Rights Day on Friday.

In contrast to years past, there were no known clashes between government opponents and supporters, but at least two dissidents were reported detained by authorities on their way to a demonstration.

Cuban leaders, who launched significant economic reforms in September, appeared intent on avoiding conflict and the international condemnation that has accompanied it in previous years.

The annual Human Rights Day marks the anniversary of the December 10, 1948, adoption by the United Nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

At the Combinado del Este prison on the outskirts of Havana, 15 of the Ladies in White stood outside the gate and shouted "Freedom" and "Long live human rights" as they demanded the release of political prisoners in Cuban jails, including 11 of their family members imprisoned since a 2003 government crackdown.

They are the last of 52 prisoners President Raul Castro agreed to free in a July deal brokered by the Catholic Church, and some are in the two Havana prisons.

"We come to denounce violations of human rights," Ladies in White leader Laura Pollan said at the Combinado del Este. "We demand the release of the political prisoners."

Another group of Ladies in White staged a similar protest at the 1580 prison in the Havana suburbs, and in both cases they did so without incident.

On Thursday, the group marched through Havana, where about 200 students and government workers surrounded them while shouting derogatory slogans.

Last year on December 10, they and other dissidents were greeted by hostile mobs backing the communist-led Cuban government, which views dissidents as traitors in the employ of its ideological enemy, the United States.

Cuban dissidents Darsi Ferrer and his wife Yusnaimy Jorge Soca had planned an anti-government march on Friday in a park in Havana's Vedado neighborhood but were detained before their arrival, diplomats and dissidents said.

Instead, youthful government supporters filled the park, where they danced salsa and at one point held up pictures of victims of a 1976 Cubana Airlines plane bombing Cuba blames on anti-Castro exile Luis Posada Carriles now living in Miami.

Cuban leaders say the free education and health services they provide all Cubans show their respect for human rights.

Public protests are rare in Cuba, but the Ladies in White stage a march each Sunday in Havana, usually without incident.

(Additional reporting by Esteban Israel, Rosa Tania Valdes and Jeff Franks; Editing by Jackie Frank)

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JG: Laura Pollan, the leader of the so-called Ladies in White went to the U.S. Interests Section in Havana a couple of days ago, to receive the welfare/subversion checks that her troops get on a regular basis as payment for services rendered to the Yankee imperialists.

Look at the foto distributed by Reuters. I will use vernacular Cubanese to describe the group as Cuatro Gatos.

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