dissidents denounce break-up of protest
HAVANA, Sep 28 (AFP) - Cuban dissident
leaders denounced Friday the police detention
of 47 activists attempting to hold a street
protest in Havana on behalf of political
But prominent dissident Martha Beatriz
Roque told AFP the government had detained
and then released the activists to "minimize
the international political cost" of
"Since last night they have been harassing
people who came to take part in the activity,
resulting up to now in 47 people being detained,"
Roque said in a statement, noting that she
herself was whisked away from the protest.
"Fifteen state security agents and
three police women forced me into a bus,"
Roque said in a press statement.
Two women belonging to the Women in White
group -- wives of political prisoners --
and three others were taken away with her,
and delivered to their homes, she said.
The arrests took place on Thursday and
all but one of those held were released
during the night, according to Elizardo
Sanchez, who heads a human rights group
Cuban authorities tolerate even though they
consider it illegal.
Roque told AFP several people were roughed
up upon their release.
Thursday's detentions came as several dozen
people tried to participate in a small protest
Roque led outside the Justice Ministry in
Havana, dissidents said.
Roque said she and six others stood outside
the ministry for six hours and handed over
a letter demanding the release of political
"Those who dare think differently
than the government and are currently in
prison must be released," the dissidents
said in the letter addressed to Justice
Minister Maria Esther Reus.
The letter also asked that political prisoners
be treated "with dignity."
Roque said a crowd of about 100 government
supporters gathered across the street to
taunt the protesters, calling them "mercenaries"
and "worms," terms the communist
authorities use to describe foes of the
An economist who has been twice jailed
for her opposition to the ruling Communist
Party, Roque said police eventually forced
her and other protesters to leave the area,
escorting them home.
The officer in charge told Roque that police
were protecting her from "the wrath
of the people," the activist said.
Roque told AFP the brief detention showed
the government under the 14-month-old interim
presidency of Raul Castro is attempting
to "minimize the international political
cost" of its actions.
"The government is desperate because
of the image this presents abroad. But I
think they prefer to have an international
cost rather than a problem here," she
Roque said one of those detained Thursday,
Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, was beaten by the
officials who took him away. Perez was released
in April after 17 years in prison for political
Thursday's arrests came two days after
US President George W. Bush called for democratic
change in Cuba, saying at the UN General
Assembly in New York that "the long
rule of a cruel dictator is nearing its
end," a reference to the ailing, 81-year-old
President Fidel Castro.
Cuba responded by saying the US administration
lacked the moral authority to judge Cuba.
In his address to the assembly, Cuban Foreign
Minister Felipe Perez Roque called the US
leader an arrogant liar, lashing out at
what he termed "the delirium tremens
of the world's policeman."