Dissidents in Cuba
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Cuban dissidents' wives mark crackdown

Posted on Sat, Mar. 17, 2007

Cuban dissidents' wives mark crackdown
By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ
Associated Press Writer

HAVANA —
Forty Cuban women took turns Saturday standing behind fake prison bars
to symbolize their loved ones' arrest during a government crackdown on
dissidents four years ago.

Gathering at dawn for a 12-hour protest, the women erected metal bars
under a staircase and stood in the fake prison cell one at a time in
half-hour shifts. They sipped coffee and chatted quietly while going
without food. On the opposite wall, they hung a Cuban flag scrawled with
the names of their jailed loved ones.

"We don't have weapons, we are peaceful," protest host Laura Pollan said.

Pollan's husband, Hector Maseda, and 74 other government critics were
rounded up in a 72-hour crackdown that began March 18, 2003, just as the
first U.S. military strike on Iraq was getting under way.

Those arrested were tried as "mercenaries" working with Washington to
undermine Fidel Castro's socialist system and sentenced to prison terms
of up to 27 years. Both the dissidents and American officials denied the
U.S. government was paying opponents to harm Cuba.

Sixteen of the 75 – including the only woman arrested – have been
released on medical parole. Rights group say Cuba has about 283
political prisoners.

Pollan said Saturday's low-key gathering was part of a quiet period
among dissident groups, many of which have been waiting to see what will
happen since the 80-year-old Castro had emergency surgery and
temporarily ceded power to his 75-year-old brother Raul in July.

She said Communist Party officials and others have visited leading
activists in recent days, attempting to dissuade them from holding
public acts to mark the anniversary of the crackdown.

"They told us the country was living through difficult moments and that
we shouldn't upset public order because the people could attack us," she
said.

http://www.miamiherald.com/691/story/44896.html

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