In Cuba, rally broken up
In Cuba, rally broken up
Earlier, island signaled it would sign U.N. human rights pacts
By Ray Sanchèz | Havana Bureau
December 11, 2007
Cuba said Monday it will allow United Nations oversight of its human
rights record. Minutes after the announcement, plainclothes police and
government supporters broke up a peaceful march marking International
Human Rights Day.
Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said Cuba would sign the U.N.'s
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and a similar
agreement on economic and social issues by next March. The move would
effectively open the socialist island in early 2009 to international
scrutiny by the newly created U.N. Human Rights Council. Cuba had long
refused to sign the pacts, charging that the former UN Human Rights
Commission had been manipulated and "politicized" by the United States.
"This decision reflects our desire for full cooperation with the United
Nations on the basis of respect for our national sovereignty and the
right of the Cuban people to their self-determination," Perez Roque said.
Shortly after Perez Roque's news conference, a small group of dissidents
marching in a nearby park in the Vedado neighborhood were mobbed, shoved
and insulted by counter-demonstrators.
The melee, during which government supporters also roughed up some
international journalists, broke out after dissident Dr. Darsi Ferrer
locked arms with a few other protesters and marched silently along the
As the marchers circled the park, their numbers growing to a dozen or
so, they were soon outnumbered by counter-demonstrators, who called them
"traitors" and "mercenaries." Others chanted "Fidel! Fidel!" in support
of ailing President Fidel Castro.
When counter-demonstrators started to become hostile, some plainclothes
security agents urged them to back off. One woman who assaulted a female
protester had to be pulled away by security agents.
The demonstrators dispersed among about 100 government supporters.
There was no word of injuries and it was not clear whether marchers
forced into unmarked sedans — including an elderly man with a cane — had
been detained. Human rights observers here said some marchers were
detained before the event.
About 10 Spanish women who joined a dissident march on Sunday to demand
the release of political prisoners claimed they were being detained in
their hotels and were being deported.
Cuba denies that it has political prisoners — rights observers say there
are about 240. The government labels all dissidents as "mercenaries" in
the employ of the United States.
"Neither the manipulations that the U.S. government has staged,
sometimes with a handful of mercenaries it pays and directs in our
country … nor its pressures on other countries will alter our course,"
Perez Roque said.
Police had picked up dozens of dissidents in recent days for temporary
detention, according to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and
National Reconciliation. Rights activists said they were unsure whether
Cuba would comply and set free political prisoners after signing the