Act of Repudiation
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    Cuban Ladies in White harassed by pro-Castro hecklers

    Monday, March 21st 2011 – 07:34 UTC

    Cuban Ladies in White harassed by pro-Castro hecklers

    Cuban government supporters harassed a group of dissidents who met at a
    home in Havana to commemorate the eighth anniversary of a sweeping
    crackdown on dissent.

    Hundreds of mostly young counter-demonstrators gathered Friday outside
    the home of Laura Pollan, leader of the Ladies in White organization
    that comprises relatives of dozens of government opponents arrested and
    given long prison terms in 2003, the vast majority of whom have since
    been released.

    Twenty-seven dissidents met at the residence, including members of the
    Ladies in White and dissident Guillermo Fariñas – both winners of the
    European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought – as well as
    recently released Amnesty International-adopted prisoners of conscience
    Hector Maseda and Angel Moya.

    The dissidents were marking the eighth anniversary of the Black Spring
    crackdown of 2003, when 75 independent journalists and democracy
    activists were rounded up and sentenced to prison terms of between six
    and 28 years.

    They were accused of conspiring with the United States to undermine the
    independence of the state and "the principles of the revolution."

    On Friday, the large pro-Castro crowd forced the Ladies in White and the
    other dissidents to remain inside the home and shouted slogans in
    support of the government and against the dissidents, whom they
    denounced as "traitors."

    They also hung a large Cuban flag from a rooftop and with a directional
    speaker at full volume played the national anthem and music by Cuban
    singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez.

    A contingent of police and state security agents also had been deployed
    to the area surrounding the home and several streets were blocked off to

    Tensions flared at one point during the hours-long "act of repudiation"
    against the dissidents, when one member of the Ladies in White tried to
    leave Pollan's home to hold a peaceful march on the street.

    The government supporters prevented her from doing so and pushing and
    shoving erupted between the two sides.

    Shortly afterward, plainclothes security agents arrived and helped one
    of the Ladies in White who felt ill, escorting her away from the crowd
    in a vehicle.

    In statements by phone early in the day, Ladies in White spokeswoman
    Berta Soler had vowed that the harassment would not prevent her group
    from commemorating the anniversary of the Black Spring.

    For his part, Fariñas, a psychologist, independent journalist and
    frequent hunger striker said the years since the 2003 crackdown have
    been ones of "resistance, civic struggle and perseverance."

    This year's anniversary comes at a time when most of the Group of 75
    prisoners have been released following Spanish-supported talks last year
    between President Raul Castro's government and Cuba's Catholic hierarchy.

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