Several dissidents detained in Cuba following opposition meeting, activist says
HAVANA – Several dissidents were detained Friday, including three organizers of a hotly contested opposition meeting, according to a longtime human rights activist.Martha Beatriz Roque, who spearheaded the May 20 gathering of dissidents, was among those rounded up by state security agents, said Elizardo Sanchez of the non-governmental Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.He said as many as 20 dissidents were detained, including two other lead organizers of the meeting, Rene Gomez Manzano and Felix Bonne. He said they were detained after government supporters helped prevent a protest called for Friday morning.Sanchez said told The Associated Press in a telephone interview he confirmed the detentions through relatives. He said it was unclear if the opponents had been formally arrested or were detained temporarily to prevent them attending the morning protest they planned outside the French Embassy.About 200 people attended the May 20 event that Roque organized in May at Bonne’s residence. Dissidents and observers were surprised then that the communist-run government allowed the event to go ahead without interruption.Roque and other organizers of that meeting had been expected at the Friday morning protest outside the embassy, but she never showed and her whereabouts were unknown until Sanchez confirmed her detention. Gomez Manzano’s arrest was confirmed earlier in the day by his brother Jorge.Just a dozen dissidents showed for the morning protest to demand the release of political prisoners, far fewer than those expected.”Our objective is to demand that the Europeans nations take an interest in the political prisoners of our country,” said opposition member Adolfo Lazaro Bosk.At least 40 cases of dissidents being blocked from attending the event were reported by Sanchez earlier in the day.Pro-government neighbors of dissident Leon Padron Azcuy surrounded his home, sang the Cuban national anthem and shouted in support of the Cuban revolution and President Fidel Castro.”That man belongs to the mercenary groups paid by the United States,” said Alberto Lisea, insisting he and other neighbors had the right to “defend the revolution.””This revolution belongs to the Cuban people, the streets belong to the revolutionaries,” shouted neighbor Jorge Fernandez.U.S. authorities have repeatedly rejected charges by the Cuban government that it pays dissidents to help undermine Castro’s rule.