Thursday, November 30, 2006

Acts of civil disobedience on the rise in Cuba

Posted on Wed, Nov. 29, 2006

Acts of civil disobedience on the rise in Cuba
By Frances Robles
McClatchy Newspapers


From candlelight vigils to hunger strikes and even a mountain hike,
Fidel Castro opponents logged more than 3,300 acts of civil disobedience
in Cuba last year, nearly twice the number of the year before, according
to a report to be released Thursday.

As Castro's government continues a campaign of reprisals against
dissidents that began with a wave of arrests three years ago, members of
the opposition movement say more people are speaking up and joining up.

``Repression generates rebellion,'' said Janisset Rivero, executive
director of the Cuban Democratic Directorate, a Miami exile organization
that published the Steps to Freedom report, to be released Thursday at
the University of Miami.

The report's numbers underscore growing discontent with the quality of
life in Cuba, and the government's inability to satisfy basic needs. And
while the government's 2003 crackdown decapitated much of the dissident
movement, each year the number of acts of civil resistance climbs, the
report said.

Among the group's findings:

_The central province of Villa Clara appears to be a hotbed of political
opposition, logging far more protests than any other province. Even
though nearly all of the island's internationally known dissident
activists live in Havana, only 11 percent of last year's civil
disobedience took place there.

_25 hunger strikes were held by prisoners.

_The Ladies in White, the group of female relatives of the 75 political
prisoners picked up in the 2003 sweep, held 182 different protests.

_The 3,322 acts logged in 2005 - including 2,613 vigils - represent an
85 percent increase over the 1,805 acts of civil disobedience in 2004.

``What we're seeing is a direct relation between the incapacity of the
regime's administration - economically, politically, the errors they
commit every day - and the discontent of the people,'' Rivero said.
``People see no hope, but they are losing their fear.''

The Directorate helps pro-democracy organizations on the island. It
receives a portion of its funding, some $1 million, from the U.S. Agency
for International Development. The USAID money goes to a project,
separate from the civil disobedience report, that focuses on
international outreach.

The Directorate's federal funding has made it a frequent object of
criticism from the Cuban government. The report has come out annually
since 1997, documenting each reported act of disobedience by date and
address and citing the source. When it began a decade ago, the listing
was of a scant 44 events. That more than doubled to 100 events in 1998,
eventually jumping to 1,328 in 2003.

``The opposition has taken a lower profile since July 2005, when Fidel
Castro incited violence against us in a speech he gave,'' said Eliecer
Consuegra Rivas, of the Eastern Democratic Alliance in Holguin. ``But as
that happens, horizons broaden. The police will loot an independent
library, and people on the street come forward and say, `How are they
going to take the books?'''

Cuban dissident leaders say they lost momentum when the 75 were jailed,
but have since overcome the leadership loss

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