Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cuban dissidents say Yoani Sanchez's husband, others detained in Havana

Cuban dissidents say Yoani Sanchez's husband, others detained in Havana
HAVANA Tue Dec 30, 2014 3:58pm EST

(Reuters) - Cuban police detained at least four political opponents on
Tuesday, including the husband of prominent blogger Yoani Sanchez, hours
before a performance artist planned to stage an unauthorized open
microphone event, dissidents said.

They would be the highest profile detentions since Cuba and the United
States agreed on Dec. 17 to normalize diplomatic relations and put
behind more than five decades of hostility.

President Barack Obama said then that Cubans should not face harassment
or arrest for expressing their views and that his government would
continue to monitor human rights on the communist-ruled island.

Sanchez said on Twitter that police detained her husband Reinaldo
Escobar and dissident leader Eliecer Avila outside her home in Havana,
taking them away handcuffed in a patrol car.

Escobar is editor-in-chief of the dissident news and opinion website and Avila is the leader of the opposition group Somos Mas
(We Are More).

Other dissident leaders said at least two more government opponents were
being held by police, and others appeared to be restricted to their homes.

President Raul Castro has praised Obama for changing U.S. policy on Cuba
but he also warned that opponents to Cuba's government may try to
undermine progress toward better relations.

A government official could not immediately confirm the reports of
detentions on Tuesday. Officials had denounced the planned open
microphone event as a political provocation.

The organizer of the event, Tania Bruguera, could not be reached by
telephone in Havana. Her sister in Italy said she had lost contact with
Bruguera on Monday, and nobody answered the door at the Havana residence
where Bruguera was staying.

Reached at her home, Sanchez declined to comment on reports from another
dissident leader that she was being held inside her home.

A Reuters reporter saw a police car with two officers and an Interior
Minister official parked outside her apartment building.

"I have spoken to Yoani and she says her intention is not to confront
them," said Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of another dissident group, the
Cuban Patriotic Union.

The leader of the dissident group Ladies in White said some of their
activists also had police stationed outside their homes, that another
was detained, and another detained and released.

Bruguera planned the open microphone event at Havana's Revolution Square
as a test of the government's tolerance for dissent. Cuban officials
denied a permit but she pledged to go ahead with it.

No event took place at the appointed hour of 3 p.m. (2000 GMT).

Cuban police often detain political opponents for a few hours or days
and then release them.

The deal on renewing diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United
States was reached after 18 months of secret talks.

It included a prisoner swap in which the United States freed three Cuban
spies and Cuba agreed to release U.S. aid contractor Alan Gross, a Cuban
who spied for Washington, and 53 people who the United States considers
political prisoners.

So far, none of those 53 have been identified and dissident groups say
none of their activists have been released since the Dec. 17 announcement.

Obama's critics in the United States have complained that Cuba does not
deserve a softer U.S. policy as long as it continues to control the
media and repress political opponents under a one-party system.

"Given that political arrests continue and that Yoani Sanchez just
tweeted that her husband was arrested this morning, how will the Obama
administration engage on these issues?" Senator Robert Menendez, a
Democrat from New Jersey who supports a hard line against Havana, said
in a statement on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta, Nelson Acosta, Rosa Tania Valdés and
Enrique de la Osa; Editing by Kieran Murray and Alan Crosby)

Source: Cuban dissidents say Yoani Sanchez's husband, others detained in
Havana | Reuters -

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