News and Facts about Cuba

Protesters mark Human Rights Day in Cuba

Protesters mark Day in Cuba
By David Ariosto, CNN
December 11, 2009 — Updated 0827 GMT (1627 HKT)

Havana, Cuba (CNN) — A few hundred pro-government demonstrators swarmed
Havana's streets on Thursday, encircling a small group of female
protesters marching in support of International Human Rights Day.

"This is an intolerant, totalitarian government," Cuban Laura
Pollan told CNN from her home, where the march began.

"They don't want democracy, they don't want other people to express
their ideas, they don't want ."

The Ladies in White — as they are referred to because of their
all-white attire — are mothers, sisters and friends of jailed
dissidents in Cuba.

In a seemingly coordinated event, the women waited for journalists and
embassy diplomats to gather outside Pollan's home in Old Havana before

The women, who clutched long-stemmed flowers and tiny Cuban flags, drew
hundreds of angry pro-government demonstrators seeking to drown out
their chants of "" by yelling "this street belongs to Fidel

Small groups of women clad in white march every Sunday to protest a
government crackdown in 2003 in which 75 leading political dissidents
were imprisoned.

Rarely do their protests draw such attention.

The Cuban government identifies the Ladies in White as
counter-revolutionaries in the pocket of the United States.

"They are mercenaries," yelled one demonstrator who did not give his
name. "They are paid by the United States of America, the same country
that has a blockade on us, who threaten our children, who have killed
more than 2,000 Cubans."

The United States has maintained a near half-century against
Cuba that many on the island nation often blame for their country's woes.

In a separate march, several people were tossed into vehicles while
others were detained.

British diplomat Christopher Stimpson said he observed screaming and
"people being carried off" as he was mobbed by pro-government supporters.

Thursday's Ladies in White march lasted about two hours, much of which
was spent shrouded by the mobbing crowd of demonstrators.

"It's much easier to use pro-government supporters, because it shows
that the demonstrators' view are not shared by the general population,"
said Susan Purcell, Director for the Center for Hemispheric Policy at
the of Miami in Florida.

Purcell noted that "if you have citizen against citizen, then the regime
can claim deniability."

Despite minor pushing and shoving between the groups, no injuries were
immediately apparent. The Cuban Human Rights Commission estimates Cuba
is holding 200 political prisoners.

Protesters mark Human Rights Day in Cuba – (11 December 2009)

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