Cuban dissident nominated for Nobel Peace PrizeMar, 18, 2010 02:16 PM – EFE Ingles
Copenhagen, Mar 18 (EFE).- A Norwegian lawmaker confirmed Thursday that she and her colleagues have nominated Cuban opposition figure Oswaldo Paya for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.
Awarding the prize to Paya would be a "significant contribution to a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba," Dagrun Eriksen, deputy leader of Norway's Christian Democrats, said in a communique.
She said that this week marks the seventh anniversary of Cuba's "Black Spring," when the communist government rounded up and jailed 75 political opponents, 53 of whom remain behind bars.
Eriksen said that the Cuban regime is getting more and more unpopular and that, although the fear of an eventual bloody rebellion on the island does exist, Paya has been a key figure delivering "a clear message of non-violence" and occupying the role of Cuba's most prominent dissident for years in the peaceful struggle for human rights.
Paya, a past recipient of the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for human rights, has pushed for dialogue and peaceful resistance among different groups of opposition members, working within the framework of existing Cuban laws, the Norwegian legislator said.
As an example of that, she cited the National Dialogue initiative launched by Paya in which more than 12,000 Cubans have participated.
Only if the nominators make their picks public do the identities of candidates for the peace prize become known, since the Norwegian Nobel Committee – and the Peace Prize is the only award decided upon outside of Sweden – does not confirm the names and only releases the overall number of candidates.
For this year's award, which will be presented in October, there are 237 candidates, including 38 organizations.
The winner of the Peace Prize last year was U.S. President Barack Obama. EFE
US says 'dismayed' Cuba protest disruptedThu Mar 18, 2:54 pm ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US State Department said Thursday it is "dismayed" that authorities in communist Cuba disrupted a demonstration by women relatives of political prisoners.
President Barack Obama's administration, which has tried to engage diplomatically with Havana, is "dismayed that a peaceful march was disrupted by the Cuban government authorities, department spokesman Gordon Duguid said.
The authorities, he said, "interfered with the right of Cuban citizens to peacefully assemble and express their support for their family members who are prisoners of conscience."
Hundreds of government supporters heckled members of the "Ladies in White" rights group as they silently marched in protest Thursday through the streets of downtown Havana. Police removed some 30 women during a march on Wednesday.
"We are concerned about the welfare of the" women, Duguid said.
The women — wives and mothers of political prisoners — have been marking the seventh year of the arrest of 75 opponents of the regime headed by President Raul Castro.
Gov't says chemical maker Innospec pleads guilty to bribery, violating US embargo against CubaBy MARCY GORDON , Associated PressLast update: March 18, 2010 – 4:23 PM
WASHINGTON – Specialty chemicals maker Innospec Inc. pleaded guilty Thursday to federal charges of bribery, defrauding the United Nations and violating the U.S. embargo against Cuba, U.S. authorities said.
The Justice Department said Innospec entered a guilty plea before a federal judge in Washington to charges of wire fraud in connection with kickbacks it paid to the former Iraqi government under the UN oil-for-food program and bribes to officials in the Iraqi Oil Ministry.
Innospec also admitted to selling chemicals to Cuban power plants in violation of the U.S. embargo, Justice and other law enforcement agencies said.
The company, which has manufacturing plants and sales operations around the world, offices in the U.S. and Britain and is incorporated in Delaware, also agreed to pay $40.2 million in a settlement with the Justice Department, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Controls, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Britain's Serious Fraud Office.
Innospec is said to be the world's only manufacturer of the anti-knock compound tetraethyl lead, used in leaded gasoline. The additive is sold to oil refineries around the world and generates a large part of the company's sales. It also makes chemicals used in personal care and photographic markets, among others.
Innospec's Swiss subsidiary, Alcor, was awarded five contracts from 2000 to 2003 worth more than 40 million euros to sell tetraethyl lead to refineries run by the Iraqi Oil Ministry under the UN oil-for-food program, according to documents filed with the court.
To secure the contracts, Innospec admitted, Alcor paid or promised to pay at least $4 million in kickbacks to the former Iraqi government, according to the documents. They say Alcor inflated the price of the contracts by about 10 percent to cover the cost of the kickbacks before submitting them to the UN for approval, and then recorded the payments on the company's books as "commissions" paid to Ousama Naaman, its agent in Iraq.
In London Thursday, the company's British subsidiary Innospec Ltd. pleaded guilty in Southwark Crown Court to paying bribes to Indonesian officials and agreed to pay a $12.7 million criminal penalty.
Innospec's president and CEO, Patrick Williams, said in a statement the company "is hugely relieved that all of the work that it has done during this long investigation, to put right the faults of previous management, has been recognized by the courts in both England and Wales and in the U.S."
Included in the $40.2 million settlement is a $14.1 million criminal fine. Innospec will also hire an independent monitor for at least three years to oversee a new program of anti-corruption and export-control measures. The company also agreed to cooperate with the authorities in ongoing investigations into bribes by Innospec employees and agents, Justice said in a news release.
"Today's case is a win for law-abiding companies trying to compete fairly in the marketplace," Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said in a statement. "Fraud and corruption cannot be viewed simply as a cost of doing business."
The SEC accused Innospec of paying or promising more than $9.2 million in illegal bribes to officials in Iraq and Indonesia to obtain or keep business. Innospec agreed to pay $11.2 million in restitution to the SEC, which is also included in Thursday's settlement. The company neither admitted nor denied the SEC's allegations but did agree to refrain from future violations of the securities laws.
The company's stock rose 48 cents, or 4.4 percent, to close at $11.30 in Nasdaq trading Thursday.
Mar 18, 2010 3:46 pm US/EasternCuba's Ladies In White Hauled Away During ProtestReportingEliott RodriguezHAVANA (CBS4)
A protest in Cuba Wednesday turned violent when a group of mothers and wives came face to face with a pro-government mob. The women were marking the 7th anniversary of a crackdown on dissidents, but Cuban police put an end to their protest.
The so-called "Ladies in White" held a peaceful march through a Havana neighborhood. They carried flowers and called for the release of their loved ones. The protest marked the anniversary of Cuba's "Black Spring" of 2003, when 75 dissidents were rounded up and hauled off to jail on charges including treason and working for an enemy state. Fifty-three remain in jail to this day.
As the 30 or so women walked along carrying flowers, about 200 government supporters marched alongside, separated by security agents, shouting and harassing the opposition group.
In response to slurs the women shouted "Freedom" and "Zapata lives" in reference to Orlando Zapata Tamayo, an imprisoned dissident who died from an 85-day hunger strike on February 23. He was the first Cuban activist to starve himself to death in protest in nearly 40 years. His mother, Reyna Tamayo, took part in the march.
As the pro-government crowd swelled, state security agents repeatedly offered to take the women away in a bus. Finally, they pulled a bus up and began hauling the women into it, grabbing some by the hair and others by the arms and legs as they screamed in protest.
Aboard the bus the Ladies in White continued their protest and shouted 'freedom' as they banged on the windows in their now mud-stained white clothing.
"Every day more people are joining our struggle," one woman said. She joined the group at a Catholic Church, where they prayed for the release of their sons and husbands. Prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo died last month after a hunger strike. Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas is currently on a hunger strike aimed at calling attention to the plight of Cuban political prisoners.
One of those prisoners is Ricardo Gonzalez, an independent journalist who ran a small library inside his home in Havana. Gonzalez gave an interview to CBS4's Eliott Rodriguez in Havana a few months before he was incarcerated. Gonzalez's relatives in Miami say he has taken part in hunger strikes in the past and is in extremely poor health.
The Ladies in White are hoping to focus international attention on the plight of Gonzalez and the other political prisoners. As neighbors watched Wednesday, the women were confronted by a pro-government mob. Cuban police quickly moved in and forcibly placed the women onto a bus, and they were taken away. The women were detained for a while and released.
Despite what happened Wednesday, the Ladies in White vow to continue their protests.
The United States and Europe have condemned communist-led Cuba over the hunger strikes and called for the release of its estimated 200 political prisoners.
Cuban leaders say dissidents are mercenaries working for the United States and other enemies to subvert the government and have vowed to resist international pressure to change their treatment of opponents.
The plight of Cuba's hunger strikers
Cuba's neighbours should tell Castro's regime that if it wishes to avoid isolation it needs to improve its human rights recordJohn KeeganThursday 18 March 2010 12.30 GMT
Today marks the seventh anniversary of a vicious crackdown on opponents of the Castro regime in Cuba. In the spring of 2003, the news agenda was dominated by the preparations for the US-led invasion of Iraq. In Havana, 90 so-called "agents of the American enemy" were arrested. Among those incarcerated were teachers, doctors, union organisers, journalists, human rights activists and dissidents. Seventy-five of those arrested were tried in circumstances which fell short of international standards. They were given jail sentences ranging from six to 28 years. As bombs fell on Baghdad, few voices were raised in protest at events in Cuba.
The anniversary this year is likely to receive more attention. One of those arrested in 2003, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died last month following an 80-day hunger strike. Another dissident, Guillermo "Coco" Farinas, who began a hunger strike on February 24, is perilously close to death. A third political prisoner, Ariel Sigler Amaya, who has been in prison for 20 years, is in extremely poor health in a Havana hospital and, according to his family, is receiving inadequate treatment.
These developments have not gone entirely unnoticed. The European parliament has condemned the "avoidable and cruel death" of Tamayo and called on the communist dictatorship to release its political prisoners. Governments closer to the Caribbean island, however, have been more muted in their criticism. Leaders in the region find it more convenient to call for the United Kingdom to cede sovereignty over the Falklands than to denounce the human rights abuses of their neighbour. A new regional grouping, provisionally called the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, will hold its first meeting in Caracas next year and has the enthusiastic support of Raul Castro. There is no chance that this body will speak out against the persecution of Castro's opponents. Latin American leaders are caught in a trap of their own making, believing that to criticise human rights abuses in Cuba is somehow to support Washinghton's embargo.
The despots in Havana seem to think that they can pursue the "China model" of modern development – reaching out with one hand for economic ties with foreign countries, while crushing internal dissent with the other. Cuba's neighbours need to tell Castro's regime that if it wishes to avoid isolation it needs to improve its human rights record. As the brave Cuban men and women who dare to speak out against their rulers are harassed, imprisoned and worse, the prospect remains shamefully remote.
Ladies in White march on Cuba crackdown anniversaryReutersThursday, March 18, 2010; 1:19 PM
HAVANA (Reuters) – With tourists looking on, hundreds of pro-government protesters shouted down 40 members of the Cuban opposition group "Ladies in White" in Old Havana on the anniversary Thursday of a 2003 crackdown on dissidents.
State security agents kept the two sides separated during a loud verbal showdown in the Cuban capital's historic center and principal tourist attraction.
It was the fourth of seven days of marches scheduled to protest Cuba's jailing of 75 opponents and the third in a row in which the women have been confronted by government supporters. On Wednesday, Cuban police grabbed the dissidents by their hair, dragged them into a bus and drove them away.
The Ladies in White, whose members wore their traditional white clothes and marched with flowers in hand, is made up of wives and mothers of the 75 jailed dissidents, most of whom remain behind bars.ad_iconClick here!
"Today marks the seventh anniversary of the unjust imprisonment of our family members," said Ladies in White leader Laura Pollan, whose husband, Hector Maseda, is serving a 20-year jail sentence.
The commemoration of what is known as Havana's 2003 "Black Spring" comes amid international condemnation of the Cuban government for the February 23 death of jailed dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo after an 85-day hunger strike protesting prison conditions.
Police did not intervene as Thursday's dueling marchers passed through Old Havana's narrow streets, their numbers at times forcing tourists along popular Calle Obispo to press against buildings to let them pass.
"I don't know if they are for or against. I don't know who they are," said German tourist Torstin Gesche as he waited for the marchers to pass.
Throughout the protest march, government supporters danced along the streets, shouting "Vive Fidel! Viva Raul! This street belongs to Fidel."
The Ladies in White shouted "Freedom!" and "Zapata lives."
The United States and Europe have condemned communist-led Cuba for Zapata's death and also for its handling of another hunger striker, dissident Guillermo Farinas, who is demanding the Cuban government release 26 ailing political prisoners.
He has not eaten since February 24 and for the last week has been in a hospital in his home town of Santa Clara, where he is receiving liquids intravenously.
Another former political prisoner, Orlando Fundora, began a hunger strike last week and was said to be in a Havana hospital.
The Ladies in White were on their way to his home on Wednesday when police broke up their march. They have said they will march for seven days to mark the Black Spring anniversary.
Cuba's government has described Zapata and Farinas as common criminals who became dissidents because of material benefits they received from its enemies.
It routinely portrays government opponents as "mercenaries" working for the United States and other foes.
(Editing by Jeff Franks, Pascal Fletcher, Doina)
Posted on Thursday, 03.18.10Correction: Cuba Air Service lawsuit storyThe Associated Press
MIAMI — In a March 16 story about a lawsuit involving U.S. charter flights to Cuba, The Associated Press, citing statistics at a Cuban government Web site, erroneously reported there are more than 100 charter flights weekly to Cuba from Miami and New York.
According to Miami International Airport, the correct number of U.S. charter flights to Cuba is about 55 per week, not more than 100. AP's rechecks indicated that Cuba's figures double-counted some flights.
The story also erred on date of a court order for restitution in the case of a U.S. woman who was tricked into marrying a Cuban spy. The order to collect the money from the charter flight companies was issued last month, not in 2007.
Posted on Thursday, 03.18.10Cuban crackdown anniversary marked with protestBy PAUL HAVENAssociated Press Writer
HAVANA — Hundreds of government supporters surrounded a small group of Cuban dissidents as they marched through Havana on Thursday on the seventh anniversary of the arrests of their loved ones, screaming abuse but otherwise allowing the protest to proceed peacefully.
The Ladies in White, most of them mothers and wives of some of the 75 dissidents arrested in the March 18, 2003 crackdown, have vowed to protest every day this week to call attention to the plight of political prisoners, many of whom have been sentenced to decades behind bars.
"We are marching because we have spent seven years in pain and suffering since the jailing of 75 peaceful opposition figures," said Tania Montoya Vazquez, whose husband was sentenced to five years in jail in 2008 for dissident activity. "We are marching in favor of freedom, in favor of change and in favor of human rights, which should be respected and not violated."
Cuba's human rights record has come into sharp focus since the death of dissident hunger striker Orlando Zapata Tamayo last month drew international condemnation. Cuba has issued a series of biting responses to the criticism, saying it will not give in to pressure.
State television broadcast a two-hour program Wednesday denouncing the foreign press for participating in what the government sees as a coordinated anti-Cuba campaign, with Spanish media groups singled out for the harshest criticism.
The moment the women stepped out of a church on Cuba Street in Old Havana on Thursday morning, they were surrounded by pro-government demonstrators who had been milling about outside.
The government claims its supporters come out spontaneously in disgust at the dissidents. Others believe the government organizes the "acts of repudiation" and that many of those taking part are members of state security.
The pro-government crowd grew as the march began, and soon the Ladies in White were outnumbered, their chants of "Freedom" drowned out by counter-demonstrators who danced and called them "worms," screaming for them to get out of Cuba.
"This street belongs to Fidel!" the pro-government demonstrators shouted. "Fidel, for sure! Give it to the Yankees good!"
At a march by the same group on Wednesday on the outskirts of Havana, uniformed female security agents halted the march, then grabbed the marchers and threw them into a government bus. Some of the women were put in choke holds and others received minor injuries.
But Thursday's demonstration was allowed to proceed past some of the most iconic streets of Havana. From Cuba Street, the women took the protest down Obispo and straight to Jose Marti Plaza, home to some of the capital's grand old tourist hotels.
The Ladies in White held aloft pink gladiolas, the only way to keep track of them in the multitude.
American and European diplomats were present to observe the march. A few tourists shot pictures with mobile phones, but most seemed unsure what to make of the spectacle.
"What is this?" a German woman clutching a Cuba guidebook was overheard asking the person beside her.
Some of the Cubans looking on from shop windows and balconies shouted pro-government slogans, but most just stared.
The march continued for about 90 minutes, ending in a working class neighborhood of central Havana at the home of Laura Pollan, the leader of the Ladies in White.
From the safety of the home, the women finally vented their anger at the pro-government demonstrators, screaming: "Assassins! Assassins!" and "Freedom for the 75!"
Cuba considers the dissidents to be common criminals who are paid by the United States to destabilize the island's Communist system.
But most of the government's ire this week has been directed at Europe, not Washington.
The European Parliament on Mar. 11 voted overwhelmingly to condemn Cuba for Zapata Tamayo's death, and a group of artists and intellectuals including Pedro Almodovar have begun to circulate a petition criticizing the Cuban government's actions.
State-owned newspapers have suddenly been filled with stories about Europe's treatment of minorities, its economic woes and its alleged complicity in American rendition campaigns against suspected terrorists.
The front page of Thursday's Communist-party daily Granma includes a cartoon depicting Uncle Sam at a table addressing a portly waitress clad in a European flag.
"Eurowaitress! Serve me another helping against Cuba," says Uncle Sam.
Posted on Thursday, 03.18.10US citizen pleads guilty in 1968 air hijackingBy LARRY NEUMEISTERAssociated Press Writer
NEW YORK — A 67-year-old man on Thursday admitted hijacking a plane four decades ago and forcing it to land in Cuba, telling a judge how he threatened to cut a flight attendant's throat to get access to the cockpit, where another man held a gun to the back of the co-pilot.
U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein forced Luis Armando Pena Soltren to reveal the details of the hijacking, highlighting the violence and frightening nature of an encounter that otherwise might be lost in the stilted language of formal criminal charges.
Pena Soltren, a U.S. resident, returned to the United States in October, something his lawyer said he had been seeking to do for decades because he was remorseful. He entered his plea to charges of conspiracy to commit air piracy, interfering with a flight crew and kidnapping in federal court in Manhattan. Sentencing was set for June 29.
Pan American Flight 281, which had 103 passengers and crew, was traveling from New York's Kennedy Airport to Puerto Rico on Nov. 24, 1968.
Pena Soltren, speaking through a Spanish interpreter, at first made it seem that he started the hijacking by holding a knife to the throat of a male flight attendant. A prosecutor later clarified that the flight attendant was a woman.
"Did you put it to the back of the neck or the front of the neck?" the judge asked.
"I believe it was the front," Pena Soltren answered.
"So you were threatening to cut his throat?" Hellerstein said.
"That's right, sir," Pena Soltren answered. "I told him this was an air jacking, and I told him I needed him to open the door to the cabin."
Pena Soltren then explained how he and another hijacker entered the cockpit. He said an accomplice held a gun to the back of the co-pilot as the crew steered the plane to Havana.
An indictment returned in December 1968 charged Pena Soltren and two others with using pistols and large knives to force the pilots to divert the flight.
Two of the men were arrested in the mid-1970s and pleaded guilty to their roles in the skyjacking. Another man who was not on the flight was indicted but was found not guilty on all charges.
At sentencing, Pena Soltren could face life in prison, though a letter from prosecutors estimated that his federal sentencing guideline range was roughly between 22 and 30 years.
Pena Soltren's lawyer, James Neuman, said in an interview that Pena Soltren carried out the hijacking in a desperate bid to get to Cuba to see his father, who was hospitalized. He said the others involved in the attack had motivations related to the movement for the independence of Puerto Rico.
He said Pena Soltren began asking to return to the United States as far back as 1979, but U.S. authorities did not clear the way for him to do so until recently. The requests, he said, were ignored or greeted with indifference until U.S. authorities approached him last year.
Neuman said his client's motivation to return was because "he was sincerely and profoundly remorseful."
He said Pena Soltren had never committed a crime before or after the hijacking, which occurred at a time when they were so common that numerous attacks could occur within a year. The hijackers, Neuman said, managed to sneak a gun on the plane by hiding it in a diaper.
"His wasn't even the only hijacking that day. It was not considered an act of terrorism like it is today," Neuman said.
The judge acknowledged the changes in the legal system, saying Pena Soltren will be eligible for parole, which was abolished two decades ago.
Pena Soltren, who was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and has a wife and four grown children, remains held without bail. His wife, who lives in Florida, was not in court Thursday. Neuman said he advised her to stay away to protect her privacy.
Neuman said Soltren worked in the fields in agriculture during his years in Cuba.
Neuman said he will argue that his client should receive less time in prison than his co-defendants because he was not the organizer or leader and because of his age. He said the pair who pleaded guilty received 12 years and 15 years in prison. The man sentenced to 12 years was paroled after serving about a third of that sentence, the lawyer said.
Posted on Thursday, 03.18.10A symbol of the slave trade joins U.S. and CubaBy JIM KUHNHENNAssociated Press Writer
WASHINGTON — Days from now, a stately black schooner will sail through a narrow channel into Havana's protected harbor, its two masts bearing the rarest of sights – the U.S. Stars and Stripes, with the Cuban flag fluttering nearby.
The ship is the Amistad, a U.S.-flagged vessel headed for largely forbidden Cuban waters as a symbol of both a dark 19th century past and modern public diplomacy.
The Amistad is the 10-year-old official tall ship of the state of Connecticut and a replica of the Cuban coastal trader that sailed from Havana in 1839 with a cargo of African captives, only to become an emblem of the abolitionist movement.
Its 10-day, two-city tour of Cuba provides a counterpoint to new and lingering tensions between Washington and Havana and stands out as a high-profile exception to the 47-year-old U.S. embargo of the Caribbean island.
For the Amistad, it also represents a final link as it retraces the old Atlantic slave trade triangle, making port calls that are not only reminders of the stain of slavery but also celebrations of the shared cultural legacies of an otherwise sorry past.
When it drops anchor in Havana's harbor on March 25, the Amistad will not only observe its 10th anniversary, it will commemorate the day in 1807 when the British Parliament first outlawed the slave trade.
The powerful image of a vessel displaying home and host flags docking in Cuba is not lost on Gregory Belanger, the CEO and president of Amistad America Inc., the nonprofit organization that owns and operates the ship.
"We're completely aware of all of the issues currently surrounding the U.S. and Cuba," he said. "But we approach this from the point of view that we have this unique history that both societies are connected by. It gives us an opportunity to transcend contemporary issues."
It's not lost on Rep. William Delahunt, either. The Massachusetts Democrat has long worked to ease U.S.-Cuba relations and he reached out to the State Department to make officials aware of the Amistad's proposal.
U.S.-flagged ships have docked in Havana before, but none as prominently as the Amistad. The Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control has periodically approved Cuba stops for semester-at-sea educational programs for American students, and the Commerce Department has authorized U.S. shiploads of exports under agriculture and medical exemptions provided in the Trade Sanctions Reform Act of 2000.
"Obviously we have serious differences, disagreements," Delahunt said. "But in this particular case the two governments, while not working together, clearly were aware of the profound significance of this particular commemoration."
The original Amistad's story, the subject of a 1997 Steven Spielberg movie, began after it set sail from Havana in 1839. Its African captives rebelled, taking over the ship and sending it on a zigzag course up the U.S. coast until it was finally seized off the coast of Long Island. The captured Africans became an international cause for abolitionists; their fate was finally decided in 1841 when John Quincy Adams argued their case before the Supreme Court, which granted them their freedom.
Miguel Barnet, a leading Cuban ethnographer and writer who has studied the African diaspora, said it is only appropriate that the new Amistad would call on the place of the original ship's birth. Indeed, he said in an interview from Cuba on Wednesday, it is the horror of the slave trade that left behind a rich common bond – not just between the United States and Cuba, but with the rest of the Caribbean – that is rooted in Africa.
"That's why this is an homage to these men and women who left something precious for our culture," he said.
The new Amistad has crossed the Atlantic and wended its way through the Caribbean since 2007. It has worked with the United Nations and UNESCO's Slave Route Project. Using high technology hidden in its wooden frame and rigging, the ship's crew of sailors and students has simulcasted to schools and even to the U.N. General Assembly.
It will do so again – with Cuban students – from Havana.
Posted on Thursday, 03.18.10Cuban protesters punched, draggedFor the second straight day, but in a much harsher manner, Cuban security agents broke up a protest march by female relatives of jailed dissidents.BY JUAN O. [email protected]
Cuban security forces and pro-government civilians violently broke up another protest march Wednesday by Ladies in White — female relatives of political prisoners — and dragged them away in buses.
Ladies in White members in Havana said they were punched, pinched, scratched and had their hair pulled by the security agents and civilians, who also made rude gestures and swore at them.
Photos of the incident showed two of the women being dragged by their hands and another in a police woman's headlock as the protesters resisted boarding the buses.
Two of the women, including the mother of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a political prisoner who died last month after a lengthy hunger strike, went to a hospital to get treatment and to ask that doctors certify their bruises.
“There's been a lot of violence today,'' a weary-sounding Alejandrina García told El Nuevo Herald by phone from Havana. She is the wife of Diosdado González Marrero, who is serving a 20-year sentence.
It was the second day in a row that government forces harassed the women, who are staging a weeklong series of street marches and other events to mark the anniversary of the 2003 jailing of 75 dissidents. Tuesday's incident involved only verbal aggressions.
Wednesday's crackdown was clearly harsher, however, with García saying she was shocked by the “very immodest and very violent manner'' in which the women were treated by about 100 uniformed and plainclothes police and Interior Ministry agents, many of them female, and an estimated 200 civilians.
Security officials hit several of the women with “technical blows,'' said Ladies in White member Berta Soler, using Cuban jargon for karate-like blows that are supposed to leave no bruises.
“Some of us were dragged, punched into the buses'' by the security agents, Soler added via telephone, while the civilians yanked at their hair, pinched their arms and backs and shouted pro-government slogans and epithets.
Laura Pollán, a spokesperson for the women's group, went to the hospital for a possibly fractured finger, Soler said. Reina Luisa Tamayo, the mother of Zapata Tamayo, suffered from anxiety and went to have her blood pressure checked.
El exilio conmemora el séptimo aniversario de la "Primavera Negra" de los disidentes en CubaEFE
Miami (EE.UU.), 18 mar (EFE).- El exilio cubano conmemoró hoy a nivel internacional el séptimo aniversario de la ola represiva contra la disidencia de Cuba conocida como la "Primavera Negra", en la que 75 opositores fueron encarcelados en 2003. Seguir leyendo el arículo
La diáspora cubana en Miami, Nueva York, Washington, Los Ángeles y Chicago realizó manifestaciones de solidaridad con los disidentes de la isla y las jornadas fueron dedicadas a la memoria del prisionero político Orlando Zapata Tamayo, quien falleció en febrero pasado tras una prolongada huelga de hambre.
En Alemania, Canadá, Chile, Ginebra, Italia, España, Puerto Rico, México, Perú y Uruguay varios exiliados se sumaron a los actos conmemorativos con foros, protestas, vigilias y conferencias, informó Pedro López, director ejecutivo de la Coordinadora Nacional Cubana en Miami.
"La página negra de la historia reciente de Cuba ha agregado un nuevo mártir de la lucha por la democracia y la libertad: Orlando Zapata Tamayo", dijo el activista a Efe en un comunicado.
Dicho hecho coincide, agregó, con el séptimo aniversario en que "el grupo dinástico (Raúl y Fidel Castro) que oprime al pueblo cubano encarceló a 75 activistas opositores, cuya inmensa mayoría permanece en prisión. Zapata Tamayo era parte de ese valioso grupo".
López afirmó que la represión no ha cesado y que en las cárceles cubanas mantienen, en condiciones deplorables, a cientos de opositores, que "sirven como una muestra irrefutable de la voluntad del régimen de seguir pisoteando las ansias de libertad del pueblo".
Los 75 disidentes y periodistas cubanos fueron detenidos el 18 de marzo de 2003 y condenados en juicios sumarios a penas de hasta 28 años de cárcel.
El Gobierno cubano los acusó de conspirar con Estados Unidos, entre otros cargos.
La ola represiva llevó a la Unión Europea (UE) a imponer sanciones diplomáticas simbólicas a Cuba, que fueron suspendidas en 2005 y levantadas totalmente en el 2008.
La organización Cuba Study Group (CSG), por su parte, se unió al reciente llamado que hacen el Parlamento Europeo, Amnistía International, Reporteros sin Fronteras y organizaciones de derechos humanos de pedir al Gobierno cubano que libere inmediatamente a los más de 200 presos políticos y de conciencia que existen en la isla.
"También pedimos al Gobierno cubano que otorgue acceso a la Cruz Roja Internacional a todas sus prisiones y centros de detención, siendo que es el único país en el hemisferio (occidental) que no lo ha hecho", expresó el CSG.
Condenó, asimismo, los actos de repudio en contra de las Damas de Blanco -familiares de los 75 opositores- en Cuba, y los calificó como prueba del "continuo uso de la represión e intimidación por parte del Gobierno cubano en contra de su propio pueblo".
"Además, el reciente fallecimiento de Orlando Zapata Tamayo destaca las condiciones deplorables a que están sujetos los prisioneros políticos en Cuba, así como la evidente falta de respeto por la vida humana que demuestra el Gobierno cubano", agregó.
Para conmemorar la fecha, en Miami se realizaron manifestaciones, vigilias y una misa; en Nueva York, un grupo de exiliados se concentró en el Times Square con pancartas en inglés y español sobre los presos políticos, y en Washington otros más protestaron frente a la Sección de Interés de Cuba.
En Canadá, el exilio cubano pidió que se abogara por una "Cuba libre y democrática" en el edificio legislativo en Toronto, en Puerto Rico se transmitió un programa en apoyo a los presos políticos y en España estaba previsto para hoy en la noche un acto de solidaridad en la Fundación Hispano Cubana.
En Ginebra se distribuyeron volantes, en Berlín manifestaron frente a la embajada de Cuba, en Italia se dictó un ciclo de conferencias sobre la isla caribeña y en Perú se ofreció la conferencia "La libertad de expresión en el Perú y América Latina, por la 'Primavera Negra' y dedicado a la memoria de Orlando Zapata Tamayo".
Por su parte, la Asociación Cubano-Mexicana realizó una conferencia denominada "Revisión de la postura del Gobierno mexicano", que se llevó a cabo con relación a la situación de los presos políticos cubanos.