Hunger strike in Cuba
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    Cuban government supporters harass rights marchers

    Cuban government supporters harass rights marchers
    By Nelson Acosta and Jeff Franks
    Tuesday, March 16, 2010; 3:05 PM

    HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuban government supporters harassed and shouted at
    members of the opposition group "" on Tuesday in Havana
    as the women marched in protest against the 2003 imprisonment of 75

    The women, numbering about two dozen and dressed in white, had to be
    protected by state security agents after they stopped and yelled
    ", !" in front of the headquarters of the Cuban state
    journalists union.

    The dissidents were marching for the second day in a protest to
    commemorate the 2003 "" crackdown by the government against

    About 150 men and women began walking alongside and shouting them down
    in what is known in Cuba as an "," usually directed
    against government opponents.

    "Viva Fidel! Viva Raul! The street belongs to the Revolution!" the
    government supporters shouted, referring to the 1959 Revolution led by
    which subsequently installed a communist system in Cuba.

    The women, who are wives and mothers of the Black Spring prisoners, were
    escorted by state security agents, who formed a protective cordon, to
    the Central Havana home of Ladies in White leader Laura Pollan.

    Tuesday's demonstration was the second of seven consecutive marches
    planned by the women's group to mark the seventh anniversary of the
    Black Spring crackdown that began March 18, 2003 and drew widespread
    condemnation of Cuba.

    The anniversary comes at a time when Cuba's human rights record is under
    fire for the February 23 death of hunger striker Orlando
    Tamayo and for its handling of an ongoing hunger strike by
    dissident Guillermo Farinas in the central city of Santa Clara.

    Farinas, who launched his strike three weeks ago to back demands for the
    release of 26 ailing political prisoners, has been in a
    receiving fluids intravenously since he collapsed on Thursday.

    A third hunger strike is underway by former Orlando
    Fundora, who began eight days ago and is now in a hospital, his family
    said on Tuesday.


    The Ladies in White staged their first march on Monday without incident.
    But Pollan said she had been warned by the government not to march to
    "sacred places" that included the state journalists' center.

    In December, the women were jostled and jeered by government supporters
    when they marched to mark International Human Rights Day.

    Of the 75 people imprisoned in 2003, 52 remain behind bars.

    Alejandrina Garcia, wife of prisoner Diosdado Gonzalez Marrero, who is
    serving a 20-year sentence, said Tuesday's incident was not unexpected.

    "What happened today is the same as always — government mobs repudiated
    us with government slogans, but we continued shouting 'Freedom' and
    "Zapata lives," she told Reuters.

    She said the Ladies in White would march again on Wednesday as planned,
    with the intention of visiting Fundora to encourage him to end his
    hunger strike.

    A man whom Garcia identified as former political prisoner Hugo Damian
    Prieto was detained by security agents following a brief fracas with
    government supporters outside Pollan's home.

    Zapata's death has become a rallying point for Cuba's small dissident
    community and drawn international attention to their cause. 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.

    Cuba's government, which views dissidents as mercenaries working for the
    and other enemies, has described Zapata and Farinas as
    common criminals. It has vowed to resist international pressure over the

    (Editing by Jeff Franks, Pascal Fletcher and Eric Walsh)

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