Cuban police haul protesting "Ladies in White" away
HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuban police grabbed members of the opposition group
"Ladies in White" by their hair, dragged them into a bus and drove them
away to break up a protest march on Wednesday.
The white clothes the women traditionally wear were smeared with mud as
they resisted policewomen forcing them into a bus. Government protesters
shouted insults at them for the second day in a row.
The march was the third this week by the Ladies in White who are
protesting the 2003 imprisonment of their husbands and sons, most of
whom are still in jail.
The seventh anniversary of the crackdown, known as the "Black Spring,"
is Thursday, when the women said they will march again.
On Wednesday, they attended a mass in the working class neighborhood of
Parraga and began walking toward the nearby home of dissident Orlando
Fundora, who began a hunger strike last week.
As the 30 or so women walked along carrying flowers, about 200
government supporters marched alongside, separated by security agents.
"Worms, get out of here. Viva Fidel! Viva Raul!" the government
supporters shouted, referring to former president Fidel Castro and his
brother, current President Raul Castro, the only leaders Cuba has since
the 1959 communist revolution.
For their part, the women shouted "Freedom" and "Zapata lives." Orlando
Zapata Tamayo, an imprisoned dissident died from an 85-day hunger strike
on February 23 and has become a rallying point for Cuba's opposition.
His mother, Reyna Tamayo, took part in the march.
As the pro-government crowd swelled, state security agents repeatedly
offered to take the Ladies in White away in a bus, but leader Laura
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. They were driven to Pollan's house in Central Havana.
"They are invading Cuban territory. This street belongs to Fidel,"
housewife Odalys Puente said of the women.
Ladies in White member Berta Soler said: "When a wild animal is penned
up, it does this and much more. We are ready for everything. We have no
Cuba has been condemned internationally for Zapata's death and its
treatment of another hunger striker, Guillermo Farinas, who has been in
a hospital receiving fluids intravenously since he collapsed on Thursday.
Fundora, a former political prisoner, was also said to be in hospital
after beginning his hunger strike a week ago.
Cuban dissidents, who are small in number and not well known
domestically, say the hunger strikes have refocused international
attention on 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
Cuban leaders say dissidents are mercenaries working for the United
States and other enemies to subvert the government.
They have vowed to resist international pressure to change their
treatment of opponents.
(Editing by Jeff Franks and Alan Elsner)