Hunger strike in Cuba
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    Cuban police haul protesting "Ladies in White" away

    Cuban haul protesting "" away
    Esteban Israel
    Wed Mar 17, 2010 3:06pm EDT

    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 ","
    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 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 and his
    brother, current President , the only leaders Cuba has since
    the 1959 communist revolution.

    For their part, the women shouted "" and " 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.

    'NO FEAR'

    As the pro-government crowd swelled, state security agents repeatedly
    offered to take the Ladies in White away in a bus, but leader Laura
    Pollan refused.

    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 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 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)

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