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    Cuban dissidents say attacks are evidence of anxiety about the opposition

    Posted on Friday, 11.30.12

    Cuban dissidents say attacks are evidence of anxiety about the opposition

    Cuban human rights activist Elizardo Sánchez says he has been harassed

    by Cuba's secret police for the first time in decades

    By Juan O. Tamayo

    Cuban human rights activist Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz says the secret

    police harassed him for the first time in 20 years, and dissident

    Guillermo Fariñas says they hit him, in what the two men called yet

    another sign of the government's growing nervousness over the opposition.

    Sánchez has been one of the few critical voices that seemed to be

    tolerated by the communist government. He has run the Cuban Commission

    for Human Rights and National Reconciliation from his home in Havana

    without trouble since 1992 even though it has never been recognized by


    But he alleged that two State Security agents in plainclothes who

    approached him on a street Tuesday called out his name, accused him of

    being a "liar" and a "mercenary for Washington" and threatened that

    "soon I will receive a forceful reply from the revolution."

    "This was very rare," he told El Nuevo Herald. "The truth is that I have

    not been molested" since a 1992 police raid on his commission's offices.

    "Monitored yes, but molested, no."

    Sánchez blamed the incident on "the increasing nervousness in the

    government" over continuing opposition activities despite a harsh

    crackdown over the past year by the Raúl Castro government.

    Sánchez's commission reported earlier this month that police carried out

    5,625 short-term arrests — usually lasting only hours — for political

    motives in the first 10 months of the year, a monthly average of 562

    that compared to 172 in 2010 and 343 in 2011.

    Dissidents also have complained of increased beatings, and some have

    been jailed for longer periods. Antonio G. Rodiles, one of the most

    active dissidents in recent times, was beaten during his arrest and held

    for 19 days earlier this month.

    Fariñas, who won the European Parliament's Sakharov prize for Freedom of

    Thought in 2010, said he believed the attack against him showed

    authorities are "in a state of nervousness" because dissidents will not

    halt their work despite the repression.

    He was walking to a friend's home in Havana Tuesday night when two men

    in their 20s who were dressed in civilian clothes called him a

    "mercenary" and "counterrevolutionary" and tried to hit him on the head

    with a stick, he said. He put up his arm and the blow landed on his forearm.

    The two men then ran into a dark-colored Lada, a Soviet-era car

    traditionally used by State Security agents, and a third man at the

    wheel sped away, Farinas told El Nuevo Herald.

    Cuban officials claim that dissidents are paid by the U.S. government

    for their opposition and brand them as mercenaries. Dissidents say they

    oppose the Cuban government because of its human rights abuses and

    communist system.

    Sanchez said he sent a telegram to Interior Minister Gen. Abelardo

    Colomé Ibarra, in charge of the secret police, denouncing his harassment

    "in an aggressive and humiliating form.'' He said the two men "made

    various threats against my integrity."

    "Arbitrary detentions, physical aggressions, threats and humiliations

    against peaceful citizens are counterproductive as an alternative to the

    national dialogue… that could help reverse the grave and growing crisis

    affecting the great majority of Cubans," he added.

    Fariñas said State Security officials have told him in previous

    encounters that some of the best known dissidents on the island cannot

    be detained without the express approval of Castro, Colomé or Gen.

    Carlos Fernandez Gondín, the head of State Security.

    "That these things are happening now to Elizardo and I indicate to us

    that the situation is getting tough," he added. "Well, if martyrs are

    needed, if it's the turn of Guillermo Fariñas or Elizardo Sanchez, we

    accept that."

    Fariñas has launched more than two dozen hunger strikes during his years

    as a dissident and independent journalist. Several of them have landed

    him in the hospital.

    The InterAmerican Press Association, meanwhile, denounced the

    "arbitrary" and "violent" detention Wednesday of Roberto de Jesús

    Guerra, who heads the independent news agency Hablemos Press in Havana.

    Guerra was freed hours later, and on Thursday he reported that the

    government had just restored service to his cellular phone — the most

    efficient method of communicating on the island — after a two-month outage.

    Hablemos Press writer Calixto Ramón Martínez was arrested in September

    and declared a hunger strike about three weeks ago to protest his

    continued detention.

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