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Pro-government crowd taunts dissidents in Havana

Posted on Friday, 03.18.11

Pro-government crowd taunts dissidents in Havana
By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ
Associated Press

HAVANA — Pro-government demonstrators surrounded the home of a leading
Cuban dissident Friday, yelling insults at her and other opposition
figures gathered inside to mark the anniversary of a notorious crackdown
on dissent.

About 200 government supporters encircled the house of Laura Pollan, one
of the leaders of the opposition group Damas de Blanco, or Ladies in
White. They called the dissidents "worms" and shouted slogans in support
of brothers Fidel and Raul Castro.

The protesters refrained from shouting some of the more sexually
offensive remarks sometimes directed at the group, which is made up of
the wives and mothers of former and current political prisoners.

The Damas have been marching peacefully each Sunday since their loved
ones were arrested in a government crackdown in March 2003 that put 75
activists, intellectuals and social commentators behind bars, most with
long sentences on charges including treason.

The government made a landmark deal with the Roman Catholic Church in
July to free all the political prisoners it still held from the sweep, a
number that had dropped to 52 due to previous releases.

Just two prisoners remain – Felix Navarro and Jose Daniel Ferrer – and
both are expected to be freed in the coming days or weeks.

The government has also released dozens of other prisoners, most of whom
were jailed for violent but politically motivated crimes.

Most accepted a government offer to go into exile in Spain along with
their families, but about a dozen prisoners from the 2003 sweep refused
to go and have been allowed to return to their homes in Cuba.

The government considers the dissidents to be common criminals. It says
they take money from Washington to destabilize the island and bring down
its socialist revolution.

While the Damas are mostly allowed to march and gather peacefully, the
so-called act of repudiation that took place Friday is not uncommon. The
last one occurred Feb. 27, a day after state television aired a program
denouncing the group and revealing the identity of a security agent who
had infiltrated their ranks.

The government maintains the pro-government counter-demonstrations are
spontaneous, but little is done to hide coordination between the crowds
and state security officials who are also on the scene.

http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/03/18/2121737/pro-government-crowd-taunts-dissidents.html

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