Cuba arrests 43 dissidents in areas visited by Pope
Thursday, April 05, 2012
HAVANA, Cuba (AFP) — At least 43 Cuban dissidents have been arrested in
areas near where Pope Benedict XVI visited last week, dissidents said
Tuesday, as the United States urged their immediate release.
"We have been able to confirm that 43 opposition members have been
detained — 10 women and 33 men — in a crackdown on Monday in the
Santiago de Cuba area. All remain under arrest," said Elizardo Sanchez,
head of the outlawed but tolerated Cuban Human Rights and National
The commission on Monday reported 25 detentions but its figure on
detentions near Santiago de Cuba — Cuba's second-largest city — has kept
"Almost all of the detainees are members of the Patriotic Union of
Cuba," an opposition force led by former political prisoner Jose Daniel
Ferrer. He was arrested on Monday along with his wife Belkis Cantillo,
at their home in Palmarito de Cauto, near Santiago.
Ferrer, who was among 75 dissidents arrested in a 2003 crackdown and
released last year after a mediation effort by the Roman Catholic
church, had his telephone line cut as well, according to activists.
Sanchez said the Cuban secret police on Monday launched a "wave of
repression" with the arrests, following up on dozens of detentions of
opponents just ahead of a landmark visit last week of the pope.
The United States, which has tense relations with Cuba, said it was
"extremely concerned" about the latest detentions and what it said were
efforts to silence reporting by cutting off activists' cellular and
"We call upon the Cuban government to release all peaceful civil society
activists immediately," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told
reporters in Washington.
"We particularly condemn that most of those arrests took place during
the pope's visit and with the aim of preventing those arrested from
attending public masses that the pope officiated," Toner said.
While in Cuba, the pontiff did not meet with opposition members. But
last Wednesday he wrapped up a visit to Cuba with a call for respect of
"basic freedoms," pursuing his persistent prodding of the island's
communist authorities to embrace change.
"May no one feel excluded from taking up this exciting task because of
limitations of his or her basic freedoms," Benedict said at a mass in
Havana, as President Raul Castro looked on. Cuba is the Americas' only
one-party communist regime.