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  HOME | Cuba

Political Prisoner Families March in Cuba for Human Rights Day
30 other supporters missing from another march that failed to take place as they were presumed arrested and detained by the authorities.

HAVANA -- The Ladies in White, a group comprising relatives of the 75 Cuban dissidents jailed in Spring 2003, marched Wednesday without incident through Havana on International Human Rights Day, but another planned opposition event failed to materialize.

Dr. Darsi Ferrer, who since 2005 has led an annual Dec. 10 protest in a park opposite the offices of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, may have been detained by authorities, prominent dissident Vladimiro Roca told Efe.

Meanwhile, around 30 members of the Ladies in White marched through downtown Havana carrying flowers and Cuban flags, which they handed out to passers-by.

Group founder Laura Pollan demanded before reporters that the regime free all political prisoners and show respect for human rights on the communist-ruled island.

In remarks to Efe, Pollan accused Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque of "demagoguery" for trying to project the image of a country in which basic rights are respected.

"It was not two months ago in Spain that (Perez Roque) said that in Cuba there are no political prisoners, and we, their relatives, know they exist," she said.

"Therefore, we're taking to the streets to protest and to ask that human rights be respected," she added, going on to say that "the government is like a coin: it presents one face to the world and the other is the one it presents inside the country."

Dissident organizations estimate that the Cuban government is holding around 225 political prisoners.

Separately, the opposition group Agenda for the Transition on Wednesday held a meeting at which they denounced the lack of respect for freedoms in Cuba.

"Despite what the constitution says, it's evident that not all citizens enjoy equal rights, and the law does not punish those who ... discriminate for harmful motives against human dignity, like thinking differently," said Agenda's leader, Martha Beatriz Roque.

Roque said that after the lifting in June of sanctions against the island by the European Union "no change has been achieved during this time, only more repression."

In addition, she recommended to those who hope that relations with the United States will improve when Barack Obama becomes president next month "not to expect a gesture from the Cuban government."

The opposition leader denounced the fact that at least 30 opponents of the regime had been arrested so that they could not attend the Agenda meeting.

President Raul Castro's government also marked the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, holding an international workshop under the direction of Perez Roque, who said that Cuba has constructed an "imperfect society," but one with "undeniable advances."

"There's not a single Cuban family in the last 50 years that is crying for a disappeared relative. There's not a single one that cries for a relative who was killed extrajudicially, there's not a single one complaining about degrading inhumane treatment, torture like that which was practiced in other countries of Latin America," the foreign minister said.

He told reporters the ratification of the U.N. human rights conventions Cuba signed 10 months ago is an ongoing process.

"Normally, countries take their time in the internal constitutional process, but there must be no doubt that our decisions are serious, they're principled and coherent. We will never do something for the sake of public propaganda," Perez Roque said. EFE


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