Cuba: dissident protests attacked

At least 18 opponents of the Cuban government were detained in connection with four small protests on or near Havana’s waterfront on July 13. Several hundred government supporters, including construction workers on a job at the nearby Hermanos Ameijeiras hospital, attacked the protesters, who numbered a few dozen at most; several protesters were reportedly injured. Dissident sources say the government organized the counter-demonstrators and transported them in official vehicles. The protests commemorated an incident on July 13, 1994, in which 41 people died as they tried to flee Cuba in a stolen tugboat; dissidents say three pursuing government boats purposely rammed and sank the tugboat, while the government says the boats collided accidentally. (La Jornada, Mexico, July 14, 15; AFP, July 13, 14)

Some 15 dissidents protested in front of the French embassy on July 22 to demand the release of three participants in the July 13 protests who were reportedly still being held: Rene Montes de Oca, Emilio Leyva Perez and Camilo Cairo Falcon. There was no government intervention in the July 22 protest, but security forces reportedly arrested 33 dissidents, including economist Marta Beatriz Roque, to keep them from attending. All but 10 were freed by July 25, according to some dissident sources; others say as many as 16 were still being held from the July 13 and July 22 protests.

Speaking at a July 26 commemoration of the 1953 attack on the Moncada barracks, generally considered the start of the Cuban Revolution, President Fidel Castro Ruz charged that foreign media had exaggerated the importance of the US-back opposition groups. “You would think that the revolution only had a few hours left,” he said, warning that the population would confront “traitors and mercenaries [who] go one millimeter beyond what the revolutionary people…are willing to permit.” But Castro acknowledged that the population was worn out from a drought, an energy crisis and the effects of the recent Hurricane Dennis. (LJ, July 12; MH, July 26, 27)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 14

See our last post on Cuba.