Cuba cracks down on dissidents
Cuba this week rounded up and detained more than 30 dissidents after accusing the United States of "instigating" opposition to the Communist regime, a top rights activist told AFP Saturday.
As many as 35 people were arrested and around 70 targeted in all, but most have now been freed, economist Martha Beatriz Roque of the rights group Agenda for the Transition told AFP Saturday.
The regime's roundup was aimed at halting a meeting of pro-democracy advocates and clamping down on the dissidents' plan to mark the United States' Independence Day holiday on July 4th, she said.
"Almost all the people arrested have now been freed," she said.
Those who were not detained received warnings from the government, were placed under house arrest or barred from traveling to the capital, Havana, she said.
"The objective of the operation was to prevent a meeting of the Agenda group scheduled for Thursday, and to bar them from participating in the celebration of the United States' Fourth of July holiday," Roque said.
The Agenda meeting was cancelled and the July 4th party went ahead without incident at the home of Michael Parmly, the US diplomat and chief of mission at the US Interests Section (USIS) in Havana, Roque said.
Cuba's communist government has accused the USIS of serving as a "headquarters" for opposition groups, which are banned in Cuba, and says the US funnels money, communications and other forms of support to regime opponents via the Interests Section.
Wednesday, the government of President Raul Castro issued a statement saying acts of dissidence in the streets would not be tolerated and denounced "an escalation" of what it called "warped" opposition that was "instigated" by the US Interests Section.
The brief arrests came just days after the European Union decided to formally lift sanctions against Cuba imposed following a 2003 dissident crackdown on the island.
Since officially becoming president in February to succeed his ailing brother Fidel, Raul Castro has allowed Cubans to buy computers, own mobile telephones, rent cars and spend nights in hotels previously only accessible to foreigners -- if they can afford such luxuries.
But the arrests suggest that if Raul Castro has made some room for minor social and economic changes, he has made no allowance for political opening, critics say.