HAVANA TIMES — Around a hundred activists of the Ladies in White and other dissidents were temporarily detained Sunday during a protest march in Havana, reported dpa news.
The arrests took place when activists tried to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the tragedy of a boat in which at least 37 people were killed when trying to flee Cuba.
Opposition groups accuse the Cuban security forces of causing the tragedy by intentionally ramming the tugboat in which the victims tried to flee the island. The government maintains that it was an accident.
After celebrating their traditional march Sunday in the Havana neighborhood of Miramar, the Ladies detoured from their usual route to try to pay tribute to the victims of the tragedy, the group’s leader Berta Soler told dpa.
“We were detained along with human rights activists from other organizations when we sought to approach the coast, the sea, to lay flowers for the victims of the tugboat incident,” said Soler. “We were arrested in a violent manner,” she noted.
The leader of the group that began as wives and relatives of political prisoners also accused the government’s security agents of preventing 11 Ladies in White from reaching the march, which usually occurs outside a church after the noon mass.
Most were released a few hours later, Soler said. The last dissidents were released around 11 pm, she added.
Soler noted that the authorities arrested a total of about 130 activists of the Ladies in White throughout the country. The figure “may increase,” as more information comes in, she said.
Las Damas de Blanco were founded after the wave of arrests of dissidents in 2003 known as the “Black Spring”. Their peaceful marches to demand the release of their relatives, gave their situation international notoriety. The prisoners were finally released in 2010 and 2011 after an agreement brokered by the Catholic Church and the Cuban and Spanish governments.
The Cuban government does not recognize the political opposition on the island and accuses dissidents of being “mercenaries” financed from abroad to destabilize the country.