A week before Obama’s visit to the island.
HAVANA TIMES — Cuban opposition activists today reported the short-term detention of 300 activists over the weekend, days before the historic visit to Havana by US President Barack Obama, reported dpa news.
Most of the reported arrests were of members of the outlawed opposition group Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), active mainly in eastern Cuba.
“We had more than 260 detainees” on Saturday, the group’s leader, Jose Daniel Ferrer, told the dpa news agency. According to the dissident, about 300 activists came out to protest in several provinces of Cuba calling for civil liberties ahead of Obama’s visit now set for March 20-22.
Most of those arrested were released hours later, he added.
Also the group of wives and relatives of former political prisoners, Ladies in White, reported dozens of arrests in Havana. Some 25 women were detained before the peaceful march that the group holds every Sunday in the Havana neighborhood of Miramar, according to the group’s leader, Berta Soler.
Another 20 were arrested as they marched. “We went to Third Avenue (Miramar) with a rather large sheet that read ‘Obama, Cuba has a dream’,” said Soler.
The activist said she fears that the authorities will stop next Sunday’s march to prevent protests as Obama travels to the island.
The Ladies in White posted on their website a letter from Obama addressed to the group, in which the US president says he has spoken directly with his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, on complaints on the situation of human rights on the island made by opposition groups.
In the text, Obama also says he hopes to meet with members of Cuban civil society during his visit in Havana to hear their “concerns”. Government sources confirmed to dpa in Washington the authenticity of Obama’s letter addressed to the Ladies in White.
Obama will become the first standing US president to visit Cuba in 88 years. The trip generates huge expectation worldwide due to political rapprochement between the two former ideological enemies that began with a surprise joint announcement in December 2014.