Pro-government mobs break up Cuban rights marches

AP News
Posted: Dec 10, 2009 5:30 PM

Government supporters screaming insults and slogans broke up two tiny International Human Rights Day marches Thursday and chased away a British diplomat onlooker, pounding on his car as he drove away.

Hundreds of enraged Cubans confronted a march led by Yusnaimi Jorge, wife of Darcy Ferrer, a black physician and veteran dissident who had headed demonstrations every Dec. 10 but has been behind bars since this summer for buying black market cement.

"This street is Fidel's," the crowd yelled as a group of men in plainclothes, believed to be state security agents, ringed the demonstrators, eventually placing them in unmarked vehicles.

The pro-government crowd also pursued observer Chris Stimpson, second secretary of the British Embassy, shouting at him until he fled to his car, then ringing the vehicle and banging on it. He returned to his office without further incident.

The Ladies in White political opposition group also took to the streets Thursday only to be followed for a second straight day by government supporters. "Mercenaries," the mob screamed.

There were no injuries in the confrontations.

The Ladies in White was formed in 2003 after Cuba's government rounded up 75 leading political opposition leaders, activists and independent journalists and sentenced them to lengthy prison terms for allegedly conspiring with Washington to undermine the political system.

Pro-government "acts of repudiation" against dissidents happen a few times a year, and state security often gives a ride home to opposition activists to guard against violence.

The Communist Party is the only political party allowed in Cuba and the government tolerates no organized opposition. The island's leading independent human rights group says there are currently more than 200 political prisoners.