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Tags: Cuba | female | protesters | block

Cuba Again Blocks Female Dissident March

Sunday, 18 April 2010 07:09 PM EDT

HAVANA - Cuban authorities blocked the weekly protest march by the dissident group "Ladies in White" on Sunday and set government supporters shouting and jeering at them for more than two hours.

The incident appeared to signal the government's determination to end the silent marches the women have conducted for seven years seeking the release of their family members from prison.

Nine women from the group showed up on Sunday at their traditional gathering point, a mass at the Santa Rita Catholic Church in Havana's Miramar neighbourhood, but when they went out to make their usual silent walk along Fifth Avenue, officials said they could not unless they had a permit.

"We are not going to stop until you give us an order in writing that we need a permit," leader Laura Pollan told authorities before the crowd set in.

The women linked arms, held up flowers and stood mostly silent under the verbal abuse from government supporters.

The incident ended when state security agents forced the white-clad dissidents into a bus and whisked them away. They were driven to their homes.

Three of the nine women were helped from the crowd earlier when they grew faint after standing for so long under the warm sun and the hot breath of 100 chanting government supporters.

The women, who dress in white, have staged the marches since shortly after their husbands and sons were jailed in a government crackdown on its opponents in March 2003.

The marches, held under the watchful eyes of state security agents, have been the only known public protests regularly allowed by Cuban authorities since the early 1960s.

But officials appear to be clamping down after the women marched through Havana for seven days last month in widely publicized protests.

Those marches drew international criticism when the women were harassed by large numbers of government supporters, and they came at a time when Cuba was already under fire for the February death of imprisoned dissident hunger striker Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

Authorities recently told the women they would now have to get a permit to march each week, which they refused to do.

The Cuban government considers dissidents to be mercenaries for the United States and other enemies.

© Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Sunday, 18 April 2010 07:09 PM
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