Photo: Pope in Cuba, Dissidents Arrested
The opposition Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, or CCDHRN, on Tuesday said that the number of dissidents arrested in connection with this week’s papal visit to the Communist-ruled island exceeds 150 and it fears that the number of arrests will mount.
“We deduce that the detentions will continue increasing between today, Tuesday, and tomorrow ... mainly in Havana and neighboring provinces, due to the presence of Benedict XVI in the western region and the Mass he will offer tomorrow (Wednesday) in Cuba’s main and largest square,” the commission said.
In a communique the commission said that the government’s repressive measures surrounding the papal visit have included blocking the telephone connections of several hundred dissidents, independent journalists and critical bloggers.
It also said that some 200 Cubans critical of the regime “have been prohibited from attending the public Masses of Pope Benedict XVI.”
In its statement, the CCDHRN demands that the government provide information on the whereabouts of a person arrested Monday in Santiago de Cuba when, before the start of the pope’s Mass in that eastern city, he got through the security cordon and ran several meters (yards) toward the altar shouting slogans such as “down with communism.”
“Up to now, the whereabouts are unknown of that person who demonstrated peacefully in a verbal manner for which he was attacked by unknown individuals dressed in civilian clothes and other para-police elements who beat him violently,” the opposition commission said.
The commission also said that the government has interned between 200 and 300 “beggars ... and other helpless people” so that they will not be seen on the streets during the pontiff’s visit.
The Cuban government, which considers dissidents to be counterrevolutionaries and mercenaries in the service of the United States, warned on the eve of the pope’s arrival that those who attempt “to obstruct this apostolic visit with political manipulations ... will fail.”