November 28, 2011
Juan Tamayo, El Nuevo Herald
Cuban police detained more a dozen dissidents to force the cancellation of Friday’s session of a forum on racial discrimination on the island, according to forum organizers.
Dissidents also reported several dozen detentions earlier this week to avert street protests on Thursday, declared a nationwide “Day of Resistance.” Most of them had been freed by Thursday night.
Antonio Madrazo, national coordinator of the Citizens’ Committee for Racial Integration, said about 40 people attended Thursday’s opening session of the 2nd annual Forum on Race and Cubanness at his Havana apartment.
But police told him at 7 a.m. Friday that they would not allow any further sessions. Stationed outside his apartment, they began turning away people as they arrived, and arresting those who resisted, Madrazo added.
“Right now Rafael Campos is trying to get in. He’s at the door,” he told El Nuevo Herald by phone. Minutes later, he added, “Rafael Campos has been arrested. Police are taking him away.”
Madrazo said that among those detained were dissidents Manuel Cuesta Morua, Darsi Ferrer and Yusnaimi Jorge Soca, as well as Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto, a graffiti artist whose work often include political messages.
The only person allowed through the police lines Friday was Juan de Dios Mosquera, a black activist visiting from Colombia, Madrazo added.
The Citizens’ Committee was created in 2008 amid growing complaints that although the Cuban government has outlawed discrimination against its citizens of African descent, it has done little to eliminate actual racism.
The forum was first held last year “as a platform for communications to highlight the debate on the race issue, and also the culture of human rights,” Madrazo declared.
Dissident Jorge Luis García Pérez, “Antunez,” meanwhile, said that police had detained so many dissidents to block the street protests planned for Thursday that he “had not been able to get a complete tally.”
Most of the dissidents, some detained as early as Monday, had been released by Thursday night, added Antunez, head of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Front for Civic Resistance and Civil Disobedience.
The Front has declared the 24th of each month as a “Day of Resistance,” when dissidents across the island should try to stage whatever type of protest they can organize.
Protests were reported Thursday in the cities of Havana, Palma Soriano, Pinar del Río, Santa Clara, Sagua la Grande, Ciego de Ávila, Camagüey, Velasco and Cienfuegos, according to the Miami-based Cuban Democratic Directorate.
In the capital, well-known government opponent Sara Martha Fonseca and three other dissidents were arrested after they staged an anti-government march that left from a city park named after Martin Luther King, the Directorate reported.
García Pérez told El Nuevo Herald that police detained five men, and punched one of them, as they tried Thursday to reach his house in the central Cuba town of Placetas. They were later freed in a remote farm area.
Fifteen protesters marched down the streets of Pinar del Rio, the Directorate added, and dissidents in Santa Clara read from a statement demanding civil and human rights and chanted “down with the dictatorship.”
Former political prisoner José Daniel Ferrer García reported that several signs saying “Down with Raúl” and “Down with Hunger” had appeared Thursday morning in the eastern town of Palma Soriano.