Ladies in White detained during protest in Havana

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Wives and relatives of jailed Cuban dissidents, the Ladies in White, took to the streets again in Havana on Thursday, the fourth such protest in seven days as Cuba’s opposition marks the anniversary of a 2003 crackdown on dissidents. A similar march on Wednesday was met by security forces and a pro-government mob who broke up the demonstration, hauling away about 30 of the women to waiting buses.

The Miami Herald reports that during Wednesday’s march the ‘Damas en Blanco’ were ‘punched, pinched, scratched and had their hair pulled by the security agents and civilians’ as they demonstrated. Civilians shouted ‘Long Live Fidel!’ and ‘Get out, worms!’ as the small group of women in white left a church in the Parraga neighborhood, the Associated Press reports.


But the wives and relatives of the jailed dissidents shouted back. In this BBC video report, one woman in white is heard yelling: ‘We want nothing from this government! For seven years they have destroyed our families. We are pacifists, we have flowers and do no harm.’

Thursday marks the anniversary of a 2003 government crackdown on dissidents. Seventy-five were detained that year on March 18, and most remain behind bars. The recent death of jailed dissident Orlando Zapata, who succumbed to a 85-day hunger strike last month, has brought more attention to the Ladies in White movement.

Wednesday’s demonstration appeared chaotic. When Interior Ministry agents in olive green uniforms asked the women to end their march and board the buses, the demonstrators responded by lying down on the street. Footage shows the Ladies in White being dragged, pushed and pulled away.

The European Parliament, Amnesty International and a growing list of prominent intellectuals and artists have condemned Cuba for the detentions. It is not clear whether the women detained on Wednesday have been released. The communist government maintains the protesters are trouble-makers paid by Washington.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City