Cuban government steps up repression day before pope’s arrival

Today, Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Cuba. That means that the Cuban dictatorship had to tie up any remaining loose ends by yesterday, Sunday, to ensure they have complete control of the streets and the majority of the island’s human rights activists are neutralized. Not even the beggars and homeless people in Cuba were safe from the bruising batons of Castro State Security.

The lowlights of yesterday’s repression in Cuba:

The Miami Herald:

Cuba’s Ladies in White march without incident in Havana, but report detentions of others

More than 30 Ladies in White marched in Havana on Sunday without incident but watched by dozens of journalists in Cuba to cover Pope Benedict XVI’s visit, while another 25 were reported detained or harassed in the capital and Santiago de Cuba.

The detentions were part of the government’s efforts to “repress and intimidate” peaceful dissidents on the eve of the pontiff’s Monday arrival, said a statement by the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

Police already have detained more than 70 dissidents and at least 100 beggars in Havana and Santiago to keep government critics away from papal events and clean up the island’s streets, the statement added.

Cuban officials would not comment on the accusations of the Ladies in White about being detained and harassed, but they said the women were taking advantage of the pontiff’s visit to attract the attention of international media. More than 70 Ladies in White were arrested on March 17 and March 18.

Christian Today:

Dissidents restricted as Pope visits Cuba

As Pope Benedict XVI travels to Cuba today for the second leg of his visit to Latin America, Christian Solidarity Worldwide is warning of a lockdown on several dissidents.

Dissidents in Holguin City, in eastern Cuba, have been prevented from leaving their homes and travelling to El Cobre, one of the stops on the Pope’s tour of the country.

Caridad Caballero, a member of the Ladies in White, has been prevented from attending church for 14 weeks.

CSW reports that Caballero was arrested by police along with her husband and teenage son to stop them from going to Sunday morning Mass at Jesus Christ Redeemer Church in the Pueblo Nuevo neighbourhood of Holguin City.

Many other members of the Ladies in White were prevented from attending Sunday morning mass, and roadblocks were set up in some areas to prevent members of human rights or pro-democracy groups from accessing churches.

Latin American Herald Tribune:

Cuban Dissident Movement Denounces Dozens of Arrests on Eve of Papal Visit

HAVANA – The Cuban dissident movement on Sunday denounced dozens of arbitrary arrests of opposition members, among them 18 of the Ladies in White group, as well as threats and intimidation in the days prior to the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI on the island.

“With regard to the papal visit, the Castro regime has increased its repressive actions and intimidation against peaceful dissidents,” said the opposition Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, or CCDHRN, in a communique.

The CCDHRN said it had confirmed 70 arrests over the past four days, especially in the province of Santiago de Cuba, where the pope will begin his visit on Monday.

The opposition group said that the regime had also been threatening to arrest and intimidating other dissidents to try and motivate them not to attend the Masses the pope will celebrate on the island.

The Ladies in White, who lobby for the release of political prisoners and human rights, confirmed Sunday in Havana that 18 of thr group’s members had been arrested and many others had been threatened.

Uncommon Sense:

Cuban police round up beggars in advance of Pope Benedict XVI

The repression in Cuba in advance of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit this week has been extended to include as its victims the most “defenseless and vulnerable” in Cuban society.

Human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez complained Sunday that police have rounded up and jailed beggars and other street people to keep them out of the view of pilgrims, journalists and others visiting Cuba for the pope’s visit. Sanchez, head of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, said the detainees are being held in a facility known as “La Colonia,” off the highway leading to Havana’s international airport.

“Our committee believes that the forced internment of these defenseless and completely vulnerable people is a disgusting violation of human rights by a government that favors first, its own political image,” Sanchez said.