Havana, Cuba: Dissident Freed Following Second Arrest By Authorities

28 Jan

Guillermo Farinas

 AP – Cuba’s dissident Guillermo Farinas speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at his home in …

Cuba halts mail to U.S. Play Video Cuba Video:Cuba halts mail to U.S. Reuters

By PAUL HAVEN, Associated Press Paul Haven, Associated Press:

HAVANA – A well-known Cuban dissident vowed Friday to continue his acts of protest following his release from police custody for the second time in as many days, and the wife of a jailed opposition figure began a hunger strike demanding her husband’s immediate release.

Guillermo Farinas was detained Thursday afternoon along with about 15 other people in the central city of Santa Clara. He told The Associated Press following his release on Friday that police warned them they would be arrested again if they tried to gather in public.

“They told us they wouldn’t let us assemble in groups of more than three people,” Farinas said, adding that he and other opposition figures would defy the order by placing a wreath at a monument to Jose Marti later in the day. Friday marks 158 years since the birth of the Cuban independence leader.

“If they want to detain me, that’s their problem,” Farinas said. There was no immediate comment from the Cuban government.

Also Friday, the wife of imprisoned dissident Diosdado Gonzalez announced the start of a hunger strike demanding his release.

Alejandrina Garcia, one of the founding members of the “Ladies in White” opposition group, said in a phone interview from her home in Matanzas that she would drink only water until her husband is out of prison.

Cuba promised to free all 52 remaining opposition figures from a 2003 crackdown on dissent, following a July deal with the Roman Catholic Church. Just 11 remain behind bars, including Gonzalez.

Church officials have said they are optimistic the government will soon make good on its promise, but there has been little word on the men’s fate since the passing of a November deadline by which all were supposed to be out.

The last 11 dissidents have refused to accept exile in Spain, as most of the others did, the apparent reason for the delay.

Farinas, who gained fame while staging a 134-day hunger strike last year, was first picked up Wednesday afternoon while he and more than 20 other people tried to prevent a woman from being evicted from a home in Santa Clara. He was released five hours later with a warning to stay out of trouble, only to be detained again the next day.

Opposition figures are frequently detained by authorities, often to be released within hours or a few days, but the repeated arrests of Farinas were unusual.

The 49-year-old dissident has largely stayed out of the spotlight since December, when he received the European Parliament‘s annual human rights prize. Cuban authorities refused to grant him permission to travel to Strasbourg, France, to pick up the award, a decision he said at the time was “irrefutable testimony to the fact that unfortunately nothing has changed” in Cuba regarding human rights.

The government considers Farinas — and the island’s other dissidents — to be common criminals paid for by Washington. Authorities frequently note that some of his legal troubles include an assault on a co-worker and other violent behavior. Farinas says all the charges are linked to his activism.


Associated Press writer Andrea Rodriguez contributed to this report.


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