Wave of aggression hits Cuban dissidents

Aggression against Cuban dissidents by government supporters is on the rise and becoming more violent, according to a report released Thursday by a veteran human rights activist. Elizardo Sanchez, who heads the non-governmental Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, lists nearly 30 apparently organized acts of harassment against dissidents, including verbal abuse, physical assault and illegal entry to homes.

The acts, which took place in several provinces across the island, occurred from Jan. 12 to Feb. 7, the report said. "This is about a repressive, large-scale operation executed in response to a central government decision," the report said. "Particularly worrisome is the level of physical and verbal violence, without precedent in recent years."

There was no immediate reaction to the report by Cuba's communist government. In some cases, gangs of government supporters kept activists from leaving their homes for several days, according to the report. One dissident in the eastern province of Santiago was attacked by two men with steel bars, while a woman in the central region of Santa Clara had her finger dislocated in an assault, the report said.

Pro-government militants have broken into several dissidents' homes, the report said, taking items that included books and a fax machine. The Havana-based commission called on the government to stop the acts, saying it was "totally irresponsible and immoral to artificially create a climate of political violence."

Earlier in the week, wives of political prisoners known as the "Ladies in White" also issued a statement condemning recent harassment.

"These aggressions have led to physical harm to peaceful women," said the statement, which called on Cubans, especially women, to support their call for the liberation of imprisoned activists. "The verbal violence, in the midst of so much existing tension in our country due to daily scarcity and various forms of repression, could have disastrous consequences," the statement said, reports the AP.


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