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Tuesday, November 2,2010

40 Cuban dissidents beaten, detained after visiting political prisoner's tomb, activists say

By McClatchy-Tribune News Service

MIAMI — Cuban security agents beat and detained about 40 dissidents after the mother of the late political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo and her supporters prayed at his tomb, activists reported Monday.

The mother, Reina Luisa Tamayo, said she was repeatedly hit on the head, thrown to the ground and gagged with a smelly rag that left her breathless as she shouted anti-government slogans.

Security officers also kicked several handcuffed young men during the incident Sunday, added Marlon Martorell, a dissident who took part in the protest.

Tamayo and most of the 40 others detained were released later Sunday or early Monday but some remained unaccounted for Monday afternoon, including one of Tamayo's sons, Martorell reported.

The detentions appeared to be one of the harshest crackdowns yet on supporters of Tamayo, whose son's death in February after a lengthy hunger strike became a rallying cry for dissidents in Cuba and abroad.

Tamayo and Martorell said about 40 supporters joined the regular Sunday march from her home in the eastern town of Banes to Mass at a local Catholic church and to the cemetery where her son is buried.

The mother said groups of government supporters harassed them on the way from church to the cemetery, and one man "authorized by the state security" threw rocks at the marchers, hitting at least three.

Martorell also reported that a "security agent in civilian clothes" shouted epithets and threw rocks at the marchers. Some of the marchers threw rocks back, he said by phone from Banes, but kept walking toward the cemetery.

Scores of police and state security officers ringed the cemetery by the time the marchers had finished praying at Zapata's tomb, Tamayo and Martorell said. "They attacked when I set foot outside the gates to the cemetery," Tamayo told the Miami-based Cuban Democratic Directorate. "They threw me to the ground and dealt blows and kicks to all the brothers."

Martorell said agents carried out the crackdown "with a lot of violence, with beatings for all."

Tamayo, who is Afro-Cuban, said she was forced into a police vehicle and as she shouted "Down with Fidel!" one officer shouted at her, "Shut up, you lousy black." She was then gagged with a rag smelling of gasoline that nearly asphyxiated her, the mother added.

Police threw the protesters into two waiting buses, Martorell said, and he later heard Tamayo shouting, "Down with Fidel" and "Zapata Lives!" while they were held in a Banes lockup.

"Once again, there's proof that they are a bunch of murderers," Tamayo added. "Let them kill me, but I will die with honor, dignity and valor."

The Miami-based group Cuba Independent and Democratic reported Monday that one of its members in Banes, Daniel Mesa, suffered an injury to his hand during the detentions.

The cell phones of Tamayo and those of several other supporters involved in the incident appeared to have been blocked Sunday afternoon and much of Monday.

State Security agents initially blocked Tamayo's marches to the church and cemetery, sometimes with mass detentions like Sunday's. But they had been allowing the protests since mid-August, when Catholic church officials intervened on her behalf.

Church officials told Tamayo last month that she and her immediate family had government permission to leave for the United States, but she replied that she would not leave unless she was allowed to take her son's remains.


(c) 2010, The Miami Herald.

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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