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


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

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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