Breaking News: Cuban Dissidents Arrested Hours Before Emmer & Klobuchar’s Visit

Members of dissident group "Ladies in White", wives of former political prisoners, protest on March 20, 2016 in Havana (AFP Photo/Adalberto Roque)


 Dozens Arrested in Cuba Ahead of Obama’s Arrival

As President Obama, Congressman Tom Emmer (MN-06), Senator Amy Klobuchar and the rest of the contingent of dignitaries and business leaders prepared to fly to Cuba today, dozens of Cuban dissidents were arrested by the Cuban government.

USA Today reports:

Cuban authorities arrested more than 50 dissidents who were marching to demand improved human rights.

Members of the group, known as the Ladies in White, are used to the routine. They march each Sunday after Mass at a church in a suburb of Havana called Miramar and usually get arrested and detained for hours or days.

Some in the group thought Cuban authorities would back off this Sunday out of respect for Obama’s visit. Berta Soler, one of the founding members who has been marching since 2003, said while walking to the church Sunday morning that maybe they would be allowed to protest without getting arrested.

“For us, it’s very important that we do this so President Obama knows that there are women here fighting for the liberty of political prisoners,” Soler said before being arrested. “And he needs to know that we are here being repressed simply for exercising our right to express ourselves and manifest in a non-violent way.”

The dozens of protesters arrested today add to the 209 detained by the Cuban government yesterday.  One online Cuban news source, 14YMedia, stated “Some 209 activists have been detained on Saturday when several opposition groups demanded the release of political prisoners. Most of those arrested are members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), he told 14ymedio the general coordinator of the organization, Jose Daniel Ferrer.”

The arrests come as nine Cuban refugees drowned and eighteen were rescued at sea by a cruise ship when they were found 130 miles from the Florida coast.  The group had been in a 30 foot boat for 22 days in an attempt to reach the US.

Congressman Emmer and Senator Klobuchar have joined President Obama on the historic visit to Cuba because they each have drafted legislation to end the US embargo of Cuba.

Some Republicans have strongly opposed Emmer’s push to end the embargo without Cuba agreeing to end the imprisonment of political dissidents and other human rights violations.  In response to the criticism, Representative Emmer has released statement: “…while there is certainly further work that needs to be done to address human rights issues it is not a matter of if the embargo is lifted, but a matter of when and this bipartisan trip is certainly a step in the right direction.”

 

Alpha News will continue to cover Obama’s trip to Cuba this week.  Please subscribe to Alpha News to stay informed on this and other political news.