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Cuban dissident dies after being detained; activist blames police

By Shasta Darlington, CNN
  • Juan Wilfredo Soto died after midnight in the central Cuban city of Santa Clara
  • He died of pancreatitis, a hospital official said
  • A fellow activist claims police beat Soto in public view, blaming them for his death
  • Cuban government officials were not immediately available for comment

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- A Cuban dissident died early Sunday after being detained by police three days earlier, with a fellow activist blaming police for his death.

Juan Wilfredo Soto passed away just after midnight in the central Cuban city of Santa Clara, according to hospital and dissident sources. According to an official at the Arnaldo Milian Hospital, Soto died of pancreatitis.

His funeral was held later that same day, said Lizet Zamora, an anti-government activist who is also from Santa Clara and attended the ceremony.

Soto was beaten in public view in a park Thursday while trying to resist arrest, according to Zamora, who saw images of the alleged beating on a cell phone. Afterward, he was admitted to the hospital.

"We know his death was caused by the police beating," Zamora told CNN by telephone.

Officials from the Cuban government were not immediately available for comment.

Soto was not well known outside of Santa Clara, but according to Zamora, he was active within the dissident community there.

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, and it can result from many causes -- among them, an injury to the abdomen, according to the Mayo Clinic. Soto suffered from many health problems as well, including diabetes and hypertension, according to Zamora.