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Cuba cracks down on dissidents


June 10, 1997
Web posted at: 6:59 p.m. EDT (2259 GMT)

From Havana Bureau Chief Lucia Newman

HAVANA, Cuba (CNN) -- Gisela Delgado Palacios looks at photos of happier days with her husband Hector.

Hector Palacios, head of the illegal opposition movement called the Democratic Solidarity Party, has been held in a maximum security prison awaiting trial since January. He has been declared a "prisoner of conscience" by Amnesty International.

logoVXtreme streaming video as seen on CNN. Lucia Newman reports from Havana, Cuba

Gisela Palacios

"He has not committed any crime. He has not planted bombs or done any acts of terrorism," his wife said.

"All he has done is think in a very different way than the current Cuban government. He is against the system, not Mr. Fidel Castro, the person."

Palacios was arrested because of views about Castro that he expressed in a videotaped interview with German television. A copy of the interview was confiscated by police from a Spanish citizen as he was leaving Cuba last December.

"Either Fidel Castro is crazy and wants to submit this country into a holocaust, or he is simply trying to prolong his stay in power," Palacios said in the interview.

For saying that, Palacios has been charged with using offensive language against the president as part of a crime called "desacato."

The term technically means disobedience, but its application is vague, covering anything from disorderly conduct to expressing a political opinion considered slanderous or dangerous to the Cuban Revolution.


Another dissident, Ana Maria Agramonte, was dragged out of her home by police last month. She was condemned to 18 months in prison for resisting arrest as well as for unspecified "desacato."

International and Cuban human rights organizations say such arrests are not isolated incidents, but rather part of an intensified crackdown on government opponents.

"Last year, the human rights situation was worse than in 1995, and this year unfortunately the situation is already worse than last year," said Elizardo Sanches of the Human Rights Commission of Cuba.

"Dozens and dozens of peaceful dissidents have been detained, threatened and harassed in many ways."

Cuban authorities insist the United States is financing and encouraging dissidents to try bring down the government, a crime they say is equivalent to treason.

"How long can a small country tolerate that a big power has spent millions of dollars in promoting internal dissent and organizing and supporting opposition?" asked Cuban Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon.

"How long would the U.S., or Europe, or Latin America accept that?"

Most dissidents in Cuba deny they are getting a penny from Washington.

But the more the Castro government feels the pressure from opponents, the less tolerant it is becoming of people such as Hector Palacios.


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