HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban police detained at least six protesters shouting “Freedom!” and “Long live human rights!” in Havana on Thursday and dissidents reported 100 detentions nationwide on U.N. Human Rights Day, when some Cubans call unauthorized demonstrations.
Police and protesters tussled in plain view of journalists as they have each Dec. 10 in recent years. As usual, pro-government counterdemonsrators hurled insults at them as the protesters were shoved into patrol cars and taken away.
The Ladies in White dissident group organized the demonstration at a busy square near the entrance to the popular Coppelia ice cream parlor, but few of its members arrived on the scene. Dissidents report that they are typically detained at home or en route to protests.
The Havana clashes briefly interrupted traffic and led to pushing and shouting, but there were no noticeable injuries.
Reporters witnessed six people detained for what a government spokesman said was the offense of disturbing public order. The Cuban government considers the dissidents paid mercenaries of the U.S. government, and says its critics on human rights overlook Cuba’s guaranteed healthcare and education.
The dissident Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation estimated 100 detentions on Wednesday and Thursday and expected that number to double, leader Elizardo Sanchez said.
Police searched six homes that serve as offices for the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) - Cuba’s largest dissident group - confiscating computers and documents, said UNPACU leader Jose Daniel Ferrer.
Ferrer and Sanchez said police had been particularly aggressive with UNPACU and the Ladies in White in recent days. The human rights commission reported 1,447 short-term detentions of dissidents in November, the highest single monthly total since it started keeping records in 2010.
“I don’t criticize the Ladies in White, nor the Cuban government either,” said Orlando Rivero, 65, a retired teacher who witnessed the scuffling. “Differences of ideas should be respected. Cuba is a country that respects human rights, but the ideas of the dissidents should be respected as well.”
Reporting by Daniel Trotta and Nelson Acosta; Editing by Jonathan Oatis