Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Cuba denounces US 'provocations'

BBC News, July 2, 2008

Cuba has accused the US of urging dissidents to stage protests to mark American Independence Day on 4 July.

"There has been an escalation of provocative actions organised and financed by the US Interests Section in Havana," the foreign ministry said. An opposition activist said the complaint "was an excuse for a massive round-up of dissidents"

A BBC Cuba correspondent says the statement's timing is odd given that dissidents rarely hold public acts. Among the activities denounced by the foreign ministry are:

  • Holding a Father's Day event in the residence of the top US envoy
  • Holding meetings with "counter-revolutionary ringleaders" in the homes of US diplomatic officials
  • Encouraging public protests in the streets and at symbolic sites such as Revolution Square
  • Giving opponents internet access inside the US mission
  • Providing dissidents with mobile phones, computers, money and "counter-revolutionary propaganda"

The statement says that public protests are being planned around 4 July, activities that would coincide with the end of the mission of the top US diplomat Michael Parmly. Cuban authorities have previously accused Mr Parmly of channelling funds from Miami-based exiles to dissidents. The US state department responded at the time by saying it had done nothing illegal and that it had a long-standing policy of providing humanitarian assistance to Cuba, including to those whose relatives are considered political prisoners.

Few protests

US officials had no comment when contacted by the BBC regarding the latest statement but dissident Marta Beatriz Roque denied that the US Interests Section determined what the internal opposition did. "There is nothing new in the communique... The accusation about the demonstration on 4 July is an excuse to carry out a massive round-up of dissidents," she said. BBC Mundo's correspondent in Havana Fernando Ravsberg says the timing of the ministry's statement is strange given that dissident actions are all but paralysed on the island. Almost the only protests are by the Ladies in White, whose husbands were among 75 people imprisoned during a 2003 crackdown on political opposition. Fifty-five are believed to still to be behind bars. The Havana government denies there are any political prisoners in Cuba, accusing them of being mercenaries in the pay of the US.

No comments: