The Cuban secret police on Thursday apparently targeted two of the island's most prominent dissidents.
Cuban human rights activist Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz says the secret police harassed him for the first time in 20 years, and dissident Guillermo Fariñas says they hit him, in what the two men called yet another sign of the government’s growing nervousness over the opposition.
Sánchez has been one of the few critical voices that seemed to be tolerated by the communist government. He has run the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation from his home in Havana without trouble since 1992 even though it has never been recognized by officials.
But he alleged that two State Security agents in plainclothes who approached him on a street Tuesday called out his name, accused him of being a “liar” and a “mercenary for Washington” and threatened that “soon I will receive a forceful reply from the revolution.”
“This was very rare,” he told El Nuevo Herald. “The truth is that I have not been molested” since a 1992 police raid on his commission’s offices. “Monitored yes, but molested, no.”
Sánchez blamed the incident on “the increasing nervousness in the government” over continuing opposition activities despite a harsh crackdown over the past year by the Raúl Castro government.
Sánchez’s commission reported earlier this month that police carried out 5,625 short-term arrests — usually lasting only hours — for political motives in the first 10 months of the year, a monthly average of 562 that compared to 172 in 2010 and 343 in 2011.
Dissidents also have complained of increased beatings, and some have been jailed for longer periods. Antonio G. Rodiles, one of the most active dissidents in recent times, was beaten during his arrest and held for 19 days earlier this month.
Fariñas, who won the European Parliament’s Sakharov prize for Freedom of Thought in 2010, said he believed the attack against him showed authorities are “in a state of nervousness” because dissidents will not halt their work despite the repression.
He was walking to a friend’s home in Havana Tuesday night when two men in their 20s who were dressed in civilian clothes called him a “mercenary” and “counterrevolutionary” and tried to hit him on the head with a stick, he said. He put up his arm and the blow landed on his forearm.
The two men then ran into a dark-colored Lada, a Soviet-era car traditionally used by State Security agents, and a third man at the wheel sped away, Farinas told El Nuevo Herald.
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