HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba freed some leading dissidents on Wednesday after holding them overnight to thwart an unauthorised demonstration in a crackdown that has tested its new detente with the United States.
Police arrested several political opponents on Tuesday and kept others under virtual house arrest ahead of an open microphone protest that was to have taken place outside the communist government headquarters in Havana’s Revolution Square.
The detentions were typical of how Cuba breaks up opposition protests but took on greater significance coming just two weeks after US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro said on December 17 they would restore diplomatic ties and end decades of hostility.
Among those released on Wednesday was performance artist Tania Bruguera, who organised the demonstration. After about an hour of freedom, she was picked up again by police and lectured for about two-and-a-half hours, she said.
Between her back-to-back detentions, she told Reuters in an interview that she planned to hold a similar, scaled down event on the seafront near her mother’s home. But as she walked toward it she was picked up by plainclothes officers for a second time.
The planned event never took place.
“I’m not doing this as a dissident, I’m doing it as a normal person,” she said at her mother’s apartment just minutes before her second arrest. “I’m not a counter-revolutionary, like they say. I’m from a revolutionary family. I’m going to continue the project.”
A Cuban government official declined to comment.