Caribbean News Service (CNS).
HAVANA, Cuba, Mar 21 2016 – Mere hours before US President Obama landed at José Martí International Airport Sunday, the challenges inherent in normalising relations with a Communist police state were laid bare, as dozens of arrests were made at the weekly march of Ladies in White, a prominent dissident group.
The protest, which takes place most Sundays outside a suburban church here, was widely seen as a test of Cuba’s tolerance for dissent during the presidential trip, and the arrests confirmed that Cuba was maintaining its long history of repressive tactics, if not intensifying their reach.
For Mr. Obama – who is scheduled to meet Tuesday with dissidents including the leader of Ladies in White, Berta Soler – the detentions threw a spotlight on the core challenge of the visit: how to work with the Castro government while expressing concern for its handling of human rights and free expression.
“We thought there would be a truce, but it wasn’t to be,” said Elizardo Sánchez, who runs the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation. He noted that the arrests had taken place “in the moment that Obama was flying in the air to Cuba.”