After President Obama's Visit to Cuba, Crackdowns on Protesters Continue
Just days after President Barack Obama's historic visit to Cuba, the country's security forces began a harsh crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Havana.
Yahoo News' Patrick Symmes writes that a Thursday protest three blocks from the Grand Theater of Havana was interrupted by plainclothes officers who "attacked demonstrators violently and then stuffed those they had captured into police cars and swept them away within moments."
An Australian tourist told Symmes "They were shouting pro-Obama slogans and saying things like 'Down with Fidel.'"
Video posted by the dissident organization Patriotic Union of Cuba captured the forceful security action, which was also filmed by dozens of people with camera phones.
Symmes noted Obama's pro-democracy remarks in the country, which were rebroadcast on state television and in the Communist Granma paper, may have helped spark the demonstrations.
"Obama sí, Castro no," some of the demonstrators said, according to a witness who spoke to Symmes.
"I believe citizens should be free to speak their mind without fear — to organize, and to criticize their government, and to protest peacefully, and that the rule of law should not include arbitrary detentions of people who exercise those rights," Obama told crowds at the same theater where Thursday's demonstrations took place.
Amnesty International notes that while Cuban law enforcement have relied less on long-term imprisonment to suppress protests against the Castro regime in recent years, it received "over 7,188 reports of arbitrary detentions from January through August 2014, a sharp increase from approximately 2,900 in 2013 and 1,100 in 2010 during the same time period ... [detainees are] often beaten, threatened and held incommunicado for hours and even days." The president's visit to the island nation came after months of increased detentions.