Cuba expels Catalan protesters
12 December 2007
MADRID – Eight members of the youth wing of a conservative Catalan party returned to Spain Monday, hours after being expelled from Cuba for participating in a protest in support of human rights.
The eight women, members of the youth wing of CDC, part of Catalonia’s nationalist CiU coalition party, had been detained in hotels in Havana since Sunday night following their participation in a march organised by the Ladies in White, an opposition movement formed by relatives of 75 political dissidents imprisoned by Fidel Castro in 2003.
“We wanted to support the Ladies in White because of the situation of their imprisoned husbands, sons and brothers, some of whom are ill and at risk of dying,” Francina Vila, one of the eight protestors and a councillor in Barcelona, said on Monday before being forced onto a flight for Madrid.
The women had joined around 50 of the Ladies in White for mass at the Havana church of Santa Rita on Sunday before participating in a protest march to the Cuban parliament. When they returned to their hotels later that day, they were met by police officers who confiscated their passports and airplane tickets. They were accused of violating tourist visa rules by going to a “religious ceremony and a political demonstration.”
“We wanted to make Cuba’s problems known internationally. It’s a totalitarian regime where there is no freedom of expression, freedom of association or freedom to protest,” Vila said.
She noted that the eight women’s visit was a “personal endeavour” and had not been sanctioned by CiU. However, one of the coalition’s top officials, Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida, joined the protesters in criticising the Cuban regime yesterday. He said the expulsion of the women could “only be expected” by an “intolerable” regime that has “no respect for freedom.”
“It was by the book what happened. If you go to Cuba and participate in a protest against the system, you end up like these people have,” Duran i Lleida said.
The expulsion of the women occurred on International Human Rights Day and just hours after Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque signaled that his country is willing to start showing greater respect for human rights.
In a statement, Roque announced that Cuba would sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which most other countries adopted in the 1970s.
[Copyright EL PAÍS, SL. 2007]
Subject: Spanish news