- - Monday, September 5, 2011


Catholic Church knocks abuse of dissidents

HAVANA | The Roman Catholic Church denounced acts of abuse by pro-government crowds against a prominent Cuban opposition group, adding Monday that the government of President Raul Castro has assured it that officials were not behind the violence.

The statement by Orlando Marquez, a spokesman for the Havana archdiocese, follows complaints by the Ladies in White opposition group that members have suffered harassment and rough treatment in recent weeks, including detentions during a protest in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba.

“Violence of any type against defenseless people has no justification,” Mr. Marquez wrote in a statement sent to foreign journalists. “The Cuban government … has communicated to the Church that no order to assault these people came from any national decision center.”

Cuban officials insist that the counterprotests at the Ladies’ marches are spontaneous, though state security officials normally are present.

The Ladies in White, the wives and mothers of former political prisoners arrested in a 2003 crackdown on dissent, have held weekly marches for years in the capital.

The last of the dissidents arrested in 2003 were released this year under a deal between Mr. Castro and Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega. But the Ladies have continued their activities, saying they want freedom for about five dozen others in prison for what they say are political reasons.


U.N. inquiry rejects accusation of sex assault

PORT-AU-PRINCE | A preliminary U.N. investigation has found no evidence that Uruguayan peacekeepers raped an 18-year-old man, Uruguay’s Defense Ministry says, but the troops broke rules by having a civilian in their barracks.

The incident, captured on a widely broadcast cellphone video, has created outrage in Haiti and aggravated mistrust between Haitians and the U.N. peacekeeping mission.

Haitian President Michel Martelly has “vigorously condemned” the act and said it “revolts the national conscience.”

The Uruguayan military has removed its commander in Haiti and is pulling the peacekeepers involved back to Uruguay. A ministry announcement on Sunday said those found to be directly responsible will be dishonorably discharged.

The jumpy cellphone video does not make clear whether a rape occurred, but it shows several men in camouflage uniforms laughing as they pin down a young man on a mattress. The men seem to be saying “no problem” in Spanish as they hold the teen’s arms and hands behind his back.

A magistrate in Port-Salut, the southwestern coastal town in which the incident happened, has gathered testimony from the young man and his mother and filed it in court.

The man was snatched by a soldier outside the front gate of the U.N. base and was taken inside, according to his mother and Judge Paul Tarte.

The reported victim, his friends and neighbors told the Associated Press that the youth often hung out at the gate of the base and cracked jokes with the peacekeepers.


Cubans memorialize defense minister

HAVANA | Thousands of Cubans paid tribute to late Defense Minister Julio Casas on Monday, filing silently past a larger-than-life photo of the fallen revolutionary as flags across the country flew at half-staff.

State television showed footage of President Raul Castro and other Communist Party leaders laying flowers in a show of respect.

Mr. Casas, who died Saturday at the age of 75, ran the military’s lucrative economic enterprises for decades before becoming defense minister. An accountant by training, he fought in the revolution alongside Mr. Castro and took part in Cuban military interventions in Africa.

Fidel Castro, who has not been seen in public since April, apparently did not attend the ceremony, but the former leader sent a floral offering that was prominently displayed.

Neither brother has issued public comments about Mr. Casas, but he has been hailed as a hero in state-run media since his death was announced.

Cuba’s Communist Party newspaper Granma stripped its front page of color on Monday and published historical photos of Mr. Casas’s life.

Of the thousands who filed through the Defense Ministry on Monday at Havana’s sprawling Revolution Plaza were young and old, military officers, nurses, doctors and others, some dressed formally, others in casual jeans and multicolored T-shirts.

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