Cuba arrests dissidents hours before Obama arrives

2016-03-20 21:44
Police drag away members of Ladies in White during their weekly protest in Havana, Cuba. (Rebecca Blackwell, AP)

Police drag away members of Ladies in White during their weekly protest in Havana, Cuba. (Rebecca Blackwell, AP)

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Havana - Cuban police arrested dozens of people protesting against the communist government on Sunday in Havana, just hours before US President Barack Obama was due on a three-day visit.

The protesters were from the Ladies in White group, formed by wives of former political prisoners. Police bundled them into vehicles outside a church where they attempt to hold protests every Sunday, AFP reporters said.

Although the arrests are an almost weekly feature and the protesters are quickly released, the incident was embarrassing ahead of Obama's landmark visit.

He is the first sitting US president to come to the island in 88 years and is aiming to end a decades-long Cold War-era standoff. The White House says Obama will raise the issue of human rights in Cuba, while Havana insists that domestic politics are "off the table".

Police on the scene declined to tell journalists why they had made the arrests. One of those detained was Ladies in White leader Berta Soler.

Soler is among a group of civil society leaders invited to meet Obama on Tuesday. However, she told AFP she has not decided whether or not to accept, telling Obama "you said you would not come here unless there had been advances in human rights - and that hasn't happened".

Read more on:    cuba  |  us

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