Primavera Negra
August 2006
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Cuban dissident: Stop harassment or jail me

Posted on Thu, Aug. 24, 2006

Cuban dissident: Stop harassment or jail me
By Vanessa Arrington
Associated Press

HAVANA – Activist Martha Beatriz Roque has an unusual request for the
Cuban government: Stop the harassment or send her back to jail.

The former political prisoner, who has opposed Fidel Castro for 17
years, says she can no longer endure the threats and insults by
government supporters, who yell at her when she walks down the street
and slip menacing notes under her door. Last weekend, they banged a
pistol against her window in the middle of the night.

“This life has become just about impossible,” Roque, one of Cuba’s
most high-profile dissidents, told the Associated Press on Tuesday. “I
would rather be behind bars than dealing with this constant harassment.”

Roque was the lone woman among 75 people imprisoned in spring 2003 under
a government crackdown on dissent. Given a 20-year sentence, she was
released on parole for health reasons in July 2004.

In May 2005, she organized an unprecedented gathering of more than 200
dissidents to discuss promotion of a Western-style democracy in Cuba.

Roque said pressure has been building since July 2005, when Castro
lashed out at opponents in his annual rebellion day speech, calling them
“traitors” and “mercenaries” paid by the U.S. government. She said
harassment has been steady since Castro announced he was ceding power to
his brother while he recovered from stomach surgery.

In April, she said, she was repeatedly punched and slapped by a man and
woman who rushed into her front room as she tried to leave her
apartment. That month, a group of people who had recently moved into
nearby units in her building spent a weekend painting the Cuban flag and
fiery slogans in the passageway to her home.

Earlier this month, the Justice Ministry told her she should ask the
attorney general’s office to stop the harassment or send her back to
prison. She’s deciding whether to do that.

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