Latin America & Caribbean

'Ladies in White' protesters held in Cuba crackdown

Cuba's Ladies in White opposition members were arrested on 13 July 2014 during a march in Havana. Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption "Ladies in White" activists said Cuban police rounded them up during a regular protest in Havana

Dozens of "Ladies in White" opposition activists say they were detained during a protest march in Cuba.

The women, who were freed after several hours, were marking the deaths of 37 people who drowned while fleeing the island 20 years ago.

The government has always denied the group's allegation that the authorities deliberately sunk a tugboat in 1994.

For 10 years, its members have defied a protest ban on the Communist island by marching every week, dressed in white.

The "Ladies in White" say they were rounded-up by police on Sunday, as they tried to divert from their normal protest route in the capital, Havana.

More than 90 of them were bundled into buses off the city's smart 5th Avenue as they headed towards the seafront, they say.

The women were planning to lay flowers in memory of the adults and children who died when the tugboat they had hijacked sank as it was pursued by the Cuban authorities in Caribbean waters.

Dissident groups allege the vessel was rammed and flooded with water cannon, but the government has always maintained the sinking was an accident.

The women are routinely detained and their protests broken up, the BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Havana reports, but these days their march attracts minimal public interest.

However, the group's members say their protests have produced results, with all 75 political prisoners they have campaigned for now free.

The Cuban authorities say the "Ladies in White" are in the pay of the United States and form part of Washington's "decades-old effort to undermine Cuba's socialist revolution".

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