October 21, 1999
HAVANA, Oct 20 (Reuters) - About 30 Cuban dissidents have been detained or confined to their homes for short periods in the past two weeks as part of the government's response to a rise in meetings and other low-level actions by Cuba's splintered opposition.
Most recently, at least half a dozen dissidents were ordered not to leave their homes or were taken to detention centres late Tuesday and early Wednesday after an opposition meeting was scheduled in Havana for Wednesday morning.
``What we are seeing is temporary detentions or orders not to leave houses -- a low-intensity repression, but on a large scale,'' said Elizardo Sanchez, head of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, a local, nongovernmental group.
Cuba's small internal opposition, divided into scores of tiny, illegal groups, has been engaging in a flurry of activity in recent weeks in an apparent attempt to use November's Ibero-American Summit in Havana to make their voice heard.
``There is a certain effervescence among the dissidents before the summit, which the government is reacting to,'' added Sanchez.
The dissidents have no access to state media, and are generally better known by foreign correspondents and diplomats in Havana than by the Cuban public at large.
Believing the summit affords them a measure of protection and a focus for protest, the dissidents have been holding a series of meetings and news conferences to outline their ideas for reform to Cuba's one-party socialist system.
Some of the more radical activists have been urging a campaign of civil disobedience against President Fidel Castro's government, in power since the 1959 Cuban Revolution.
In public, the government has responded with scorn, describing its opponents as ``counter-revolutionaries'' who have no popular support, break Cuban law, and are puppets of the United States.
Havana is eager for the Nov. 15-16 summit, which will bring together heads of state from Latin America, Spain and Portugal, to be a diplomatic success.
Hosting the annual summit for the first time, Cuba views the event as its most important since Pope John Paul II's historic visit to the island in January 1998.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
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