The heavy security at the silent procession following a Roman Catholic Mass appeared aimed at preventing a repeat of the clash between dissidents and government supporters on Nov. 10.
"This shows that we are peaceful," said protester Hugo Ernesto Diaz Navarro. "We are not provocateurs."
After the silent march of several blocks from the San Eduardo Church, the opponents said they had hoped to draw attention to Cuba's political prisoners, as well as their demands for rights such as freedom of expression, assembly and association.
"We have the right as Cubans to march in the street," said another government opponent, Carlos Alberto Dominguez.
Some said many other government opponents planned to participate, but were temporarily detained in their homes by police officers, a common preventive tactic here.
The most notable thing about the modest march was the communist government's handling of it. Opponents talked to journalists in public without being shouted down or roughed up by government supporters, who regularly break up such gatherings. No one blocked the protesters, representing a wide variety of groups, during their march.
It was unclear if the new strategy represents a permanent change in the government's handling of public protest.
Communist officials were alarmed by the wide media coverage of the Nov. 10 clash including the beating of two opponents by government supporters which came just days before the start of the Ibero-American summit in Havana.
Castro even held an eight-hour news conference with Havana-based foreign correspondents to offer the government's version of events. He said that government supporters acting on their own broke up the earlier march because they found it politically distasteful.
© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press