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    Cuban dissidents say Yoani Sanchez’s husband, others detained in Havana

    Cuban dissidents say Yoani Sanchez’s husband, others detained in Havana
    HAVANA Tue Dec 30, 2014 3:58pm EST

    (Reuters) – Cuban police detained at least four political opponents on
    Tuesday, including the husband of prominent blogger Yoani Sanchez, hours
    before a performance artist planned to stage an unauthorized open
    microphone event, dissidents said.

    They would be the highest profile detentions since Cuba and the United
    States agreed on Dec. 17 to normalize diplomatic relations and put
    behind more than five decades of hostility.

    President Barack Obama said then that Cubans should not face harassment
    or arrest for expressing their views and that his government would
    continue to monitor human rights on the communist-ruled island.

    Sanchez said on Twitter that police detained her husband Reinaldo
    Escobar and dissident leader Eliecer Avila outside her home in Havana,
    taking them away handcuffed in a patrol car.

    Escobar is editor-in-chief of the dissident news and opinion website and Avila is the leader of the opposition group Somos Mas
    (We Are More).

    Other dissident leaders said at least two more government opponents were
    being held by police, and others appeared to be restricted to their homes.

    President Raul Castro has praised Obama for changing U.S. policy on Cuba
    but he also warned that opponents to Cuba’s government may try to
    undermine progress toward better relations.

    A government official could not immediately confirm the reports of
    detentions on Tuesday. Officials had denounced the planned open
    microphone event as a political provocation.

    The organizer of the event, Tania Bruguera, could not be reached by
    telephone in Havana. Her sister in Italy said she had lost contact with
    Bruguera on Monday, and nobody answered the door at the Havana residence
    where Bruguera was staying.

    Reached at her home, Sanchez declined to comment on reports from another
    dissident leader that she was being held inside her home.

    A Reuters reporter saw a police car with two officers and an Interior
    Minister official parked outside her apartment building.

    “I have spoken to Yoani and she says her intention is not to confront
    them,” said Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of another dissident group, the
    Cuban Patriotic Union.

    The leader of the dissident group Ladies in White said some of their
    activists also had police stationed outside their homes, that another
    was detained, and another detained and released.

    Bruguera planned the open microphone event at Havana’s Revolution Square
    as a test of the government’s tolerance for dissent. Cuban officials
    denied a permit but she pledged to go ahead with it.

    No event took place at the appointed hour of 3 p.m. (2000 GMT).

    Cuban police often detain political opponents for a few hours or days
    and then release them.

    The deal on renewing diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United
    States was reached after 18 months of secret talks.

    It included a prisoner swap in which the United States freed three Cuban
    spies and Cuba agreed to release U.S. aid contractor Alan Gross, a Cuban
    who spied for Washington, and 53 people who the United States considers
    political prisoners.

    So far, none of those 53 have been identified and dissident groups say
    none of their activists have been released since the Dec. 17 announcement.

    Obama’s critics in the United States have complained that Cuba does not
    deserve a softer U.S. policy as long as it continues to control the
    media and repress political opponents under a one-party system.

    “Given that political arrests continue and that Yoani Sanchez just
    tweeted that her husband was arrested this morning, how will the Obama
    administration engage on these issues?” Senator Robert Menendez, a
    Democrat from New Jersey who supports a hard line against Havana, said
    in a statement on Tuesday.

    (Reporting by Daniel Trotta, Nelson Acosta, Rosa Tania Valdés and
    Enrique de la Osa; Editing by Kieran Murray and Alan Crosby)

    Source: Cuban dissidents say Yoani Sanchez’s husband, others detained in
    Havana | Reuters –