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Cuba’s dissident group The Ladies in White has called off its traditional protest for the first time in 13 years following Fidel Castro’s death.

The group says the decision is to avoid tensions.

The Ladies in White, formed by wives of jailed dissidents, has long defied a protest ban in Cuba with a weekly march.

Fidel Castro died on November 25 at the age of 90. Flags are flying at half mast as Cuba observes nine days of mourning.

From November 28, people will be able to pay their respects at memorials and rallies before Fidel Castro’s ashes are taken to Santiago de Cuba where he launched his bid for power.

Ladies in White members were detained during a protest march in Cuba

A mass public ceremony is planned at Havana’s Revolutionary Square on November 29.

There have been further celebrations in Miami where many anti-Castro Cuban exiles and their families have settled.

Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 and ushered in a Communist revolution.

Supporters say Fidel Castro returned Cuba to the people, and praise him for some of his social programs, such as public health and education.

Critics call him a dictator, who led a government that did not tolerate opposition and dissent, accused of numerous alleged human rights abuses.

The regular Sunday march of the Ladies in White is a rare expression of dissent largely tolerated by the government.

The women march in silence through the streets of Havana following Mass at a Roman Catholic Church, asking for the release of political prisoners and for human rights to be respected.

“We’re not going to march today [Sunday] so that the government does not take it as a provocation and so that they can pay their tributes,” the group’s leader, Berta Soler, said.

“We respect the mourning of others and will not celebrate the death of any human being.”

In a tweet reacting to Fidel Castro’s death, the Ladies in White said: “Fidel Castro has died, may God forgive him, I WON’T.”

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”.

The government says there are no political prisoners in Cuba.


More than 50 activists who took part in a march calling on the Cuban government to release political prisoners have been detained in Havana.

The arrests come less than a week before a visit to Cuba by Pope Francis.

Most of the activists were members of the predominantly Catholic dissident group, Ladies in White.

They walked through the streets of Havana holding up pictures of political prisoners, before they were rounded up by police.

According to Cuba’s main dissident website, 14yMedio, members of Ladies in White and activists from other opposition groups were handcuffed and pushed into police cars and buses on September 13.Cuba Ladies in White activists arrested 2015

A number of them were released hours later, it said.

Cuba says the protesters are financed by right-wing American groups to destabilize the government.

Cuban dissidents are planning to protest during Pope Francis’ visit to Cuba, which begins on September 19.

They have accused the Cuban Catholic Church of becoming too cozy with the government of Raul Castro and failing to speak out against human rights abuses.

“The Church should be concerned about this or any time human rights are involved. It’s their duty,” said Jose Daniel Ferrer, head of leading dissident group Patriotic Union of Cuba.

Jose Daniel Ferrer told Reuters he was handcuffed and taken to a police station after Sunday’s protest.

Police later dropped him off at a bus terminal, he said.

The Cuban Catholic Church says it defends the respect of human rights but cannot take up individual political causes.

Pope Francis played a key role in facilitating the historic negotiations between Cuba and the US, which led to diplomatic relations being restored after more than five decades of hostilities.

Senior Cuban and American officials met in secrets for months at the Vatican before Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro surprised the world last December by announcing they had agreed to mend relations.

Cuban opposition activist group “Ladies in White” says dozens of its members were detained during a protest march.

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, Ladies in White members have defied a protest ban on the Communist island by marching every week, dressed in white.

Ladies in White members were detained during a protest march in Cuba

Ladies in White members were detained during a protest march in Cuba (photo AFP)

The group says its members 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, 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 US and form part of Washington’s “decades-old effort to undermine Cuba’s socialist revolution”.

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