Cuban dissidents rounded up as heads of state arrive

A smiling President Laura Chinchilla arrived in Havana, Cuba, Monday night as the Castro regime continued picking up dissidents so there would be no protests. She was met with a guard of honor.

President Chinchilla will attend a two-day summit of Latin American and Caribbean heads of state, starting today. Cuban sources say that human rights activists were being detained starting Thursday. Amnesty International said the Cuban government is involved in an outrageous attack on freedom.

Amnesty said that the Cuban effort appears to be designed to keep activists from attending meetings with the visitors.

Ms. Chinchilla becomes the first Costa Rican head of state to visit the Communist island since Costa Rica broke diplomatic relations with Fidel Castro in 1961. The country renewed diplomatic relations in 2009.

The Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation and the Unión Patriótica de Cuba, both activist organizations, have been complaining about arbitrary arrests and home detentions that they said they believe are designed to intimidate those seeking a more democratic government.

“It is a vain attempt to silence those who would denounce the systematic violation of rights of opinion, meeting and demonstrations in Cuba, ” said Amnesty. “The government is able to prevent the dissidents from approaching the conference but their voices will enter it.”

Because of the arrests and intimidations, some private gatherings with the foreign leaders have been canceled, said Amnesty.

José Daniel Ferrer García, president of the Unión Patriótica de Cuba, said he was detained and ordered into a police car Friday and driven around in various vehicles until he was released Sunday, Amnesty said. Ferrer said he had police watching his house so he could not travel to the center of the capital, according to amnesty.

President Chinchilla arrived about 7 p.m. Havana time after witnessing the inauguration of  Juan Orlando Hernández as the new president of Honduras earlier in the day.

The summit is of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, which prides itself as being the region’s first to not discriminate against governments or parties, allowing all major political voices to be heard.

The summit meeting also marks Costa Rica’s ascension to the temporary presidency of the organization for a calendar year.

“CELAC has allowed the conflict between our countries to go substantially down by consenting to harmonize political dialogue without giving into the models that each nation defends and applies to their respective countries,” Ms. Chinchilla said of the 4-year-old organization using its Spanish acronym.

Heads of state will discuss topics like combating hunger and poverty throughout the region. Also on the docket for discussion will be local agriculture, education, technological innovation, industrial development, regional integration, and the global drug problem, among others.

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