Caribbean, Cuba, Today in Latin America

More Than 100 Cuban Dissidents Arrested Ahead of Second Round of Talks

February 24, 2015 By Staff

Top Story — The assistant secretary of state and highest-ranking U.S. diplomat for Latin America, Roberta Jacobson, expressed concern over the silencing of dissident voices in Cuba, following reports that over 100 anti-government protesters were arrested over the weekend.

Fifty-three members of the prominent dissident group Ladies in White were arrested on Sunday — according to the group’s leader Berta Soler — along with 36 other activists. The leader of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, Elizardo Sánchez, put the number of dissidents arrested between 150 and 200.

Reconciliatory talks between the United States and Cuba will resume on Friday. Jacobson, the main negotiator for the United States, will meet with Cuban authorities for the second stage of the historic talks.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • After Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s film “Birdman” was awarded best picture at Sunday night’s Academy Awards, he addressed fellow Mexicans during his acceptance speech saying, “I pray that we can build the government that we deserve,” a comment that has sparked a political storm back in his home country.
  • Pope Francis has also caused an uproar in Mexico after he reportedly said in a letter that he is worried about the potential “Mexicanization” of his home country Argentina if it doesn’t tackle drug trafficking and insecurity, eliciting a protest from Mexico’s foreign minister.
  • The U.S. Justice Department has called on a federal judge in Texas to reverse an injunction that would delay the implementation of President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration, claiming that the ruling “offends basic separation-of-powers principles” — phrasing that is very similar to Republicans’ original argument against the executive action.
  • Fox News host Bill O’Reilly defended himself against accusations made last week that he exaggerated accounts of his coverage in El Salvador in 1980 and of the 1982 Falklands war.

Caribbean

  • Cuban cigar company Habanos S.A., owned in equal parts by the Cuban government and Imperial Tobacco Group, has said that it will immediately gain 25 to 30 percent of the U.S. premium cigar market if the U.S. embargo on the island nation is lifted.
  • Haiti has made “real progress” since the 2010 earthquake, particularly in creating safer water systems and curbing the spread of cholera, according to the director of the Center for Disease Control and Protection, in a piece for The Huffington Post.

Central America

Andes

  • Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos praised the United States on Monday for naming a new special envoy to peace talks with the FARC in Havana, Cuba, although ex-diplomat Bernard Aronson’s association with the so-called “dirty wars” of the 1980s and 1990s is likely to raise questions among left-wing politicians and human rights activists.
  • Following last week’s arrest of Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma, Venezuelan authorities announced a probe into another opposition leader on Monday on charges of conspiring against the socialist ruling government, sparking fears that a broader political crackdown could be underway.

Southern Cone

  • Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said she learned in the press of her son’s suspicious dealings with a large bank, which have prompted right-wing leaders to accuse him of illegal influence-peddling.
  • Truck drivers blocked roads across many Brazilian states for the sixth consecutive day Monday, disrupting agriculture and other sectors as part of a protest against a tax on fuel, which is just one of many measures suggested by President Dilma Rousseff to close a budget deficit.
  • Brazilian authorities on Monday announced the arrest of the “biggest deforester” in the Amazon, the leader of a criminal gang that illegally occupied public rainforest land, clear-cut it and sold it for a premium as grazing land.

Image: U.S. Department of State

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