Cuban protesters punched, dragged

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For the second straight day, but in a much harsher manner, Cuban security agents broke up a protest march by female relatives of jailed dissidents.

Cuban security forces and pro-government civilians violently broke up another protest march Wednesday by Ladies in White -- female relatives of political prisoners -- and dragged them away in buses.

Ladies in White members in Havana said they were punched, pinched, scratched and had their hair pulled by the security agents and civilians, who also made rude gestures and swore at them.

Photos of the incident showed two of the women being dragged by their hands and another in a police woman's headlock as the protesters resisted boarding the buses.

Two of the women, including the mother of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a political prisoner who died last month after a lengthy hunger strike, went to a hospital to get treatment and to ask that doctors certify their bruises.

``There's been a lot of violence today,'' a weary-sounding Alejandrina García told El Nuevo Herald by phone from Havana. She is the wife of Diosdado González Marrero, who is serving a 20-year sentence.

It was the second day in a row that government forces harassed the women, who are staging a weeklong series of street marches and other events to mark the anniversary of the 2003 jailing of 75 dissidents. Tuesday's incident involved only verbal aggressions.

Wednesday's crackdown was clearly harsher, however, with García saying she was shocked by the ``very immodest and very violent manner'' in which the women were treated by about 100 uniformed and plainclothes police and Interior Ministry agents, many of them female, and an estimated 200 civilians.

Security officials hit several of the women with ``technical blows,'' said Ladies in White member Berta Soler, using Cuban jargon for karate-like blows that are supposed to leave no bruises.

``Some of us were dragged, punched into the buses'' by the security agents, Soler added via telephone, while the civilians yanked at their hair, pinched their arms and backs and shouted pro-government slogans and epithets.

Laura Pollán, a spokesperson for the women's group, went to the hospital for a possibly fractured finger, Soler said. Reina Luisa Tamayo, the mother of Zapata Tamayo, suffered from anxiety and went to have her blood pressure checked.

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