Cuban dissident leader moves ahead with his plans to challenge government in new year

Cuban dissidents on Sunday blocked access to the home of pro-government activist Felipe Bayardo, as part of a protest against crackdowns on dissent and the dismissal of their lead organizer.

The activists entered Bayardo’s house early in the morning and prevented friends and members of the community from entering, while police stood by to disperse them, according to the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the People. One activist was taken into custody after having jumped off Bayardo’s roof to escape police.

Bayardo, also known as Felipe Mejia after his brother-in-law, leads opposition organization Citizen Power, which has called the government’s response to an exodus of Cubans trying to leave as well as the shrinking freedoms in the country an “unprecedented massacre” and “repression on an unimaginable scale.”

On Saturday, opposition group Citibek wrote on its Facebook page that it had become the most prominent opposition organization in Cuba to face police threats and warnings because of its demand for elections in a post on Facebook.

Pasqualina Alvarez, a sociologist, threatened to publish a study analyzing the deterioration of conditions for human rights in Cuba, alleging that the Cuban state cut the funding for the group and reassigned its key organizers.

On Jan. 1, police moved Citibek’s leaders to a prison detention center, Alvarez said.

“After being assured they won’t be persecuted or arrested, they were all moved to a detention center in eastern Cuba to continue [activism] in the confines of their prison. We are now working for the release of those who have been in their prison,” Alvarez wrote on Facebook.

Cuba has been criticized by the United States, Congress and human rights groups for the recent actions, which could amount to a blatant violation of the human rights provisions of a 1996 agreement that Havana and Washington signed to deal with migration of Cubans as well as on the environment and migration.

“The continued harassment and intimidation of opposition groups underscores the need for a new chapter in our bilateral relations,” the office of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a statement to The Washington Post.

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