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Cuba Allows Opposition to Convene

May 21, 2005|From Associated Press

HAVANA — More than 200 people opened a rare opposition assembly Friday in Cuba, uninterrupted by authorities who had expelled European lawmakers, journalists and others who had planned to attend.

Martha Beatriz Roque, the meeting's lead organizer and a former political prisoner, called it "a point of departure" for future work. Roque said it was the first such gathering in Fidel Castro's 46 years of communist rule.

"This is a really nice surprise.... I didn't think the government would allow it to happen," veteran activist Vladimiro Roca said.

Cuba expelled two European lawmakers Thursday who had planned to attend, and refused entry to two others this week. Three journalists, a human rights worker and two students from Poland were expelled Friday, the Polish Foreign Ministry said in Warsaw.

Two former Spanish senators and an Italian journalist also were told to leave, officials in the two European countries said.

Cuba typically detains, and often expels, international journalists working on the island without government approval.

Also barred from entering the country was a representative of the powerful Miami exile lobby, the Cuban American National Foundation.

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