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Crowd heeds dissidents' cry
By Laura Morales

Members of Cuban exile organizations and their families packed the sidewalks of Calle Ocho to call for noncooperation with Castro's regime.

In 1962, Fidel Castro's police threw Angel De Fana in jail for being a member of a pro-democracy group named after José Martí, the Cuban writer and national hero.

''We had to hide to assemble,'' De Fana, who languished in prison from 1962 to 1983, said in Spanish, adding that he and fellow prisoners had to endure years of prison labor. ``I was forced to cut stone in a quarry.''

De Fana and scores of other exile activists clogged the sidewalks of Southwest Eighth Street between 16th and 13th Avenues Saturday to answer a call from Cuba's dissidents and political prisoners asking folks to not cooperate with Castro's regime.

Many protesters wore T-shirts bearing the words Yo No (I Don't) and shook anti-Castro placards at drivers. A nonstop procession of supporters leaned on car horns, waved at friends and pumped fists through open windows and sunroofs.

''We're here to show solidarity with those who want freedom,'' said Sylvia Iriondo, president of Mothers Against Repression and a passenger in the only plane to survive the Brothers to the Rescue shoot-downs in 1996.

''We ask all Cubans to say no to repression and to defend fundamental human rights,'' she said.

Grizzled, cigar-chomping exile veterans filled Domino Park to capacity while younger activists pounded the sidewalk and shouted slogans to energize some of their more subdued elders.

Diane Cabrera, of Raíces de Esperanza (Roots of Hope), a Cuban youth organization, said she wants to show support for her counterparts on the island.

''I have to show solidarity with these young people who don't have the same rights and freedoms I do,'' she said.

``I want to help them reach for their dreams of a free, pluralistic society.''

The drive for noncooperation, launched on July 25, asks those on the island to drop out of Communist organizations and to not ''snitch'' on fellow dissidents or participate in actos de repudio, meaning ''public attacks.'' The latter is a Cuban term used to describe the verbal and physical assaults dissenters typically endure when they protest in public.

Cubans off the island are asked to promote the campaign as widely as possible.

The Cuban Committee for Human Rights; Agenda: Cuba; the Cuban Democratic Revolutionary Forum; the Miami Medical Team and the Democracy Movement are among the groups who helped organize the event and are spearheading the noncooperation campaign.

At about noon, the protesters clustered at the north end of Cuban Memorial Boulevard, in front of the Assault Brigade 2506 monument, to hear a taped statement from Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Antúnez, a political prisoner at Kilo 7 prison in Camagüey.

''This is a call to the conscience of all, young and old, laborers and professionals, soldiers and civilians,'' Antúnez said in Spanish. ``Refuse to keep cooperating with a repressive regime. Fight for the rights and dignity of all Cubans.''


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