Page last updated at 01:09 GMT, Friday, 11 December 2009

Cuban government supporters target rights marches

By Michael Voss
BBC News, Havana

Pro-government supporters
Pro-government supporters shouted slogans at dissidents

Cuban dissidents trying to hold a silent march in Havana to mark Human Rights Day were confronted by crowds chanting pro-government slogans.

Government supporters screaming insults broke up two small groups of dissidents marching through Havana.

They also targeted a UK diplomat, Chris Stimpson, who was monitoring events, surrounding and banging on his car.

Plain clothes police stepped in to protect him and the British embassy has declined further comment on the issue.

Across Havana, there was a second protest march, this time by the Ladies in White, who are the mothers and wives of prisoners.

They too were surrounded and jostled.

The authorities call these counter-demonstrations spontaneous outbursts by concerned citizens defending the Cuban revolution.

Critics say they are organised mobs aimed at intimidating any opposition.

There had been hopes that Raul Castro would end such tactics when he took over the presidency from his brother, Fidel, but old habits, it seems, die hard.

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