Published Thursday, July 25, 1996, in the Miami Herald.

Havana police are targeting us, young Cubans say

Herald Staff Writer

Young men and women are being targeted by Cuban police in what appears to be a campaign of intimidation, sources in Havana have told The Herald.

Almost daily and generally at night, police round up young people on the streets of the capital without explanation, the sources said. The detainees are taken to a police station and released the following morning, they said.

The authorities ``are trying to create panic among young people, to keep us from getting together,'' said Jose Manuel, 24, who asked that his surname not be published.

The sidewalk outside the popular Karachi Disco is a frequent stopping place for the police vans, Jose Manuel said. He said disco-goers getting a breath of fresh air on the sidewalk are frequently caught in the roundups.

Jose Manuel described his ordeal as ``extremely humiliating. We were marched into the station, hands tied behind our backs, concentration-camp style. [The police] took our personal belongings, removed our shoelaces and belts, and ordered us into a cell.''

At dawn, the detainees were released. No charges were filed, no explanations given, he said.

A similar incident occurred recently at the Deauville Hotel which also has a disco, Jose Manuel said. A police van pulled up to the disco, he said, but word spread among the customers ``and they ran out of the main door like cattle.''

Lucia Rodriguez, a Havana physician, told The Herald she had witnessed several such raids. Jose Manuel's account was confirmed by another young Cuban, who also asked that his name not be published.

Rafael Dausa, a spokesman for the Cuban Foreign Ministry, said the reports are false. The police will arrest people on the streets if they are engaged in illegal activities, such as prostitution, Dausa said, ``but they won't take anyone away just for hanging around.''

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1996 The Miami Herald.