The night before President Obama’s visit to Cuba, authorities have ordered it’s dissidents who were invited to meet with the president of the United States to stay home. Elizardo Sanchez, a Cuban anti-government activist who chronicles political detentions month-to-month, said he and most of those invited planned to defy the government order. Sanchez from Havana said over the phone that U.S. officials were offering to help the activists get to the meeting with Obama, scheduled for Tuesday.

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The government of President Raul Castro, while welcoming Obama and the overtures Washington has made to normalize relations between the erstwhile Cold War enemies, remains insistent that it will not sacrifice its basic socialist principles in the interest of better ties. To drive home that point, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez delivered a speech on Thursday that belittled many of the U.S. actions so far, as Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the anti-American chief executive in Latin America, arrived in Havana for a visit.

Obama is the first U.S president to visit Cuba in nearly 90 years and has embraced the Cuban people and an attempt to empower them through freer economic exchange that may eventually bring more democracy.

Obama is supposed to meet with the with the dissidents and members of civil society of his choosing. White House officials bristled at the suggestion that Cuban authorities might try to impose limits. But it seems that Cuba has resorted to a common technique, briefly detaining dissidents or ordering a house arrest to prevent them from reaching meetings with visiting dignitaries.

Sanchez said that he was detained at the Havana airport upon returning from Miami with his wife. He said he is used to such treatment and was soon released.

“The threatening and detention of government critics prior to visits by foreign leaders has been standard practice in Cuba for years.”

said Jose Miguel Vivanco, head of the Americas section for Human Rights Watch.

The Cuban government dismisses many dissidents as “mercenaries” on the payroll of the United States, a notion reinforced by revelations over the years of U.S. financing of anti-government campaigns in Cuba.

Even though free speech is very limited in Cuba, many Cubans in the arts, media, church and gay communities have felt freer recently to speak out and criticize.

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Source: LA Times