HAVANA- Cuban police backed by hundreds of shouting pro-government demonstrators broke up the regular march of dissident group the Ladies in White on Sunday, detaining about 50 people hours before US President Barack Obama arrives for a historic visit.
The women and their male supporters protested in the leafy Miramar district of Havana after a Palm Sunday service and were pulled into police vans after they sat down to block a street where the pro-government protesters shouted slogans at them.
A similar scene plays out every Sunday as the Ladies In White take to the streets to protest against political repression on the Communist-ruled island. The dissidents are usually released after a few hours.
This time the protest was more intense than usual given Obama's impending visit, the first by a US president in 88 years, and was watched by a large contingent of foreign reporters.
Obama will meet with dissidents on Tuesday. The leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, has been invited. She was among those detained on Sunday.
The Cuban government dismisses dissidents as mercenaries seeking to destabilize the country.
Cuba also defends its universal healthcare and education as human rights and criticizes the US record on race relations and the Guantanamo Bay military prison.