Cuban Dissidents Urge Obama to Promote 'Radical Change'


Cuban dissidents called on U.S. President Barack Obama to tackle the Cuban government over repression and to urge "radical change" during his visit to Havana starting Sunday.

Activists on the island, which has been under Communist Party control for more than five decades, welcomed Obama's visit, the first by a sitting U.S. president in 88 years.

"It's an opportunity for the Cuban governing political class to understand that there is no place any more for the besieged fortress philosophy in which every dissident was classified a traitor," they said in a statement Saturday.

The dissidents called for Obama to promote change, notably a "stop to repression and use of physical violence against all political and human rights activists."

Obama is due to meet with some dissident representatives Tuesday, although the Cuban government has warned him that state-level discussions over internal politics are "off the table."

One prominent, illegal dissident group called the Ladies in White -- formed by wives of former political prisoners -- was planning to demonstrate on Sunday morning, hours before Obama's arrival. It was unclear whether they would be permitted to gather.

Cuba denies that it represses political activists.