The detentions follow a pattern that repeats itself every Sunday when the Ladies in White group, made up by wives of former political prisoners, take to the streets to protest. About 300 government supporters surrounded the 50 members of Ladies in White before police officers detained the protesters and loaded them into buses.
Although the arrests are an almost weekly feature and the protesters are quickly released, the incident was embarrassing ahead of Obama's landmark visit.
“For us, it’s very important that we do this so President Obama knows that there are women here fighting for the liberty of political prisoners,” said Berta Soler, one of the founding members who has been marching since 2003, according to USA Today. “And he needs to know that we are here being repressed simply for exercising our right to express ourselves and manifest in a non-violent way.”
“No matter what Mr. Obama says about freedom during his three-day stay, Cubans of all ages and ideologies will be expected to behave,” says the New York Times.
The government is ordering the Cuban dissidents not to attend a planned meeting with Obama, but "everyone is pretty determined" to attend.
“The threatening and detention of government critics prior to visits by foreign leaders has been standard practice in Cuba for years,” explained Jose Miguel Vivanco, head of the Americas section for Human Rights Watch.