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Cuban Opposition Ends Liquid Fast

July 16, 1999

HAVANA (AP) _ Cuban opposition activists ended a 40-day liquid fast Friday by reiterating demands for the release of political prisoners and announcing plans to form a united front of opposition groups.

The front also will fight attempts by Cuban exiles in Miami to set the agenda for opposition groups inside Cuba, said Oscar Elias Biset, a member of the human rights group Fundacion Lawton and one of four opponents who consumed only liquid foods during the protest.

``We are no longer in agreement with those who would indicate or tell us what we should do,″ Elias Biset said.

The groups plan to meet in September to form their new opposition front, which would be dedicated to nonviolent acts of civil disobedience to protest President Fidel Castro’s government, he said.

Government security forces did not interfere with the protest in a modest home decorated with pictures of Cuban leaders, including the 18th century Cuban thinker Father Felix Varela and the late Cuban-American leader Jorge Mas Canosa.

Another protester, William Herrera Diaz, said the lack of interference could signal new government tactics in handling the opposition.

``The government retained a wait-and-see stance,″ said Herrera Diaz, of the Martiana Civic League, named for the Cuban independence hero Jose Marti. ``Previously it would have had an attitude of repression.″

The only government response to the protest came several weeks ago, when Foreign Ministry spokesman Alejandro Gonzalez noted that the protesters appeared to be healthy and getting all the nutrients they needed.

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