March 19, 2012
Members of dissident group Ladies in White take part in their weekly march in front of Santa Rita church in Havana, Cuba, March 18, 2012.
The White House says the detention of protestors in Cuba ahead of a papal visit underscores Havana's "disdain" for the universal rights of its people.
In a statement Monday, the White House called for Cuban authorities to "abandon their tactics of intimidation and harassment to stifle peaceful dissent."
Cuban authorities detained more than 50 members of the Ladies in White protest group late Saturday and Sunday, including many who intended to participate in the group's weekly protest march Sunday through Havana.
An activist with the Ladies in White said more than 30 of the women were detained Sunday as they prepared to attend Mass at a Roman Catholic Church. Others were arrested late Saturday. They have all since been released.
Pope Benedict, who is visiting the island next week, is expected to encourage the government to grant increased rights to political activists.
The Ladies in White are relatives of some of 75 dissidents arrested in a 2003 government crackdown in Cuba. Those dissidents have all since been released.
Cuba's government views dissidents as mercenaries paid by the United States.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.