Anti-Castro activist arrested outside Cuban offices in D.C.

Tuesday, Nov 09, 1999 11:14

 Ramon Saul Sanchez, leader of the anti-Castro Democracia Movement, was arrested by the Secret Service on Monday outside the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C. -- where he was in his fourth day of a hunger strike.

 Agustin Garcia, another Democracia member, said Sanchez was arrested after he tried to pass a letter and a white rose through the metal bars at the entrance.

 ``They said he was violating the law, Garcia said. ``Something about foreign territory.

 The actual charge, according to D.C. police, was disorderly conduct.

 ``He was arrested by the Secret Service . . . at 12:30 p.m., D.C. Officer Dee Williams said. ``He paid a fine, but I don't know if he was released.

 D.C. police spokesman Anthony O'Leary said Sanchez will have to appear in court at a later date, but would not comment on Sanchez's whereabouts: ``As far as conditions of his release, I can't get into that.

 Luis Felipe Rojas, a Democracia spokesman, said police told him they were transporting Sanchez to a local hospital at about 5:30 p.m.

 ``He's been on the hunger strike and is very weak, Rojas said.

 Garcia said employees at D.C. General Hospital's emergency room confirmed Sanchez was there late Monday: ``They told me they could not allow me to speak to him because he's under police custody.''

 Sanchez launched the hunger strike to protest a policy by the Cuban government requiring visas for Cuban exiles who want to return to their homeland.

 ``The letter said it was a declaration that under United Nations, he has the right to enter his country of origin,'' Garcia said.

 The white rose was a symbolic gesture that alluded to a poem by Cuban independence hero Jose Marti. In one of his Versos Sencillos, Marti wrote, ``I grow a white rose . . . [even] for the cruel person who tears out my heart.''

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