A week of protests in Belarus over the fraudulent presidential election ended in violence. On March 24th, Belarusian police clubbed demonstrators as they gathered in the center of Minsk, the capital, to protest the re-election of authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko. According to the human rights group Vasnya, more than one-hundred protesters were detained. Opposition candidate Alexander Kozulin was detained after leading a march to a jail where opposition supporters are being held.
U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli condemned the actions of the Belarusian government:
"The United States calls on Belarusian authorities to release without delay the hundreds of citizens who have been detained. . . .in recent days and weeks, simply for expressing their political views."
In response to the fraudulent election and recent violence, the United States, along with the European Union, is imposing sanctions on Belarus. The financial penalties and travel restrictions are aimed at Mr. Lukashenko and his associates in the government.
President George W. Bush sent a message of encouragement to the pro-democracy forces in Belarus. "I appreciate those who labor in the shadows to return freedom to Belarus," he said. In his message, Mr. Bush said America's "thoughts are with those who have been harassed, detained, imprisoned, or beaten for their efforts."
The people of Belarus deserve the freedom that is the birthright of all mankind. Nations, said President Bush, grow by allowing the talents and liberties of their people to flourish, not by suppressing freedom. The United States will continue to stand with the people of Belarus and those who are working to help Belarus take its rightful place in the community of democracies.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.