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"Pieces of the Island"-An English Translation
Category Archives: Ana Rosa Alfonso
October 14, 2012Posted by on
This Sunday 14th of October, the year anniversary of the death of Laura Pollan, leader of the Ladies in White, operations unleashed by the police forces of the Cuban regime produced numerous arrests throughout the island, but such actions were not able to impede the activities carried out in honor of Pollan.
A wide range of tributes were reported in the country since Berta Soler, representative of the Ladies in White, announced a week of activities last October 7th.
For example, that same day women carried out their traditional march along Havana’s 5th Avenue and screamed slogans like “Laura Pollan Lives“, while dissident Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello managed to arrange a daily Mass throughout the week in the San Juan Bosco Church in Havana in memory of the fallen leader of the Ladies in White. In the eastern town of Manzanillo, where Laura was born, various human rights activists met at the cemetery where part of her ashes remain and carried out a prayer vigil and deposited several white gladiolus flowers, the symbol of the peaceful struggle of the Ladies in White.
The actions continued all week in other regions: Holguin, Baracoa, Bayamo, Matanzas, Santa Clara, and Pinar del Rio, among others.
On Saturday the 13th, the Ladies in White held a meeting in their headquarters, situated in Pollan’s home on Neptuno Street, in Havana. Many of these women were arrested or kept from leaving their homes so that they not arrive to the encounter, but 18 of them were able to carry out the activity.
Marta Díaz Rondon, a Lady in White from the Eastern municipality of Banes, in Holguin province, was one of the women who were present. Diaz Rondon had to leave days before in order to arrive to the capital, where she managed to surpass numerous police cordons and arrive to the group’s headquarters.
Diaz says that the activity was carried out in an atmosphere of peace in the house, as the women “lit candles in front of pictures of Laura Pollan and deposited various flowers”. Meanwhile, outside the atmosphere was not the same. The regime organized mobs around the home which consisted of state police agents in civilian clothing and various pre-university students and even dancers who tried to make the act of repudiation seem like a simple “celebration” before the eyes of the international media.
Not only did the mobs blast pro-government music, but their members also shouted insults and obscene words at the women. The Ladies in White simply responded by singing the national anthem and shouting such slogans like “Laura Pollan Lives” and “Free Cuba“.
Nearby streets were closed off by the police and all traffic was re-routed to keep any other activists from arriving to the encounter.
On the following day- Sunday the 14th- a number of women throughout the country were reported as detained.
In the case of Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo, the renown dissident recounted that her home was surrounded by political police agents since 1 AM to keep her from leaving her house and joining the peaceful march to the Santa Rita Catholic Church. Neighbors told her that uniformed officials were keeping a tight vigilance over all the corners of the Rio Verde neighborhood of Boyeros, Havana, where her home is located.
“In addition, the agents had the objective of keeping any other dissident from arriving to my house to pay our own tribute to that grand leader that was Laura Pollan Toledo“, said Fonseca.
Meanwhile, the State Security agents Sanper and Alejandro ‘visited’ the headquarter of the group and threatened the women, telling Berta Soler that the Ladies in White could not march. However, Soler and Laura Labrada Pollan (Laura’s daughter) told the agents that they would not accept their instructions and they went out anyway and carried out their march with 48 women. They were accompanied also by other figures of the opposition like Hector Maceda (former prisoner and husband of Pollan), Ofelia Acevedo (widow of Oswaldo Paya), Antonio Rodiles, Hugo Damian Prieto and former political prisoners Ivan Hernandez Carrillo and Arnaldo Ramos.
Hernandez Carrillo was reporting from the scene of the activities through his Twitter account: @ivanlibre.
A group of women from Santiago de Cuba managed to surpass numerous police cordons and arrive to the Santa Rita church, joining the group of more than 40 women who had already arrived. Meanwhile, back in Santiago, another 30 women made it to the El Cobre Shrine.
In the central city of Santa Clara, 6 women from the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights were violently arrested when they were showing solidarity with the Ladies in White by trying to assist Mass in La Pastora Church. The detainees were Idania Yánez Conteras, Damaris Moya Portieles, Yaite Cruz Sosa, Ana Rosa Alfonso, Xiomara Martin Jiménez and Yanisbel Valido Pérez.
Idania Yanez explains that the women were dressed in white- as a form of solidarity, as these women always wear black during their protests- and that they were dragged off the bus they were aboard while they were “beaten“.
“State Security official Yunier Monteagudo Reina and other agents intercepted the bus we were traveling and started to physically assault us“, detailed Yanez, “Yunier hit Damaris Moya in the face and broke her lips… they dragged us throughout the floor, they shoved us and then they detained us and took us to the local police unit“.
The activists from the Rosa Parks Movement started to shout slogans against the government and others in honor of Laura Pollan while they were being assaulted.
Yanez said that at no point did the everyday people demonstrate hate towards them. Instead, they looked at the events in horror and demonstrated their solidarity with the protestors.
Other activists were arrested as was the case of Angel Moya Acosta and Raul Borges, among many others, but the internal opposition achieved their objective: honoring Laura Pollan, that Lady who made the Cuban regime tremble with just a flower, demanding peace, freedom and justice.
November 23, 2011Posted by on
On the morning of November 20th, Idania Yanez Contreras received a peculiar phone call from Yulema Benitez Sigler. Yanez, along with various other dissidents, had been helping Benitez Sigler as she was going through a forced eviction at the hands of the Cuban regime. In the phone call, Sigler told Idania (and the rest of the dissidents) to not show up in her house as they had planned to do so on that Monday, the day in which the authorities had declared they would demolish the house, saying that the regime had already given her a free plot of land and had already constructed her a new home. But dissident Yanez Contreras noticed that Yulema was crying and something was wrong. This led her to call another opposition member who lives nearer to Yulema and she asked him to please investigate what was really happening. As it turns out, according to Benitez herself, a State Security official by the last name of Gil along with a political police official, had threatened her with prison time and with taking away her three children if she did not make that phone call. It was a plan to keep activists away and to impede any sort of public protest.
Upon hearing this, Idania Yanez decided to go on with the original plans and she and a group of dissidents head out towards the humble and improvised home of Yulema, located by the Sagua Highway, Kilometer 1 1/2 in Santa Clara. With very little help, “Yulema constructed that house on a dump site“, explains Yanez, “along with her small children- the eldest who is 11, and the younger two who are 7 and 8- they cleaned out the site and managed to get rid of some animals living there. She had to sell the only television set she had in order to purchase the wood to make the house“. The family had no running electricity and the only light they had emanated from candles.
The first group of dissidents arrived to the house at around 6 AM on that Monday- they were three activists from the United Anti-Totalitarian Council: Yasmin Riveron, Yusmany Rafael Alvarez, and Jose Luis Lopez. They were also the first to be removed from the premises by force and then aggressively detained by State Security and political police agents. Just a few minutes after, another group of three (Damaris Moya Portieles, Enrique Martinez Marin, and Idania Yanez) was approaching the area. However, Yanez explains, they were also all violently arrested, detained, and sent off to different police units.
“Damaris was taken to the Encrucijadas Unit, Enrique deported back to the municipality of Manicaragua, and I was kept in a Police Unit of Santa Clara“, narrates Yanez, “Yasmin, Yusmany, and Jose were also detained in a police unit of that region“.
It was at that moment that the forces of the regime began to demolish Yulema’s house. When this news reached other members of the Resistance, some began to protest publicly. Yanez tells that “the fellow dissidents Guillermo del Sol Pérez, Alcides Rivera Rodríguez, Víctor Castillo Ortega, Ana Rosa Alfonso, Jose Luis Lopez, María del Carmen López, Ramón Abreu, Mayra García, Rolando Ferrer Espinosa and Omar Núñez Espinosa all showed up and began to protest outside the Police Unit where some of us were being kept“. All these activists who joined in solidarity were also arrested and taken into detention cells of the same Unit.
Other dissidents- Alberto Reyes Morales, Michel Oliva Lopez, Yanisbel Valido Perez, and Rodolfo Perez Benitez- decided to also protest outside that Unit. Though these were not detained, they remained there the entire day until 8:30 PM when the last of the activists was released.
“As of now, we do not know the whereabouts or situation of Yulema Benitez Sigler and her young children“, declared Idania Yanez to this blog during the afternoon hours of Tuesday, November 22nd. “What we do know is that her smallest son- 7 year old Reiko- fainted” during the violent arrests and the demolishing of the house.
Idania Yanez was savagely beaten and arrested a mere two weeks ago and suffered serious health complications along with her husband Alcides Rivera Rodriguez and dissident Rolando Ferrer Espinosa who were both on hunger strike at the time. Despite the fact that they were still recuperating they decided to try and assist a victim of the abuses of the Cuban dictatorship, someone who has not committed a single crime.