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"Pieces of the Island"-An English Translation
Category Archives: Berta Guerrero
May 19, 2013Posted by on
Each Sunday, police forces are deployed throughout the municipality of Antilla, in Holguin province, with the mission of carrying out an arrest. It’s not about a citizen who robs stores, or who breaks into homes or who kills or harasses other citizens. No. It has to do with a Lady in White: Mildred Noemi Sanchez Infante. The police cordons are also activated when there are other civic activities taking place, just like the monthly encounter which the Ladies in white carry out. The harassment has been so severe that the mentioned activist has not been able to assist Sunday Mass in 2013 so far to pray for the freedom of all political prisoners as all these women do throughout the island.
Sanchez Infante was arrested at around 5 AM this past Friday, May 17th, as she was trying to travel from Antilla to the city of Holguin to participate in the monthly meeting held by the Ladies in White in that province. The main agent in charge of the arrest was Yosvany Reyes Maltrapa.
“Agent Maltrapa twisted my left arm and with his other hand he punched my mouth“, explained Mildred. The activist was kept in a dungeon of a police unit until a couple of minutes past 10 AM, after the meeting had come to an end.
A couple of State Security agents also threatened Mildred’ mother, telling her that she should “talk her daughter out” of participating in dissident activities. If she didn’t do so, they would both suffer the consequences, one agent told the lady.
Mildred suffered yet another threat. “Agent Yosvany told me that he was going to attack me, or ‘get me’, one of these days when I was alone“, she denounces.
“They always arrest me“, expressed Mildred, “in 2013 so far I have not been able to assist Mass in the city of Holguin…not even here in my own neighborhood of Antilla. When the police sees that Mass ends, then they release me. I don’t have the exact number of arrests I’ve had so far in 2013. I have not been able to participate in the reunions of the Ladies in White, in mass, or in another other peaceful activities of the opposition“.
Listen to Mildred Noemi Sanchez Infante’s testimony (in Spanish) here:
This repression against the Ladies in White and other pro-freedom activists in the province of Holguin is constant. Berta Guerrero, resident of the city of Holguin and representantive of the female group for the province, denounces that each Sunday a number of women are arrested when they try to make it to Mass. In fact, a police agent has even told them that they would have to “buy a helicopter” if they wanted to make it to church.
For more informaiton from Cuba, contact:
Mildred Noemí Sánchez Infante- Cell Phone: +52-615-097
May 13, 2013Posted by on
The Ladies in White marched through the streets of Cuba this Sunday, May 12th, in honor of Mother’s Day, sending out greetings to Cuban women around the world, as well as a special tribute to Laura Pollan Toledo, deceased founder of the group. It was confirmed that some women suffered reprisals at the hands of the political police, although the majority were able to carry out their weekly march, flowers at hand, to assist Mass and pray for the freedom of all political prisoners.
In Havana, 48 Ladies in White marched down 5th Avenue accompanied by 29 male human rights activists. They dedicated their walk to all the mothers of the world, according to a tweet published by former political prisoner and dissident leader Angel Moya Acosta (@jangelmoya).
Leticia Ramos Herrería, representative of the group in Matanzas, said that a total of 17 women marched and assisted Mass in the entire province. She added that in Cardenas, city where she resides, “11 Ladies in White were able to march for 11 blocks after Mass all the way to the Monument of the Mothers, where we deposited 2 bouquets of flowers“.
After that tribute, Herreria explained that the activists began to shout “Long Live Laura Pollan” for various minutes. In this occasion there were no arrests but there was a constant vigilance by the police.
“Meanwhile“, recounted Leticia, “Citizens were congratulating us and wishing us a Happy Mother’s Day when we marched by them. There was a display of solidarity“.
In the province of Holguin things looked a bit different. Although 10 Ladies in White managed to arrive at their respective temples, some were arbitrarily arrested by the political police.
Berta Guerrero Segura, representative of the women’s group for the mentioned province, said that all the Ladies in White from Holguin “awoke that morning with their homes surrounded by State Security, under strict vigilance. The operation had started at dawn“.
Two of the detainees were Eimirce Cespedes Estrada (from Velasco, Holguin) and Yarelys Castaneda Almarales (Holguin). The latter “was detained together with her 1 year old son who she was carrying in her arms. Just like that, the political police took them to a dungeon for a number of hours“.
Her husband was also physically assaulted by various agents who applied a headlock on him when he came in defense of his wife.
Guerrero adds that Yolanda Perez Diaz, who is not a Lady in White but a member of the dissident Claridad Movement of Holguin, “was intercepted by agent Adony Charles, of State Security, who told her that she was on his bad side that morning and that he wouldn’t let her come out of her house“.
“I am denouncing the constant abuse, the harassment, and the psychological war carried out by State Security against us, the Ladies in White of Holguin. These violations are constant. In fact, they have told us that we will never be able to go to church“, said Guerrero Segura.
In Palma Soriano 33 Ladies in White marched and successfully made it to church while in the municipality of Santiago de Cuba another 21 Ladies made it, according to declarations made by Ana Celia Rodriguez to this blog. Rodriguez was one of the Cubans recently on hunger strike demanding the release of activist Luis Enrique Lozada Igarza. Her health, like that of the majority of all other former strikers, is still delicate.
The majority of the members of the Ladies in White are mothers and chose to dedicate the symbolic date in honor of so many women who have risked their lives fighting for the freedom of not only their families but also of the entire nation, as is the case of Sonia Garro Alfonso, a Lady in White and Cuban mother who is currently in prison and has been for 1 year and 2 months.
Not even on Mother’s Day does the regime respect these women, carrying out arrests and keeping them under strict vigilance, but they keep praying, they keep speaking out, they keep marching.
In honor of Mother’s Day, here’s a video made by the authors of this blog in 2012, in honor of the Cuban woman:
For more information from Cuba, contact:
Leticia Ramos Herrería- Cell Phone: +52-481-807
Berta Guerrero Segura- Cell Phone: +53-632-110
Ana Celia Rodríguez- Cell Phone: +52-996-531
May 7, 2013Posted by on
“I want to let the world know about the situation we Ladies in White are going through in the province of Holguin, Sunday after Sunday“, said Berta Guerrero Segura, representative of the women’s group in the mentioned province, highlighting that each weekend the women are arrested by the political police in order to impede them from assisting Sunday Mass to pray for the freedom of all political prisoners.
Guerrero explains that since 2012 the Jesus Christ Redeemer of Men Church, located in the Pueblo Nuevo neighborhood in the city of Holguin, “has been surrounded and under the surveillance of police officials on all four corners“. These same agents arrest the women whenever they get near the temple, that’s if they even manage to make it out of their homes as these are constantly surrounded as well.
The persecution has expanded to the point that the Second Chief of Confrontation in the area, Yordanis Martinez Leon, has told Berta Guerrero and the rest of the women that “if they want to go to church they will have to buy a helicopter to drop them off inside because he is not going to allow them“.
Due to the constant arrests, a number of Ladies in White from Holguin try to assist Mass in another local church- the Cathedral of San Isidoro. The vigilance is just the same there lately.
For instance, this Sunday 5th of May, only 3 women made it inside the San Isidoro Church and only 2 at Jesus Christ the Redeemer. In the municipality of Cacocum another 2 Ladies marched and participated in Mass. A total of 8 women were arrested.
“Yesterday, May 5th, a police agent went inside The Redeemer Church and told the religious authorities that the Ladies in White were provoking public disorder. A number of other agents entered the church after that“, recounted Guerrero. ”The two women who made it inside were mistreated by a woman who calls herself Eva and says to work in the church“.
“On past Sundays the police has invaded the church, even offending Father Aldama on a number of occasions. We have presented our complaints to the archbishop and the church in general but up to now we have not received a single response“.
Guerrero adds that during the Mass there are State Security agents keeping tight vigilance over the women, photographing the few who manage to make it inside.
When the women are arrested they are abandoned in desolate areas, far from their homes, such as the dumpster or near a cemetery. Many are threatened with death, as the recent cases of Bárbara Bauza Drigg and Ana María Aguilera Paneque.
“On May 5th, State Security agents not only arrested Barbara Bauza and Ana Maria Aguilera, but they also threatened them with death. They told them that they would kill them and leave them, once and for all, inside the cemetery because they were giving them too much trouble“, denounced Berta Guerrero. The women were not able to identify the aggressor because he did not provide a name or badge number.
In 2012 Lady in White and Holguin native Caridad Caballero Batista (now in exile) could only assist Mass a total of 2 times. She was violently arrested on each attempt every Sunday. The same repression has continued throughout the entire province against these women who, despite the threats, keep marching, refusing to accept their homes as prison cells.
“I am denouncing this regime run by the Castro brothers, for what may happen to any of us“, said Berta Guerrero.
Despite State violence, a total of 143 Ladies in White made it to Mass throughout the country, according to a report by the independent news agency ‘Hablemos Press’. The female activists dedicated the march to detained hunger striker Luis Enrique Lozada Igarza and in solidarity with the more than 60 activists on hunger strike to demand his freedom.
For more information from Cuba, contact:
Berta Guerrero Segura- Cell Phone: +53-632-110
May 6, 2013Posted by on
More activists keep joining the massive hunger strike encompassing more than 60 people throughout Eastern Cuba, demanding the release of detained dissident Luis Enrique Lozada Igarza, while the other strikers who have already been refusing to eat for more than 3 weeks maintain their protest, which has led to the deterioration of their health. The Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) has been publishing a series of videos and audios in their YouTube channel with updates on the situation.In this video (above), the youngest of the strikers, 17-year old Enrique Lozada, who is the son of Luis Enrique Lozada, defends his protest before various doctors sent by the government to try and make him give up on his demands in the Juan Bruno Zayas hospital of Santiago de Cuba.
“With the level of stress I have right now, knowing that my mother is also on hunger strike, as well as my uncle, seeing as how my family is being torn apart, do you really think I feel like living?”, the young Cuban tells the team of doctors, “Why am I going to live knowing that my father is dying in a prison cell because of a crime he never committed? Knowing that my family is falling to pieces”.
The video concludes with the protest of various hunger strikers that are present in that room. They point out that the regime has ignored their demands and has not even acknowledged the situation of Luis Enrique Lozada and the other strikers.
In this audio (above), Darmis Aguedo, wife of Luis Enrique Lozada, mother of Enrique, and also on hunger strike, explains that she was able to see her husband recently in the Provincial Hospital of Santiago. She said he was being held in an “isolated” room and under the “permanent” custody of two armed police guards. They were able to speak for a few minutes. She said he was still strong in spirit but his health proved otherwise, as he has lots of weight due to the hunger strike.
Meanwhile, independent journalist Alexei Jimenez informed on his Twitter account (@jugandomelavida) that the hunger strikers in Holguin- Franklin Peregrino del Toro and Pedro Leiva Gongora- were taken to a hospital for a few hours on the night of May 5th. Berta Guerrero, a member of the Ladies in White and wife of Franklin Peregrino, offered more details. She said both strikers had been denied medical assistance various times.
On the afternoon of Sunday May 5th, various activists directed themselves to the nearest medical center, asking for an ambulance for Pergrino and Leiva but the medical employees ignored them. A few hours later, a doctor finally showed up at the house, taking both dissidents to the Lenin Hospital to be hydrated. Guerrero explains that the health of the Holguin hunger strikers- whom have already been in their protest for 15 days- has drastically weakened but that they will maintain their protest “until Lozada Igarza is freed”. In Gibara (Holguin), another 4 activists have joined the strike. The response of the political police has been to organize acts of repudiation against them.
Solidarity with the hunger strikers on behalf of the internal opposition has been national, however. In Palma Soriano, various UNPACU members recently carried out a public march, demanding Luis Enrique’s liberation, as can be observed in the following video:
Former political prisoners of conscience Ángel Moya Acosta and Félix Navarro Rodríguez were able to travel to Santiago de Cuba to show solidarity with Enrique Lozada, Ana Celia Rodriguez, Jose Daniel Ferrer and other strikers this Sunday, May 5th, while the Ladies in White dedicated their Sunday march to Luis Enrique Lozada.
On the morning of May 6th, former political prisoner Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’, leader of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front, published a declaration in the name of the mentioned pro-freedom coalition in solidarity with the hunger striking activists.
As for the international scene, several activists have created a petition directed to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other organizations so that there be an increase in solidarity with the case of Luis Enrique Lozada, his family, and all the strikers who have put their lives at risk for freedom. The petition can be signed by clicking here.
The cell phones of more than 40 dissidents in Cuba, the majority members of UNPACU, have been blocked in the past couple of days in order to prevent them from publishing information about the strike. Regardless, activists have been reporting the details any possible way they can. The lives of all those who are taking part in this strike are in danger, but they have all said they will continue onward, pressuring the dictatorship to free a Cuban who has not committed a crime and is being held behind bars.
March 18, 2013Posted by on
This 17th of March was the first Sunday in which the Ladies in White marched throughout the streets of Cuba with their leader- Berta Soler- out of the country. The women also dedicated their weekly march in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Black Spring, when 75 dissidents (the majority independent journalists) were arrested and sentenced to years of prison after quick trials.
Ivan Hernandez Carillo, an ex political prisoner from this same group of the 75, informed on his Twitter account (@ivanlibre) that in Havana 51 Ladies in White marched and made it to Mass at the Santa Rita Church.
Hernandez also pointed out that in the province of Matanzas a total of 18 women marched. 4 did so in the city of Colon, 3 in Perico, 1 in the Espana Central and another 10 in Cardenas. In Ciego de Avila province 2 women reportedly made it to Mass.
In the Eastern region of the country, 60 Ladies in White assisted Mass in the National ‘El Cobre’ Shrine (Santiago de Cuba) and 8 made it in Guantanamo province.
Former political prisoner (also from the 75) and leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, denounced on his Twitter account (@jdanielferrer) that a group of Ladies in White in the province of Holguin were arrested by the political police, among them the representative of the group in that area, Berta Guerrero Segura.
“These dignified Cuban women suffer persecution, violence, arbitrary arrests, economic asphyxiation, hunger, etc.”, highlighted another tweet by Ferrer.
Isael Poveda Silva, from the Eastern Democratic Alliance, said on his Twitter account (@IsaelCuba) that Lady in White Mildred Noemi Sanchez Infante was “insulted, offended, and arrested by State Security agents” as she was stepping out of her home in Antilla, Holguin. The same thing happened to her last Sunday.
Meanwhile, Berta Soler, national representative of the group, has been denouncing the situation each of these women face on her first trip ever outside of Cuba, on international forums and interviews with diverse media outlets. With the slogan “Yes to Cuba, No to Castro“, Soler has declared that the Ladies in White and the opposition in general have grown stronger despite the regime’s violent tactics and that, in reality, there have been no actual reforms by the totalitarian system, instead “tiny moves” which try to give an image of change to the rest of the world.
The repressive wave known as the Black Spring of 2003 was what led to the creation of this female group, made up by mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and aunts which demanded freedom for their relatives.
This Sunday was also the third anniversary in which many of these women were beaten and violently arrested by police agents in Havana, just days after the death of political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo. These acts of violence are common each Sunday, but when this happened on that March of 2010, the images were captured by the cameras of the international media and went around the world, inspiring a high level of solidarity, including a march of more than 100,000 people in Miami just days later.
January 7, 2013Posted by on
The Ladies in White kicked off 2013 the same way they finished 2012: out on the streets, flowers in hand, demanding freedom for all political prisoners and, in sum, for Cuba.
According to a series of Twitter messages published by former political prisoner of conscience Ivan Hernandez Carrillo (@ivanlibre), 44 of these women carried out their accustomed march down Havana’s 5th Avenue after assisting Mass in the Santa Rita Church.
Other tweets published by the dissident explained that in the province of Matanzas a total of 18 Ladies made it to church, despite police vigilance. Specifically, 11 made in the city of Cardenas, 2 in Perico and 5 in Colon.
In the Eastern province of Guantanamo, 8 Ladies in White reported that they achieved their objective and made it to Sunday Mass.
However, in Holguin- also in the East- several of these activists were arrested, declared Eleiny Villamonte Cardozo, a young Lady in White who made it to church but confirmed the detentions of others.
“I was able to make it because my husband took me on his bicycle and he managed to evade the police. I quickly got off and that’s how I made it to church”, said Villamonte, “In total, 3 of us were able to make it to church this Sunday”.
Among the more than 5 detainees whom the young activist mentioned were Bertha Guerrero Segura, representative of the group in Holguin province, and Romelia Pina Gonzalez.
This Sunday, January 6th, was also Three Kings Day- a tradition which, like Christmas, was prohibited for many years under the current communist dictatorship and which is still ignored and talked down on the State media (the only allowed press). To celebrate the date, a number of Ladies in White and other dissidents of diverse organizations on the island organized parties and gift exchanges for children.
Angel Moya Acosta, former political prisoner and husband of the national representative of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, wrote on his Twitter account (@jangelmoya) that the women managed to make it to their headquarters on Neptuno Street in Havana this Saturday, January 5th, with more than 40 children, giving them some toys and carrying out a small party for them in honor of the date.
Meanwhile, in Palmarito de Cauto, Palma Soriano, the also former political prisoner and leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, detailed on his own account (@jdanielferrer) that numerous children spent a moment of celebration among friends and family in the homes of various activists throughout that region this Sunday.
Similar activities also took place this Sunday throughout different parts of Santiago de Cuba, Velasco and Holguin, although some of these were interrupted by the repressive actions of the political police.
2013 has already begun with various civic demonstrations out on the streets of the country, which have been carried out by diverse pro-freedom groups from East to West.
December 31, 2012Posted by on
Ladies in White throughout the country made it to Mass and carried out their weekly march this last Sunday of 2012, the 30th of December, after a year in which repression against them, and the opposition in general, has increased drastically.
32 of these women arrived at Mass in the Santa Rita Church of Havana, 7 in Pinar del Rio, 20 in Matanzas, 6 in Guantanamo, 2 in Ciego de Avila and 2 in Holguin, affirmed Berta Soler, representative of the female group.
Soler considered the situation to be “an achievement“, considering that in nearly all the cases, in the mentioned provinces the Ladies in White arrived at their respective churches, surpassing police cordons and evading arrests, except in Holguin where 9 of the women were detained.
The detainees in the mentioned Eastern province were Bertha Guerrero Segura, Ana María Aguilera Panque, Romelia Piña González, Marlene Abreu Almaguer, Rosa María Naranjo Nieve, Eleiny Villamonte Cardozo, Viviana Campo, Eunices Céspedes Estrada y Bárbara Bauza Driggs.
Bertha Guerrero, representative of the group in Holguin, detailed that the arrests occurred during early morning hours, especially that of Eunices Cespedes, resident of the municipality of Velasco, who was abruptly arrested at 4 in the morning.
“They kept us arrested up to around 12:30 in the afternoon, after Mass had ended in the Jesus Christ Redeemer of Men Church“, said Guerrero, “Afterward, they left us stranded in different parts on the outskirts of Holguin, forcing us to walk miles to get to our homes“. State Security agents placed a video camera this year in front of the mentioned church to keep watch over the Ladies. The same camera had previously been installed outside the home of recently exiled Lady in White and human rights activist Caridad Caballero Batista, who also suffered countless arrests this year for trying to make it to church. The camera was relocated as soon as she left the country.
During her arrest, Bertha Guerrero denounced that the Second Chief of Confrontation, known as Yordanis Martinez Leon, told her that “if the Ladies in White want to make it to church, we’d have to buy ourselves a helicopter to drop us off at the church because they were never going to let us get there“. It is not the first time this repressor tells her that.
“Sunday after Sunday we have been detained and, in addition, also threatened with our children and families“, added Guerrero, citing the case which also occurred this Sunday, where one of the detainees- Barbabra Bauza- “had her son arrested because on Saturday, some citizen burned a Cuban flag in the Calixto Garcia park. Her son was arriving home in the morning and since State Security had not been able to arrest or blame anybody, they did so with him, taking him to the instructional unit known as Pedernales. Agent Rafael Chapman, of State Security, told Barbara that he does not care if her son is a minor (16 years of age), for he would invent a crime for him and take him to prison. This happens simply because he is the son of a Lady in White“. She added that the women are ready to take to the streets in protest to demand his freedom.
Guerrero said that despite the repression, the Ladies in White of Holguin will continue marching and that she has hope that 2013 will bring good things for Cuba.
In an emotional case, Leticia Ramos Herreria, representative of the Ladies in White in the province of Matanzas, explained that in addition to the fact that 20 women of the province made it to Mass, in the church known as “The Parish” in the city of Cardenas, a group of these acitvists were greeted with respect and admiration by churchgoers.
“The people rose from their seats when it was time to share the greeting of peace, and they came up to us, hugged us, and gave us their blessings“, recounted Ramos, “When we left the church, we carried out our march and many people also came up to us, displaying their support, greeting us, saying that we are doing the right things and saying that they hope more people rise like us“.
Leticia said she felt lots of happiness, considering that “we have achieved to carve out a space not only in the church but also amongst the people“.
There have been far too many beatings, arrests, deportations, threats, and other forms of State persecution and violence against the Ladies in White this 2012. In fact, one of the most repressive of cases occurred in February when two members of the group- one from Pinar del Rio and the other from Palma Soriano- suffered miscarriages after police arrested and harassed them. Their names are Noralys Martin Hernandez and Taimi Vega Biscet. (Read more about these cases here).
Regardless, everything signals that the increase in repression is attributed to the fact that the group has significantly increased in size and that its members have not stopped defying the dictatorship for one moment. They have been persistent in their marches, declarations and activities.
“Despite the repression“, said Berta Soler, “the most important thing is that the Ladies in White will continue stronger and more prepared than ever. We will continue our peaceful struggle for the freedom of all political prisoners as well as the respect of human rights in 2013. We will continue to grow throughout the island. The Cuban government’s repression has only made us more united“.
For more information from Cuba:
Berta Soler- Cell Phone: +5352-906-820
Bertha Guerrero Segura- Cell Phone: +5353-632-110
Leticia Ramos Herrería- Cell Phone: +5352-481-807
October 9, 2012Posted by on
“They have told us that they are going to pour gasoline on us and are going to light fire to the house and burn us all alive, including the underage children”, said the representative of the Ladies in White in the province of Holguin, Berta Guerrero Segura, in reference to the mobs organized by State Security and the political police, which are made up by agents of the mentioned military groups and of other government entities. These same mobs surrounded her home and carried out an act of repudiation during half of Thursday, October 4th and the majority of Friday, October 5th.
The Ladies in White in this Eastern province have been receiving threats and arrests not only on Sundays when they try to assist Catholic Mass, but daily, when they try to buy food or other products in the local market, when they try to carry out meetings to talk about personal issues or when they try to visit relatives or other activists, whether it be within the same province of Holguin or other regions.
“The person usually leading and organizing these actions is State Security agent Rafael Chapman”, detailed Guerrero Segura, “and they have been cutting our phone lines… many of us are being arrested, while we can’t confirm the fate of others because our phones don’t work”.
The police operations against these women on Friday the 5th consisted in a mob made up by various uniformed soldiers surrounding Guerrero’s home, as well as two police vehicles stationed outside, keeping a tight vigilance and impeding any other woman or activist from coming close to the headquarters of the group in that province, located in the 26th of July neighborhood.
In regards to the threats that they would be burned alive, Berta Guerrero does not doubt for a second that the agents would actually turn to that, considering that they have been excessively violent in the past, like when they raided the home of Lady in White Glisedis Pina Gonzalez (also in Holguin) this past 18th of August 2012, where they beat all those inside, including some underage children who were also injured with incoming rocks being hurled at them by the government mobs. The regime agents have also been frequently arresting the elderly aged Lady in White Rosaida Gonzalez Escalona, despite her frail health. They have also mercilessly beaten other members of the group to the point of unconsciousness or heavy bruises. Harassments are also common.
In one particular case, one of these Ladies in White, 22 year old Eleiny Villamonte Cardozo, recounts that she was arrested upon trying to arrive to the national headquarters of the group in Havana this past 23rd of September to celebrate the day of the Virgin of Mercy. The young activist explained that she was confined, along with other women, to the Havana police unit known as “El Vivac” and they were then deported towards Holguin.
“When they had us en route to Holguin, in a police unit of Ciego de Avila, they actually gave us food- and good food- something which never happens in the dungeons. I was confused by this but then I noticed they were recording us. Their tactic was to record us eating good, to say that we were never treated bad, that they take care of us”, said Villamonte.
She added that “when we finally arrived to Holguin on Tuesday the 25th, Douglas, the chief of Confrontation, gave orders to lock us up in cells. They put me in a dungeon with a camera pointing right at me, and a Ministry of the Interior official told me that I was being accused of ‘attempting against the government’ and that I should mentally prepare myself because long days were coming up ahead, seeing as I would be sentenced, according to him”.
Eleiny was moved to another unit in the same province, where another unidentified official (also with a MININT uniform) told her that he was going to lock her up with a common prisoner “who had swallowed a barbed wire, to test if I really was not afraid”. In fact, he told her that “I was his woman for that day”.
Another Lady in White which accompanied her- Danay Mendiola- was told by the same official that “he was going to tear off her pants and underwear to see if she really was tough and did not have fear”.
These threats of sexual violation are common against women who simply try to march throughout the streets of Cuba dressed in white, with the mission of assisting Mass in their respective churches to pray for the freedom of all political prisoners throughout the island.
Similarly, in the same province but in the municipality of Velasco, the Lady in White Mariblanca Avila Exposito denounces that she too lives under a constant “state of harassment”, as she is always being watched and kept from leaving her own home.
In addition, her son Yonart Rodriguez Avila- an activist from the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy- and his wife Yisela Lorenzo Matos are constantly persecuted as well by political police agents. They are often detained without explanations, as occurred this past 1st of October when the three of them were waiting to board a bus in Velasco and were detained for a number of hours.
“After that arrest, they told us that we could not move freely and that we also couldn’t leave our home or the municipality of Velasco”, said Yonart Rodriguez, who adds that in the park adjacent to his house, there are always soldiers stationed there, keeping a watch over each and every one of his movements.
For more information from Cuba:
Berta Guerrero Segura – Cell Phone: +5353-632-110 // Zuleidis Perez Velázquez – Cell Phone: +5358-244-778 // Eleiny Villamonte Cardozo- Cell Phone: +5352-393
October 3, 2012Posted by on
“The repression this past weekend increased”, denounced Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) from the town of Palma Soriano, “and this is due to the fact that the political police of the tyranny is very bothered that last weekend, on the day of the Virgin of Mercy, about 50 Ladies in White from the Eastern region of the country surpassed the police operations they had set up around the entire area and were able to arrive to the capital…even though the majority of the women were eventually detained in Havana”.
As part of this crackdown, numerous Ladies in White from Palma Soriano, Santiago de Cuba, Banes, Guantanamo, Bayamo and Holguin were arrested or impeded from leaving their homes when they tried to assist Sunday Mass in their respective churches.
Ferrer García explained that 4 Ladies in White were reported detained in Guantanamo and 14 in Santiago de Cuba. The former political prisoner of conscience added that in Santiago “Darmis Aguedo and Adriana Isaac were beaten by the political police and were thrown off a truck onto the asphalt”.
In Banes, Marta Diaz Rondon explained that a police cordon was set up around her home, which kept her from leaving, as was the case of Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez in that same Eastern municipality.
Meanwhile, in other areas of Holguin province, 8 detainees were documented, among them Berta Guerrero Segura, Zuleidis Lisbeth Pérez Velázquez, Adisnidia Cruz, Danay Mendiola, Barbará Bauza Driggs and Glisedis Piña González. Some of these women were detained in the notorious Pedernales Unit (known for torture and threats) and others were kept in “El Anillo” until after 1 PM, when Catholic Mass in the local Jesus Christ the Redeemer had already come to an end.
“My house was completely surrounded by political police and State Security agents from the very early morning hours of Sunday, the 30th”, said Berta Guerrero Segura, representative of the female group in the province of Holguin. “A group of female agents dressed in red shirt and blue pants, along with male State Security agents, carried out an act of repudiation against us and screamed insults at us with obscene words before arresting us. The officials leading the operation were Yordanys Martinez Leon (chief of Confrontation in Holguin), and agents Rafael Chapman and Adonys Charles”.
During the arrest, the women were accused of ‘public disorder’. “In fact”, added Guerrero, “as a form of blackmail and mockery, they told me that if we wanted to go to Church we would have to get ourselves an airplane or a helicopter to drop us off on top of the Church because we were not going to be allowed inside”.
Despite the regime’s aggressive operations, in the provinces of Matanzas, Havana and Pinar del Rio a number of women were able to surpass the vigilance cordons and assist Mass, where they prayed for the freedom of all political prisoners and of Cuba.
But throughout Monday, October 1st, the political police once again lashed out against the Ladies in White in Holguin.
“State Security and political police agents surrounded my house all over again”, said Berta Guerrero during the afternoon. This time, the agents detained various women who were trying to make it into the house, among them Barbara Bauza and Adisnidia Cruz.
Zuleidis Perez Velazquez detailed that the Ladies in White were giving out some small bags with food to their members “which were sent as gifts from our brothers in exile” and the regime agents robbed the humble products as they detained the women that day.
“This has been just another form of robbery against us… mind you, those products were brought in legally to this country and they are all paid for”, denounced Perez, “and they don’t even give us an explanation nor have they, or will they, return them to us”.
Rosaida Gonzalez Escalona, an elderly Lady in White, was also arrested with violence, but without even participating in dissident activities that afternoon. Her arrest occurred as she “was on her way to the train station of Holguin to say goodbye to one of her daughters…some agents came out of nowhere and detained her”, explained Perez Velazquez.
Meanwhile, the threats against others activists of Holguin also continued, like those against members of the Independent and Democratic Cuba Party (CID). “Police officials continue to threaten the CID members, telling them that they cannot meet anymore in my house, and that they can no longer carry out activities. There are two activists- Ramon Zamora Rodriguez and Carlos Enrique Nunez Cutino- that were told that their homes would be demolished. In addition, a group of young activists from the New Juvenile Impact organization are also under violent threats”, added Perez.
In reference to her own case and that of the majority of the other Ladies in White and dissidents, Berta Guerrero Segura alerted “the international community” that the oppressive situation throughout the island has become “unbearable”.
“We, the Ladies in White, can’t even go to a store or a market because they always arrest us”, she said. “Whatever may happen to any of us, or our husbands or children is the direct responsibility of the Castro regime”. In fact, her husband- dissident Franklin Peregrino del Toro- is also frequently arrested when he accompanies his wife out on the streets and many times when he is trying to buy food for his family.
“I have lost count of all our arrests, but I know that there have been more than 40 in 2012 alone. We ask international organisms like Amnesty International to join us in solidarity, to pay attention to our situation. Our children are also suffering in school, where they receive threats that they will be expelled due to our activism. I want the world to know what is happening in Cuba”, expressed Berta Guerrero.
August 27, 2012Posted by on
Former political prisoner and general coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, was kept in a dungeon for more than 72 hours during his most recent detention and was threatened by State Security agents that he could be sent back to prison if he continues participating in and organizing dissident activities throughout the Eastern region of the country. This time, his jailers filmed him on numerous occasions, such as when they read him an official warning letter which informed him that he’d be sent back to prison for continuing to cause what they termed as “public disorders”.
“They had that camera during the entire time, but they only filmed the parts they found necessary”, explained Ferrer Garcia, “for example, when they put me in a cell with a terrible amount of heat, without food, without communication, and without my medicines for my health conditions- they didn’t film any of that”. The response of the dissident leader when they read him the warning was “that until in Cuba human rights are not respected, until there is no freedom, as long as Cubans can’t decide for themselves and be protagonists of their own destinies, I am going to continue doing the same thing we have been doing, and many other things- in a peaceful manner- in favor of freedom and democracy”.
This most recent arrest of Ferrer Garcia took place on Friday, August 24th, when UNPACU was celebrating its 1 year anniversary of having been created. For days prior to the date, combined forces of the political police, the Rapid Response Brigades, and State Security unleashed a wave of arrests and house raids against members of the mentioned organization throughout Eastern Cuba.
One of the first cases was that of Jorge Cervantes García on August 23rd, when a number of armed officials raided his home in Contramaestre, occupied many materials, threatened all those inside, and jailed Cervantes Garcia and his two underage children. He still remains detained.
In the case of Ferrer, his home had been surrounded by police agents for various days until they finally raided the house on the morning of the 24th. “They ransacked the house”, said the dissident, “they robbed everything they felt like, and what they did not steal they destroyed. I am talking about even toys and belongings of my children…they have robbed them or destroyed them”.
In addition, in the home of Ferrer Garcia, as well as those of other UNPACU activists, the police took printers, cameras, laptops, pamphlets and other materials, none of which have been returned, as tends to happen.
Marta Beatriz Ferrer Cantillo, 14 year old Lady in White and daughter of Jose Daniel, explained in an audio uploaded onto UNPACU’s YouTube account that police agents beat all those inside the house in the moment of the arrest, including herself, her cousin, her mother (Belkis Cantillo) and an aunt. Her elderly grandmother was also inside the house and suffered a sharp increase in her blood pressure.
Other detainees on that day were Anyer Antonio Blanco, Rafael Miguel Cabrera Montoya, Franklin Peregrino del Toro and Berta Guerrero Segura. The latter, who is the representative of the Ladies in White in Holguin, was arrested and mistreated along with her underage daughter, who she was carrying at the time of her arrest and forceful entry into a police vehicle.
Other reports denounced that another 6 homes were raided that day and more than 60 arrests occurred.
Meanwhile, activist Luis Miguel Gomez Hernandez reported that a group of UNPACU members were arrested in the municipality of Gibara on that same Friday, among them Ladies in White like Yoandra Garrido Silva and Maydaly Garrido Silva, as they too celebrated the anniversary. Gomez Hernandez was one of the detainees that afternoon and explained that they were all subjected to “interrogations and threats that we could not leave Gibara and that we would not be allowed to carry out any dissident activity, and that not even the Ladies in White could to Mass on Sundays“. This group was released but many other activists remain imprisoned, and some are on hunger strike (Ferrer Garcia put the number at more than 20).
“Despite all that they have done to us, our activists celebrated the anniversary of UNPACU with marches, signs, pamphlets, slogans and other diverse ways, not only in the East but also in the West”, said Ferrer Garcia, referencing the case of Hugo Damian Prieto Blanco, in Havana, who was arrested after carrying out commemorative events.
Other activists of diverse pro-democracy groups also paid tribute to UNPACU and demanded freedom for their detained members, as was the case of Lady in White and member of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights and the Pro-Human Rights Party of Cuba, Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo, who carried out a public protest in Havana to commemorate the Day of the Resistance and in solidarity with the mentioned dissidents. In Placetas, Villa Clara, dissident leader Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez” also included messages of freedom for Jose Daniel Ferrer and congratulating UNPACU as he also carried out a public protest along with other activists.
Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia was released during the morning hours of Sunday, August 26th and was quick to reiterate his compromise with the pro-freedom movement in Cuba.
“The tyranny is very afraid”, affirmed the dissident, “and like a wounded beast, it will retaliate and cause lots of damage to peaceful people who want freedom for all Cubans, but we are willing to give it all. As Jose Marti said: ‘Freedom has a high price, and it is necessary to either give up and live without her, or decide to obtain it at its price’“.
For more information from Cuba:
Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia – Phone: +5353-146-740 // Twitter: @jdanielferrer