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"Pieces of the Island"-An English Translation
Category Archives: Danay Mendiola
June 5, 2013Posted by on
Wearing flags with the image of the Virgin of Charity which were donated during her visit to the Ermita de la Caridad in Miami, Berta Soler led the march of the Ladies in White in Cuba’s capital, Havana, this past Sunday June 2nd. The women marched throughout the country, despite the presence of the political police.
A total of 68 women participated in Mass at the Santa Rita Church of Havana and marched down 5th Avenue afterward, according to a report by dissident leader Angel Moya Acosta. It was the first march in which Soler participated after returning to the island last week after an international trip denouncing the reality of Cuba.
More than 10 women participated in Mass and carried out marches in the province of Matanzas.
In the Eastern province of Guantanamo, 12 Ladies in White marched and made it to Mass, according to a message published by Sayli Navarro on her Twitter account (@SayliNavarro).
67 Ladies in White marched through the streets of Santiago de Cuba province and made it to Mass in the National Cobre Shrine, an emblematic temple within Cuban culture.
The website “Ya Cuba Twittea” reported that at least 3 Ladies in White from Santiago were taken down from a bus by force by the political police. The agents impeded them from arriving to Mass.
In the province of Holguin, various women were arrested.
Among the detainees were Rosa Maria Naranjo (Holguin), Danay Mendiola (Holguin), Mildred Noemi Sanchez Infante (Antilla) and Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez (Banes). The latter- Ojeda Suarez- explained to this blog that the repression against her is constant. In fact, she recounts that when she was detained, a political police agent tried to handcuff her and physically harassed her.
Eleiny Villamonte, a young member of the female group in Holguin, confirmed that despite repression 5 women “were able to march and make it to Mass in the municipality of Cacocum and in the municipality of Holguin“.
Berta Soler also told “Marti Noticias” that she has plans of expanding the Ladies in White movement, creating delegations in all the provinces of the country.
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.
More Testimonies from House Raid Victims: “I was threatened that If I don’t Leave the Ladies in White, They’d Kill Us All”
August 25, 2012Posted by on
After the brutal house raid which occurred in the home of Lady in White Glisedis Pina Gonzalez in Holguin this past Saturday August 18th, all the detainees have been released. Three of these activists have shared their testimonies with this blog, offering details of the harassment and threats they endured while being held in police units under the hands of State Security and the political police:
Rosa María Naranjo Nieves
Lady in White
“The mobs of State Security agents broke into the home (…) one officer, in charge of matters with minors, grabbed a 14 year old and arrested her, nearly stripping her of her clothes. Our response was to protest because of this, and he beat all of us. Those women who were not hit inside, they were later beat outside by the mobs. In my case, they punched me on my back and pulled my hair. They then twisted my arm and shoved me into a police vehicle, which took me to the Instructional Unit of Pedernales. That was on Saturday, August 18th, in the afternoon and I was held till the morning of Monday, August 20th.
On Saturday night, while I was in the cell, I started to get dizzy and desires to vomit. I told the guards I felt bad so they took my blood pressure, which was on 210 with 120- very high. They told me they did not have the medicines to take care of my blood pressure but later ended up giving me something and it went down slightly. When I had it on 170, they shoved me into the dungeon again”.
Lady in White
“A MININT (Ministry of the Interior) agent whose name I did not get, beat us and applied immobilization locks on us. They took us in police vehicles. In the Unit, they beat us more. They mistreated us, insulted us. We were taken to the Pedernales Unit and kept there from Saturday to Monday. We screamed slogans like “Down with hunger”, “Long live Human Rights”, and “Freedom for all political prisoners”. They mistreated us, we were hungry, and I feel very weak. In fact, my throat is in pain. But we are going to keep fighting. The more repression they carry out against us, the more strength we obtain to continue in the struggle.
A State Security agent known as ‘Chacman’- from Holguin- went to see me in my cell on Monday night and he told me that if we (referring to the Ladies in White) continued to be active, then he, and others, were going to kill us, because we are ‘counter-revolutionaries’. He asked me what I gained with doing what I do. I told him the only purpose was for the freedom of Cuba, and that if they keep repressing us, we were going to get more strength. We are under total threats, every single Lady in White from Holguin province.
Chacman threatened me again, saying that if I did not leave the Ladies in White, he was going to kill us all, little by little, and slowly. This happened on Monday. He went to my cell to tell me this”.
Alexei Jiménez Almarades
“I am the husband of Lady in White Eleiny Villamonte Cardozo. I had left my wife in the Glisedis’ house that afternoon, and when I returned to pick her up, I noticed that the entire entrance of the house was surrounded by mobs, organized by State Security. A minor was accompanying me- my wife’s 16 year old female cousin. The mobs violently rushed at us. What was interesting, though, was that State Security alleged that the mobs were everyday neighbors, but it is obvious that this mobs were manipulated and sent by the counter-intelligence Department of Holguin.
I was aggressively attacked, they hit me on my arms, on my ribs, and I thank God that I was wearing a helmet for my bicycle. They grabbed sticks and hit me with them, but the helmet protected me.
Afterward, once the women were detained, I directed myself to the State Security Unit at around 12 AM to demand them that they release all the detainees. The agent known as ‘The Polish’ came out. He quickly called a police car and they detained me. Once detained, I remained in protest and on hunger strike, demanding freedom for the detained activists”.
August 19, 2012Posted by on
In the Eastern city of Holguin, a group of approximately 14 Ladies in White were participating in a monthly encounter in the home of Glisedis Piña Gonzalez (member of the women’s activist group) this Saturday, August 18th, when the house was raided by combined forces of the political police and State Security and all those inside- mostly women and children- were beaten and arrested.
Zuleidis Pérez Velázquez, a Lady in White from that same city of Holguin, could not assist the meeting (due to a personal illness) but shared details of the brutality.
“Very horrible violations have occurred”, said Velazquez, “at around 4:30 PM, paramilitary mobs carried out an act of repudiation against the women, shouting insults and throwing rocks at them”.
It was during this repudiation that the police forces raided the home. “They violently searched the entire house, and all those women inside were beat all the way out and then arrested, and taken to police units. Along with the women, they also detained about 5 or 6 men (…) and also arrested 5 under age children who were also taken to police units”, detailed Perez Velazquez.
Among the male detainees was independent journalist Alexei Jimenez who also managed to phone ‘Hablalo sin Miedo’ (which translated into English literally means ‘Speak Without Fear’) where he explained that the agents attacked him with sticks on the head and ribs. “It is obvious that the people who were there doing that to us were police officers dressed in civilian clothing, not enraged everyday people. They were mobs organized by State Security agents“, assured Jimenez, referring to a common tactic applied by Cuba’s communist police apparatus to make it seem that everyday citizens are the ones attacking dissidents. Jimenez is frequently beaten and arrested each Sunday when he tries to accompany the Ladies in White to church in Holguin.
In the case of the women, among the detainees were Romelia Piña González, Glisedis Piña González, Berta Guerrero Segura, Eleini Villamonte Cardozo, Danay Mendiola, Rosa María Naranjo Nieves, Lisbeth Peña Hernández, Nelda Molina Leyva, Barbara Bouza and Ana María Aguilera Paneque.
The children who were detained were released during night hours, along with Ana Maria Aguilera Paneque (the only Lady in White released as of August 18th 2012). The children were sons and daughters of Ladies in White and activists.
Zuleidis Perez managed to establish communication with the 14 year old daughter of Romelia Piña Gonzalez once she arrived home. The minor was very nervous and, amid her fear, was only able to share some details with Zuleidis about what had happened in that house (her aunt’s home).
Other arrests of Ladies in White took place on that same morning in the same province of Holguin in the municipalities of Banes and Cacocum, when various women tried to travel to the city of Holguin to participate in the meeting. These detainees were Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez and Miladis Piñales Rosa in Banes, and Marlenis Abreu Almaguer in Cacocum. These three were released at around 6 PM.
A wave of escalating violence has been occurring throughout the island against human rights activists, among them many Ladies in White. These actions are being accompanied, in most cases, by home raids and brutal beatings. One other recent example is that of Lady in White Mildred Noemi Sanchez, from the municipality of Antilla, who had her home raided by police forces, was beat violently in front of her family, and arrested for more than 96 hours this past 13th of August. State police said they were searching for “enemy propaganda” in her house- a common term for any written or audio-visual materials which deal with the defense of human rights.
Meanwhile, the “Hablemos Press” independent news agency, with its headquarters in Havana, recently released a report in which they detailed that in the first 14 days of August more than 200 arrests of peaceful dissidents have occurred, while between the 10th and 14th, more than 20 home raids took place.
As for the detained women, Zuleidis Perez expressed: “[As of August 18th] we do not know of their whereabouts, so we are declaring them disappeared and we fear for their lives. If the police was capable of breaking into the home, beating them, and breaking furniture and other objects, then we should not doubt for a second that they are very capable of killing or disappearing them”.
(Listen to Zuleidis’ audio- In Spanish):
For more information from Cuba:
Zuleidis Perez Velazquez – Cell Phone: +5358-244-778
August 15, 2012Posted by on
This past Sunday August 12th 2012, 9 Ladies in White in the city of Holguin did not let their violent arrests at the hands of political police and State Security agents keep them from carrying out their habitual Sunday march towards the local Jesus Christ Redeemer of Men Catholic Church.
Zuleidis Perez Velazquez, member of the women’s group and resident of Holguin, was one of the 14 detainees taken into custody in a “very violent” manner. She adds that they were all “distributed throughout the province of Holguin, to different National Revolutionary Police Units, as if we were some sort of baggage. It was not until 12 PM that we were taken out of the units in cop cars, State Security vehicles, and buses. We were left in different points of Holguin, from 4 to 10 kilometers away from our homes“.
The rest of the detainees were Berta Guerrero Segura, Yoandra Garrido Silva, Mayra Silva, Mayra Rosa Rodríguez Silva, Romelia Pina González, Barbara Bauza, Marlenis Abreu Almaguer, Nelda Molina Leyva, Lidia Hernández Pérez, Rosa María Naranjo Nieves, Danay Mendiola, Glisedis Pina González, Eleney Villamonte Cardozo and Noemi Hidalgo Gómez.
Their were reports of arrests of three other male dissidents, Alexei Jiménez, Rolando Sánchez Duran and Luis Miguel Carralero, who also try to assist Mass each Sunday “because they are Catholics and members of the Church, and also morally show their support for us, the Ladies in White. Police agents have been arresting them each Sunday when they try to leave their homes, and they are usually taken to different and undisclosed locations“.
On the day before- Saturday August 11th- Perez Velazquez denounced that there were other arrests in Holguin: Marcos Limas Dalmao (husband of Adisnidia Cruz Segreo), Luis Manuel Gonzalez and Antonio Pupo Caballero.
However, Zuleidis explained that two women- Lisbeth Peña Hernández and Liliana Campo- managed to make it inside the church in Holguin, where they participated in Mass and then marched with their white clothes and flowers. As soon as the other 14 women were released, 9 of them were able to carry out their march successfully, defying the repressive forces.
“Despite all these setbacks, 9 of us Ladies in White were able to meet up after they released us, at around 1 pm, and managed to carry out our peaceful march on the same street where the church is located“, said Perez Velazquez, “this was something that our oppressors were not expecting, but we achieved it. They must be infuriated, but so they and the rest of the world know: we are not going to stop. Regardless of the detentions, the repression, and the beatings we are subjected to each and every Sunday, we are not going to stop. We are not taking steps back in this peaceful struggle“.
For more information from Cuba:
Zuleidis Pérez Velázquez- Cell Phone: +5358- 244- 778