Pedazos de la Isla

"Pieces of the Island"-An English Translation

Category Archives: Denis Pino Basulto

Holguin: Dissident repressed by police but defended by everyday citizens

A young dissident recounts how he defended various self-employed sellers who were being harassed by the police in Holguin and how, because of this, he suffered beatings and threats at the hands of the agents.  The same people he defended then showed solidarity with him which impeded the violence for a moment.  Afterward, however, he was arrested and victim to more repression. Here he details the forms of torture he was subjected to. 

Denis Pino Basulto was walking near Cespedes Park in the city of Holguin on the morning of August 1st when he witnessed a strong presence of police agents who were harassing a number of self-employed sellers who were stationed in that area.  Upon seeing that the agents were snatching bags from the hands of various people, twisting their arms and shoving them into cop cars in the process, Pino became very bothered.

The Holguin activist, a member of pro-freedom groups like the Pedro Luis Boitel Movement and the Patriotic Union of Cuba, could not remain silent when he saw National Revolutionary Police agents twisting the arms of an elderly man who was carrying a box of chocolates.

At that moment, I questioned the police officials…I asked them how was it possible to carry out such violence against such an old person, and they simply told me ‘this does not concern you’“, recounts Denis, who attributed this brutality to the communist revolution.  That is when the aggressions began.

Another agent arrived and asked me, ‘Why do you talk like that about this revolution?’ and then he twisted my arms and threw me to the floor.  He dragged me for approximately 2 meters and, with much difficulty, I was able to stand up and began to shout messages in favor of freedom of expression“.

The dissident alleges that the slogans, among them ‘Long Live Human Rights’, ‘Down with repression’, ‘Food for the people’, and ‘Fair salaries for our workers’ captured the attention of everyday people who were observing the situation.  They joined him in solidarity.

When they noticed that so many people were applauding me, the agents covered my mouth and applied a head-lock on me.  They threw me to the floor but the people kept screaming in my favor“, explained Pino Bauslto, adding that “because of this solidarity the agents had to let me go and I was able to continue on my way…I kept walking and I could hear people still clapping“.

After walking a couple of blocks away from the scene, 5 police agents pulled up in a vehicle very near Denis.  They got down and ordered the activist to show them his Identification Card.  Afterward, they twisted his arms once again and threw him inside the car.

There was a police agent inside the car, dressed in civilian clothing.  He slapped me, punched me on my forehead and put his hands around my throat to strangle me“, an action which has caused him much pain and has temporally affected his voice.  He was taken to the police unit known as Narciso Lopez, where the vehicle was parked and he was kept inside.  Shortly after, an official with badge #21897 tightly handcuffed Pino and later interrogated him.

This agent violently pushed me out of the car and dragged me out of the shade and left thrown out under the sun for about 25 minutes.  I was sweating there and listening to their threats.  He was telling me that he was going to kill me and that I was a mercenary and counter-revolutionary“, he said.

Pino was subjected to another beating.  This time they broke part of his lip and nose.  His knees were also scraped while being dragged through rough terrain.

Eventually, he was taken inside the unit and sat on a chair, where the threats and verbal offenses by the unknown officials continued.  “‘Keep on shouting your slogans and we are going to kill you, faggot’ they told me…one agent also said ‘we are gonna kill all the garbage like you, and not a single counter-revolutionary is going to be left alive‘”.  The beatings and strangulations continued.

The dissident was kept for 2 hours sitting in that chair with his handcuffs on until State Security agent Chapman arrived.  The mentioned official is notorious in Holguin for his constant persecution of human rights activists.  “Chapman interrogated me and told me that If I kept doing what I was doing they were going to kill me because they could not allow demonstrations, because they had to uphold the revolution“.

At some point, Pino affirms that the repressor admitted to him in the form of a taunt that, “you all may have the reason but we have the power, let’s see who could last longer“.

At that moment, the agent with badge #21897 told me that he didn’t care if I saw his identification number.  He kept telling me, ‘look at it, you worm.  And what? I’m going to kill you with my own two hands’“.  Such behavior has proven the impunity which these officials have under the communist regime.

Pino was released during afternoon hours, but not before receiving yet another threat by Chapman.  “He told me, ‘take care of yourself when you’re out on the street because their are a lot of criminals here from Santiago de Cuba and one of them could easily jump you and stab you“.  The activist considers this to be a direct death threat against him, using people at the service of State Security to make it seem as a common crime.

Pino Basulto, 29 years of age, has been victim of severe police violence on various occasions.  He explains that in most cases the repressors put their hands over his mouth and choke him.  He says it’s because the constant social and pro-freedom messages he begins to shout in front of any onlookers.

Although he assures that he will not stop his public opposition to the totalitarian system, he does indeed feel fear from time to time, fear that he could lose his life, or worse, that his family members may suffer the consequences, considering that his wife and young daughter are far too familiar with State vigilance.

I want the world to know about this situation…How is it possible that these repressors want to kill peaceful people like us?  We have rights, although in Cuba they are violated, and I ask the world to take measures against Castro’s system so that repression stops“, expressed Denis.  He also said to feel very grateful for exiled Cubans who echo the situation of those inside and demand their  freedom.  “Thank God for these brothers in exile, those who help us spread the news and make it go all over the world.  We have to let the world know that there is a dictatorship in Cuba“.

As a human rights activist, I ask the world to put pressure against Raul Castro, because he is the one who has given the orders to beat and kill us“.

For more information from Cuba, contact:
Denis Pino Basulto – Cell Phone: +52-552-837

Jose Daniel Ferrer on ‘growing opposition and the power of information’

José Daniel Ferrer García, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), informed this blog about various cases of police repression against dissidents  on the island but also highlighted that “not all news is negative“.  He affirms that his organization, as well as the opposition in general, continue gaining space amongst the population and keep putting the dictatorship in very difficult positions.

Among the positive news, we see that there are more places where new chapters of UNPACU are opening up, such as in Santiago de Cuba, Holguin and other areas in Eastern Cuba“, affirms Ferrer, “and each time there are more people who join or collaborate with our struggle.  We are also imparting workshops where we train citizens to be more effective when it comes to communication with population, as well as in confronting the repression of the tyranny“.

Due to the growing level of activism, Ferrer Garcia says that the number of political prisoners has increased.  These prisoners are mainly young activists who decide to go out to the street and it is these same citizens, according to the former political prisoner, that worry the regime the most, considering that they attract more people and speak in terms understood by everyday people.  One of these dissidents is independent rapper Angel Yunier Remon Arzuaga, ‘El Critico’, who also serves as secretary for UNPACU in the province of Granma.

We are still very worried with the situation of Angel Yunier, who has been imprisoned since March 26th [after he gave a public discourse in favor of freedom].  In addition to the constant tortures and harassment he is subjected to, Yunier contracted cholera in Las Mangas Prison…it’s very worrying.  He is a young man who is arbitrarily imprisoned“, denounced Jose Daniel.  He also pointed out the situation of Alexander Otero Rodriguez, another young dissident, arrested alongside Angel Yunier in march.  His discourses in favor of freedom and his constant public activism has been another thorn on the side of the system.

Recently, independent news agency ‘Hablemos Press’ reported that Alexander suffered a paralysis in the prison he is being held in while the authorities refused to transfer him to a hospital.

I also want to shed light on the case of Francisco Diaz Echemendia, from Santiago de Cuba.  He was one of the ones who went to Bayamo to the place where Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero died.  He went there to deposit flowers on the first anniversary of their deaths, and for this reason he was detained.  The police searched his house and kept him in a dungeon for 10 days, in inhumane conditions and under constant threats, etc“.

In a similar fashion, activist Denis Pino Basulto was detained in Holguin province for defending various independent street sellers who were being harassed by the political police.  The agents were taking their products and threatening them.  “Denis was beat and detained for various hours, but despite the excessive repression he maintains himself firm and committed with the cause“, said Ferrer.

Returning to the subject of positive news and growing public opposition, Ferrer Garcia assures that “on a daily basis, more people committed with the cause are taking to the streets, and they are taking audio-visual materials on CDs and USBs so that the population can become informed“.

These discs and flash drives usually contain images of pro-freedom demonstrations on the island, debates, protest music, and interviews with Cubans in and out of the country, among other things.

In response to the question of the role of these informational materials in the struggle for freedom, the activist expressed that “we always say that our grand problem is information.  If we could maintain a constant flow of uncensored and serious information, through the use of audio-visual works handed to the everyday Cuban population, if we can do this a lot more, then the mentality of citizens would evolve quicker in the process of assuming consciousness in this struggle“.

That way“, affirms Ferrer Garcia, “more people would join the struggle for freedom.  And the dictatorship would last much less time“.

For more information from Cuba, contact:

Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia – Cell Phone: +53-146-740 / Twitter: @jdanielferrer 

Dissidents show solidarity with Werlando Leyva, activist attacked with machete

As has been reported through various media outlets, this past Saturday June 8th dissident Werlando Leyva Batista, a member of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) in the Eastern province of Holguin, was attacked with a machete by a paramilitary agent known as Amaury, hailing from “El Martillo” neighborhood.

In an audio published by MCL on their YouTube account, Leyva Batista recounts that the aggressions against him are due to his work “promoting ‘The Path of the People’ and working towards freedom”.  The majority of the injuries he obtained after the attack are on his hand and his thigh, though he assures that the objective of the aggressor was to assassinate him. Leyva Batista provided further details in another audio published by ‘Radio Republica’Now, during the dawn hours of this June 12th, various activists from diverse pro-freedom groups displayed their solidarity with Werlando in the Lenin Hospital of Holguin where he has been checked in.  The dissidents received threats for their gestures of solidarity.  Independent journalist and Holguin native Alexei Jimenez Almarales sent the following report from the island:

“More than 10 dissidents were threatened on the morning of June 12th for standing in front of the Lenin Hospital in the city of Holguin.

These human rights activists were showing solidarity with MCL activist Werlando Leyva Batista who received two machete blows three days ago.  They are at the Hospital under threats of being detained, as authorities have said they will call the police. 

Those present are:

Yoel Ordeñe Garrotiza, Yonis Leon Abarta, Osnai Pérez Matinés, Luis Quintana, Julio Cesar Ramos Cúrvelo, Juan Carlos Iznaga Santisteban, Denis Pino Basulto, Liliana Campos Buzón, Robier Cruz Campo, Madelaine Escobar Barseló, Juan Carlos Reyes Ocaña, Jorge Taylor y Daniel Rodrigué Osorio”.

The pro-freedom MCL, as well as the Cuban opposition in general, has denounced the increase of repression against activists.  The past few months have seen the increase of death threats, persecution, arbitrary arrests, acts of repudiation and spontaneous beatings at the hands of the political police apparatus.  However, everything indicates that as these repressive measures increase, so too does solidarity amongst activists, regardless of the groups they belong to, something which greatly worries the dictatorship.

For more information from Cuba, contactar:

Alexei Jiménez Almarales – Cell Phone: +52-552-925 / Twitter: @jugandomelavida

Building collapse in Havana leaves one dead, various injured and…detainees?

During afternoon hours of February 26th, in Havana, a building located directly across the street from the Central Train Station collapsed, killing one 15 year old boy who was trapped in the rubble, and injuring another two, according to “Hablemos Press” . The scene turned even more chaotic when various political police agents who were present lashed out against various people who were trying to figure out the whereabouts of their loved ones. Also witnessing the events were dissidents Yonart Rodríguez Ávila and Denis Pino Basulto, both from the Eastern region of the country, who were arrested for displaying solidarity with the victims’ relatives.

Rodriguez Avila described his arrest in the “Foro Juvenil Cubano“, the blog of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy, explaining that police agents covered the mouth of one of the relatives of the deceased and applied martial arts locks on others, keeping them from getting close to the scene of the disaster. It was then that the activists started to shout out slogans against the regime and in solidarity with the victims, which led to their arbitrary arrests.

Denis Pino told this blog that “a police agent applied a headlock on me, pushed down on my neck and strangled me. They dragged me, and delivered physical blows on my ribs and my head. They asphyxiated me until the point that I passed out“. The dissident was later taken to a nearby hospital but, once he awoke, he refused to be treated there for fear that they would attempt on his life.

“I left the hospital, I just walked out through a hallway“, he said.

Upon knowing that Yonart Rodriguez was still detained in the Dragones Unit of Havana, Pino Basulto set out towards that unit, protesting outside along with Yonart’s mother, the Lady in White Mariblanca Avila Exposito, also from Velasco, Holguin.

We were protesting there, demanding the release of Yonart“, explained Denis, “but they kept him there until the following day, on February 27th, and I was detained again for a few hours“.

Mariblanca Avila added that February 26th was her son’s 32nd birthday, which he spent in a dungeon.

Denis Pino showing some scars left on his body after violent arrest on January of 2012. Photo by: Luis Felipe Rojas

On his part, Denis points out that he emerged from his arrest with “lots of pain in my throat, pain in my ribs and on my arms. It was a very violent arrest. We were treated like animals“.

I want the world to know what is happening in Cuba. After 50 years of dictatorship, the buildings are still collapsing“, expressed Pino Basulto, also highlighting the absurd fact that activists were arrested for displaying solidarity with a family at the time of their profound pain and desperation. “This regime has increased repression against human rights activists. We are demanding that this repression, which is constant, come to an end“.

Denis Pino Basulto has been victim of police violence on numerous occasions due to his pro-freedom activism within various groups such as the Pedro Luis Boitel Movement, the Eastern Democratic Alliance (ADO) and Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID). One of the most violent cases against this young dissident occurred on January 8th, 2012, when he was savagely beat by police officials in Holguin province, who covered his face with a plastic bag.

Various sources have indicated that politically-driven arrests have upped on the island so far during this year. The independent news agency based in Havana, “Hablemos Press“, for instance, documented 471 arrests of activists throughout Cuba only in the month of February, the shortest month of the year.

For more information from Cuba, contact:

Denis Pino Basulto – Cell Phone: +52-552-837

Yonart Rodriguez Avila – Cell Phone: +53-602-782 / Twitter: @Yonartcuba

Faces Which the Pope Did Not See: Denis Pino Basulto

Activist attacked with pepper spray and arrested.  Is also accused of two crimes which he did not commit.   

Denis Pino Basulto showing some scars after having been beat by State Security during the beginning of 2012

In response to the countless arbitrary arrests of peaceful Cuban dissidents before and during the Papal visit to the island, on Tuesday March 27th the young dissident Denis Pino Basulto, from the province of Holguin, decided to direct himself to the local police unit where it was presumed that the majority of the detained activists were being held.  Basulto had plans to peacefully protest outside the unit, demanding the liberation of his brothers and sisters in struggle.  However, when he was on his way to the unit and right in front of the “Las Flores” Park, two State Security officials (one of them being agent Charlie and the other who he could not identify) intercepted him and began to beat him without explanations.

Pino Basulto says that the officials “threw me on the floor, they kicked me on the ribs and they put a dirty piece of cloth in my mouth, trying to asphyxiate me.  They then rubbed that cloth all over my face and then used pepper spray on me“.

These violent events against the young Basulto were witnessed by everyday Cubans who were at the “Las Flores” Park at that very moment.  “The people stood on my side and began to yell at the officials, telling them not to beat me, that they were abusers“, said the dissident, “and that gave me lots of strength to keep on standing firm“.

Despite the solidarity of the everyday people, the police agents dragged Basulto all the way to the police vehicle and threw him inside.  In addition, the activist explains that “the driver of the vehicle would purposely break abruptly so that I would fly forward and hit my head against the plastic which divides the front from the back of the car“.

Denis was taken to the unit known as “El Anillo”, located in the center of the city of Holguin.  There, agent Charlie kept Denis in a very small room where he was interrogated.  Also, “Charlie began to talk bad about my compatriots, dissidents like Caridad Caballero and others who were detained, and I did not accept this“.  It was at that moment when the official accused the dissident of having carried out a violent robbery, something which, according to Denis, is completely false.  Without being able to defend himself from the accusation, the guards confined the dissident to a dungeon where he spent the rest of the day.  On Wednesday, March 28th, Denis was taken to another unit known as “La Segunda”.

At “La Segunda” Pino Basulto was once against interrogated by an investigator known as Orlando who also accused him of having trespassed into a privately owned backyard.  Once again, Pino was taken to a dungeon, and he began to shout slogans in favor of freedom in light of his false accusations.  “It seems that the case which they were accusing me of was a robbery“, explains the dissident, “and it was violent case where various people were hurt in their home.  But the thieves were already caught and they are in prison.  However, they are still accusing me of this“.

Agent Orlando let Denis know that he was still under investigation.  “He also accused me of meeting with foreigners. He told me: ‘You will go to prison‘”, adds the activist.  During the detention of Denis, an official with plate number 26763 hurled him from the high concrete bed located in the jail cell and he also slapped him on the face.

At around 8 PM, the same investigator-agent opened the jail cell where Denis was being held and handed him a document which dictated that the dissident could not leave the province of Holguin, that he could not meet publicly with anyone, and that he could not be out on the streets during late night hours.  “In addition to this, the officials fined me for 30 pesos and told me that I had to present myself in the police unit every other day“, denounced Denis.

The pro-human rights activist emphasized that he now has two files over him for two crimes which he never committed.  He reiterated that he was only on his way to the police unit of Holguin to demand freedom for fellow dissidents who were jailed when he was arrested.  He warned that, at any given moment, he could unjustly be sent to prison.  Denis Pino Basulto declares to the world “that this is an injustice on behalf of the Castro repressors against us human rights activists who fight for a free and democratic Cuba.  I want the world to know that Cuban State Security is responsible for anything that could happen to me from now on.  They have been constantly threatening me“.

Pino was expelled from his job in 2011 for being a dissident.  From that moment on, he has not been able to find any other form of employment, considering that “we dissidents are not allowed to work in Cuba“, he said.  The wife of the activist is commonly threatened and impeded from leaving their house, even if it is just to look for food for the couple’s small daughter.

For more information from  Cuba:

Denis Pino Basulto – Cell phone: +5352 -552-837

Testimonies of repression and Resistance (January 8th, Pt. 1)

Since the beginning of 2012, every day in Cuba has been marked by acts of Resistance on behalf of Cuban dissidents and an aggressive wave of violence on behalf of the dictatorship.  Sunday, January 8th, was no exception.  Dissidents throughout the island suffered arrests and beatings for the simple act of trying to assist religious mass at Church, to pray for political prisoners and other oppressed Cubans.

Here are just some of the testimonies of that day. (Part 1):

Caridad Caballero Batista and Esteban Sande Suárez: “We are Going to Continue Going to Church”

(Left to Right) Esteban Sande Suarez, Caridad Caballero Batista, Marta Diaz Rondon, Eric Sande Suarez (son of Batista and Sande)

The Lady in White from Holguin Caridad Caballero Batista and her husband Esteban Sande Suarez, were both violently arrested by Cuban political police agents on Sunday January 8th at around 8:45 AM as they tried to assist mass in the Catholic Church of Barrio Pueblo Nuevo.

At the time of the arrest“, recounts Caballero, “they pushed us, dragged us, and in my case they broke my lip as they punched me“.  Esteban Sande also suffered the same kind of beating, as well as constant threats.  The dissident couple was then detained in the Instructional Unit of Pedernales, located on the outskirts of Holguin.

We were detained in Pedernales until 12 in the afternoon and there they told us that we were not allowed to go to Church“, denounced Caridad, who is also an activist from the Eastern Democratic Alliance, “but we are going to continue going to church, for it is the house of God and we have to go“.

When Caballero and Sande were released, they decided to head right back to the Pedernales Unit and they remained outside in protest, demanding the immediate release of another activist which had been arrested during that same morning- Denis Pino Basulto.

—-

Denis Pino Basulto: “If I am assassinated, it is the fault of the oppressors of the regime

Denis Pino shows his scars, after the brutal beating of 01/08. Photo by Luis Felipe Rojas

The young dissident, Denis Pino Basulto, who is also a member of the Eastern Democratic Alliance, suffered an arbitrary arrest during the same morning of January 8th as he stepped outside of his house to buy food (specifically, bread) for his family.  After completing the chore, he had plans to assist mass along with other dissidents in the area.

I was on my bicycle when, out of nowhere, various political police and State Security officials ran up to me and told me that I was detained”, explained the young activist. “I started to scream ‘Down with the dictatorship’ and ‘Down with the repression’ and it was then that they grabbed me by the feet and by the arms and tossed me into a police vehicle”. 

Pino Basulto was carrying a plastic bag with him to put the bread he had set out to get, and the agents snatched this bag from him and put it over his head, in an attempt to asphyxiate him.  “One agent also put his hand over my mouth…he started to punch me on the stomach and on the ribs.  Another official put a headlock on me and pushed his elbow down against my neck“.  During this entire time, the drivers of the vehicle were telling Denis that they were going to kill him.

The agents kicked the dissident out of the vehicle, handcuffed, and took him into the Third Unit located in Lenin, where they continued beating and threatening him.  Half an hour later, he was once again thrown into a vehicle and taken to Pedernales, where Caridad Caballero and Esteban Sande were already being held.  Upon arriving at the center, Denis was kept in an office, which had a red carpet and a security camera which kept a close watch on each and every move the dissident made, for 40 minutes.  The authorities told him that they wanted to confiscate his shoes.  “I told them that I would not let them take my shoes, which are the only pair I own“, affirmed Denis, who was then taken to a cell for common prisoners.  “There, I kept shouting slogans- ‘Down with Fidel’, ‘Down with Raul’, and ‘Down with Hunger‘”.  Various common prisoners- charged for violent crimes- began to threaten Pino under orders of the guards.

Various Majors of the Political Police took turns beating Basulto, even shoving him against the cell bars.  “The Major of Counter-Intelligence for Holguin grabbed me by the neck and pushed me against the wall, threatening me with death once again“.

The dissident confirmed that he could hear the screams of Caridad Caballero coming from somewhere inside the unit.  She was demanding that the authorities release him and that they cease beating him.  “They kept threatening me with death…and I want to say, if I am assassinated it is the fault of the oppressors of the regime“, declared Basulto.

Denis was officially released at around 2 in the afternoon when they put him in a police vehicle and drove him out towards Holguin.  The pro-freedom activist explained that he was able to see Caridad Caballero and Esteban Sande through the window of the car.  They were driving him away on purpose, so he would not join the dissidents in protest (regardless, upon being released he walked back to the home of Caballero).  “Before leaving me in a random part of Holguin, the officials told me to please not scream anymore slogans like ‘Down with Fidel and Raul’ and ‘Down with the dictatorship‘”, he recounts.  But when he was kicked out of the car, Denis started to shout more pro-freedom slogans.

Denis Pino Basulto spent the night with very severe pains in his head, dizziness, and desires to vomit.  In fact, he added that it was even very difficult for him to eat, because his mouth hurt very much because of all the physical blows he received.  “Despite the fact that they constantly oppress us, this struggle is non-violent and we have to continue demanding the regime to cease their abuses.  The same way they killed Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia they are capable of killing any other person in the future“.

The young dissident was expelled from his job a few months ago because of his dissident posture against the Cuban dictatorship.  Since then, he has not been allowed to have any sort of employment.  “Dissidents are not given jobs because the dictatorship does not tolerate any form of disagreement… and since I will never support this dictatorship, then I will remain without a job“.

—-

Naida León: “I’d rather be dead than sell out”

When the young wife of Denis Pino, Naida Leon, saw that her husband was taking very long to come back home, she decided to take her young daughter by the hand and walked outside her home to look for some answers.  What she found was a concentration of State Security officials in the corner of her block, which ran up to the mother and daughter and physically attacked both.

Three women grabbed me by my hands and arms, as well as my daughter“, explained the concerned mother, “they told me I had to go with them because I had just been detained“.  Leon was introduced into a police vehicle, where agents began to hurl countless verbal insults at her.  Naida’s daughter was very frightened, amid constant threats against her mother.  An official by the name of Yoandris (responsible also for the beatings of Caridad Caballero and Denis Pino) was the one who gave the order to take her back home, adding that she was not allowed to step out.

Once home, a State Security official ‘visited’ her in an attempt to make her  give in.  “The official began to ask me why I dissented with the regime, that he could easily get me the necessary papers to leave the country.  I told him that I did not want to leave the country“, affirmed Leon.

I responded also with examples of countless friends who have suffered so much under the dictatorship“, mentioning cases of evictions, beatings, and arrests.  The agent then looked at her and told her to abandon her anti-government posture and to collaborate with the communist regime.  Naida simply responded, “I would rather be dead than sell out and work for you…you are all a bunch of assassins“.

————

The dissident blogger Luis Felipe Rojas, who visited these dissidents after they were beaten, published an entry on his blog detailing the events of the 7th and 8th of January: “January 8 in Cuba: Jubilee and Repression”

Notes on Beatings, Arrests, and Vigilance (Nov. 1 & 2, 2011)

Caridad Caballero Batista denounces that the day of November 2nd began with arrests, beatings, and a strong vigilance throughout Eastern Cuba.  Luis Felipe Rojas narrates his arrest alongside Librado Linares on November 1st.

As of the very early morning hours here in Holguin, various homes of dissidents have been completely taken and surrounded by the political police“, explains the dissident Caridad Caballero Batista.  She adds, “At around 7 am, Denis Pino Basulto was arrested right outside his home. It was a violent arrest, according to what his wife told me.  They applied a headlock on him and they took him away in a police vehicle“.  Just a few weeks ago, Denis Pino suffered a similar arrest, also when he was stepping outside of his house.  The young dissident was recently fired from his job for his anti-dictatorship stance.

In Gibara, the son of Leonides Trinidad Rodriguez- Josue- told me that his mother was also detained.  In her case it occurred in the bus terminal and it was also very violent.  She was kicked a lot and was shoved into the a Operational Guard vehicle in that same manner.  She was taken to the Frontier Unit“, adds Batista.

In the same vein, homes across the region also awoke to a heavy police presence.  The agents surrounded homes and impeded dozens of activists from mobilizing.  In towns like Buenaventura the political police has maintained strict vigilance over democracy activists, as well.  Also, there are various homes surrounded in Cacocum, Holguin, as confirmed by Berta Guerrero and in San German, according to Luis Felipe Rojas.  Rojas himself was victim of an arrest on November 1st after assisting a non-violent struggle lecture taught by former political prisoner of conscience Librado Linares.

Librado Linares

I was on my way from Baracoa to Holguin to the home of Caridad Caballero, but upon nearly arriving the political police quickly intercepted me and Librado Linares“, tells Rojas, explaining that the operation consisted of various officials and a police vehicle.  “Once detained, they took us to the Pedernales Detention Center.  They took all of Librado Linares’ belongings, which were materials he used for his class, including pamphlets he had given out to his students and which he had planned to continue giving“.  Those pamphlets explained the importance of the non-violent struggle, which according to Rojas is a very efficient method of struggle.  “Those in power know that non-violence can knock down totalitarian regimes, that is why they are so fearful“.

Librado Linares was deported to his home in Camaguey, while Luis Felipe was deported to his town of San German.  Although this time they did not confiscate any of his belongings, the accustomed threats were not left out.  “They told me I could not leave my house… the same old story“.

Every Wednesday Caridad Caballero offers her home in Holguin city and hosts a vigil, a prayer group, or a simple meeting to pray for the political prisoners, demand their release, and show moral support to them and their families, as well as to other people suffering political persecution or similar issues.  For this reason, Rojas and Linares were on their way to her home, though this time it was not possible.  Caballero adds that “Juan Sacaria Verdecia Torres and Gilberto Leyva were also on their way to my home this morning when they were arbitrarily detained.  Now, we do not know their whereabouts.  Also, we do not know what is happening with our other brothers and sisters who were supposed to come because we have not been able to establish communication…it seems they are also detained.  We do not know what will happen to them“.  Another possibility, besides being detained,  is that their telephone lines have been blocked and intercepted by the political police, a frequently employed tactic which attempts to cut communication among dissidents.

Nevertheless, a group of 8 dissidents (3 from Velazco in the city of Gibara and the rest from Holguin) were able to surpass the repressive chain of political police and State Security agents and arrive at the home of Caballero Batista, where they will go on and carry out the planned activities.

———-

For more information on the non-violence course taught by Librado Linares, Luis Felipe Rojas has published an entry on his blog in which he describes his experience in the class.  It can be read here: “The obsession for freedom”.

Young Cuban Fired from Work for Being a Dissident


Denis Pino Basulto is a 27 year old Cuban, he resides in Holguin, and is father to a young girl.  Basulto not only confronts the daily obstacles of trying to raise his daughter, together with his wife, in a country with such scarcity and rationing, but he has also decided to publicly oppose and confront the Cuban dictatorship, joining various dissident groups such as the Pedro Luis Boitel Movement.  Such a posture has cost him serious impediments such as detentions, threats, and other violations, one of the most recent being that he was fired from his job for being a dissident.  His former employers allege that Denis was fired because he missed 4 days of work, days which he spent (and they know this very well) in a dungeon in the detention center of Pedernales after a politically motivated arrest.

The activities which led Denis to a prison cell (and ultimately to his being fired) occurred on the 19th of September when he participated in the National non-violent “Boitel and Zapata Live” March in the city of Holguin, which head out from the home of Caridad Caballero Batista.  The demonstrators demanded that their rights be respected, that international human right treaties be respected, and that all political prisoners on the island be liberated, in addition to paying tribute to the memory of the fallen prisoners of conscience Pedro Luis Boitel and Orlando Zapata Tamayo.  All the activists were violently arrested.  Some were taken to the Pedernales Unit, while others, Denis among them, were taken to the Police Unit of Gibara where they were kept for 4 days, from Monday the 19th to Thursday the 22nd.

Denis explains that during his arrest the authorities flat out refused to provide him with a signed document which would excuse his absence from work, something required by his job to not be fired.  “The next day, on the 23rd, when I arrived to work I was told that I was in trouble and that ‘I already knew why‘”.  As of that moment, his superiors began to treat him worse (previously, according to Denis, they had already treated him with contempt for opposing the dictatorship) and they would blame him for things he never did and demanded that he arrive earlier, despite the fact that he always arrived “before the established time.  If I had to be there at 8, I would arrive at 7:40 or 7:50 always“.

On October 16th, Denis Pino was officialy fired from his position, without any sort of explanation.  Although Denis demanded that his rights be respected, the bosses paid no attention, which led him to fruitlessly turn to a Labor Justice Organ, which established October 25th as his Labor Trial.

When Tuesday the 25th came around, Denis was once again arrested.  The dissident explains that on the previous day, October 24th, which was the Day of the Resistance, he had plans to take part in non-violent opposition activities but was arrested much before any of these events took place.  “On that day, I stepped out of my house early in the morning to go get bread and milk for my daughter.  It was then that I noticed three State Security agents sitting inside a vehicle stationed outside my h0me.  The agents told me I could not continue walking, I asked why, and they told me they did not have to explain“.  Pino decided to continue onward when the vehicle violently blocked his path and the three agents ran out, grabbing his arm and pushing him into the car.  He was taken to the Third Unit in Holguin province and from there, they decided to take him to Pedernales.

When I arrived to Pedernales I asked them if this was the supposed pure revolution they spoke of, upon seeing all the new and brand name vehicles for government functionaries while the rest of the people are dying of hunger“, denounced Basulto.  He was placed in a sealed off cell and three hours later an official informed him that he was being accused of public disorder.  Basulto was released on the following day, Tuesday the 25th, at around 9 pm.  When he was able to see his wife she told him that an official known as “Chapman” had gone to visit her the day before and told her, amid laughter and cynicism “tomorrow is Basultos trial isn’t it? Looks like he won’t be able to make it since he’s detained“.  During the arrest, Denis’ wife had to go from police station to police station, with her young daughter, in an attempt to find out information about her husband.

On Wednesday the 26th, Denis went to the office in charge of Labor Trial issues and spoke to the woman in charge.  “Her name was Yanet Reinaldo and she treated me horribly.  She simply told me that the trial was yesterday and she could not do anything about it“, referencing Labor Law 176 which establishes that if the accused misses his Labor Trial meeting then he would not be allowed to return to work.  “I explained my situation to her, that I was unjustly arrested but Mrs. Yanet Reinaldo only told me that it was not her problem.  She also told me that I should be more aware of the things I am doing“, to which Pino responded, “I am very aware of what I am doing.  I am defending my rights, and even your rights- in fact, the rights of all Cubans, because we live under a dictatorship which violates all our freedoms“.

Now, Denis Pino Basulto is officially unemployed, due to a harsh operation of intolerance and violence against him, just for thinking differently than those in power and for taking action against the injustices.  From this moment on, he will have to find a way to sustain his family- a difficult situation which countless Cubans are subjected to.  “I am denouncing this before public opinion, so that people know that in Cuba they do not even care if you are a father of a small child.  As soon as you declare yourself against communism, you become public enemy number one“, denounces the activist, “though the salary I previously received was awful and poor, at least it was something, but now I have nothing“.  Despite the desperation the young Pino has decided to convert his tragedy into more inspiration to continue confronting the tyrannical regime.  “Now, I will have more time to double my opposition activities.  We already shattered the shackles of fear, we will continue onward against the terror.  The streets do not belong to the dictatorship, they are ours“.

Crackdown Attempts to Deter an Unstoppable March (Pt. IV- Holguin)

Photo of one of the many arrests Caridad Caballero Batista has suffered

In Holguin, dissidents who stepped out from the home of Caridad Caballero Batista and Esteban Sande were impeded, beaten, and detained as they tried to carry out the National ‘Boitel and Zapata Live’ March for Freedom this Monday, September 19th, in that city.  In total, 14 dissidents were arrested, which besides Caballero Batista and Sande included other activists like Ariel Cruz Meneses, Juan Carlos Verdecia, Pedro Leiva, and Marta Diaz Rondon.  Esteban Sande tried to record the situation but when the political police officials noticed this, they chased him down to confiscate his camera.

Marta Diaz Rondon explains that there were more than 50 agents waiting to crack-down, and so they did.  “We were beaten, thrown in the police vehicles, and we were detained“, recounts the activist who traveled from her town of Banes to participate in the March with her brothers and sisters in cause.  All the dissidents were taken directly to the Instructional Police Unit of Pedernales, notorious for its tiny, pestilent, and inhumane cells.

Once in Pedernales, the officials began to separate the activists, sending them off to different detention centers.  In the case of Caridad Caballero, however, she was kept in Pedernales, where she slept on the filthy concrete floor for three nights, each morning awaking with “horrible ant bites on the face“.  In Marta’s case, she explains that, “along with Isabel Pena Torres and Denis Pino Basulto, we were taken to a detention center in the city of Gibara“.  On the way to the costal city of Gibara, these three freedom fighters began to shout anti-governmental slogans.  According to Diaz Rondon, at one point, “a State Security official threatened me, telling me that he wanted to throw me into the ocean to drown me“.  Once in the Unit of Gibara, the activists were each put in separate cells which were filled with cockroaches, mosquitoes, and even crabs.

Denis Pino Basulto, a 27 year old dissident who is a member of the Eastern Democratic Alliance, described his cell as a dungeon of wretched conditions.  In addition to having to face constant mosquito bites, Basulto explains that he had very sharp pains in one of his legs, seeing as how a State Security agent had purposely slammed shut the police car door on him during the moment of his arrest in Holguin.  “That was done to me by an official nicknamed ‘The Polish‘”, denounces Denis, “he told me he was going to kill me“.

Denis shared his cell with with a 60 year old man.  After chatting with him for a while, he learned that this man had been thrown in that dungeon after being charged with ‘dangerousness’ on grounds of some housing and work issues, and that he had been there for 6 days.  The man’s eyes were swollen and had bacteria, caused by an infection he contracted in the prison.  “From our different cells, we began to shout that this man had to have medical attention, and so the authorities took him out, put him in a car, and he was taken to get checked“.

On the following day, Isabel Pena suffered a similar fate, seeing as she already suffers from various health complications.  Denis, along with Marta Diaz Rondon, began to shout about the situation of Isabel, denouncing her poor treatment.  This left the jailers with no other option but to also take her to the hospital, checking her in for one day.  Isabel recounts, “the police who took me to the hospital was also ‘The Polish’, and he was threatening me the entire time with slapping me.  He kept telling me that all day, even if I wasn’t looking his way“.

In the hospital, “The Polish” met up with 4 other agents and kept a tight watch on Pena Torres.  “They surrounded me and did not let anyone get near me the entire time“, as if she were a criminal.  Afterward, she was taken back to her cell in Gibara.  “Once I got there, I asked for just a little bit of water since I had been taking many pills for my conditions, but the guards flat out denied me the right.  They said that since I was in protest, I couldn’t have water at all”, referring to the fact that all those detained on that day had decided to initiate a hunger strike until the liberation of all those who were trying to carry out the march.

They remained with the protest until Thursday, September 22nd, when they began to release them.  In Pedernales, Caridad Caballero was released around 2 in the afternoon, but they did not provide her any means of transportation.  Caballero suffered a drop in blood pressure, due to the conditions she was kept in (excessive heat) and her hunger strike, but she had to find her own means of getting back home.  Along her way, she met a lady who was kind enough to provide her with coffee.  Caballero had to rest for about 2 hours until she had sufficient strength again to continue walking.

In Gibara, Marta Diaz Rondon and Isabel Pena were released first, although they both decided that they would maintain their hunger strike until Denis Pino was released.  In his case, he was kept for a few hours longer.  “During the wait for my release“, he says, “I wrote on my cell walls- ‘Zapata Lives’ and ‘Down with the Castros’.  The authorities told me I would not be released until I painted the walls and painted over my writing.  I refused over and over again“.  He was eventually released at around 4 pm, but the obstacles of the regime against him did not end there.

I told an official to provide me with some sort of signed document explaining what had happened to me so I could turn it in at work“, explains Denis, “he responded by telling me that people like me did not get any papers.  I told him that it was my right, and that where I work it is required I provide some sort of document whenever I miss days“.  The response of the activist was to jot down the tag number of the official- 27570.  “He treated me however he wanted to, he is just another henchman.  I then told him to at least provide transportation back to my house, seeing as how there were so many cars in that unit, but they refused to take me as well.  I had to travel back on my own account, having to ask people on the street to give me a ride back“, amid severe dizziness caused by three consecutive days of hunger strike.  Pino adds that it is possible that upon going back to work, it was very likely that he didn’t even have a job anymore, seeing as “they are desperate” to kick him out because of his dissident status, and perhaps they now have an excuse.

While Denis was detained, his wife had to visit all the Police Units of Holguin with their small daughter, searching for any sort of information on her husband.  Every single official she turned to refused to provide her with any sort of information, and did not even suggest as to where he may be.  That is why she considered him lost.  In addition, the officials also verbally abused her, offending her and telling her that she had no right to be taking her daughter around like that.

The dissident Julio Cesar Ramos, member of the Pedro Luis Boitel Movement, also tried to find out information about those who were detained on Monday.  “We went to all the police units, but they would not say a thing to us“, he says, adding that, “we decided to carry out a protest that morning until our brothers and sisters were released“.  He also called a wide range of other dissidents throughout the island, denouncing the situation.  All families and friends of those arrested had to go through that difficult uncertainty, without having a clue as to where they were being held and in what conditions.

Caridad Caballero explains that after her release, her house has remained in total surveillance on behalf of the agents of the government.  In addition, she denounces, her ID Card had been confiscated from her, preventing her from being able to travel to Havana for September 24th, a day when the Ladies in White have planned to march and assist mass.  Meanwhile, Marta Diaz Rondon details that she left the detainment cell with “strong chest pains, tachycardia, and dizziness“, but reiterates that despite all the threats and violence, her fight will continue to be completely non-violent, and that the March demanded three specific rights, which she will keep defending: that international human rights pacts be respected, that all political prisoners be freed, and that the right of all Cubans to march freely throughout their own country be respected.  Denis also reiterates these points and adds that, “The world must know that in Cuba Human Rights are violated by the totalitarian dictatorship, and they repress us and mistreat us.  But when things come from the heart, nothing can deter them, and that is why we will keep on with our struggle, so the world knows that in Cuba there are people who want change, and we are part of that change“.  The young dissident adds, “I am a father, and it is difficult, but I will keep fighting, even if the repression is constant- I need a free Cuba, because no one can live like this under this dictatorship“.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 38 other followers