Pedazos de la Isla

"Pieces of the Island"-An English Translation

Category Archives: Eric Sande

Exiled Dissident Family Identifies Oppressors in Holguin

Left to right: Esteban Sandez Suarez, Caridad Caballero Batista, Marta Diaz Rondon, Erik Esteban Sandez Caballero. Caballero Batista’s family- now exiled- has identified various oppressors in Holguin province who have been authors of aggression against them on numerous occasions.

The story of Caridad Caballero Batista and her family is one of a renown activism in favor of Cuba’s freedom.  Due to her tireless work as an independent journalist, activist of the Eastern Democratic Alliance and member of the Ladies in White in the city of Holguin, Caballero Batista, her husband Esteban Sandez Suarez and her son Erik Esteban Sandez Caballero were victims of constant repression at the hands of the political police, State Security, the Rapid Response Brigades and mobs paid and organized by the Cuban regime.

It’s no secret that Sunday after Sunday this family had their home in Holguin completely surrounded by repressive forces who would insult, mock, threaten, and in sum, arrest and beat them without pity, simply because Caridad would try to assist Sunday Mass at church.  But the violence was not only on Sundays, but instead every day that this family would carry out a civic protest or meeting in their home, or whenever the dictatorship felt like it.  In nearly all the cases of arrests, these 3 Cubans would be taken to the Instructional Unit of Pedernales, in Holguin, where they would be confined to pestilent, dark and humid cells, where they would face further tortures and beatings.

On June 2012, this family of freedom fighters went into exile in the United States, but they assured that they would continue fighting- in whatever way they could- for the freedom of Cuba.  Now, they have shared a list (compiled by Erik Esteban Sandez Caballero) of some of the oppressors in the province of Holguin, in municipalities such as Banes, Cacocum, and Holguin.   They are faces of the culprits of countless violence against this family and other dissidents like Marta Diaz Rondon, Franklin Peregrino del Toro, Berta Guerrero Segura, Ana Maria Aguilera Paneque, and many more. Faces of Cubans who were (and still are) in charge of oppressing other Cubans, simply because they are human rights defenders:

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Yordanis Martínez León

This Chief of Confrontation of State Security in the city of Holguin is one of the main culprits of the fact that Caridad Caballero Batista could only assist Sunday Mass three times in 2012.  During the papal visit to the island, he kept her from traveling to Santiago de Cuba to assist Mass.  He is responsible for having surrounded the home of Caballero Batista each Sunday, and of arresting her on countless occasions.  In fact, he would even snatch her purse and beat her.

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Duglas Torres Pupo

He is also a Chief of Confrontations of State Security in the same city of Holguin.  He has led violent operations to arrest Caridad Caballero and her family as they were on their way to church on numerous occasions (and for those dissidents in Cuba, still leads).  Many times, he called a number of police vehicles, buses, Suzuki motorcycles and other vehicles to detain these peaceful activists.

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Rafael Chacman

This State Security agent from Holguin dedicates himself to threaten activists of that province, especially Ladies in White.  In one specific case, he told Lady in White Ana Maria Aguilera Paneque on October 19th, 2011 that if she continued participating in dissident activities, her family would suffer the consequences.  On October 25th 2011, he mocked and blackmailed the wife of dissident Denis Pino Basulto when the latter was arbitrarily jailed.  As recent as July 2012, he has been in charge of setting up and carrying out operations to impede Zuleidis Perez Velazquez and other Ladies in White from marching to Sunday Mass in Holguin. Chacman would also threaten the family of Caballero Batista when they were still in Cuba.

 TO SEE THE COMPLETE LIST OF OPPRESSORS FROM HOLGUIN COMPILED BY ERIK ESTEBAN SANDEZ CABALLERO, CLICK ON THE FOLLOWING LINK TO OPEN IT ON PDF FORMAT:

Esbirros

With each passing day, the impunity of the aggressors who work for the Cuban dictatorship is fading.

A Family of Cuban Freedom Fighters Arrive to Exile

Caridad Caballero Batista and her family: A note from the author of this blog

-Raul Garcia

Every Sunday the same news arrived from Cuba.  Scratches, shoves, threats, beatings, insults and arrests against a woman dressed in white who simply was trying to assist Sunday Mass in the Eastern city of Holguin.  Of course, it is also the story of countless other Ladies in White throughout Cuba, from East to West, but through this blog I always tried to highlight her personal story.

This 2012, Caridad Caballero Batista could only assist Sunday Mass two or three times in total.  In the vast majority of cases, she was beaten and shoved into a police vehicle and later taken to the instructional unit of Pedernales.  Her family- her husband Esteban and son Eric- also suffered the violence in a constant manner.  But none of them ever stopped their civic activities in demand for freedom for all Cubans.

This Thursday, 28th of June of 2012, Caballero Batista and her family arrived to the United States as exiles.  However, despite now residing outside of Cuba, they have affirmed that they will keep the struggle alive for the freedom of the island, just from another stage.  While in Holguin, the most cruel of threats on behalf of the government henchmen was able to make these Cubans break, nor did the most brutal beatings or the longest arrests.

Every Wednesday- designated by the Cuban opposition as national vigil days- (and in all honesty, mostly every day) Caballero Batsita reported that her home was surrounded by police agents who would also arrest any other dissidents who would try to arrive to their home.  The total number of hours that she has spent behind bars in pestilent, dark, humid, and damp cells are unmeasurable. And yet, she always kept her firm spirit.  In one of the most violent cases, her son Eric Sandez Suarez, was beaten to the point of losing consciousnesses and kept for numerous days behind bars, separated from his mother.  And just a few days before leaving for exile, the Cuban dictatorship organized mobs in Holguin to shout violent insults at the family.

But it was not the level of repression which most caught my attention about this story.  Instead- it was what I said before and continue reiterating- the spirit of resistance and of true love for her country that Caridad Caballero and her family had, and continue having.

Although the news that a grand fighter and grand family has had to leave Cuba is sad and difficult- because people like them are essential on the path towards democracy- they also deserve freedom.  And, in fact, all that they have done for Cuba is not in vain.  And soon, when their is no longer a dictatorship on the island, Caridad Caballero Batista and her family will be able to go to church without being arrested, walk down the streets of Holguin without being persecuted, and live as they deserve to live in their own country.

But, for now, in this blog- as well as in other mediums- there are countless reports of the suffering this family endured.  And, the names of those who ordered so much abuse will not be washed away and clouded out by impunity.

As Caballero Batista has said on countless occasions to this blog and other sources of media, “we will keep standing firm in the face of terror“.

Regime Orders Repudiation Against Activist, Numerous Arrests

Arrest of Caridad Caballero in 2011

Lady in White and member of the Eastern Democratic Alliance, Caridad Caballero Batista was in her home on this past Tuesday June 19th, at around 8 PM, along with her husband Esteban Sandez Suarez and son Eric Sandez, in the city of Holguin, when communist functionaries carried out a demonstration of repudiation against the family, which consisted of screaming hateful and aggressive slogans at them.

According to how the dissident described the situation, the participants of the repudiation were “mostly head officials“, among them from the Communist Party, from the Popular Power, from the Municipal Vigilance, and also from the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, all of which screamed phrases such as “we must eliminate the enemies of the revolution”.

They stood in front of my house“, explained Caballero, and remained there for a lengthy period of time from 8 PM on.  The act of repudiaiton seemed to be “a festival” for the participants, said the activist, because there was even music for them.

On the following day, Wednesday June 20th, various dissidents from Velasco, Holguin had plans to travel to the city of Holguin to visit Caballero Batista at her home in order to participate in the weekly meeting held there, where activists carry out a vigil and share news about the latest acitivties being carried out by the Resistance on the island.  All those who tried to travel were arrested.

The first activist to be detained on that morning was Manuel Martinez Leon during the early hours as he was arriving to the local terminal.  In response to this, more than 5 dissidents showed up outside the Gibara police unit, where Leon was being held.   These protestors also had plans to travel to the home of Caballero Batista.

In a report given to “Radio Republica”, the independent journalist Rafael Leyva Leyva, one of the protestors, explained that he, along with other dissidents, were going to remain protesting outside the police unit Manuel be freed.  In addition, Leyva said that they were holding the police agent Juan Carlos Espinosa responsible for the arbitrary arrest of Leon.

A few minutes later, these same activists who were protesting were also arrested, according to declarations of Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina provided to the exiled Cuban activist Alfredo Viso.  (Listen to the audio here).  Among the detainees were Jesus Diaz Morales, Jose Pena Batista and Jorge Perez Zaldivar.

Meanwhile, Marta Diaz Rondon- member of the Ladies in White in Banes was also kept from traveling to the city of Holguin to visit her sister-in-struggle Caridad Caballero.

According to Caballero Batista, the vigilance and repression has only increased against the Cuban opposition in general.  In fact, she points out that one camera which used to be installed down her block (to monitor who comes in and goes out) was taken down and re-installed right in front of the local Catholic Church, Jesus Christ the Redeemer of Men, surely to keep a tight watch over Ladies in White from Holguin who often are victims of beatings and arrests for trying to arrive to Sunday Mass in that temple.

For more information from Cuba:

Caridad Caballero Batista – Cell Phone: +5352-629-749 // Twitter: @caricaballero 

Holguin: Lady in White and Her Family Intercepted, Searched, and Detained

Left to Right: Esteban Sandez, Caridad Caballero, Marta Diaz Rondon, Eric Sandez

The Lady in White Caridad Caballero Batista, her husband Esteban Sandez Suarez  and son Eric Sandez were on their way back from the province of Guantanamo this past Saturday, June 16th after visiting some relatives when they were intercepted by the political police upon arriving to the province of Holguin.  According to Caballero, the police agent who intercepted the vehicle her family was traveling on along with other passengers told the driver to hand him his documentation.

However, the activist explains that “more than for the purpose of asking to see the driver’s documents, this action was intentionally aimed at searching my husband Esteban and the bag he was carrying, which was full of clothes“.  The agent ordered Esteban to get off the vehicle in order to search him, to which the dissident replied that he was not going to allow, considering that he “is not a delinquent“.  Caballero says that “the agents were infuriated and told Esteban that he was committing a crime“.

The response of the agents was to shove Esteban Sandez into a vehicle of the Operational Guard to take him to the Police Unit, where he’d be searched and detained.  Upon seeing this, Caridad Caballero and her son Eric Sandez got off the car and began to protest against the arbitrariness, assuring the agents that if they were going to take Esteban, then they’d have to them too.

In a matter of minutes, the three activists were taken to a police unit located on the outskirts of Holguin.  “In the case of Esteban, he was kept in a room” where he was searched, explained the Lady in White.  “Esteban told the agents that what they were doing was the real crime.  We then began to protest in the police unit, we said that they had very little time left, that the Castro brothers have lost, and that they were asphyxiated, in addition to telling them that their is a wave of discontent among the population“.

After a number of hours, the family was released, but upon arriving to their home in the city of Holguin they noticed that the political police had already set up the accustomed weekend operation in order to impede them from arriving to Sunday Mass.

The entire block was completely surrounded by National Police Guards and by female prison guards.  There were also two police vehicles on the corner of 22nd Street, where their used to be a camera”,  said Caballero, referring to a camera which was installed their nearly 2 years ago, which monitored who came and left her home.  According to the dissident, the operation occurred under the direction of the State Security agent Yordanys Martinez Leon, as it usually occurs.

Due to the police operation, the Caballero-Sandez family was not able to make it to church this Sunday, June 17th, which was also Father’s Day.

For more information from Cuba:

Caridad Caballero Batista – Cell Phone:   +5352-629-749     // Twitter: @caricaballero

Persecution, Arrests, and Threats Mark Resurrection Sunday in Cuba

This 8th of April- Resurrection Sunday- in the Eastern Cuban city of Holguin, Ladies in White Caridad Caballero Batista and Isabel Pena Torres were arrested with violence.  Political police agents applied headlocks on these women, then twisting their arms and taking them detained to the Pedernales Instructional Unit, where they were kept in completely dark cells until 11:30 AM, right when Sunday Mass at the Jesus Christ Redeemer of Men Church came to an end.

However, Caridad Caballero says that on their way to church, right before being arrested, “Isabel and I were able to walk about 15 blocks with our flowers in hand, and the everyday people greeted us and wished us their blessings.  Although we were just two women, they knew who we were and they said hello to us…it was a very beautiful moment“.  Nevertheless, a number of State Security agents aboard a police vehicle followed the women throughout town until they were finally arrested out on the street.  Caballero denounces that “the official who was in charge of this operation was agent Jordany Martinez Leon“.

In the case of Caridad Caballero, her husband Esteban Sandez Suarez, and their son Eric Sandez, they all had plans this Saturday and Sunday to arrive at church to receive their first communion and confirmation.  On Saturday morning, Caridad and Esteban were able to surpass the cordons composed of the political police, the national police, and the Rapid Response Brigades, but Eric did not have the same luck, considering that he was trying to leave his house later but was impeded from doing so by numerous agents.  In addition, all the telephone lines of the family were intercepted and blocked by the censoring apparatus of the Cuban regime.  That night, Caridad and Esteban were able to make it to the Jesus Christ the Redeemer Church and received their first communion.

In reference to this experience, Caridad recounts that it was a very “emotional” moment for her, considering that it was the first time in 2012 that both were able to make it to Mass.  “The churchgoers would greet us, they told us that they had not seen us for far too long, they asked how we were…they were very worried about us“, says the Lady in White.  “It was an incredible moment,” said the activist in reference to so much solidarity, “It was a very emotional rencounter with people with who we have shared so much time with.  I will never forget it“.

On Sunday, it was scheduled that the dissident couple would receive their confirmation, but due to Caridad’s arrest, it was not possible, though this time Eric was able to make it to church.  He received his first communion.  His house, however, was surrounded by Cuban soldiers but his father, Esteban, managed to clandestinely take his son out on that morning.  According to Caballero Batista, “during Eric’s communion, many churchgoers asked him about me and he explained to them that I was detained for trying to arrive“.  Another 5 Ladies in White were able to make it to church.

Meanwhile, in the same province of Holguin, in the municipality of Cacocum, the dissident couple made up of Lady in White Berta Guerrero Segura and Franklin Peregrino del Toro spent the entire weekend with their home surrounded by political police agents.  On Sunday the 8th, Guerrero Segura was violently arrested as she tried to leave her house for church.  In that same region, Adis Nidia Cruz (also a Lady in White) was detained for trying to arrive to church to pray for the liberation of her two jailed sons (Marcos Maikel Cruz and Antonio Lima Cruz) who were sent to the Castro dungeons for publicly listening to anti-government music.

In Banes, Holguin Lady in White Marta Diaz Rondon and her husband Juan Oriol Verdecia managed to make it to Mass at the Church of Our Lady of Charity, though under “constant vigilance of State Security“.  According to Rondon, these agents “persecuted us until we arrived at the actual church” and they waited for the activist and her husband outside the church until Mass was over in order to keep surveillance over them again all the way until they reach their homes.  Other Ladies in White in Banes- Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez and Miladis Pinales Rosa- were not able to make it to Mass considering that uniformed police officials kept them from leaving their own homes.  Diaz Rondon denounced the constant threats against her and assured that in Cuba, religious freedom is not respected.

Other arrests of Ladies in White were reported in Santiago de Cuba and in Havana, while in the town of Pedro Betancourt, Matanzas the regime unleashed a wave of 28 arrests of human rights activists.  This occurred on Saturday April 7th after the former political prisoner Angel Moya Acosta was violently arrested the previous day in the same town.  Moya had plans to visit the cemetery where his mother is buried, but was intercepted by the Cuban police.  The other 28 detainees had the sam plans- to travel to the cemetery.  Moya Acosta was released on the night of Sunday.

The Lady in White from Havana, Sara Marta Fonseca, reported on her Twitter account (@SaraMartaCuba) that former political prisoner from Pinar del Rio, Raul Risco Perez, suffered an arrest at around 10:30 AM on Sunday.  He was behind the bars of a police unit until 7 PM and the police agents confiscated various of his belongings, among them a laptop and voice recorder.

During this time, the former political prisoner Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia remains detained in a police unit of Palmarito de Cauto.  Garcia was violently arrested this past Sunday 2nd, after his house was broken into by Cuban police.  His wife, the Lady in White Belkis Cantillo Ramirez was detained alongside Jose Daniel but was released on Saturday night.  Both Belkis and her 14 year old daughter Martha Beatriz Ferrer have suffered detentions and threats on behalf of the Cuban authorities during this weekend.

In Cuba, Holy Week goes by like any other week on the calendar- full of state sponsored persecution, aggression, and violence against dissidents and human rights activists who simply demand freedom for Cuba in a completely peaceful fashion.

Flowers in hand, Ladies in White demand freedom

Para mas información desde Cuba:

Caridad Caballero Batista – Cell: +5352-629-749 / Twitter: @Caricaballero //Marta Díaz Rondón – Cell: +5352-771-639/ Twitter: @MartaDiazRondon //Franklin Peregrino del Toro – Cell: +5353-139-855 // Ángel Moya Acosta – Cell: +5353-820-595 / Twitter: @jangelmoya


During Holy Week, Will Lady in White be Able to Assist her Catholic Communion and Confirmation?

For a very long time now and since she began to be active in the public Cuban opposition years ago, the Lady in White from the city of Holguin, Caridad Caballero Batista, has been victim of blackmail, arrests, and other violent actions along with her family- her husband Esteban Sandez and their son Eric.  In the four months so far of 2012, Batista has not been able to assist Mass in her local Jesus Christ Redeemer of Men Church, located in the neighborhood of Pueblo Nuevo.  When she tries to leave her home each Sunday, she is intercepted by Cuban political police agents and members of the Rapid Response Brigades who unleash all sorts of violence against the dissident, including sexual harassment, dragging her on the floor, and death threats.  Caballero and her family are usually kept in dark and pestilent cells which are sealed-off and smell of urine and feces and are full of all sorts of insects.  This is the cross which not only Caridad must carry, but also other Ladies in White who profess their faith in God publicly and who also demand freedom for all Cubans out on the streets of their own country, despite the consequences.  However, this Saturday April 7th and Sunday the 8th, Caballero Batista, her husband, and son will receive their communion and confirmations as devout Catholics.  The question is: will they be able to make it to church without getting arrested?

Caballero said that she hopes that the forces of the Cuban dictatorship do not “interfere” with her Holy Week plans, but it has been proven that, despite the fact that the regime has decided to ‘observe’ Holy Friday as a ‘national holiday’, this means very little, or nothing.  “As we all saw during the papal visit to Cuba, the regime’s functionaries said that in Cuba there is complete religious freedom, and that is not true.  This was confirmed furthermore in the mass arrests which occurred, all with the intentions of keeping countless dissidents from assisting the Pope’s Masses in Santiago and Havana.  Many people are still behind bars“, said the Lady in White. Caridad herself was one of these detainees during the Pope’s visit to Cuba.  Meanwhile, on April 6th- Holy Friday- more arrests of Ladies in White who were simply trying to assist Mass were confirmed, among them Ivonne Malleza and Lazara Mitjans in Havana.

We ask public opinion to be aware of what is happening in Cuba and what will happen this weekend”, expressed Caballero, “and we pray to God that on Saturday and Sunday we are able to make it to Church to receive these holy sacraments”.

Caridad, Esteban and Eric have spent the past two years taking all the necessary religious preparations to be able to receive their confirmations.  They have been receiving catechism classes, although amid much difficulty.  In the case of 19 year old Eric, he considers himself to be a dissident like his parents, and for this reason he receives the same amount of repression.  Eric suffers from various health complications, among them a cerebral condition which randomly causes him to drop in blood and sugar levels, nearly always ending in loss of conscience.  These attacks have occurred to him many times during his time in dungeons for simply trying to go to church.  He has received all sorts of threats and taunts from communist functionaries just for being a public dissident and for being a devout Catholic.

Although the oppressors have told this family that they will be kept from moving freely throughout their own country, the three have assured that they will continue clinging tightly to their faith, and they will leave their homes as they wish.

It is important to note that, in cases such as these, international solidarity is crucial.

For more information from Cuba:

Caridad Caballero Batista – Cell Phone: +5352- 629 – 749 // Twitter: @caricaballero

Faces Which the Pope Did Not See: Caridad Caballero Batista, Esteban Sandez, Eric Sandez

For fourteenth consecutive Sunday, Lady in White is impeded by political police from reaching church


There have already been 14 consecutive Sundays in which the Lady in White Caridad Caballero Batista has been arrested as she tries to assist mass in the local Catholic church of her neighborhood in the city of Holguin, the Jesus Christ Redeemer of Men Church.  The most recent arrest occurred this past 25th of March and took place amid a repressive wave of crackdowns unleashed by the Cuban regime in order to impede countless dissidents from assisting the Mass of Pope Benedict XVI which would take place on March 26th in Santiago and March 28th in Havana.

Caballero Batista was beaten and arrested along with also Lady in White Isabel Pena Torres in front of the ‘Hilda Torres’ school.  “State Security followed us, as did the police“, said Caballero.  In just a few minutes, various agents surrounded the dissidents and applied headlocks on them.  “They then threw us inside the police vehicles.  First they threw Isabel in and then they threw me on top of her, and they also stepped on Isabel“, narrated Caridad, adding that “the officials even broke my glasses against my head.  I have bruises and bumps“.

Batista and Torres were taken to the Instructional Unit of Pedernales, where a number of dissidents were already being kept behind bars.  “When I arrived to the cell, I started shouting ‘down with communism’ and ‘long live human rights’“, explains the Lady in White, “and then all dissidents in that prison started screaming other slogans“.

The conditions in the dungeons were the same as always- lots of heat, bad odor, small space, damp, and dark.  Caballero also declared herself on hunger strike, a protest which lasted 4 days until she was released on the night of Wednesday, March 28th.

Throughout this time, military forces of the Cuban regime set up a cordon around the home of Caballero Batista with the intention of keeping her husband Esteban Sandez and son Eric Sandez from stepping out onto the street to demand her liberation.  Upon being released and arriving to her home, Caballero learned that 19 year old Eric had also maintained himself on hunger strike throughout the entire time.  Esteban and Eric have also not been able to assist mass during the months which have passed of 2012.

Caballero explained that the list of detainees was very long and highlighted certain cases like that of two Ladies in White- Milagros Leyva and Martiza Cardoza- who were dragged out of their homes and detained on Wednesday 21st through “brutal beatings” in Moa.  She also mentioned the case of Reinaldo Millet Guerrero, also in Moa.  Guerrero, who is a former political prisoner, was “savagely beaten by police agents to the point that they broke his lips“.

Despite the fact that Pope Benedict XVI did not defend Cuban dissidents, Caridad Caballero Batista still holds tight to her faith in God and affirms that she will keep trying to assist Catholic mass every Sunday.

 For more information from Cuba:

Caridad Caballero Batista – Cell Phone: +5352-629-749 / Twitter: @caricaballero 

 


Dissident Family Detained for Three Days, #PopeCuba

(From left to right: Esteban Sandez Suarez, Caridad Caballero Batista, Marta Diaz Rondon, and Eric Sandez Suarez)

The Lady in White Caridad Caballero Batista, her husband Esteban Sandez Suarez, and son Eric Sandez were arrested by various Cuban political police and State Security officials on the morning of Friday, March 16th as they were walking out of a local hospital in Holguin after picking up some medical exams.  The family was on their way to a bus terminal because Caballero Batista had plans to travel to Havana to meet with a large group of Ladies in White in the capital, in order to participate in a reunion which would take place on the ninth anniversary of the Black Spring when 75 dissidents were arrested and sentenced to lengthy prison terms in 2003.

The dissident describes the incident more like “a kidnapping“, considering that they were not participating in a protest, just simply walking out of a hospital.  “Right then and there, a police vehicle drove up to us and, a few minutes later, more cars arrived with a number of State Security and political police agents“.  The three activists were forcefully shoved into police vehicles and taken to the instructional detention center of Pedernales where they were kept for three days.

In Pedernales, the family was separated- Esteban was taken to a torture cell in one penal ward while Caridad and her son were taken to another penal ward but kept in different cells.  They were kept there without receiving any food or water and in inhumane conditions.  Eric Sandez, who is only 19 years old, suffered a health crisis on Sunday, March 18th, where his sugar and blood level dropped dramatically and he lost consciousness.  Eric suffers from this medical condition spontaneously, especially under stressful conditions.  Caballero explains that her son “is also asthmatic and diabetic“.  Despite this, the penal guards “aggressively twisted his arm and mistreated him“, affirmed his mother.

Caballero Batista noticed that her son had lost consciousness when she began to scream his name from her cell and received no answer from him.  Various common prisoners who were in the same cell as Eric started to kick the prison bars and to call the  guards which, despite the seriousness of the situation, took long to arrive.  Eric was dragged out of the cell by the guards, all the while as they still twisted his arm.  In those conditions, he was taken to the penal hospital.  “The abuse was so much that even the doctor told the guards to stop hurting my son“, says Caridad.  In the hospital, two serums were given to Eric and he was then returned to his cell once he had woken up.

Meanwhile, Esteban Sandez was also mistreated and even thrown off  from the cement beds located inside his cell.  On that same Sunday, guards also violently attacked Esteban, tearing apart the shirt he was wearing.

The situation we have gone through during these past [nearly] 4 days has been horrible“, says Caridad Caballero.  The three were released around 9 AM on Monday, March 19th.  The political police officials who conducted the arrest told the three human rights activists that they were being detained because of “public disorder“.

As of yet, Caballero Batista has not been able to attend mass during 2012.  She is usually arrested on the actual Sundays when she is only blocks away from her home, but this time the aggressions against her started early and lasted throughout the entire weekend, as regime officials impeded her from even leaving her own city.

For more information from Cuba:

Caridad Caballero Batista - Cell Phone: +5352-629-749 / Twitter: @Caricaballero

Lady in White: “As Pope Benedict’s visit to Cuba nears, the political police increases its repression”. Another Sunday of Arrests.

This past 11th of March was the twelfth consecutive Sunday that Lady in White and independent journalist Caridad Caballero Batista was forcefully kept from reaching church alongside other Ladies in the city of Holguin.  This time, Caballero was arbitrarily detained on Saturday, March 10th, together with her 19-year old son, Eric Sandez Caballero, at around 8:30 AM as they were both aboard a car headed towards a taxi and bus stop at the center of the city to take care of some personal chores.

As soon as we stepped down from the car, various State Security and political police officials ran at us and aggressively arrested us”, explained the activist, adding that the operation was led by agents Duglas Torres Pupo and Yordanis Martinez Leon, among others.  The arrest occurred before the eyes of a number of everyday citizens which were passing by that centric area.  Regardless, the regime deployed a number of police vehicles just to arrest two people.

Both mother and son were introduced in one of those police vehicles and taken to the Instructional Unit of Pedernales where they were kept in separate interrogation rooms.  “They told us that they were not going to allow us to move freely throughout the country and that they were going to start a smear campaign against us.  We responded by saying that we do not care for how many campaigns they carry out against us and that we are anti-Castro until the death, and that we will keep fighting for our rights: for freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and  the respect of human rights in Cuba“.

After this exchange of words, Caridad and Eric were moved to separate small and sealed off cells.  In the case of Eric, there were 4 other prisoners in his cell, all of who were being charged with different crimes, including robbery.  The guards did not give him a mattress and the 19-year old had to sleep on a piece of concrete in the cell.  Eric Sandez suffers from a medical condition where his sugar level and blood pressure suddenly drop and the blood flow to his brain becomes insufficient.  Whenever this happens to him, he must urgently be rushed to a doctor or a hospital.  Despite suffering from such a delicate condition, the functionaries of the Cuban regime still subject Eric to cruel and degrading treatment.

In the case of Caballero Batista, she was the only person in her cell, which was completely sealed off.  “The bathroom of the cell was a small hole on the floor and it was clogged.  I had to put up with that very strong smell, among mosquitoes, roaches, spiders, and other bugs“.  As she usually does, the Lady in White began to shout messages from her dungeon: “Down with Communism“, “Down with the Castros“, and “Long live Human Rights“.  Caballero affirms that she heard some common prisoners in the distance repeat her slogans.  “In fact, one of them told me to scream louder so it could be heard in all of the prison, and others would repeat my phrase when I would say ‘long live Human Rights‘”.

Caridad and Eric were kept in those cells (without drinking water) until Sunday at 11:30 AM, once the mass in the Jesus Christ Redeemer of Men Church of Holguin had concluded.  During this whole time, Caballero’s home was surrounded by numerous police vehicles and State Security officials with the intentions of keeping Esteban Sandez, Caridad’s husband, from leaving his own home.  Despite this, the dissident found a way to leave his house and directed himself to the nearest State Security unit where he publicly demanded the liberation of his wife and son.

In regards to her son, Caridad Caballero assured that although the regime is trying to “frighten him, he has come out much stronger.  Every time he has one of these situations he gets even more inspired to stay in the struggle“.

Meanwhile, in the town of Banes the Ladies in White Marta Diaz Rondon, Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez, and Miladis Pinales Rosa were once again arrested at around 5:30 AM as they were trying to travel to the city of Holguin to march to mass alongside other Ladies.  Diaz Rondon explained that in her case her home had been under “tight surveillance since Wednesday“.  Despite the vigilance, the dissident and these other two women decided to leave their homes during the early morning hours.  They noticed that barely any State Security officials and political police officers were around their homes at that time.  They took advantage of the moment and boarded a bus.  However, as the bus arrived to the exit point of Banes, a military checkpoint composed of numerous State Security officials were waiting for the Ladies.

They took us down from the buses by force, and at that moment, we were arrested.  They put us inside police vehicles and took us to the State Security headquarter of Banes”, said Rondon.  The three women were kept separated in that unit for 6 hours until mass in Holguin and Banes came to an end.  “They told each of us that every time we leave our homes we will be detained“.  Diaz Rondon has not been able to leave her own city for various weeks now.  

All the exits of Banes are under control of State Security and the political police, but I have told all the officials that my house is not a dungeon”, affirmed the Lady in White.

Other Ladies in White, such as Berta Guerrero Segura in Cacocum and Adisnidia Cruz in the city of Holguín, were reportedly detained also on that Sunday.  Only 3 women made it to mass in Jesus Christ Redeemer of Men Church, under much vigilance and constant threats on behalf of functionaries from the communist regime.

During that same Sunday night, it was confirmed  that dissidents Jorge Luis García Pérez Antúnez, Eriberto Liranza Romero (president of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy) and Rene Rouco Machín (President of the Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia Movement) were suddenly arrested.  The detentions were reported by Yris Tamara Aguilera, wife of Antunez and active dissident in her own right, who published various Twitter messages (@YrisCuba) with the information.  In the case of her husband, his arrest occurred in the central town of Placetas as he stepped out of his house and was walking to the corner of his block when guards detained him “under orders of the high command from Havana“.  Eriberto Liranza and Rene Rouco were arrested in their respective homes in Havana.  Yris Aguilera added that she does not know the whereabouts of her husband or of Liranza or Machin, and that in the town of “Sagua la Grande all homes of dissidents are surrounded“.

In regards to all these arbitrary arrests, Caridad Caballero declared that “as Pope Benedict’s visit to Cuba nears, the political police increases its repression against the peaceful defenders of human rights and the Ladies in White“.

For more information from Cuba:

Caridad Caballero Batista – Cell Phone: 011-5352-629-749; Twitter: @caricaballero / Marta Díaz Rondón – Cell Phone: 011-5352-771-639; Twitter: @MartaDiazRondon / Yris Tamara Aguilera – Cell Phone: 011-5352-417-749 ; Twitter: @YrisCuba

Despite the Arrests, the Vigilance and the Threats to their Family, these Dissidents Will Not Stop Protesting

Caridad Caballero Batista shows her bruises, products of State brutality in Cuba

Arrested and beaten more than four times during just the first month of 2012 and constantly threatened and surrounded, Caridad Caballero Batista  has once again been victim of repressive acts at the hands of the Cuban dictatorship this past Sunday, January 29th, when she was violently detained as she was trying to make it to the Jesus Redeemer of Men Church in the city of Holguin, to pray for the immediate freedom of Cuba.  But Caballero Batista is not the only one in her family to suffer the repression- her young son Eric and her husband Esteban Sande Suarez are also harassed because of the family’s dissident posture.  The latter- Esteban- was also arrested this past Sunday, and so were other Ladies in White and activists, all for the same reason.

Caballero narrates that the arrests occurred at 8 in the morning.  The first Ladies in White- besides her- to be arrested were Zuleidys Pérez Velázquez , Adis Nidia Cruz Hebreo, Ana María Aguilera Paneque, Berta Guerrero Seguro and Isabel Peña Torres.  All the gladiolus flowers they were carrying were snatched from their hands by State Security agents and destroyed.

After being violently pushed into police vehicles, the women were taken, as is custom, to the Instructional Unit known as Pedernales, located in the outskirts of Holguin.  In the case of Adis Nidia Cruz, from Pedernales she was taken to the police unit of Buenaventura, Berta Guerrero was taken to a cell in the police unit of the Rafael Freire municipality, while Ana Maria Paneque was confined to a cell in the Frontiers Unit of Gibara.  It was also reported that Lady in White Maritza Cardoza Romero was arrested in Moa.

As soon as the arrests took place, a group of dissident men who belong to diverse opposition organizations like the Liberal Party of Cuba, the Pedro Luis Boitel Movement and the Eastern Democratic Alliance marched all the way to the Pedernales Unit to demand the freedom of the Ladies in White.  “These men were also arrested“, explains Caballero Batista.  Their names are  Juan Carlos Verdecía Domínguez, Luis Jaime Merino, Félix Tomas Zapata, Esteban Sande Suarez, and Marco Antonio Lima. “In the case of Esteban (my husband) he was put in a torture cell of Pedernales, where the beds are really just concrete slabs and located about 6 feet ontop.  Jaime Merido was handcuffed inside the cop vehicle and the agents shoved a dirty rag into his mouse so he would not talk”,  denounced Caballero.

The Lady in White adds that on the following day, Monday the 30th, the guards of Pedernales announced their morning inspection, where prisoners must recognize their presence.  “Esteban refused to participate because he had not committed a single crime and, besides, he is not a soldier to be paying tribute to those same people who oppress us“, she explains, “for that reason, they threw him down from his bed and onto the floor.  The same happened with Juan Carlos Verdecia, for the same reason“.  Both men still have bruises and sharp pains due to the aggression.

Once again, citizen solidarity reigns 

All of the women who had been arrested were released on Monday at around 3 in the afternoon.  Berta Guerrero, Lady in White and wife of dissident Franklin Peregrino del Toro, was abandoned in a remote area of the Rafael Freire municipality, even though her house is located in the town of Cacocum, miles away.  Without any money or a purse, Guerrero tried using her cellphone to communicate with her husband, but she did not have enough credit.  It was then that, according to Caballero Batista, “local Cubans- the real Cubans- noticed this. One man approached her and offered to take her back home“.  Adis Nidia, who was similarly abandoned in another area, counted with the solidarity of a man who paid her bus ticket so she could return home.

In the case of Caridad Caballero and Esteban Sande, they were left outside Pedernales and had to walk and find their own ways to get back home.

Though these dissidents were kept in sealed-off cells and under constant threats, Caballero highlights that 4 other Ladies in White did successfully make it to church.  “These women were Romelia Piña González, Gisely González, Nelia Molina Leyva and Gloria Piña González. They were able to participate in mass and prayed for the freedom of all political prisoners and for the freedom of all those detained, as well as all Cubans”.  

Son of dissident couple who suffers from medical issues is also victim of Castro-sponsored violence

Caridad and Esteban denounced that Eric Sande, their 19 year old son, is also victim of the tyranny’s repression, despite his young age and the fact that he suffers from a medical condition which affects his brain.  “It is a condition where, sometimes, he does not receive enough oxygen in his brain“, explains his mother, “when this happens to him, his blood pressure drops and he often even loses consciousness“.  Not even taking this into consideration, the regime’s authorities arrested Eric during the week of January 20th and he was victim of numerous physical abuses.  His blood pressure dropped very low during this time as he was being held in inhumane conditions.

Eric Sande, son of Caridad Caballero and Esteban Sande Suarez

When we were arrested this Sunday 29th, my house was surrounded by State Security, despite the fact that Esteban and I were not even there.  An official from the Confrontation Unit, whose last name is Martinez Leon, came here“, denounced Caridad, “and aggressively threatened my son, telling him that he would have to pay for his parents activism“.

In addition, Batista points out that Eric- who frequently attends Sunday mass- is preparing himself for his confirmation.  Some local authorities have even gone as far as to harass him in church and trying to impede that he take the necessary classes required for this religious service.

We are holding State Security responsible for what could happen to our son“, declares Batista.

The Cuban dictatorship never attacks dissidents only.  Instead, they also go after their families, whether they be young or old, men or women.  Accepting these consequences and holding tight to their compromise with freedom for Cuba, Caridad Caballero Batsita and Esteban Sande Suarez have affirmed that they will continue with their acts of Resistance.  In fact, when they were released from their dungeons this past weekend, Caballero says that she looked her oppressors in the eyes and assured them that “it looks like we will see each other again next Sunday because we are not going to stop going to church, we will not stop being Ladies in White, and we will continue with our activities“.

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