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"Pieces of the Island"-An English Translation
Category Archives: Maritza Cardoza Romero
Alarming and Rising Violence Against Cuban Resistance: Punches, Sticks, Raids, and Sexual Harassment
February 9, 2012Posted by on
In the municipality of Moa, in the province of Holguin, 3 Cuban regime henchmen carried out various physical blows against the Lady in White Annie Sarrion Romero to the point that they broke two of her front teeth this past Tuesday February 7th, according to her husband, the coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) in Moa, Juan Carlos Vazquez Osoria.
The brutal assault occurred when Sarrion was on her way to her job on Tuesday morning. She was confronted by the group of men, under the direction of political police chief in that area, Leandro Morgado, and they all began to threaten her for her dissident activities. Amid the provocations, Sarrion stood firm and non-violent. The agents, however, responded with violence. Two of the “men” who punched her to the point of losing two teeth were Víctor Laurencio Blanco y Neuris Basulto.
According to Vazquez Osoria, Blanco and Basulto are waiting to travel to Venezuela to carry out medical missions in that country. “In the case of Victor, I know that he has already traveled twice to Venezuela, and now they all have their papers ready to travel once more“, denounced the activist. He adds that “pay is so poor here in Cuba that they have to do these things” to be accepted and approved by the regime to travel.
It is precisely against this corruption and violence which Osoria and Romero peacefully protest against, and for this reason, they are beaten, arrested, and suffer other sorts of harassment. For example, this same week, on Monday February 6th (the day before Annie was beaten), Juan Carlos Vazquez explains that along with his wife and other dissidents of the UNPACU they began to put up anti-government signs outside their home. “In our signs we wrote slogans like ‘just salaries for all workers’, ‘milk for the kids’, ‘freedom for all political prisoners’, and ‘down with hunger and misery’, in addition to putting up the UNPACU flag‘”, says Osoria. Quickly, during the afternoon, a mob repudiation attack was organized by the regime outside the house.
It was at this moment that the communist mobs raided the house. “Someone who goes by the title of Lieutenant Colonel Andres broke down our door, began to hit us, and even broke my cellphone“, denounced the dissident. The mobs then began to drag all the dissidents outside out of the house- Annie Sarrion Romero, Maritza Cardosa Romero (both Ladies in White), Mario Antonio Borges, and Geraldo Sarrion (son-in-law of Osoria).
“My wife was dragged, as we all were, and they beat her. They hit me over the head with sticks. And then we were all detained and taken to the local National Revolutionary Police Unit”, said Osoria.
Meanwhile, the national coordinator of UNPACU- the former political prisoner Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia- denounced that on Tuesday, agents of the dictatorship also arrested 5 activists of that pro-democracy group. Those arrested were Ana Celia Rodríguez Torres, Yanisel Figueredo Valdés, Kenya Leguin (Ladies in White), Julio Cesar Vega Santisteban and Elieser Consuegra Velázquez. “The men were released during afternoon hours, but up to this moment (Wednesday) the women have not yet been released”, explained Ferrer, who also classified this violence against the Ladies in White and the Cuban Resistance in general as an emergency.
“These women- the Ladies in White- are victims of a merciless and constant harassment; not only are they constantly and arbitrarily detained, not only are they beaten, but they are also confined to filthy prison cells in police units and, once there, police agents sexually harass them”, denounced the former prisoner of conscience. During the first weeks of 2012 countless cases of sexual abuse against the Ladies in White and other female dissidents have been reported. “They have inappropriately and forcefully touched these women while they search their bodies for phones, cameras, and camera memory cards. Not only do they suffer these searches of the entire body, but they are also touched and immobilized”.
Ferrer cites a specific example, when recently “a political police official brought a lover of his and started to have sex next to the cell where Lady in White Karina Quintana was being held, and later another agent arrived and started to make perverted sexual gestures at the Lady in White“. Another case was when “during the weekend of February 3rd to the 5th, on Saturday night, 2 agents of the police in the 3rd Unit of Santiago de Cuba- known as “the motorized unit”- walked into the cell where Lady in White Liudmilla Cedeno Martinez (wife of Guillermo Cobas, coordinator of UNPACU in El Caney) was detained and started to also carry out perverted gestures as they stared at the dissident“.
In addition, Ferrer pointed out examples in other parts of Cuba, like in Placetas (central Cuba) where women from the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights were recently arrested with much violence, and also sexual harassment. Among the women were Yris Tamara Aguilera, Idania Yanez and Damaris Moya- whom all confirmed that some were grabbed in the breasts or touched in other places by regime agents. Another case, as Ferrer cites, was against (also Lady in White) Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo, in Havana. Fonseca is also victim of constant surveillance, physical aggression, and sexual harassment by communist henchmen. “It is not enough for the dictatorship to beat dissidents“, denounces Ferrer, “We know very well that tyrannies sustain themselves in power through very low and degrading acts, as the political police is doing here in Cuba. But it is very worrying and alarming, due to the magnitude of these actions against peaceful and brave women“.
Juan Carlos Vazquez Osoria echoed the same denouncement, adding that “these acts of vandalism and aggression of the Castro regime are being done in order to plant terror in everyday people, so that they will not join the struggle for freedom. But people are noticing, because there is far too much necessity- the streets are not clean, there are no good schools for our children, hundreds of kids can’t even go to school, and many of those who do go without shoes because the streets are so bad that their shoes are torn“.
“And we are fighting against all of this, and that is why they violently attack us“, declares the dissident.
Jose Daniel Ferrer and Juan Carlos Vazquez are just some of the voices informing the world about the alarming and incrementing level of violence against dissidents in Cuba. We must listen.
Despite the Arrests, the Vigilance and the Threats to their Family, these Dissidents Will Not Stop Protesting
February 1, 2012Posted by on
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.
“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“.