Pedazos de la Isla

"Pieces of the Island"-An English Translation

Category Archives: Martha Beatriz Ferrer Cantillo

Ladies in White movement turns 10 as they march throughout Cuba on Easter Sunday

Ladies in White march in Havana on March 31st 2013. Photo by @jangelmoya

Numerous Ladies in White defied police operations and marched throughout Cuba this Easter Sunday, March 31st, to mark the religious date and also to celebrate the 10th anniversary in which they were founded as a movement composed by the mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, aunts and other relatives of the political prisoners rounded up and jailed during the Black Spring.  Various arrests of these women were reported at the hands of the political police this Sunday as well.

Laura Labrada, daughter of the fallen leader and founder of the group, Laura Pollan, kicked off the march in the capital, Havana, carrying a photo of her mother.  A total of 54 women were present in this march.  They were also able to assist Easter Mass at the Santa Rita Church according to former political prisoner of conscience Angel Moya Acosta on his Twitter account (@jangelmoya).  Moya added that more than 35 male dissidents accompanied the women.  

Sayli Navarro, a young member of the group and daughter of former political prisoner Felix Navarro, tweeted (@SayliNavarro) that a total of 20 Ladies in White marched and assisted Mass in the province of Matanzas.

Ladies in White outside of church in Cardenas, Matanzas. March 31st 2013. Photo by @SayliNavarro

Meanwhile, in the Eastern region of the country, the political police arrested a total of 24 women between Saturday and Sunday, according to Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).  Among the detainees was his 15 year old daughter, Martha Beatriz Ferrer Cantillo.

In the case of Martha Beatriz, she was detained twice“, explained Ferrer, “she was first detained when she head out from Palmarito de Cauto alongside 3 other Ladies in White to the El Cobre Shrine during morning hours.  She was forcefully returned to her home in Palmarito de Cauto and decided to once again head out to the Shrine.  She was detained again“.

The majority of the other detainees were from Santiago de Cuba, Mella and Contramaestre.

Regardless, a total of 43 Ladies in White marched to Mass in the Cobre National Shrine according to the dissident leader, “despite all the repressive actions against them“.

The Ladies in White have proven to be one of the most active and successful pro-freedom movements on the island during the past 10 years.  The majority of their members were not public activists when their relatives were arbitrarily arrested and sentenced to years in prison in 2003.  However, these women took to the streets just days after to demand the release of their loved ones.  From that moment on, the police unleashed a repressive wave against them, consisting of beatings, arrests, and in the majority of the cases, the expulsion of their work centers.

The  group has been internationally awarded and acknowledged and they have also been able to practice a significant amount of pressure against the regime, up to the point where their relatives have had to be freed as well as many other political prisoners.  Throughout the years, women throughout the country who are not related to any political prisoner but who support and compose the internal opposition began to march alongside the Ladies in White.  They became known as “The Ladies of Support“.  Eventually, the leaders of the group declared them all Ladies in White.

Laura Pollan, founder and leader of the movement, was taken to her untimely death by the Cuban regime, according to relatives and fellow members of the internal resistance.  Yet, Berta Soler has successfully assumed the role of leader of the group, which has only grown and strengthened in recent times.

The Ladies in White have become very active throughout the entire week“, highlighted Jose Daniel Ferrer, explaining that not only do these women march on Sundays, but also carry out social activities for impoverished citizens and underage children.

State violence has not been able to impede these women from gaining public space and the respect of everyday citizens throughout the country.

Stoning against the Ladies in White, neighbors come out in their defense

State organized mobs assault the Ladies in White

On the night of March 18th, the Cuban political police organized a mob of more than 200 people to attack a group of 50 Ladies in White in Palma Soriano who were holding their monthly meeting, dedicating it to the 10th anniversary of the Black Spring crackdown when 75 dissidents were arrested and sentenced to prison.  These actions resulted in the hospitalization of one of the Ladies in White and the violent arrests of various neighbors who came out in their defense.

Belkis Cantillo, the representative of the Ladies in White in the province of Santiago de Cuba, was present and explained to this blog that the meeting took place without any incidents, but “at around 4 PM, when we were going to leave the house, we noticed that there were mobs on each corner.  It was then that act of repudiation began“.

Cantillo estimated that there were about 200 people in the acts of repudiation, many of them drunkards, and all of them responding to the orders of the political police.  Some of the agents who were at the forefront of the mobs were Edgar, Norberto, Yunier, Ernesto, Rodolfo and Agustin (the latter a chief of the Confrontation Unit in Santiago de Cuba), although the activist points out that these are just code names, seeing as the agents never use their actual names.

In addition, there were underage students in the mob.  They were taken there by their teachers.

The teachers would tell the kids to scream insults at us like ‘worms‘”, said Cantillo, “but the majority of the parents showed up, angry, and punished their children and took them away from there.  They also confronted and protested against the teachers for taking them there without their authorization“.

The mobs remained outside of the home of Denia Hernandez and started to throw rocks against the walls, windows and roof.  There were also underage children inside- 3,8,12, and 15 years old.  The eldest being Martha Beatriz Ferrer, daughter of Belkis and leading dissident Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia.

These kids were terrorized.  All they could hear were the rocks crashing against the walls.  It felt like it was raining rocks, it wouldn’t come to an end“, recounts Belkis, “And the political police was just there, controlling those mobs, encouraging them“.

At one point, one of the rocks landed inside the house of a neighbor.  Clearly bothered, he came out to defend the women.  He wasn’t the only one.

This man came out to defend us.  He told the police officers to stop the violence“, said the Lady in White, “and many other people came out to defend us- both men and women.  In fact, there were 6 women (neighbors) who stood up for us.  They started to shout at the mobs, asking why they were throwing rocks at us because we were only defending our rights”.

The result of the displays of solidarity was the beating and arrest of the 6 women at the hands of the political police.  Each of them were taken away to an undisclosed location.  Two of them were identified on Jose Daniel Ferrer’s Twitter account (@jdanielferrer) as Jessica Hernández and Maricela Chea.

Meanwhile, the Lady in White Miraida Martin was physically assaulted by the mobs when she stepped out of the house.  The aggression was so intense that she had to be urgently rushed to the clinic of Palma Soriano, where they had to give her oxygen, according to another tweet by Ferrer Garcia, which also detailed that she was in “a very delicate state of health“.

The home of Denia Hernandez remained under police vigilance long after the mobs began to disperse at around 9 PM.  It remained that way all night long.

Belkis Cantillo said that despite the fact that they were very violent moments, the Ladies in White were not afraid, although they are “very worried about the women who defended us and were assaulted.  They are still detained and were very beat, being held in an undisclosed location“.

Her husband and leader of UNPACU, Jose Daniel Ferrer, added on Twitter that the 6 women demonstrated a high level of bravery and expressed that “when everyone who desires a better future does the same as Jessica, Maricela, and the rest of the neighbors, the abuses, the hunger, and the misery will come to an end”.

For more information from Cuba, contact:

Belkis Cantillo- Cell Phone: +58-323-612

Adolescent dissident maintains position after being mistreated by professors in her school

Martha Beatriz Ferrer Cantillo

Just days from turning 15, Martha Beatriz Ferrer Cantillo- daughter of renown dissident Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia and Lady in White Belkis Cantillo Ramirez- is being victim of a blackmail and harassment campaign at the hands of functionaries of the Communist Party and teachers from her school, the Pre-University of Palmarito de Cauto. The smear campaign culminated in an argument and a physical aggression against the young student when she expressed her opinion during a political act which she had been tricked into attending during class time.

Ferrer Cantillo says that harassment against her and the rest of her family is constant, but that in the last two weeks it has increased in school. “The professors and the members of the Communist Party are very bothered because the students in my class agree with me when I say my opinion“, said the youth, “it hurts them that I have friends and that they visit my house often“.

In addition, points out Ferrer, “a few days ago a professor started teaching a history class, in which he said that in Cuba human rights were not violated, to which I raised my hand and responded, saying that it wasn’t true. And my classmates agreed with me“.

This past Monday, December 10th, precisely when International Human Rights Day was being celebrated throughout the world, the professors of her school announced a mandatory activity. When Martha Beatriz asked if it was a political act- which she always refuses to attend- all her professors assured her that it was a “common” activity. She noticed that this allegation wasn’t true upon entering the place, seeing that in fact it was a political activity.

The event started with a couple of kids from the primary school- who were being manipulated and pressured by the professors- who went up on stage and started saying that human rights are respected in Cuba, and that Fidel Castro is one of the leaders of the revolution who most respects these rights“, recounts Martha Beatriz, who did not wait to respond. “I quickly said that in Cuba human rights are not respected- nothing of the sort. Suddenly, a member of the Communist Party hit me on my arm and told me to shut up, saying that I did not have the right to say that“.

At that moment, the adolescent left the classroom, declaring that she would not return to school until her opinions are respected.

I’m not going back to school until they apologize to me for doing this and until my rights are respected“, she said. However, Martha explains that her classmates were once again supporting her during the entire ordeal.

Jose Daniel Ferrer, father of Martha Beatriz, added that there are already a number of police operations which have already been set in motion to impede his daughter’s friends from coming to their home to celebrate her birthday this Thursday, December 13th.

In one of his tweets, Ferrer (@jdanielferrer) highlights that “members of the Communist Party and of the Education sector are already pressuring classmates of Martha Beatriz so that they won’t associate themselves with her” and also “pressuring their parents“.

On her part, Martha Beatriz, who is also one of the youngest Ladies in White in Cuba, affirms that her position in regards to the situation has not changed with the passing of the days. The youth has been beat and detained by the political police on a number of occasions for participating in activities of the Ladies in White and the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and says that she will not allow manipulations from her teachers and members of the Communist Party to cause any fear in her, assuring that she will continue expressing her thoughts.

For more information from Cuba:

José Daniel Ferrer García – Cell Phone: +5353-146-740 // Twitter: @jdanielferrer

Fourteen year old Dissident Sends a Message to the Cuban Youth

Martha Beatriz Ferrer Cantillo

At just 14 years old, Martha Beatriz Ferrer Cantillo is one of the youngest, and most active, Ladies in White in Cuba, and not only because her parents are renown human rights defenders on the island (former political prisoner Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia and Belkis Cantillo Ramirez), but because she believes that “it is a just cause” and that “all Cubans deserve a sovereign and free country“.

Her young age, however, does not exempt her from the same police repression which all these women face every Sunday and nearly every day, as was proven this past Sunday, October 21st, when Martha Beatriz and three other minors- her sister (7 year old Fatima Victoria), her brother (9 year old Daniel), and another young member of the Ladies in White (11 year old Daniela Garces)- were all taken down from a bus by force and then harassed and physically assaulted by police agents who impeded them from reaching their destination.

We were on our way from Palma Soriano to the Shrine of El Cobre when we were intercepted on the street by political police agents“, said Ferrer, “they boarded the bus and told us 4 that we had to get off, but we refused to do so because us going to Mass does not constitute a crime, as it is not a crime for any other Cuban”.

The agents responded the same way they respond against any other dissident: with physical aggressions.

They shouted obscene words at us and then took us down by force… then a police bus arrived and they told us we had to go inside.  We refused.  Various uniformed women shoved and dragged us to the bus. One of these women, whose name I could not confirm, grabbed me by the neck and  choked me.  Daniela was scratched.  And my brother Daniel was pushed and hit a couple of times when they were putting him on the bus.  We fell to the steps of the bus because they were pushing us so much“, recounted the youth.

The 4 minors were forcefully put inside the bus.  In the case of Daniela Garces, she was left at the entrance of Palma Soriano, near her house, while Martha Beatriz and her siblings were “abandoned in the bus station“.  They all directed themselves to the home of Lady in White Aime Garces.

But it is not the first time that these 4 have been subjected to detentions, physical aggressions or threats, affirmed Martha Beatriz without any hints of fear in her voice.

My little sister and brother have been detained along with my mother when we have been traveling on buses to get to church, while Daniela and I have been removed from buses together before“, she explained.

Much has been said about the ‘apathy’ which ‘consumes’ young Cubans.  However, the adolescent Martha Beatriz affirms that there are more like her, in the Eastern part of Cuba as well as the rest of the island.  The young Lady in White sent a clear message to the youths of her country:

To the Cuban youth I say, we must fight for our rights, so that they no longer violate them.  Fight for a free Cuba where all rights are respected, as well as the rights of our parents.  So that our parents can have decent salaries and access to jobs as well“.

Meanwhile, to the Cuban youth outside of the island she asks they “support us, because we are fighting for the freedom of all Cubans“.

Jose Daniel Ferrer Will Not Allow Threats of Being Returned to Prison Impede his Activism

 

Former political prisoner and general coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, was kept in a dungeon for more than 72 hours during his most recent detention and was threatened by State Security agents that he could be sent back to prison if he continues participating in and organizing dissident activities throughout the Eastern region of the country. This time, his jailers filmed him on numerous occasions, such as when they read him an official warning letter which informed him that he’d be sent back to prison for continuing to cause what they termed as “public disorders”.

They had that camera during the entire time, but they only filmed the parts they found necessary”, explained Ferrer Garcia, “for example, when they put me in a cell with a terrible amount of heat, without food, without communication, and without my medicines for my health conditions- they didn’t film any of that”. The response of the dissident leader when they read him the warning was “that until in Cuba human rights are not respected, until there is no freedom, as long as Cubans can’t decide for themselves and be protagonists of their own destinies, I am going to continue doing the same thing we have been doing, and many other things- in a peaceful manner- in favor of freedom and democracy”.

This most recent arrest of Ferrer Garcia took place on Friday, August 24th, when UNPACU was celebrating its 1 year anniversary of having been created. For days prior to the date, combined forces of the political police, the Rapid Response Brigades, and State Security unleashed a wave of arrests and house raids against members of the mentioned organization throughout Eastern Cuba.

One of the first cases was that of Jorge Cervantes García on August 23rd, when a number of armed officials raided his home in Contramaestre, occupied many materials, threatened all those inside, and jailed Cervantes Garcia and his two underage children. He still remains detained.

In the case of Ferrer, his home had been surrounded by police agents for various days until they finally raided the house on the morning of the 24th. “They ransacked the house”, said the dissident, “they robbed everything they felt like, and what they did not steal they destroyed. I am talking about even toys and belongings of my children…they have robbed them or destroyed them”.

In addition, in the home of Ferrer Garcia, as well as those of other UNPACU activists, the police took printers, cameras, laptops, pamphlets and other materials, none of which have been returned, as tends to happen.

Marta Beatriz Ferrer Cantillo, 14 year old Lady in White and daughter of Jose Daniel, explained in an audio uploaded onto UNPACU’s YouTube account that police agents beat all those inside the house in the moment of the arrest, including herself, her cousin, her mother (Belkis Cantillo) and an aunt. Her elderly grandmother was also inside the house and suffered a sharp increase in her blood pressure.

Other detainees on that day were Anyer Antonio Blanco, Rafael Miguel Cabrera Montoya, Franklin Peregrino del Toro and Berta Guerrero Segura. The latter, who is the representative of the Ladies in White in Holguin, was arrested and mistreated along with her underage daughter, who she was carrying at the time of her arrest and forceful entry into a police vehicle.

Other reports denounced that another 6 homes were raided that day and more than 60 arrests occurred.

Meanwhile, activist Luis Miguel Gomez Hernandez reported that a group of UNPACU members were arrested in the municipality of Gibara on that same Friday, among them Ladies in White like Yoandra Garrido Silva and Maydaly Garrido Silva, as they too celebrated the anniversary. Gomez Hernandez was one of the detainees that afternoon and explained that they were all subjected to “interrogations and threats that we could not leave Gibara and that we would not be allowed to carry out any dissident activity, and that not even the Ladies in White could to Mass on Sundays“. This group was released but many other activists remain imprisoned, and some are on hunger strike (Ferrer Garcia put the number at more than 20).

Despite all that they have done to us, our activists celebrated the anniversary of UNPACU with marches, signs, pamphlets, slogans and other diverse ways, not only in the East but also in the West”, said Ferrer Garcia, referencing the case of Hugo Damian Prieto Blanco, in Havana, who was arrested after carrying out commemorative events.

Other activists of diverse pro-democracy groups also paid tribute to UNPACU and demanded freedom for their detained members, as was the case of Lady in White and member of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights and the Pro-Human Rights Party of Cuba, Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo, who carried out a public protest in Havana to commemorate the Day of the Resistance and in solidarity with the mentioned dissidents. In Placetas, Villa Clara, dissident leader Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez” also included messages of freedom for Jose Daniel Ferrer and congratulating UNPACU as he also carried out a public protest along with other activists.

Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia was released during the morning hours of Sunday, August 26th and was quick to reiterate his compromise with the pro-freedom movement in Cuba.

The tyranny is very afraid”, affirmed the dissident, “and like a wounded beast, it will retaliate and cause lots of damage to peaceful people who want freedom for all Cubans, but we are willing to give it all. As Jose Marti said: ‘Freedom has a high price, and it is necessary to either give up and live without her, or decide to obtain it at its price’“.

For more information from Cuba:

Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia – Phone: +5353-146-740 // Twitter: @jdanielferrer

Belkis Cantillo Demands Freedom for her Husband, Jose Daniel Ferrer. If not Released, She Will Publicly Protest Tomorrow

Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia together with his wife Belkis Cantillo and 14 year old daughter Martha Beatriz Ferrer

Jose Daniel has not committed any crime, he has no reason to be detained”, said his wife, Lady in White Belkis Cantillo this Thursday, April 12th,  from Palmarito de Cauto.  The former political prisoner Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia has been jailed in the Versalles Police Unit since last April 2nd after a number of armed Cuban agents raided his home, confiscating various recording devices, a laptop, CDs, USB drives, and other materials.

They [the regime] have exceeded the limit, 10 days have already passed since Jose Daniel’s arrest.  If he is not released or if they do not give me a clear explanation, I will publicly protest outside the police unit tomorrow, April 13th“, said Cantillo.

The Lady in White was able to visit her husband this past 10th of April, but just for a few minutes.  “He is very skinny and is full of mosquito bites all over.  In the unit where he is being held the conditions are not suitable for anyone.  The Versalles Unit is used to imprison murderers.  There is no hygiene, and very little food“, explained the activist, “the one who violate the rights of the Cuban people are the Castro brothers, not Jose Daniel“.

In regards to her three children, Belkis explains that “they are still nervous since they witnessed the assault on our home“.  She said that her eldest daughter, 14 year old Martha Beatriz Ferrer, is a “very brave girl” but she has also been beat and has been affected by the raiding of the house.  “All of this is the fault of Fidel and Raul Castro, the real assassins.  The only thing we are doing is defending the rights of the Cuban people“.  Her other two children- Daniel (7) and Fatima (9) have also suffered the consequences.

Belkis Cantillo added that despite the threats of police agents which have told the Ladies in White that only a very small group would be allowed to assist Sunday mass, all the women will continue marching to the Cobre Sanctuary in Santiago de Cuba each and every Sunday.  “If they arrest us, then so be it, but we will continue in this civic struggle“, declared Cantillo.

The human rights activist also sent out another message to the world: “I am calling on public international opinion to intercede on behalf of Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia so he is immediately released“.

For more information from Cuba:

Belkis Cantillo Ramírez – Cell Phone: +5353 -790 -867 // Twitter: @jdanielferrergarcia, @luisenriquefg

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