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"Pieces of the Island"-An English Translation
Category Archives: Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights
August 29, 2013Posted by on
Each Thursday in the central region of Cuba women dressed in black march to their nearest church, in a sign of honor and respect to compatriots who have lost their lives in the struggle for establishing a country free from dictatorships. Many times the women are beat, arrested or deported, but each week they walk. They are the members of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights, named so in honor of the American civil rights hero.
The women of the Movement are mainly active in the provinces of Villa Clara, Ciego de Avila and Camaguey. They dress in black “as a sign of mourning“, according to the group’s president, Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, originally from Sancti Spiritus and who has been known as one of the female leaders of the Cuban opposition for some years now after she begun her activities demanding the release of her husband, former political prisoner Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’, who spent 17 years in the communist gulags for demanding change and freedom in the 90’s.
But why do these women mourn?
“Because we are honoring the many victims of the Castro tyranny“, explained Perez Aguilera, who explains that she is referring to the martyrs of all generations since 1959, “like Pedro Luis Boitel, Mario Chanes de Arma, Mario Manuel de la Pena, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Laura Pollan Toledo, Harold Cepero, Oswaldo Paya“… but she assures that “the list continues“.
Among the mentioned names are members of the pro-freedom Resistance from different stages in history, like Pedro Luis Boitel from the 70’s, Mario Manuel de la Pena (a young Cuban-American member of Brothers to the Rescue) from the 90’s, as well as more recent cases such as Zapata Tamayo, Pollan and Paya. On occasions, the marches have paid tribute to freedom fighters who died in combat or were executed in the Escambray mountains in the 60’s. They have also remembered rafters who have fled the island in search of freedom and have perished.
“We do this to not forget those heroes who fought for the freedom and democracy of Cuba“, says Yris.
Meanwhile, the political police and other repressive factions of the dictatorship lash out against these female activists each Thursday through different methods. At one point in time, each of the women would be arrested but now Perez explains that the agents have employed a new method, “arresting some” and “others not” in an attempt to try and create divisions among the group, an approach which has not yielded positive results for the regime.
“Some of us always manage to make it to church where we participate in Mass in honor of the martyrs, and also, every time one of our activists are left abandoned in some desolate field, they always return and continue the activity“, assures the dissident, a resident of Placetas, Villa Clara. Other cities where weekly marches are reported are Santa Clara, Grua Nueva and Camaguey.
The Rosa Parks Movement also carries out other civil disobedience demonstrations, such as sit-ins, public debates and protest marches. The goal of these activities is to demand the liberation of all political prisoners as well as to demand better social and living conditions for the everyday population.
And it is precisely because of all these Cubans who suffer under the reprisals of the communist regime or who have lost their lives that this female organization “will continue” with their actions, affirms Perez Aguilera.
Here are some declarations about the group made by Yris to this blog (in Spanish):
This past 28th of August, in honor of Martin Luther King’s legacy in the field of civil rights, exiled journalist, blogger and activist Luis Felipe Rojas interviewed Yris Tamara Perez, Damaris Moya and Yaite Cruz Sosa, all members of the Movement, in his program “Contacto Cuba”, transmited to the island through Radio Marti. Take a listen to the show here.
August 9, 2013Posted by on
On Thursday, August 8th, a press conference took place at the Institute of Cuban and Cuban-American Studies “Casa Bacardi” at the University of Miami with the renown Cuban dissidents Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’ and Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, both recently arrived to the city in a visit with the purpose to tell the world what really happens in Cuba.
Diverse local, national and international media outlets assisted the event, as did figures of the exiled Cuban community, many of them former political prisoners.
Antunez responded questions in regards to activism on the island, assuring that the pro-freedom movement is growing, making reference to the organization he leads – the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front – as well as the opposition in general, mentioning movements such as the Ladies in White.
Garcia Perez said that State violence has increased and that the recent deaths of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero are proof of what can happen to any citizen who decides to fight for true change. He highlighted the situation of political prisoners, making emphasis on people like Armando Sosa Fortuny and Ivan Fernandez Depestre.
He denied that on the island there have been real reforms and explained to the public about a new campaign in and out of the country under the title “I do Want”, created by the Assembly of the Resistance, a coalition of pro-democracy organizations in and out of the island.
Yris Tamara Perez, president of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights, briefly spoke to the press, detailing all the violence she and all the women of her group confront when they peacefully take to the streets and carry out marches in honor of pro-democracy martyrs and to demand freedom for the political prisoners. But she also sent out a message of hope for all Cubans, assuring that “our time of freedom is near”.
Antunez also responded to questions about racism in Cuba (which, according to him, the dictatorship practices with frequency) and the importance of technology and information, free from censorship.
Another subject touched by the dissident was the necessity to work towards a National Strike on the island, and thus creating a wave of actions of civil disobedience and non-cooperation to paralyze the structures of the tyranny.
During an emotional moment, journalist Vanessa Ruiz of ‘Marti News’ asked the dissident leader what have his impressions been of the Cuban exile in Miami. Antunez, with tears in his eyes, responded by saying that he feels pride every time he sees so many people which have never forgotten Cuba and continue helping those inside.
“The same dictatorship which assassinated Pedro Luis Boitel is the same dictatorship which assassinated Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero“, expressed Antunez, “and we are not from here or over there, the resistance to the dictatorship which began in 1959 is the same which continues now. We are only one“.
August 5, 2013Posted by on
In an emotional re-encounter with relatives and brothers in struggle, Jorge Luis Garcia ‘Antunez’ and Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera arrived to Miami, the capital of the Cuban exile, on the night of Sunday, August 4th 2013 as part of a tour to “denounce the Cuban reality”.
Antunez spoke those words to the different media outlets that were present in the Airport of Miami. From the moment he walked through the door of Cuba arrivals, the renown dissident and former political prisoner began to speak about the situation of Cuba, highlighting the cases of political prisoners such as Ivan Fernandez Depestre and Armando Sosa Fortuny, denouncing the wave of arrests which occurred before his departure from the island and assured that his visit has only one purpose, to let the world know that in Cuba there have not been real reforms and that human rights violations continue against the people.
Antunez, leader of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front, also assured that pro-freedom demonstrations on the streets of Cuba are increasing.
On her part, Yris Perez, who heads the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights, said she was very emotional and stood by the declarations made by her husband. Yris has been victim of constant beatings, actions which have caused her serious health complications. Regardless, she continues carrying out public opposition to the dictatorship.
Before offering their final remarks to the media, Antunez and Perez Aguilera reiterated that “they will not shut up or [permanently] leave Cuba“.
More images to come.
August 4, 2013Posted by on
Meet one of the newest political prisoners in Cuba, Ivan Fernandez Depestre (pictured above).
Ivan, who is approximately 40 years of age, recently joined the public opposition on the island, specifically the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance Front and the group Awakened Youth. He was arrested by the political police on July 30th when he participated in a protest march in the city of Placetas, Villa Clara in honor of a fallen patriot, Frank Pais, along with other dissidents. The authorities kept him detained and quickly sentenced him on August 2nd to a 2 year prison term in the Municipal Tribunal of Placetas.
During the ‘trial’, Fernandez Depestre was accused under the ‘Pre-Social Dangerousness Law’, which could dictate time behind bars for any citizen just because the authorities think that person would be a danger in the future. The law has been used to send thousands of Cubans to prison without having had committed crimes, and it is specifically used against dissidents, especially young ones.
Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’, former political prisoner and leader of the OZT Front, has been reporting about this case and has asked for more solidarity with the jailed activist.
“Ivan Fernandez Depestre committed the horrible crime of daring to go out with other pro-freedom activists this past 30th of July in a peaceful march, dressed with their clothes backwards, paying tribute to Frank Pais on the anniversary of his death“, declared Antunez in an audio published on his YouTube account.
The dissident leader added that the only detainee that day was Fernandez Depestre, explaining that the activist does not have family support and that his sentence was a method used by State Security to try and make him give up on his recently begun struggle.
Fernandez Depestre has been participating in numerous pro-freedom demonstrations in the city of Placetas during the months of June and July. He has been detained and beat by the political police on various occasions.
“I am calling on the international community to join in solidarity with this activist“, expressed Antunez. He also added that in light of Ivan’s sentence, there would be a campaign in and out of Cuba with the aim to demand his freedom through civic actions out on the streets.
Meanwhile, Antunez and his wife Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, leader of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights, will carry out a trip abroad this August 4th to tell the world about Cuba’s reality and the political police has unleashed an operation of arrests and beatings against dissidents who have tried to say goodbye to the dissident couple.
More details on the Twitter account of Antunez: @Antunezcuba
June 24, 2013Posted by on
On Saturday June 22nd, the majority of residents of the neighborhood known as El Batey, in Grua Nueva, Ciego de Avila, publicly protested the horrible conditions of a heavily transited main road.
According to dissident Santa Gonzalez Pedroso, vice-president of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights, the motive for the protest was that the main street was in very bad conditions, it was dirty and produced lots of dust, which directly affected locals.
“Here in Grua Nueva, Ciego de Avila, there are many children with a cold, there are many elderly neighbors in wheelchairs and other bedridden sick people, and this dust was asphyxiating all of us”, said Gonzalez Pedroso.
Neighbors have been complaining for a couple of days but their desperation finally tipped over on Saturday and “they took to the streets to demand a local delegate of Grua Nueva to fix the problem“, explained the activist. She said she was arriving to her house at that very moment when she saw the crowd of protestors.
The citizens remained out on the street demanding repairs to the street, which is transited by all neighbors and by all cars and trucks trying to get to other towns. The persistence of the demonstrators was so much that the delegate actually had to travel to the scene. His response, however, was that he would not fix anything because that was “a troublesome” neighborhood.
The response of the protestors was to block the entrance point of the road.
“All of the neighbors, including dissidents and everyday citizens, used lots of rocks and sticks to block off the entrance of the road“, recounts Gonzalez, explaining that this impeded cars from passing through. It was a form of civil disobedience.
The result of the protest was that a number of government workers were sent to the scene with a pipe to water down the dirt road and some of the dust was eliminated and cars could finally pass by.
Santa Gonzalez classifies the events as a victory, but an incomplete victory nonetheless, considering that the discontent level is still high amongst the locals of El Batey, Grua Nueva and the road is not completely fixed.
“Something big is going to happen here because the delegate says he is not going to fix this road, but they are going to have to fix it because it’s not just us, the dissident, who are demanding this. It’s the people of Grua Nueva“, expresses Gonzalez, “Of course, the delegate fixed his own road, but the people here are publicly saying that that’s not fair“.
For more information from Cuba, contact:
Santa González Pedroso – Cell Phone: +58-163-728 / Twitter: @Santacuba1
June 17, 2013Posted by on
The debate about whether dissidents working for a democratic Cuba should turn to hunger strikes or not always rises in and out of the island whenever these protests are undertaken. Whichever the opinions may be, the reality is that, right now, in Cuba there are 3 human rights activists on hunger strike, all of them on the verge of losing their lives due to the serious deterioration of their health. And while their lives extinguish slowly, the dictatorship ignores their demands.
Luis Enrique Santos Caballero
A member of the Central Opposition Coalition (CCO) and of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front, from the city of Santa Clara, Villa Clara. Has been carrying out his hunger strike since May 24th, demanding a home after he was forcefully evicted alongside his wife Ramona Maday García, an activist of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights. Santos Caballero spent more than 15 years behind bars and upon being released his father had passed away and he had nowhere to live. He spent some time living at the homes of friends and fellow dissidents until he finally decided to occupy an abandoned establishment. Police forces violently evicted Santos from this establishment. He has been under constant persecution since then.
The dissident began to protest with his wife in the Vidal Park of Santa Clara for a number of days, demanding a home. He was arrested, beaten and repudiated by government mobs on various occasions. Santos decided to start a hunger strike, moving his protest to the city of Placetas, specifically in the home of dissident Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’.
Santos Caballero has only one kidney. He lost the other organ after a brutal beating by his jailers while he was still in prison. It is precisely because the lack of one kidney that his health has deteriorated so quickly and why his health is critical. Authorities have ignored his demands but Santos has said that he will take his protest to the final consequences. #SOS
For more information from Cuba:
Jorge Luis García Pérez ‘Antúnez’ – Cell Phone: +52-731-656 / Twitter: @antunezcuba
Osvaldo Rodríguez Acosta
The home of dissident Osvaldo Rodríguez Acosta and his family in the town of Bejucal was raided by police forces on September 2012 after he had announced the formation of a new pro-freedom group, the Patriotic Alliance, and that his oldest son, 24 year old Osvaldo Rodriguez Castillo, refused to participate in military service. Father and son were beaten until the point that their heads were broken. Juana Castillo, wife of Osvaldo Rodriguez, was also physically assaulted while her youngest son (12 years old at the time) witnessed everything. The minor is severely traumatized.
The 3 activists were rapidly detained and sent to an arbitrary trial in 2013. Osvaldo Rodriguez was sentenced to 9 years of prison, his son to 7 years and Juana was sentenced to 5 years of correctional labor. Osvaldo (father) is jailed in the Combinado del Este Prison, where he began his hunger strike on May 10th, protesting all the abuses against his family and the authorities’ refusal to allow family visits. His son is being held in Valle Grande Prison of Havana. On June 8th, dissident and Lady in White Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo, from Boyeros, Havana, reported that Osvaldo Rodríguez Acosta had been transferred to the National Hospital’s penal ward, already with more than 30 days on hunger strike and in a “critical” state.
Fonseca has informed on her Twitter account that Rosa Acosta, mother of Osvaldo Rodriguez, suffered a pulmonary effusion and was interned in the National Hospital, where her son resides. Authorities have not allowed them to see each other. #SOS
For more information from Cuba:
Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo – Cell Phone: +53-379-01 1/ Twitter: @SaraMartaCuba
Wilbert Parada Milán
Wilbert Parada Milán is a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU). He was violently detained along with Roberto Hernandez on March 30th in Habana Vieja. He began his hunger strike on May 13th in the Valle Grande Prison, also in Havana.
In a recent interview with this blog, José Daniel Ferrer García, leader of UNPACU, explained that Parada’s arrest was due to the constant activism he had been carrying out throughout the capital, carrying out civic protests and handing out pro-freedom literature.
In another recent interview to ABC, Yudisnelis Rodríguez Reina, wife of the dissident, explained that the hunger striker is in “critical state” in a cell of the Cominbado del Este’s hospital.
Jailers have not allowed Wilbert to have family visits and he has reportedly lost consciousness on a number of occasions. Relatives and fellow dissidents fear for the worst with this activist, who finds himself in a struggle between life and death. #SOS
For more information from Cuba:
José Daniel Ferrer García – Cell Phone: +53-146-740 / Twitter: @jdanielferrer
Luis Enrique Santos Caballero, Osvaldo Rodríguez Acosta, Wilbert Parada Milán. Three names we shouldn’t forget. No more repression, no more dictatorship.
June 6, 2013Posted by on
Members of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance and Civil Disobedience Front in the city of Placetas, Villa Clara have been carrying out continuous public demonstrations since the beginning of June, in solidarity with the demands of hunger striker Luis Enrique Santos Caballero who has refused to intake food since May 24th, demanding a home after he was forcefully evicted by government forces.
Now, new images of these protests have arrived from the island. The demonstrations took place on the 1st, 2nd and 5th of June in the city of Placetas. The videos have been published on the YouTube channels of Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’, leader of the OZT Front, and of Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello.
On June 1st, a group of activists demonstrated in a Placetas neighborhood, shouting slogans in favor of Santos Caballero and letting neighbors know about the situation. In this activity, once can see the face and body of the hunger striker, clearly deteriorated:
After the protest, various activists were violently arrested by the political police. Among the detainees was Yoel Bravo. We can see the moment of his arrest here:
On June 2nd, Ramona Maday Garcia, wife of Luis Enrique Santos and member of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights, marched down the streets of Placetas with a sign explaining the situation of her husband, asking for solidarity from neighbors and denouncing the indifference of the regime:
The most recent video, filmed on June 5th, shows a protest in the a popular spot of Placetas. According to Antunez and other dissidents, this activity ended in police violence when neighbors came out in defense of the demonstrators:
These audio-visuals show the desperation of a Cuban family which, after having been left without a home, have been demanding justice. Luis Enrique and Ramona spent a number of days protesting and sleeping in Vidal Park of Santa Clara and after arrests, acts of repudiation and the indifference of the authorities, the dissident decided to declare himself on hunger strike and take his protest to the home of Jorge Luis ‘Antunez’. Activists have alerted that Santos’ state of health is extremely weak and he is suffering from frequent faint spells. He also only has one kidney. A photo published on Twitter by Antunez (@antunezcuba) shows the deterioration of the dissident:
June 3, 2013Posted by on
The home of Damaris Moya Portieles and her family in Santa Clara, Villa Clara. Damaris is the president of the Central Opposition Coalition and a member of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights. She is one of the most persecuted activists in that central area but also one of the most active. Her home has become a constant target of repression on behalf of the political police, but as one can see, it has also become one of the bastions of resistance.
This is how dissidents live in Cuba.
As a response to constant acts of repudiations, raids and attacks organized by the regime, Moya Portieles and her family decided to write pro-freedom messages on her walls. Some of them read:
“The Cuban people are hungry, but they are also afraid. When the fear ends, so too will the hunger”.
“Down with Raul and Fidel (Castro)”.
“Freedom for Sonia Garro Alfonso and her husband”.
“Fidel and Raul are corrupt thieves”.
“No more hunger and misery”.
This photo was published on Twitter by Cuban-American activist Cecilia Rojas (@CeciliaF_Rojas). Cecilia recently visited Cuba after her mother passed away. She was brave enough to meet with some dissidents, among them Damaris Moya and Antunez. Due to this display of solidarity she was detained for various hours by the political police.
May 11, 2013Posted by on
Mobs organized by the Cuban regime’s State Security apparatus have been repudiating and harassing various dissidents in Grua Nueva, Ciego de Avila, this week.
Idael Pérez Díaz, member of the Central Opposition Coalition, the Pedro Luis Boitel Movement and the Orlando Zapata Resistance Front, told this blog that during the morning and afternoon of Wednesday, May 8th, the mobs “threw rocks and shouted offensive words at us, while about 10 State Security jeeps spent the day stationed in the corners of the block, giving alcoholic beverages to all those participating in the repudiation“.
The acts of aggression took place outside the home of Perez Diaz where a number of dissidents from other cities, like Santa Clara, were congregated.
He also explained that the mobs were made up by people from other municipalities because the vast majority of neighbors refused to participate. Some neighbors even took food to the activists, considering that they couldn’t step outside their homes due to the police cordons. Such actions of citizen solidarity are being reported with much frequency throughout the entire island.
“Lediño, the chief of state Security for the province of Ciego de Avila, was the one directing the entire operation“, added Perez, “the other people are mainly from the Communist Party, only a few from this municipality, and the rest from other areas“.
Idael and his wife, Santa Gonzalez Pedroso, are renown local dissidents, as are their children, Idaelvis Perez Gonzalez and Delvis Perez Gonzalez. The latter is just 12 years old and has been suffering psychological traumas due to the constant harassment of the regime against his family.
“Delvis became very nervous and we had to get him out of the house with the help of some relatives“, said Idael. On January of 2013, the minor was expelled from his wrestling team at school under the orders of State Security. The pretext of the agents were that his parents were ‘counter-revolutionaries’. (Audio here).
Meanwhile, activists Julio Columbie Batista and Jenni Barallobre Columbie, also from Grua Nueva, were violently arrested near the city of Moron on May 7th, as they were returning from Camaguey. They were detained for more than 48 hours and both were threatened with being jailed if they continued their opposition activities out on the streets, and if they kept on creating pro-freedom groups in nearby areas.
Idael, Santa and the rest of the congregated dissidents were also demanding the liberation of Columbie and Barallobre.
The repudiation came to an end on Thursday afternoon, but police guards were still keeping a tight vigilance over the dissident family, while still handing out beer to people from the Communist Party and other institutions of the dictatorship which were lending themselves to take part in such actions.
Despite all this, Santa Gonzalez Pedroso and other women from the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights carried out a march to the local church as they do each Thursday, in honor of all those Cubans who have been killed for wanting democracy. In this case, they were not arrested.
But the vigilance continues.
“I hold State Security accountable for what could happen to us, my family and all other dissidents“, declared Idael Perez.
Listen to declarations by Idael Perez (in Spanish) below:
For more informaiton from Cuba, contact:
Idael Pérez Díaz – Cell Phone: +58-163-741
Santa González Pedroso – Cell Phone: +58-163- 728 / Twitter: @SantaCuba1
Julio Columbie Batista- Cell Phone: +52-627-602
April 27, 2013Posted by on
Cuban authorities have only responded to this question with more violence.
Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera, president of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights, a pro-freedom group made up by various women who dress in black and carry out peaceful marches and acts of civil disobedience, continues to be victim of beatings at the hands of Cuban political police agents, even when she is trying to take care of personal chores which have absolutely nothing to do with a political demonstration.
Perez was left unconscious after a beat down by the police this past March in the city of Santa Clara. She suffered numerous health complications after that, including a concussion and serious head pains. Meanwhile, all the hospitals of the mentioned city as well as her city of residence- Placetas- refused to let her in, all because State Security had ordered so, due to her ideology.
Her health situation was so serious that her father passed away a few days later and, because she was bed-ridden and in so much pain, she could not even go to his funeral and bid him farewell for the last time, something which has been extremely difficult for her.
This 25th of April, Yris was once against arrested and beat, this time by a police official known as Akaema. The activist was on her way to the Rafael Pharmacy of Placetas to buy some medications for her high blood pressure. She was accompanied by two other activists- Yaite Cruz Sosa and Xiomara Martin Jimenez- but they were not carrying out a protest, march, or any dissident activity. The three were arrested.
“Agent Akaema savagely beat me on the head… I have a neck brace and she hit me there on purpose, shaking my head all over the place”, recounts Yris Tamara in an audio published in the YouTube channel of her husband, well known former political prisoner and dissident leader Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez‘.
The three women were shoved into police vehicles, kept for a brief period of time in a police unit, and later were left abandoned in desolate and abandoned spots, respectively. They had to walk back some blocks to get to their homes.
Politically-driven assassinations in Cuba have different forms. In many cases, the regime takes away all food of political prisoners, while other times they beat them while they are on hunger strike, already weakened to begin with. Other activists are beat in dawn hours, left to die out on a street. “Accidents” have also been organized, leading to the death of those who defend freedom.
In the case of Yris Tamara Perez, everything points to the fact that the Cuban regime does not want her to receive medical attention, which she desperately needs due to all the beatings their agents have given her.
Regardless, the dissident leader says that she feels she is “a free citizen”.
And, precisely with that same inherent freedom she feels, she declares that “I will go back out again to the street, I am not going to send someone to get my medicines for me, because that is my right, and they are violating my rights”, expressed Perez.
For more information from Cuba, contact:
Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera- Cell Phone- +52-417-749 / Twitter: @YrisCuba