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"Pieces of the Island"-An English Translation
Category Archives: Sonia Garro Alfonso
June 17, 2013Posted by on
A total of 177 Ladies in White marched in different provinces of Cuba this past Sunday, June 16th, dedicating the walk to Father’s Day, according to a tweet publish by former political prisoner of conscience Ivan Hernandez Carrillo (@ivanlibre).
In Havana, 58 women made it to Mass in the Santa Rita Church and afterward marched down 5th Avenue, demanding freedom for all political prisoners. The Ladies celebrated Father’s Day together with various male dissidents which accompanied them.
Leticia Ramos, representative of the female group in the province of Matanzas, told Sayli Navarro that a total of 22 women marched there. Navarro published the information on her Twitter account (@SayliNavarro).
2 women were able to march and participate in Mass in Ciego de Avila.
Ivan Hernandez also tweeted that a total of 62 Ladies in White marched in Santiago de Cuba and made it to Mass in the National Cobre Shrine.
In other Eastern provinces various women marched and made it to Mass. In Guantanamo 12 managed to do so and in Holguin another 15 did. However, in Holguin, specifically in the municipality of Banes, Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez was arrested when she tried to leave her house to march to church. Ojeda denounced that the same thing happens to her every Sunday and that they are “completely arbitrary detentions“. Other arrests were reported in Eastern Cuba, while other women marched in that same area.
This Father’s Day, the situation of the numerous political prisoners who are unjustly behind bars in Cuba was highlighted. The majority of these prisoners happen to be fathers. Among the cases are that of Ramon Munoz Gonzalez, husband of Sonia Garro (also a political prisoner) and president of the Independent Afro-Cuban Foundation, dissident rapper Angel Yunier Remon Arzuaga “El Critico” who is the father of a little girl who is just months old and Osvaldo Rodriguez Castillo who is in prison for creating a new dissident group and for protecting his son from participating in military service (his son Osvaldo Rodriguez Castillo is also in prison). These are just three cases. There are many more like them. And it’s for these Cubans that the Ladies in White march.
June 11, 2013Posted by on
Sonia Garro, a member of the Ladies in White, and her husband Ramon Alejandro Munoz, president of the Independent Afro-Cuban Foundation, have been held in prison since March of 2012 after a violent arrest by the political police days before Pope Benedict’s visit to the island. The dictatorships’ authorities have not carried out a trial for either of the dissidents and they have been subjected to various inhumane treatments.
Most recently, the digital newspaper “Diario de Cuba” published an update on Garro’s health condition, which has worsened due to the fact that she was confined to a punishment cell for 10 days.
Opposition groups, individuals and members of the Ladies in White continuously demand the release of Garro and Munoz, but they are also in need of international solidarity.
Here’s the report by ‘Diario de Cuba’, in English (My Translation):
Sonia Garro’s health worsens after spending 10 days in a punishment cell
The health of political prisoner Sonia Garro, who has been in prison without a trial for 1 year and 3 months, has worsened after the authorities of the Guatao Women’s Prison sent her to a punishment cell for 10 days, according to a denouncement made to “Diario de Cuba” by Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White.
According to Soler, two common female prisoners – used by the jailers as “provokers” to cause incidents- tried to involve Garro in a “riot” where several of the prisoners burned mattresses and left 18 injured in another Detachment.
Seeing that this did not yield the desired results, they tried to involve Garro, who was watching television at the time, trying to make her become angry by offending her. They demanded that she change the channel and that she sign a paper with slogans against the government.
Soler said that Garro, a member of the Ladies in White, asked one of the jailers to intervene, but this person simply responded “solve the problem on your own”.
The dissident tried to disconnect the television from its plug but the cable broke, explained Soler. She said that was the reason the prison authorities used to sent Garro to a punishment cell.
Among other health ailments, the activist suffers a skin infection. Doctors have ordered that she have a frequent change of hygiene and clothes, said Soler. She cited several relatives of the political prisoner, adding that Garro passed the entirety of the 10 days in the punishment cell “without being able to shower”, with the same blanket, and in “inhumane conditions” which has led to the worsening of her skin condition.
The family of Garro, the Lady in White who has spent the most time in prison and who, to the date, has not had a trial, has denounced on previous occasions that the authorities have refused her access to medical attention. She has also denounced manipulations at the hands of her jailers as well as provocations against her in prison.
Garro was detained on March 2012 along with her husband, Ramon Alejandro Munoz, during a violent operation in which the regime used specialized forces and rubber bullets.
During her arrest, the activist was injured in one of her legs and she is still suffering complications. The authorities are accusing her and her husband of “public disorder” and “assassination attempt”.
Last April, Munoz, who is being held in the Combinado del Este prison, carried out a hunger strike, was also held in a punishment cell and received a strong beating because he demanded a solution to his case, as well as that of his wife’s.
To read the original article in Spanish, click here.
May 14, 2013Posted by on
As was recently reported, Ladies in White marched throughout the island this past 12th of May- Mother’s Day. In Havana, they dedicated their march to Laura Pollan Toledo, leader of the group who died in 2011 in extremely strange and mysterious circumstances. Her daughter, Laura Labrada Pollan, read some emotional words in her memory. The women also demanded the immediate release of Sonia Garro Alfonso, Cuban mother and Lady in White who has been behind bars for 1 year and 2 months.
They also sent a message to Berta Soler, representative of the group, thanking her for her tireless work taking the Cuban reality to the world. Angel Moya Acosta, dissident leader and former political prisoner, published some photos of this activity on his Facebook account. He also uploaded the following video on his YouTube channel:
May 13, 2013Posted by on
The Ladies in White marched through the streets of Cuba this Sunday, May 12th, in honor of Mother’s Day, sending out greetings to Cuban women around the world, as well as a special tribute to Laura Pollan Toledo, deceased founder of the group. It was confirmed that some women suffered reprisals at the hands of the political police, although the majority were able to carry out their weekly march, flowers at hand, to assist Mass and pray for the freedom of all political prisoners.
In Havana, 48 Ladies in White marched down 5th Avenue accompanied by 29 male human rights activists. They dedicated their walk to all the mothers of the world, according to a tweet published by former political prisoner and dissident leader Angel Moya Acosta (@jangelmoya).
Leticia Ramos Herrería, representative of the group in Matanzas, said that a total of 17 women marched and assisted Mass in the entire province. She added that in Cardenas, city where she resides, “11 Ladies in White were able to march for 11 blocks after Mass all the way to the Monument of the Mothers, where we deposited 2 bouquets of flowers“.
After that tribute, Herreria explained that the activists began to shout “Long Live Laura Pollan” for various minutes. In this occasion there were no arrests but there was a constant vigilance by the police.
“Meanwhile“, recounted Leticia, “Citizens were congratulating us and wishing us a Happy Mother’s Day when we marched by them. There was a display of solidarity“.
In the province of Holguin things looked a bit different. Although 10 Ladies in White managed to arrive at their respective temples, some were arbitrarily arrested by the political police.
Berta Guerrero Segura, representative of the women’s group for the mentioned province, said that all the Ladies in White from Holguin “awoke that morning with their homes surrounded by State Security, under strict vigilance. The operation had started at dawn“.
Two of the detainees were Eimirce Cespedes Estrada (from Velasco, Holguin) and Yarelys Castaneda Almarales (Holguin). The latter “was detained together with her 1 year old son who she was carrying in her arms. Just like that, the political police took them to a dungeon for a number of hours“.
Her husband was also physically assaulted by various agents who applied a headlock on him when he came in defense of his wife.
Guerrero adds that Yolanda Perez Diaz, who is not a Lady in White but a member of the dissident Claridad Movement of Holguin, “was intercepted by agent Adony Charles, of State Security, who told her that she was on his bad side that morning and that he wouldn’t let her come out of her house“.
“I am denouncing the constant abuse, the harassment, and the psychological war carried out by State Security against us, the Ladies in White of Holguin. These violations are constant. In fact, they have told us that we will never be able to go to church“, said Guerrero Segura.
In Palma Soriano 33 Ladies in White marched and successfully made it to church while in the municipality of Santiago de Cuba another 21 Ladies made it, according to declarations made by Ana Celia Rodriguez to this blog. Rodriguez was one of the Cubans recently on hunger strike demanding the release of activist Luis Enrique Lozada Igarza. Her health, like that of the majority of all other former strikers, is still delicate.
The majority of the members of the Ladies in White are mothers and chose to dedicate the symbolic date in honor of so many women who have risked their lives fighting for the freedom of not only their families but also of the entire nation, as is the case of Sonia Garro Alfonso, a Lady in White and Cuban mother who is currently in prison and has been for 1 year and 2 months.
Not even on Mother’s Day does the regime respect these women, carrying out arrests and keeping them under strict vigilance, but they keep praying, they keep speaking out, they keep marching.
In honor of Mother’s Day, here’s a video made by the authors of this blog in 2012, in honor of the Cuban woman:
For more information from Cuba, contact:
Leticia Ramos Herrería- Cell Phone: +52-481-807
Berta Guerrero Segura- Cell Phone: +53-632-110
Ana Celia Rodríguez- Cell Phone: +52-996-531
April 29, 2013Posted by on
A number of Ladies in White were violently attacked and arrested by agents of the Cuban dictatorship this Sunday, April 28th, as they tried to assist Mass to pray for the freedom of Cuba.
One of the women who suffered the worst beatings was Belkis Cantillo Ramírez, representative of the group for the province of Santiago de Cuba who recently returned to Cuba after traveling to Brussels to receive the Sajarov Award alongside Laura Labrada Pollan and Berta Soler.
Cantillo’s arrest took place when a group of these women were on their way to the Rosario Church of Palma Soriano. The activist told ‘Diario de Cuba’ that various men, agents of the political police, were the ones who carried out the beating against her, even punching and attacking the women with umbrellas. “They punched me in one of my breasts, they kicked my ribs”, Belkis told the digital newspaper.
Other detainees were Taimi Vega Biscet, Yaima Naranjo, Mariela Rodríguez, Niurka Carmona, Denia Fernández, Madelaine Santos, Yasnay Ferrer and Yanela Ferrer, according to ex prisoner and dissident José Daniel Ferrer García who published the information on his Twitter account (@jdanielferrer).
Another 30 women managed to make it inside the church, but the political police organized an act of repudiation which consisted in shouts of death threats, racial slurs and other offensive phrases, according to Aime Garces, one of the Ladies inside. She explained to this blog that despite the repression “the Ladies in White will continue firm and without fear”.
Jose Daniel Ferrer recounted that Father Palma displayed solidarity with the persecuted women. On the YouTube channel of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) videos of what happened in Palma Soriano have been published:
In other parts of the island, Ladies in White marched and assisted Mass, as was the case in the province of Matanzas and in Havana. Dissident leader and former political prisoner of conscience Angel Moya Acosta published various photos of these women marching in Havana on his Twitter account (@jangelmoya).
Moya recounts that 44 Ladies marched in the capital, demanding the release of Sonia Garro Alfonso (one of their members, jailed for more than a year) and her husband Ramon Alejandro Munoz. They were accompanied by more than 40 men, human rights activists.
Meanwhile in Miami, the representative of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, participated in an emotional and very symbolic Mass at the Ermita Shrine, along with exiled Ladies in White and former political prisoners, as well as many members of Miami’s exile community. The Mass, hosted by Father Rumin, was dedicated to the fallen Laura Pollan and all martyrs of the Cuban dictatorship. There was a moment of prayer for the Ladies who were violently arrested that morning in Cuba, simply for trying to do what so many people were doing on that afternoon in Miami.
Soler was handed a Cuban flag with the image of the Virgin of Chartiy, while she presented a Cuban flag at the altar.
A moving surprise came when Cuban musician Amaury Gutierrez showed up to sing “Laura“, a song written by Luis Piloto and dedicated to Laura Pollan. In Cuba, the Ladies in White sing this song each Sunday after carrying out their Sunday marches.
Soler has been received with much affection by the Cuban exile, while she has been seeking more international support for the internal opposition.
Through an excessive amount of violence, the dictatorship has sent a clear message to Berta Soler and other activists who have traveled outside the country to let the world know about the Cuban reality, as was the case of the repression against Belkis Cantillo, just days after having returned from her trip abroad. However, the Ladies in White are also sending out a clear message to that same dictatorship: they do not fear them, they will continue out on the streets and they will not rest until Cuba is free.
April 22, 2013Posted by on
Dozens of members of the Ladies in White assisted Mass this Sunday, April 21st, despite numerous cordons set up by the political police. The women prayed for the freedom of all political prisoners as they habitually do, and also in solidarity with victims of violence in Cuba, like the 40 hunger strikers of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), as well as the victims of a terrorist attack this past week in the US city of Boston.
Former political prisoner of conscience Angel Moya Acosta offered more details on his Twitter account (@jangelmoya). ”50 Ladies in White marched down 5th Avenue and dedicated their march to the hunger strikers in Santiago de Cuba, as well as the victims of the terrorist attack in Boston”.
More than 170 people were injured while 3 died in the Boston bombings. Meanwhile, in Eastern Cuba, the repressive actions of the government have dramatically increased against the 40 hunger strikers, among them Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, as they demand the release of detained dissident Luis Enrique Lozada (also on hunger strike) and calling for an end to the brutality against human rights activists in the country.
The strikers, as well as numerous other dissidents who have joined them in demonstrations of solidarity, have been victims of acts of repudiation, death threats, house raids and arrests this week.
A total of 20 Ladies in White in the province of Matanzas managed to march with flowers in their hands, according to Sayli Navarro (@SayliNavarro), a young member of the group.
Navarro added that in Guantanamo 8 women marched and made it to Mass. When the religious service came to an end, the Ladies carried out their monthly meeting in the headquarters of the group in that area.
Anyer Antonio Blanco, an activist of UNPACU, reported that 34 Ladies in White participated in Mass at Palma Soriano, where Father Palma (the local priest) dedicated the sermon to the women and prayed for their protection, as well as for the hunger strikers.
Blanco said that 16 women carried out their civic march in Santiago de Cuba, and as far as he confirmed, only 1 woman was arbitrarily arrested.
During night hours of that same Sunday, the renown Ladies in White Laura Pabrada, daughter of the fallen leader of the group Laura Pollan, and Belkis Cantillo, representative of the group in Santiago de Cuba and wife of Jose Daniel Ferrer, traveled to Brussels to meet up with Berta Soler, representative of the movement, to finally receive the Sajarov Award, given to them in 2005. The Cuban dictatorship had denied Laura Pollan and other members of the group to travel outside of the country to pick up the award, but now the 3 mentioned women have been able to travel.
Soler has expressed that, in reality, these things don’t represent reforms, but instead attempts to distract international attention over the escalating level of repression against the internal opposition. However, she has been internationally denouncing the constant human rights violations in Cuba during her time outside the country, emphasizing cases such as that of Sonia Garro, Lady in White imprisoned in Havana for more than 1 year along with her husband Ramon Alejandro Munoz.
April 8, 2013Posted by on
Each Sunday various arrests of Ladies in White in different parts of Cuba are reported, but this 7th of April, the first Sunday of the month, a group of 60 women were detained by the political police in the province of Santiago de Cuba, simply for trying to make it to Mass. Regardless, members of the group managed to march in other provinces, defying police operations organized by the regime.
Under the direction of Laura Labrado Pollan (daughter of Laura Pollan) and Belkis Cantillo (visiting from Santiago), 54 Ladies in White marched down Havana’s 5th Avenue after participating in Mass at Santa Rita Church, where they prayed for the freedom of all political prisoners, emphasizing the case of Sonia Garro, who has just recently been transferred to a hospital due to a skin infection obtained in prison, according to her sister Yamilet Garro.
These activists from Havana were accompanied by more than 30 men, all of them public dissidents.
In Matanzas province a total of 17 women marched and participated in Mass. 3 made it in Ciego de Avila and 10 in Guantanamo.
Pro-freedom activists Iván Hernández Carrillo (@ivanlibre), Sayli Navarro (@SayliNavarro), Ángel Moya Acosta (@jangelmoya) and Anyer Antonio Blanco (@anyerantoniobla) reported and confirmed these numbers in their respective Twitter accounts.
Despite 60 arrests in Santiago de Cuba, 4 women surpassed police cordons and made it to El Cobre National Shrine. In Holguin province, various Ladies were reportedly arrested.
It is common for these women from Santiago (many who hail from other Eastern regions) to leave their homes since Friday or Saturday to surpass police operations and arrive to mass at El Cobre Shrine. Many times they have to sleep at bus stations, cross and hide in fields or walk miles under rain and intense heat to escape police persecution. Some times, once near the temple they are refused vacancy by priests at the service of State Security.
On his Twitter account, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia (@jdanielferrer) explained this Sunday that “the Ladies in White of Santiago de Cuba, cross fields, hills, rivers and creeks to try and stay a night in the small hotel of El Cobre”.
The Ladies in White continue marching because they have already conquered a public space, all due to their 10 years of relentless perseverance. They will not allow any government soldier and/or official to take this space from them. The arrests may increase, but so too will the public demonstrations by these brave women.
April 3, 2013Posted by on
Wall Street Journal editor Mary Anastasia O’Grady has once again spoken out on the human rights violations against peaceful dissidents in Cuba, taking the situation to the American and international audience. This time, she has highlighted the case of Sonia Garro, Lady in White who has been arbitrarily imprisoned, alongside her husband Ramon Munoz, for more than a year.
In the WSJ’s Opinion Video titled “Easter in a Dungeon”, O’ Grady chats with James Freeman answering his question “is the communist regime of Cuba opening up?” with concrete examples proving that they are, in fact, far from it.
“Sonia Garro and her husband are still in jail, spending their second Easter in jail,” says O’Grady, “and have never been charged with a crime, [they are] in a complete judicial limbo”.
The journalist goes on to describe the conditions in a Cuban prison for human rights activists and highlights the importance of international solidarity with these everyday citizens who risk it all to achieve freedom.
The video can be seen in this link.
March 18, 2013Posted by on
Lady in White Sonia Garro Alfonso and her husband Ramon Alejandro Munoz have spent exactly one year in prison, without a trial, this Monday 18th of March, the same day of the 10th anniversary of the Black Spring, when 75 dissidents were imprisoned because of their pro-freedom posture.
Garro and Munoz, both members of the Independent Afro-Cuban Foundation, were arrested after being attacked with rubber bullets and suffering a beating by police forces in their Havana home. The prison authorities have not provided any clear information to their relatives as to why they are in prison or why they have not had a trial, although it is obvious that this has happened to them because of their activism. Yamilet Garro, Sonia’s sister, has taken on the task of visiting and taking care of Sonia and Ramon, although many times she has been denied her right to visits or to give them medicines or food, despite the fact that they both have health complications.
Sonia Garro and Ramon Munoz have an underage daughter together, which Yamilet has also been caring for.
In an audio recently published by former political prisoner Iván Hernández Carrillo, Yamilet Garro asked for more solidarity to free her loved ones. Meanwhile, an online petition was created to collect signatures to demand the same, while the hashtag #FreeSoniaGarro has gained much popularity on Twitter and Facebook.
Ladies in White as well as other dissidents throughout the island have dedicated their marches, protests, vigils and other activities in solidarity with Garro, Munoz, and the rest of the political prisoners in the country.
One year later: Sonia Garro imprisoned without trial and with several health issues, her sister asks for solidarity
March 11, 2013Posted by on
“They [the prison authorities] tell me that I have to wait, that her file is at the hands of the fiscal authorities and that her case is being analyzed”, said Yamilet Garro this past Sunday, March 10th, in reference to her sister, the Lady in White Sonia Garro Alfonso, and her brother-in-law Ramon Alejandro Munoz, just days before the 1 year anniversary in which they were both arrested by the political police. The declarations were made to former political prisoner Ivan Hernandez Carrillo and published on his YouTube channel.
Sonia Garro and her husband Ramon Munoz, both members of the Independent Afro-Cuban Foundation, were arrested by the State Police in Havana on March 18th, 2012, after a violent operation which consisted in being shot by rubber bullets and being beat. It was part of a wave of detentions against dissidents during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the island. They were accused of “public disorder” and “assassination attempt” (with no proof) and both have suffered threats and mistreatments during their time behind bars.
Yamilet Garro also highlighted that her sister is suffering the deterioration of her health, considering that she has a cyst on her liver and has not received the adequate medical attention in the women’s prison known as “Manto Negro” (literally translated meaning ‘Black Cloak’).
Meanwhile, Ramon Munoz is being held in a cell alongside common prisoners, although the motives of his jailing were due to his posture against the Cuban regime. Munoz also has health problems, adds Yamilet in her declarations, as he suffers from a gastric ulcer.
In the past months, it has been denounced that State Security has used common female prisoners, convicted of crimes, to threaten Sonia Garro with death and/or beatings.
“I ask the world for solidarity with the situation of my sister”, said a desperate Yamilet Garro Alfonso, concerned for the fate of her relatives.
Her declarations can be heard, in Spanish, in the following audio: