Pedazos de la Isla

"Pieces of the Island"-An English Translation

Category Archives: Yoandri Montoya

Cuba: Increase in arbitrary robberies and arrests at the hands of the State

In the last couple of weeks in Cuba there has been an increase in the amount of arbitrary arrests and robberies of pro-democracy dissidents at the hands of the political police.

Various cases have been coming in from the Eastern region of the country.  The case of activist Yuniesky Dominguez Gonzalez and former political prisoner Dany Lopez de Moya, both member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) in Palma Soriano, Santiago de Cuba, is one of them.

Yuniesky recounts that on Tuesday, July 23rd, as they both were leaving a meeting at the home of Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, leader of UNPACU, when they were near the highway of Palma Soriano, members of the National Revolutionary Police and the political police intercepted them.  Agent Norberto was running the operation.

The agents intercepted the vehicle we were traveling in“, explained Dominguez to this blog, “then, the agents used forced to get us out, pulling our clothes and beating us.  They did the same thing with Dany’s son, 15 year old Frank Daniel Rodriguez“.

The first thing the agents did was to snatch all the belongings of the detainees.  “They took Frank Daniel’s phone and purposely spent the money he had on it as a form of blackmail.  They also robbed CDs, USBs and other things” which were never returned.  The discs were destroyed.

Yuniesky explains that the motive of breaking the CDs is to keep them from spreading throughout the population, considering that UNPACU members fill them with images of protests and activism not only of their movement, but of the opposition in general.

Similarly, on July 18th, the political police arrested youth activists Yoandri Montoya Aviles and Juannier Rodriguez in the city of Bayamo. Both dissidents are members of the Eastern Democratic Alliance (ADO) and were arrested while they filmed a documentary for PalenqueVision, the audio-visual project of this group.  The equipment they were using were robbed.

Juannier, who has been victim of expulsions and blackmail at his university due to his ties with the opposition, recounts that they were just “chatting with other young people in Bayamo, working on a video about their day-to-day reality when police agents suddenly arrived and took our cameras, breaking one of them“.

The agents accused the activists of being “delinquents” and were detained by force, shoved inside a bus and taken to a police unit.  Afterward, Juannier Rodriguez was deported to Guantanamo, his province of residence, but he defied the authorities and returned to Bayamo.

On Monday, July 22nd, the Cuban regime carried out a violent operation against a number of members of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) in the province of Las Tunas as they paid tribute to Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero on the first anniversary of their death.

Ezequiel Morales Carmenate, leader of the MCL in that area, denounced that paramilitary mobs, made up by members of the Communist Party, the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution and the political police “assaulted the home of Roger Curbelo, the headquarters of the MCL in the municipality of Puerto Padre“.  The agents penetrated the house, beating activists and robbing a Cuban flag as well as signs honoring Paya and Cepero, also accusing the dictatorship of having to do with the events which occurred on July 22nd 2012.

In the municipality of Majibacoa the home of Elber Perez (another leader of the MCL) was also the scene of excessive violence when the mobs assaulted the house during night hours, robbing countless documents, CDs and other work instruments.

On his part, Yuniesky Dominguez said that the upcoming anniversary of the assault of the Moncada Barracks on July 26th by the movement led by the Castros, who assumed power through violence on 1959, “has the regime very worried“. Why?

Because the activism of the peaceful opposition has put the regime in danger.  We are not fighting with weapons, nor do we carry out acts of sabotage as the July 26th Movement did.  However, our weapon is still lethal, and it is our words, and we work so that the people know what we do against the dictatorship and in favor of human rights and the population“.

That’s why, the activist explains, that in its desperation the dictatorship turns to physical aggressions and robbery of materials used by dissident to work towards freedom.  Materials which are obtained by activists with much difficulty, considering that the majority of these things are sent from abroad by people who have joined in solidarity, or in some cases, bought by the dissidents themselves, at a very elevated price.

Opposition leaders in Antilla arrested, diverse groups respond with solidarity

Members of ADO and other pro-freedom groups in meeting. Photo by: Luis Felipe Rojas

At around 3 PM on Wednesday, February 20th, leaders of different dissident groups were arrested by the State Police in the Eastern municipality of Antilla after a series of meetings.

The detainees were Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, general coordinator of the Eastern Democratic Alliance, Yoandri Montoya, president of the Bayamo Youth Movement, and Eriberto Liranza Romero, president of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy. After the arrests, all the dissidents were abandoned in different desolate locations throughout the province of Holguin.

Eriberto Liranza, from Havana, recounts that he was visiting the Eastern region of the country since February 14th and that he had been trying to dodge police vigilance and persecution since then.

On the 15th, I evaded persecution in the city of Velasco, in the municipality of Gibara. I was with a couple of other activists and we managed to escape without being arrested until arriving to Antilla“, where he participated in the 9th Anniversary celebration of the Eastern Democratic Alliance along with another 50 activists.

He explains that after carrying out another commemorative activity in Antilla during morning hours of the 20th, a group of dissidents congregated outside the home of Lady in White Mildred Noemi Sanchez and carried out a protest, shouting slogans like “Orlando Zapata Lives” and “Down with the dictatorship“. Zapata was the political prisoner who, after tortures, mistreatment, and a lengthy hunger strike, died on February 23rd, 2010. He is considered a martyr and symbol of resistance by the internal Cuban opposition.

It seems that this protest was too much for the regime. It bothered them very much that we were freely going out to the streets“, said Liranza.

It was at that moment that the arrests occurred.

They arrested a group of us- Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, Yoandri Montoya, Delmides Fidalgo and me… they aggressively put the handcuffs on us, they put them on very tightly, hurting our hands and arms“, recounts the dissident, “then they shoved us into police vehicles, where there was a glass window dividing us from the drivers seat. It was extremely hot inside“. They were taken to the Pedernales Unit, a center notorious for its mistreatment and torture of recluses, both political and common ones.

After various minutes in Pedernales, where they were mistreated and threatened with further repression, each of the activists were abandoned in different desolate areas. Rodriguez Lobaina was left in the rural area of Holguin known as La Caballeriza, while Liranza was left on the outskirts of Holguin, afterward being forced to leave the province. The whereabouts of Yoandri Montoya were unknown for a while but it was later confirmed that he arrived to his city of residence, Bayamo.

Montoya has been denouncing the increase of violence on behalf of the regime against him and other activists from the Movement which he heads in Bayamo. On recent occasions, in declarations to this blog and other independent outlets, the young activist has said he has been detained numerous times and that the young members of the group live under the constant vigilance of State Security officials and collaborators. In this month of February, police agents threatened Yoandri with taking him to prison. The dissident explains that this repression is due to the group’s increasing opposition on the streets of Cuba, demanding freedom, as well as their work with the community- one of the most prominent projects being the foundation of numerous independent gyms which provide exercise services and equipment for young locals, free of charge.

That same Wednesday, during morning hours, other detentions of Eastern Democratic Alliance members were reported, as were the cases of Yubel Cansino Acosta, Miladis Piñales Rosa, Yoandri Naoki Ricardo Mir (in Banes) and Luis Noa Silva (in Baracoa), according to Twitter messages published by Rolando Rodriguz (@LobainaCuba). Noa Silva was summoned to a police unit on the following day, where he was threatened with years of prison if he chose to continue his activism.

The detentions of the  leaders of these different pro-freedom groups unleashed a wave of solidarity among other members of the opposition in the Eastern region, such as other activists of the Eastern Democratic Alliance in the neighborhood of Los Negritos, in Banes, as well as other delegations of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy throughout Holguin.

Meanwhile, former political prisoner of conscience and general coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, published a series of tweets (@jdanielferrer), denouncing the arrests. Minutes later, Ferrer reported that members of UNPACU in Holguin carried out peaceful actions, demanding the liberation of the detainees.

I am very thankful of all the brothers who heard what was happening to us and protested for our freedom“, expressed Eriberto Liranza, “We appreciate all the support…I have the best of opinions of the opposition here in Holguin. There is lots of youth involved, and there is a strong spirit of protest against the tyranny“.

For more information contact Eriberto Liranza in Cuba: +5353- 341-682

Dictatorship tries to impede celebrations of a date which belongs to all Cubans

Drawing of Marti on cover of famous Cuban magazine. 1955.

With all and for the good of all” – one of the most famous phrases by Jose Marti is, perhaps, also one of the ideas which the totalitarian system in Cuba fears the most, proven- year after year- every 28th of January when countless uniformed agents are sent out throughout the island to try and impede civic demonstrations to commemorate the anniversary of his birth.  2013, the 160th anniversary, was no exception.

The police operations began on Sunday the 27th.  In Palma Soriano, Santiago de Cuba, the home of dissident Yuniesky Dominguez Gonzalez- member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU)- was attacked with feces, staining the door and windows.  Dominguez directly blamed the political police for this, since he and his wife, Lady in White Taimi Vega Biscet, had plans to carry out a tribute to Marti.

These are methods employed by the political police, I hold them responsible as well as the Communist Party and all other instruments of the regime“, said the activist.

Meanwhile, despite police vigilance and direct threats by State Security, in Havana 41 Ladies In White managed to carry out their traditional march to Santa Rita Church and later to Mahatma Gandhi Park (See video, courtesy of ‘Hablemos Press’). These women deposited flowers in a statue of Marti in that park and commenced to read various phrases by the poet.

In Cardenas, Matanzas, Leticia Ramos Herreria and other Ladies in White marched for 26 blocks until they arrived to a local park to also deposit flowers in another Jose Marti statue.  This achievement bothered the authorities to the point that State Security officials summoned Ramos to a police unit for the following day.  The activist recounts that she was threatened and offended during the interrogation but that she refused to sign any sort of document and let them know very clear that she would continue going out to the streets of Cuba.

On Monday, the 28th, the repression increased but so did the peaceful and public demonstrations.  In the same province of Matanzas, but in the city of Colon, Juan Francisco Rangel was also summoned to the police station and later surrounded in his own home by agents to try and impede a march.  However, he managed to take to the streets along with other activists from the Pedro Luis Boitel Party for Democracy, successfully carrying out the activity and depositing flowers for Marti, according to a Tweet published by Carlos Olivera (@COliveraCuba).

In Santa Clara, Villa Clara, a group of dissidents from the Central Opposition Coalition also took to the streets shouting slogans in favor of change and honoring Marti.  They were all violently arrested, according to a report by independent journalist and blogger Carlos Michael Morales Rodríguez.

Not too far from that city, in Placetas, members of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front carried out a protest against the regime, also screaming slogans such as “Jose Marti Lives“, as was captured in an audio published by ‘Radio Republica’ in the voice of dissident leader Jorge Luis García Pérez ‘Antúnez’.

A successful march with signs containing anti-regime messages and Jose Marti phrases took place on the streets of Quemado de Guines, Villa Clara, by various members of the Cuban Reflection Movement, among them Maydelis Gonzalez Almeida, who said the march “took place despite strong police vigilance“.

Activity in Quemado de Guines infront of Marti bust. January 28th, 2013

Despite acts of repudiation and some arrests, in Camaguey a public activity was carried out by activists of the Pro-Human Rights Party of Cuba, said Daniel Millet Jimenez.

In Grua Nueva, Ciego de Avila, dissidents of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights and from the Pedro Luis Boitel Resistance Movement congregated to honor Jose Marti.

Throughout the Eastern region of the country, members of the Eastern Democratic Alliance in Baracoa, according to Francisco Luis Manzanet Ortiz, and of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy (CYMD) in Velasco, according to  Yonart Rodríguez Avila, also carried out their own meetings, marches and demonstrations in honor of Marti.  Yoandri Montoya Aviles said that in Bayamo, members of the Youth Movement of Bayamo paid homage to the “Apostle of Cuba”.

CYMD also carried out other activities in the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, in Havana, publishing some photos of the events in their blog.  In the same province, Lady in White  Sara Marta Fonseca held a vigil and an encounter in her home located in Rio Verde, Boyeros.

UNPACU also published some testimonies on their YouTube channel detailing repressive actions against activists for trying to carry out their own tributes in Guantanamo.

Former political prisoner of conscience Ivan Hernandez Carrillo published a series of Twitter messages (@ivanlibre) denouncing that dissidents Pastor Alexis Huerta and Carlos Alberto Gómez, members of the Independent and Democratic Cuba Party (CID), were violently arrested in the central city of Sancti Spiritus also for trying to carry out similar tributes as those occurring throughout the country.  Cases of repression, police cordons, and beatings were also confirmed in Pinar del Rio against other CID members and the Pinar del Rio Democratic Alliance.

These were only a few of the events which took place on the island between the 27th and 28th of January, when Cubans paid tribute to one of the figures most representative of their culture- a culture which does not belong just to one political group or dictator.

 “A just cause, from the bottom of a cave, is more powerful than any army”

-Jose Marti

Dissident youth group under constant repression in Bayamo

Yoandri Montoya, president of the Youth of Bayamo Movement

Youth activist Yoandri Montoya Aviles and the movement which he presides over- Jovenes de Bayamo (‘Youth of Bayamo’)- have become targets of attack for the Cuban regime’s police.  Montoya explains that his life in the city of Bayamo is under constant vigilance by the political police, which means he is frequently the victim of acts of repudiation, arrests, threats, and insults at the hands of the uniformed officials.  He points out that all other dissidents in that area suffer the same fate.

But why the constant repression?

It has been proven that the Cuban dictatorship does not need an excuse to repress all those who think differently, but Yoandri points out that there are many factors that are putting the regime in a very uncomfortable spot lately, beginning with the growing public displays of popular discontent, reflected best by the almost daily apparition of signs with anti-government messages.

Throughout the city of Byamo, and throughout the province of Granma in general, there have been anti-regime signs appearing constantly“, recounted the activist, “the majority of the times the signs have messages such as ‘No more lies’, ‘Down with hunger’, and ‘We want freedom’.  And this has unleashed a very strong vigilance“.

The situation reached the point that there was a period of days in which “at least 10 arrests in each neighborhood occurred“, assured Montoya.  “And what this demonstrates is that the Cuban people need total freedom“.

The activist explains that, for the most part, dissident groups do not dedicate themselves to hang such signs on public places, considering that they already voice their opposition to the regime out on the streets in a public manner.  He says it’s the everyday citizens who do it, but the repercussions are always targeted at “public” dissidents.

Due to the appearance of so many signs, as well as a growing level of activism, various members of the Youth of Bayamo Movement were recently forced to visit police units this past 30th of November, where they were interrogated and threatened with being sent to prison under accusations of “social dangerousness“.

However, all thee activists have undertaken a position of bravery- saying that they will not fear this kind of repression against them, because they are well aware of what they are doing and what they want: to defend the human rights of all Cubans“, expressed Montoya.

Some of the threatened activists were Luis Antonio SantisotoReynier Hernández and Rogelio Manuel Rey.

Meanwhile, Yoandri Montoya was arbitrarily arrested by the political police during the morning hours of November 25th in the neighborhood known as “La Union”, and explains that it was all because the citizen Niurka Vazquez Baez, a functionary of the Communist Party of Bayamo, turned to the authorities and accused him of having threatened her with death.

The allegations made by this woman are completely false”, assures Montoya, “In fact, she is the one who constantly harasses me and every activist of the Movement when they go to my house, seeing as she lives close to me.  She screams at us everyday, saying we are counter-revolutionaries, and also shouts insults“.

According to the dissident, Vazquez Baez frequently collaborates with State Police agents, so that they can easily arrest activists who are holding meetings or peaceful activities in his home, which also serves as the headquarters of that pro-democracy group.

At no point in time have I threatened her with death, and because of her accusations I spent 48 hours arrested, where I was also interrogated by Andrei, a State Security Major.   He told me that I would be processed for ‘threatening an authority of the Revolution’“, recounted Montoya.  Although he has not been processed, yet, the accusations still weigh over him.

During his arrest, Montoya says that some of his neighbors actually directed themselves to the police unit to find out his whereabouts, demand his release, and to refute the accusations of the communist functionary.

Yoandri Montoya and the Youth of Bayamo Movement have been gaining the respect of their neighbors in that city, not only because they defend their rights but also because they have several community projects, such as the establishment of various “independent gyms“, centers where they provide exercise and sports equipment for young Cubans, all free of charge.  Montoya explains that the purpose of the gyms is to keep the youth far from drugs and from participating in State-sponsored acts such as snitching, harassment, and repudiation.

The young dissident, as well as the rest of the members of the Movement, have reiterated that they will continue with their activism, despite any sort of blackmail by the regime to try and take them to dungeons or stop their public activities.

ADO-Press: Another Important Crack in the Censorship Wall

In an island where its rulers try to control the flow information with an iron grip, another important step towards freedom was taken on Tuesday October 4th, in the city of Guantanamo, Cuba, when activists from the Eastern Democratic Alliance launched ADO-Press, an independent news agency of this opposition group.  This agency, with its headquarter in Eastern Cuba, joins the group of various independent news agencies that report what truly occurs in the country.

Independent journalist and blogger and also member of this new agency, Luis Felipe Rojas Rosabal was present and reported that there were 18 activists in the home of Isael Poveda Silva, where the event was held.

According to Rojas, who in addition serves as a correspondent for ADO-Press, “the first objective of the organization is to let everyday Cubans know the reality of what occurs in Cuba, without ideological inclinations, considering that the state-run media responds only to one political party and does not respectfully represent the people“.  The activist added that in order to be that voice the agency will report news about social problems that directly affect ‘everyday’ Cubans, such as issues of housing, jobs, health, education, along with the human rights crisis on the island which also affects all inhabitants.

Various participants in the launch of ADO-Press. Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

In the important meeting they also announced the executive members of ADO-Press.  The director is Rodolfo Barthelemy Cobas and the Sub-Director is Caridad Caballero Batista, well known dissident and independent journalist from Holguin.

Caballero Batista emphasized that the goal of ADO-Press is “to continue denouncing the crimes committed against Cubans and so that the world knows of the critical situation occurring on the island“.  According to the activist, one of the most serious problems affecting the island is the situation of political prisoners who are punished and tortured for their political ideas and peaceful demonstrations.

In addition, ADO-Press will consist of journalistic work carried out by other correspondents such as Emilio Leyva, Randy Caballero Suárez, Isael Poveda Silva, Raudel Ávila Losada, and Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina.

Previously, we carried out our journalism in a more independent way, each of us on our own“, explains Batista, “now we do it in a more organized form through this agency“, explaining that in addition to the denouncements which ADO-Press will publish, they will also announce dissident activities so that everyday Cubans, that are perhaps not involved directly with the Resistance, know about the latest events, who the peaceful dissidents are, and for what reasons they are fighting.

In order to reach this objective, the Eastern Democratic Alliance, according to Luis Felipe Rojas, will use new technologies “like Twitter and blogs- such as ‘Palenque Cubano’ (the Alliance’s blog), or mine, ‘Crossing the Barbed Wire’, and others- as a platform” in order to send out news from Eastern Cuba to the rest of the country and the world.

In addition to correspondent, Rojas will also be adviser of new technology usage, teaching courses on how to use such technologies in an efficient manner while applying journalistic techniques.  He already began teaching some of these classes during the launching of ADO-Press, helping various dissidents to open their own Twitter accounts and sending their first messages, such as Yanet Mosquera (@yanetmosquera), Yoandri Montoya (@yoandrimon) , Julio Mone (@monebor), and Caridad Caballero (@caricaballero).

Despite all the fear the regime has and all the censorship it applies, we will continue publishing this news and sharing it with the world.  It is something very necessary“, affirms Caridad Caballero Batista.

After the ceremony celebrating the creation of ADO-Press, the activists premiered a documentary, produced and filmed by Palenque Vision- the Eastern Democratic Alliance audio visual group- titled “Cuban Prisons: A Sequence of Terror”.  The film explores the horrors of Cuban prisons, and according to the spectators, it was a success.  Copies of the movie were burned onto CDs and handed out among those present as well as to neighbors and other Cubans on the street.

News agencies such as ADO-Press in Eastern Cuba, and Hablemos Press with its headquarters in Havana, represent a new generation of citizens who are tired of the rhetoric and censorship of the state-controlled media.  These journalists/activists have been able to surpass the wall of censorship imposed on information by the government, sending messages to the exterior and informing those outside of the country, but they still face large obstacles in order to form their fellow citizens within Cuba.  The oppressive apparatus of the political police frequently interrupts and disables phone signals, prohibits the free us of internet, and censors any news on important events such as massive protests or cases of human rights violations on the national media.  It is difficult for a Cuban without links to the Resistance (and in many cases even dissidents themselves) to inform themselves, free of propaganda, in a rapid and efficient manner.  Though they are forbidden to partake in any television, radio, or written media spaces in their own country, the professional and extensive work carried out by these activists will continue to be spread throughout the island in whichever way possible, whether it be through handing out pamphlets and CDs or by carrying out public conferences.  Agencies such as ADO-Press are willing to confront the obstacles, working towards dismantling the state-monopoly over information, an essential step for achieving the ultimate freedom of a country.

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