Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo, along with her family, is a perfect example of the desperation felt by the Cuban people. However, at the same time, she is an example of the bravery seen in Cubans who have decided to publicly confront the Castro dictatorship. In a country where those who exercise power openly justify and and sponsor mob attacks because they “cannot deny the right of the people to defend their revolution” (as said by General Raul Castro during the 6th Communist Party Congress), people like Sara Marta are true threats to the absolute control and monopoly of violence assumed by the regime.
For this reason, while much of the international press covered the 6th Congress (with very little spoken about the massive military march which occurred just hours before the event), and while the owners of power presented a list of “reforms” or “changes” in the island, the same repressive apparatus as always was unleashed at the home of Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo, the executive secretary of the Cuban Pro-Human Rights Party and spokesperson for the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance and Civil Disobedience Front.
“This past 18th of April, they once again committed a savage act of state terrorism against us,” Sara Marta tells us. But this is nothing new for the dissident. “We have already suffered more than 15 or 16 horrible mob attacks here at my house”, she affirms. However, in comparison with the other violent attacks carried out against her, the most recent one included a massive number of people which took part in the violence. “More than 100 people took part. They were under the orientation and direction of the repressive State Security organs. They broke into our home, they jumped the fence, and opened our windows with sticks and iron bars and threatened us while they tried to hit us through the windows. They also verbally offended us, harassed us with profane language, and also threw rocks at us through the window. It was terrible”.
“They proved to be people who lack any sort of dignity, respect, or principles. In fact, they are very much capable of killing if they have to, as you will all see when the images come out. Those people sent to attack us don’t even look like human beings, they are more like beasts”.
It came to the point where Sara Marta could no longer remain inside her house. She simply could not withstand so much injustice in silence and behind her house walls.
“At that moment when the rocks began to fly through my window, which almost hit my head and my mom’s head who was sitting right by me, I decided to go out to the street. I thought that if blood was to to be spilled, then it should be spilled in the streets in front of all the people and neighbors so they can see how a family is assassinated just for protesting against the system. Because it is our right, we had decided to put up some signs on our house. Some read, “Down with the assassins Raul and Fidel Castro!”, “Long live human rights!”, ,”Down with the murderous 6th Communist Party Congress of Cuba!”, and “We demand rights for all Cubans!”
“I was the first to go out to the street. I went up to them, because although we are peaceful and defend our rights in a completely peaceful manner, I did not believe that our blood should run inside our house. It should be spilled on the street, and I am convinced that if we would have been killed, it would have been the end of the dictatorship because I know the people will not stand seeing defenders of human rights being slaughtered out on the street. That’s why I approached them, I was determined to face whatever consequences. I did not think I was going to get out of this alive, I truly did not think I would”.
As usually happens, the violent oppressors carried out a savage beating against the dissident. But she was not the only one in the family who suffered physical blows.
“In my case, I received very strong blows on my head, which still hurts. They also hit my breasts, and I still have a lot of pain there. Also my arms, my legs, my back, and in many other places. In reality, we are very hurt and are in pain all over. My husband, Julio Ignacio Leon Perez and my eldest son Julio Leon Fonseca also came out to the street when they saw what was happening. They were also savagely beat. My husband was punched on his right ear and he currently has trouble listening because of that. In addition, he was hit on the cheek and on his knees. They would hit him on his back with their knees to not leave any marks. The oppressors also smashed my son’s fingers- he has wounds on his pinky and ring finger. He also has knee pains. The agents would kick him with the soles of their feet, as opposed to using the tips, to prevent producing bruises. That’s how they were hitting him on his back, and he was then punched on his right cheek and hit very hard on his head”.
“They then shoved us into a police car and they took us to the police unit located in Santiago de las Vegas. There they took us to different cells. My husband was taken to a PNR unit in Capri”.
At the detention center, the pro-human rights family continued their peaceful protest.
“We were on hunger strike during the whole process. In total, it lasted from 1 pm on Monday the 18th to Wednesday the 20th, when my son and I were released at around 2:20 in the afternoon, and later my husband at around 3. We maintained a complete hunger strike in which we did not drink even a bit of water or ingest any other sort of food as we protested such arbitrariness. They were trying to file charges against my husband on the grounds of ‘public disorder’. In other words, they were accusing a person who was defending his own home of public disorder. Meanwhile, those who carried out such violence were sitting comfortably at their homes as if nothing had ever happened. They who defend the current socialist constitution had even violated certain articles from that document. In such a manner they proved that they don’t have any principles. We want to change that constitution, but they, who only theoretically support it, violate it nonetheless”.
“In my case, they also wanted to accuse me for writing “Down with Fidel”, “Down with Raul”, and “Down with the Cuban Communist Party” on my cell walls. I felt that I had all the right to do so because I had just been a victim of a criminal act and an act of state sponsored terrorism. So they tried to accuse me of that, under the pretexts of damages and bias against the property. I assumed complete responsibility and I told them that I really did not care, but I made sure to let them know that if I was going to be taken to trial I wanted to see all the people who beat us there as well because I was going to accuse them of all that they did to us”.
Before our concluding our conversation, the courageous dissident wished to share some words of gratitude with her fellow human rights activists in the island which did not hesitate for a moment to demand her unconditional release. She also expressed gratitude for the Cuban exile community for their display of solidarity.
“I want to say that thanks to all the everyday people who don’t even belong to opposition groups, my mother Marta Quevedo Vazquez and my youngest son Ignacio Leon Fonseca were not beat. They had taken to the streets when we were already inside the police car. Thanks to all the neighbors who decided to not withstand any further abuses and who got involved and prevented the mobs from beating my mom and my son. Also, thanks to these same neighbors, the forces did not fully enter my house. At the time, my house was completely open and they were not able to go beyond the front porch because the neighbors kept them from it. If this would have not occurred, the damage would have been far too disastrous. We already saw that they had destroyed the entire front of the house and they would have easily done the same inside. I’m very grateful for the people who, although they do feel lots of fear after so many years of dictatorship and repression, decided to intervene and defend Cubans who are defending the rights of the entire country”.
“I’m very grateful of all the Cuban exile community and all those exiles who find themselves in different parts of the world and who have greatly supported us. I am also very grateful of all the internal opposition members, which from one end of the island to the other demonstrated their solidarity and support. The Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance and Civil Disobedience Front, which groups together opposition organizations that defend human rights, launched a calling to all dissidents to come together and take the streets in the event that the regime did not release us within a deadline of 72 hours. This horrified the government. One could tell that they feared such a protest throughout the country, for they know very well that they are destroyed and that they are only still in power because they have kept the country under a complete military state. But they also know that we Cubans are tired and do not want them to be in power any longer. They know that this country is on the verge of taking to the streets and protesting in favor of freedom and democracy for all. We demand freedom for Cuba, we demand free and multiparty elections, and we are convinced that through the unification of all dissidents we will achieve the changes we long for in our country”.
“What occurred, far from striking fear into us, has given us more strength, because we have seen lots of solidarity and lots of support. This gives us more strength to continue in the struggle”.
Sara Marta, her eldest son Julio, and her husband Julio Ignacio.
On behalf of this blog, “Pedazos de la Isla”, we would like to congratulate Sara Marta Fonesca and all of her family for their profound bravery. Whether those who rule the country like it or not, the future of the island resides in people like Sara Marta, her family, and all the Cuban dissidents that risk it all to achieve freedom.