In the island of Cuba, the act of peacefully commemorating national heroes who have lost their lives while they have fought for the countries freedom- as has been the case with Pedro Luis Boitel and Orlando Zapata Tamayo- results in detainment, arrests, beatings, and large scale violence on behalf of the regime. That dictatorship’s status quo allows and defends such actions.
As a result of the protests and demonstrations which took place from May 13th on, under the title of Boitel & Zapata Live On Protest, dozens of dissidents were violently confronted by agents of Castro’s regime. Perhaps one of the most brutal of these events took place in Placetas, Villa Clara.
Activists from the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance and Civil Disobedience Front and from the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights were arrested during the afternoon hours of May 25th, right when the Boitel-Zapata Protest was culminating and after a public march. Among these dissidents were Jorge Luis Garcia “Antunez”, Idania Yanes Contrera, Alcides Rivera Rodriguez, Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, and also Adriano Castaneda Meneses, an active member of the Orlando Zapata Civic Front who, in conversation with this blog, narrates, “During the closing of the Boitel-Zapata Live On Protest (which we also dedicated to Juan Wilfredo Garcia Soto who we lovingly referred to as ‘The Student’), we were carrying out a completely peaceful and silent march in which the participants were wearing their clothes inside out as a form of protest“.
After the beatings came the arrests. Under a government like the one which has ruled Cuba for 52 years (and which continues doing so), many times dissidents are used to reporting or being victims of arrests by the political police. However, on this specific occasion there was a very deep concern lingering over all for the life of Yris Tamara Perez, since she suffers from various serious health conditions and had received a very aggressive beating. The independent journalist and member from the Rosa Parks Civil Rights Movement, Donaida Perez Paceiro recounts, “After the arrests, at around 5 in the afternoon we received the news that Yris Tamara was unconscious in the Placetas General Hospital due to the (false) reason of hyperglycemia“. Upon receiving this news, the activist headed out straight to hospital with two other dissidents from the Rosa Parks Movement- Graciela Paceiro Espinosa and Yaimara Reyes Mesa. “When we arrived to the hospital we saw the State Security agent Veliz, aka ‘The Weightlifter’, (the same one who beat Yris) and with a very rude attitude he turned to go look for the doctor so that he could explain what was wrong with Yris“. Perez Paceiro recalls that, for a very long time, neither the agent or the doctor came out to give them explanations. When the door finally opened agent Veliz came out once more. “He told me that Yris Tamara was detained and that the doctor said she did not need a companion“.
While they were at the hospital trying to inquire about Yris Tamara’s health, the dissidents still had their clothes inside out from the peaceful march which had taken place a few hours prior. And precisely for that same reason, they were blackmailed even more. “Graciela Paceiro Espinosa, who is an elderly woman who is nearly 70 years old, stood before agent Veliz. He then told her that if she wanted to proceed and see Yris Tamara then she had to adjust her clothes on correctly. That elderly woman, right there before his face, responded by saying, ‘If to pass and see my sister in cause Yris I have to take fix my clothes, then I will do it’. And just like that, in front of all those agents, she took of her pants and blouse, turning them as they are supposed to be worn and put them back on. This was just blackmail because in the end they did not let her pass regardless,” expresses Donaida. This occurred while Donaida and Yaimara began to check throughout the hospital for Yris. They took the elevator up to the second floor and found nothing. The same occurred in the third floor. The dissidents noticed they were being watched but they ignored this and continued on their search. Donaida narrates, “Once we went back to the front desk to ask for Yris, and while we screamed anti-governmental slogans, I told Yaimara to run and were able to sneak into the back door of the hospital. There we were able to witness how they were pushing and dragging Yris, despite the fact that she was still in a deplorable state of health. She was grabbing onto the fence along the stairs and screaming so that we would hear her because they were trying to keep her hidden. I told them to let me accompany her on the police car because she was far too weak to be alone and they were trying to assassinate her“.
Afterwards, Donaida and Yaimara were also beaten and detained in the same way. While they were in jail cells they realized what really had happened to Yris. “It had noting to do with hypoglycemia as they had told us, but it was that, at the moment of her arrest, ‘The Weightlifter’ threw Yris’ head on the pavement while he was passing her from one cop car to another. In other words, Yris was unconscious because of the savage beating given to her by ‘The Weightlifter’. And this same agent also beat up Idania who also had severe pain on her leg and had to limp,” tells Donaida. “We were in cells, and around 10 at night Alcides and Idania were taken out and tossed into a Special Brigade car. Five minutes later, Yris Tamara Aguilera was taken out in a deplorable state of health, with numbness in her hands, head pains, vomit, and nausea. We had to be aware of whether she closed her eyes or not because we feared that she would die. Then, that bus which Idania was in did not head out until Yris was thrown in Police Car 275“.
Donaida and Yaimara were released at around 10 at night and both dissidents headed to the home of the well-known Jorge Luis “Antunez” who was still detained just like his wife Yris. They spent the night there and carried out a protest so that their companions in struggle would be released. They remained their until the morning of the 27th when Antunez was finally released. Two hours later, Yris was also released. Donaida recalls that, “Yris was dropped off as if she was an animal. Despite the conditions she was in, they threw her from the car onto the corner of the house. She was very weak and in a very bad state of health all thanks to the beating from that State Security agent who is a terrorist“.
Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera
“I have lived a very difficult and painful period. I really thought they had killed her (Yris),” said Antunez with a tone marked by worry but also by firmness, after having spent three days refusing to eat or drink anything. Right when he was released, the Placetas dissident quickly sent out Twitter messages informing the world that he would maintain his hunger strike until his wife returned home. When Yris returned, Antunez sent out another series of messages which describd the state Yris was in- with clothes full of blood stains and in a very weak state. “I believe it is another victory for the resistance, but what has just happened is also very alarming,” Antunez affirms. “The regime is willing to kill. They already did it with Orlando Zapata Tamayo, they did it with Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia, and they tried doing it on May 25th to Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera“.
Meanwhile, Adriano Castaneda Meneses assures that, despite all the repression and violence against them, “The Front will continue working through their civic and peaceful struggle to achieve the long awaited freedom of Cuba, for the benefit of all Cubans in whatever part of the world they reside in“. After such difficult moments, the dissident Donaida Paceiro opts for not resting either, declaring, “They call us terrorists, but the real terrorists are them. And that official, ‘The Weightlifter’, I am responsibly accusing him, before all Cubans, before all the international human rights organizations, and before all the world, of having been a participant in the assassination of The Student (Juan Wilfredo Soto) and having nearly assassinated Yris Tamara. And this cannot continue happening“.
Antunez, although relieved in the sense that he can once again be alongside his wife, Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, warns that danger and worry have not faded. “The fact that Yris is here, back home, and apparently recuperating does not mean that she is not in danger. She can barely walk, or barely move for that matter. Anything that happens related to her health within the next couple of days or months is the fault of the political police which beat her“.
Note: After this report was transcribed, and after Yris had been home for hours, Antunez sent out various Twitter messages explaining that Yris was suffering very serious head aches and dizziness. Later, she was admitted to a hospital once again and the doctor dismissed her situation.