Since May 29th when Jorge Cervantes Garcia declared himself on hunger strike in protest for his unjust imprisonment, throughout the Cuban island there have been numerous oppressive acts carried out against dissidents who have attempted to join Cervantes in solidarity. The majority of these arrests, beatings, and harassment have been concentrated in the Eastern region of the country, seeing as how Cervantes resides in the Saturnino Lora Hospital in Santiago de Cuba. One of the most recent violent and repressive acts occurred this past Wednesday, June 22nd, against dissident Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina and 4 other activists which accompanied him.
“Yesterday (June 22nd) I decided to carry out a peaceful protest in the Eastern region of Guantanamo“, stated Rolando Lobaina, adding that the specific area where that protest would talk place is a “military neighborhood“. Regardless, Rolando Lobaina and 4 other activists went up to the third floor of an apartment building located in the San Justo neighborhood of Guantanamo where they started a protest to “demand the freedom of Jorge Cervantes and also to condemn the practices of the Cuban government against pro-human rights dissidents as well as all the violent tactics implemented, as occurred in the case of Yoandry Montoya Aviles who was physically assaulted on two recent occassions (June 15th and 19th)“.
The protestors put up various signs with pro-democratic slogans like “Long Live Human Rights”, “Long Live a Free Cuba”, along with slogans which demanded freedom for Jorge Cervantes. They also hung a Cuban flag and the flag of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance and Civil Disobedience Front along with writing various messages on the wall such as “Down with Fidel”, “Long Live Orlando Zapata Tamayo”, and “Long Live Freedom”.
As was expected, the representatives of the dictatorship did not take long to respond. “Immediately, in a matter of 15 to 20 minutes, there was already a mob of about 200 people harassing us outside, together with the repressive national police and State Security“, recounts Lobaina, “we received many insults but we responded by shouting pro-freedom slogans“.
It was at this point that Rolando decided to come down from the third floor together with the other dissidents and take to the streets amid the massive mob concentrated outside. “It was a difficult situation because, I repeat, it took place in a military neighborhood“, explains Lobaina, while affirming that despite this they “took to the streets with the Cuban flag. We wanted to show them that we are not afraid and that the streets belong to the people. And with that same slogan (“the streets belong to the people”) we marched“. As consequence of this completely civic demonstration the political police officials responded with violence. “Colonel Causadilla, a military officer that is treated like a God here in this city, arrested us after walking for just about two blocks“, the dissident narrates, adding “I received various physical blows right before they shoved me into the police car. We were later taken to various interrogation units and 25 hours after, on Thursday the 23rd, we were released little by little. I was the last to be released. I want to tell the international community about the aggression we were (and are) subject to in Guantanamo and all of Cuba. We have received threats on our lives on behalf of those same mobs which are at the complete service of State Security“.
Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina warns that the situation which hunger striker Jorge Cervantes Garcia is facing is worryingly similar to that which was faced by the fallen Orlando Zapata Tamayo. The Eastern dissident points out the similarity between Zapata and Cervantes not only in terms of the similar torture the authorities exercised against them but also in the fact that many dissidents demanded that the life of Zapata be saved and now they are doing the same with Cervantes. “This situation is extremely similar to the marches we carried out for Zapata. During that protest we sent a message, in time, to save the life of the martyr Zapata and now we are doing the same with Cervantes to avoid a fatal outcome“.