There have been various reports about the beatings unleashed upon 5 women and a man in Gibara, Holguin, Cuba which occurred a week ago on August 1st. This account is from the voice of one of the brave women who suffered the beating in person- Caridad Caballero Batista.
Caballero Batista recounts that together with four other women- Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, Yaimara Reyes Mesa, Donaida Perez, and Trinidad Rodriguez Fabril- along with a male friend and dissident, Reinaldo Rodriguez Vazquez, they carried out a peaceful march in Gibara, Holguin, in demand of their rights and the rights of all Cubans. According to the testimony of Caballero, this area of Gibara is coastal, with beaches, boulevards, and is a popular vacation spot.
Immediately, upon carrying out this march, Caballero recounts that, “we were attacked and provoked by State Security and the Rapid Response Brigades“. The response from the dissidents came right away, shouting slogans in favor of freedom: “The streets belong to the people”, “freedom for all Cubans”, “no more hunger”, “just salaries”, and “down with Fidel and Raul“.
When the dissidents made it outside the terminal, the entire area was “surrounded by Coast Guards, the Rapid Response Brigade, the police, and State Security“. The activists realized that, as usual, they were about to get beaten. They then decided to apply a method of civic resistance (popularly used during the civil rights era in the United States) and sat down on the floor, refusing to move. Their protest was completely non-violent. Despite this, the agents started to punch them, kick them, and they even dragged them on the floor until they were tossed into the police vehicles.
“In the case of Donaida and Yaimara,” explains Caridad, “they were thrown into the trunk of the cop car“. In their defense, Caballero says that she “rushed out of the car and helped the women open the trunk. Immediately, however, the agents pushed me away and shoved them out, letting them fall on the floor“.
An indignant people
When Caridad Caballero was once again inside the cop car she was able to see a “lady wearing a red shirt who was demanding to the police officers that they explain why they were doing this, and they beat her too“. Meanwhile, “many others screamed that what was being done was an abuse, that we were only saying what everyone was thinking and feeling. The people were truly upset“, affirms Batista.
Antunez and Yris Tamara also told of a similar story in another interview in regards to that same event, where a random man interceded between the women being beat and the police officers, demanding an end to the violence. The man, whose identity is not known, also received brutal blows.
Detainment and more beatings
“They took us to the Cost Guard Unit located in El Guirito, a very desolated place which has a prison right next door“, explains Caballero. “They got us out of the truck by pulling our hair. At one point I felt like my scalp was going to be ripped off from my head. They punched our heads, kicked our backs, it was terrible“. Caridad adds that she, along with Trinidad, were separated and situated towards the back of the unit. There they were able to see the prison next door. It was then that they noticed various prisoners making signals to them, “letting us know that they had seen everything and that they had already contacted the human rights people, people outside that area, denouncing what had happened“.
Once again, the activists were beaten and then separated. Meanwhile, “Reinaldo was tossed into a cell and beaten for the third time that day“. As for the others, “Yris, Donaida, and Yaimara were taken to an unknown location. The last I saw from them was when they tried to separate Yaimara from the group. Donaida rushed out in defense but they hit her very hard and she fell on the floor. Upon seeing this we became very worried, and we started shouting ‘assassins’, ‘terrorists’, and ‘abusers’. When Donaida was picked up she could not stand on her own two feet, for she had been knocked un-conscience“.
“They kept us until the next day. They released me in the afternoon and they left me in a place called La Trocha, a very desolate area“, explains Caballero, adding that before the police agents kicked her out of the car they told her ‘long live the commander’ (referring to dictator Fidel Castro). Caridad quickly replied with “down with the commander“. Upon walking through that unknown area she realized that it was mostly all grassland. She walked and walked until she found a local, whom she asked for directions back to her town. “That person told me how to get back and I was finally able to make it back home after a while. But during this whole time my house was completely surrounded by State Security and they were not letting anyone go in or step out. The whole block was closed off to dissidents“.
Denouncing other beatings, arrests
Caballero Batista also denounced other acts of repression which occurred that same day throughout the island. “6 activists from the Eastern Democratic Alliance- Esteban Romero, Milagro Leyva, Omar Wilson, Estevez, Lesli Fajardo Rivera, Omar Perez Torres, and Juan Carlos Vazquez Osorio- decided to carry out a non-violent march in Moa to mark the celebration of the Day of Resistance which was to occur on August 5th“. The activists took to the street with a handmade sign which read ‘The Streets Belong to the People’ and “they walked all the way to Moa’s Central Park. There, they were attacked by combined forces of State Security and the political police. They were then shoved into jail cells for 72 hours- 3 days. Some were deported, while others remained in Moa and we accused of public disorder“.
According to the dissident, in Banes there were also acts of violence. “Aurelio Antonio Morales was detained and savagely beaten by political police and State Security agents. He had bruises and wounds all over his body, and they even fractured his nasal septum. There was no information as to where he was being held. We only heard from him again 72 hours later when he was released“.
Caballero also condemned the recent detention of Luis Felipe Rojas as well as the brutal and bloody attack against Jose Daniel Ferrer, various other dissidents, and neighbors who had joined in solidarity, which occurred on Sunday August 7th in Palmarito de Cauto, also located in the Eastern region of Cuba.
Despite the violence and censorship, the opposition will continue onward
On the same day which the detainment and the beating in Gibara occurred, the repressive agents of the dictatorship confiscated the cell phones of all the dissidents involved. “Mine was returned to me two days later“, tells Caridad Caballero Batista, explaining that her mobile device came back with damage and its services continue to have many failures. “They practically broke it, now it blocks itself and drops calls“, explains Caballero. That same phone was used for this interview and the signal would get interrupted every once in a while, and the call dropped a couple of times as well. “Despite all the beatings they give us, despite all the torture inflicted upon us, we will continue defending human rights. And each time, with more strength to continue onward“.