Orlando Zapata Tamayo (right) and Pedro Luis Boitel (left)
In response to the ‘Boitel and Zapata Live’ National March for Cuban Freedom, the Cuban authorities have taken every possible measure in their attempt to deter a people who demand rights and freedom for an entire nation.
One of these waves of repression occurred Friday, September 9th in Eastern Cuba- specifically in Palma Soriano, a region which, according to former prisoner of conscience Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, has been “totally militarized” as product of a rising level of activism, which increased after the home of dissident Marino Antomarchi, full of dissidents, was attacked with tear gas.
In the midst of this strict vigilance, Angel Moya Acosta, also former prisoner of conscience and coordinator for the National Boitel Zapata March, was able to find a way to get to Palma Soriano. Along with Jose Daniel Ferrer and other dissidents like Tania Montoya, Raudel Avila, Francisco Macias, and Raumel Vinajera, they all noticed that political police agents were surrounding homes of dissidents in order to impede free movement and the March. Jose Daniel Ferrer recounts that, “the agents wanted to force us to stay in our homes, but one of the agreements we reached for the march was to refuse our houses as prison cells“, continuing, “so we stepped out, and an agent dressed in civilian clothes told us it was not permitted. Upon us not accepting this, the agent grew very nervous, as their were no uniformed officers nearby to detain us. However, they quickly arrived and grabbed us by the arms and shoved us in police cars“.
This “hunt for dissidents“, as Jose Daniel describes it, was headed by Major Dorkis. “Dorkis led this hunt throughout the entire city, arresting various dissidents like Francisco Castellano, Tania Montoya, and many others“, explains the former prisoner.
The participants of the march were taken arrested to diverse police units, while some were dropped off 70-90 kilometers from Palma Soriano, leaving them in desolate roads and therefore making it impossible for them to return in time to participate in the march. Ferrer Garcia narrates his experience in the dungeons for 3 days:
“In the detainment unit we suffered physical abuses at the hands of police officers and agents of the Ministry“. First came the violent search of the dissident’s belongings and bodies. “One of the agents stomped on my feet, I still have the marks to prove it. Angel Moya was thrown on the concrete floor and pushed down, searching him by force“. Tania Montoya was not only searched but also was victim of a form of sexual abuse. “More than 7 female police officers forcibly stripped her clothes off and searched her so thoroughly that they even stuck one of their fingers in her vagina“, denounced Ferrer.
Afterward, Ferrer was thrown in a “pestilent dungeon, which was 4 squared meters and which already had 6 men inside. It was terribly hot“. In addition, “there was very little water and we were given horrible nutrition“. Ferrer was able to firsthand witness the abuses committed against the common prisoners being held in that center, although it was not something alien to him, considering that he had just been released from serving 7 years behind the bars since the Black Spring of 2003. One of the worst abuses against the prisoners, according to Garcia, is medical negligence, as well as the conditions in which they have to live (sealed off cells) and sleep (on the concrete floor). In his own case, he also had to sleep on the cement floor for 3 days, with the same clothes he had on the day of his arrest and without access to hygiene products.
“In some sort of way, I had lots of space in comparison with other brothers in cause and common prisoners who had to share a small cell with 12 others, amid all that heat, filth, and poor diet“, he explains.
Jose Daniel Ferrer and Angel Moya Acosta were released on the third day of their arrest. In Moya’s case, he has already been intercepted after that detainment. As of now, the exact details are not yet available but it was reported on September 15th that Moya, along with other dissidents, had been arrested again in Santa Clara, as he tried to coordinate the same march. Some other names of those arrested alongside him are Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, Idania Yanez, Damaris Moya, and Guillermo Farinas.