“We are all Resistance“
As has been established during the past few months, activists of the Cuban Resistance have designated each 24th of the month as the “Day of Resistance”, marked by the carrying out of non-violent activities against the dictatorship. Each time this date has been celebrated, the regime has responded with violence- arrests, beatings, deportations, etc. This past October 24th was no exception, as dissidents throughout the island took part in acts of resistance while also paying tribute to the recently deceased Laura Pollan, leader of the Ladies in White.
In the town of Banes, located in the province of Holguin, the Vice-President of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights and also a member of the Ladies in White support group, Marta Diaz Rondon, met with various dissidents in the home of (also Lady of Support) Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez, located in Carlos Manuel de Cespedes Street in the same city of Banes, at around 8 in the morning. There, they hung signs with phrases such as ‘Laura Pollan, you will always be with us’ and ‘We are all Resistance‘. The group of demonstrators were planning to take to the street but from the moment the activities began they were strictly under vigilance by State Security, the National Revolutionary Police, and the Rapid Responde Brigades. Diaz Rondon tells that, “due to that massive operation against us, we were not able to go to the street“, but regardless, the dissidents continued to carry out their demonstration from the home of Suarez.
The previous day, Sunday October 23rd, 11 dissidents also form Banes, Diaz Rondon among them, head out to the Our Lady of Charity Church where they prayed for the soul of Laura Pollan and also for Orlando Zapata Tamayo (the 23rd marked the 20th month of his assassination). The activists deposited flowers before the statue of the Virgin and decided to carry out a peaceful march all the way back. “We were constantly watched by political police agents who were dressed in civilian clothing“, narrates Rondon, “They were looking at us with threatening stares, and there was an also an official present whom, at this moment I forget his name, but he has physically attacked me on various occasions, including one time when Reina Luisa Tamayo (mother of Orlando Zapata) was still in Cuba“. Despite the vigilance, there was not a beating or arrest this time, but Marta Diaz Rondon warns and denounces that “these people are capable of anything” though this does not intimidate her or any other group of dissidents who “will not cease assisting mass and taking to the streets in all the municipalities. If they continue impeding us from traveling to Havana to march alongside the Ladies in White, then we Ladies in Support will do so from other places“.
In the city of Holguin, during the Day of Resistance, activists Caridad Caballero Batista, Esteban Sande Suarez, Denis Pino Basulto, and Isabel Pena Torres had planned to carry out a peaceful march and protest through the streets of that city (toward a local park where they would deposit flowers in the name of Laura Pollan), but such a plan was interrupted by the arrest of these 4 opposition members. “It happened at around 9 in the morning, when we decided to take to the street. We had just walked 5 blocks down the centric ‘Mirador’ street when we were violently intercepted and arrested by State Security and Ministry of the Interior agents” who were accompanied by motorcycles and police vehicles, according to Caridad Caballero. In her case, when she was detained she was also hit on her arm and mouth in an attempt to keep her from screaming anti-government phrases, but this did not stop her. All these activists were taken to the detention center of Pedernales, as usually occurs.
Caballero continues, “they kept us for more than an hour in the backseat of the police vehicle, under the hot sun, before taking us into Pedernales and throwing us in dark and humid cells“. During the arrest, none of the dissidents accepted water or food as a sign of protest for their arbitrary arrests. Batista adds that they were constantly threatened, “a functionary by the last name of Marma cynically told me: ‘buy yourself a gun so we can square off through a gun fight’ to which I responded that I was not like him, that I was a peaceful dissident and I did not need a gun. I am demanding the rights of all Cubans, including yours and your families‘”.
Meanwhile, in the central town of Placetas the home of Jorge Luis Garcia ‘Antunez’ and wife Yris Tamara Perez was host to an activity similar to that in Banes, and various activists were present, but political police officials arrived unexpectedly and went straight towards the dissidents with violence. Some of the agents broke into the front porch of the house and began to rip down signs and break other objects. Yris Tamara denounces that “they ripped a sign which read ‘Boitel and Zapata Live On’, ‘Zapata is with Us’, and others. They also shattered a Orlando Zapata monument we had- every Thursday we held a vigil around it in memory of the fallen prisoner of conscience. They broke everything“. It was at that moment that they forcefully arrested Antunez, along with dissidents Rene Fernandez Quiroga and Ciro Alexis Casanova. But the aggression did not stop there. “Because I was filming what was happening“, explains Yris Tamara, “the officials were trying to snatch my camera. They were attempting to break through my window and reaching out to me to get it from me“. They were not able to.
Antunez was released on Wednesday, October 26th, along with Ciro Casanova but Rene Fernandez remained detained and in critical condition in a Placetas Hospital, due to the fact that he had been severely beaten.
In Havana, Sara Marta Fonseca and Rodolfo Ramirez Cardozo head out towards the ironically named Martin Luther King Park where other activists were congregated (but so too were members of State Security and the political police, watching the dissidents’ every moves). Fonseca declared to Radio Marti that both her and Ramirez were arrested before arriving to the park while others who were already there, such as Odalys Caridad Rodríguez, René Ramón González, and Francés Miranda Camejo, were also arbitrarily arrested. Fonseca and Cardozo were taken to Unit 4 of El Cerro where they were kept until 9 pm, amid interrogations and constant threats.
The Cuban Democratic Directorate reported that in Cienfuegos various resistance members met up to publicly pray for Laura Pollan, also marking the Day of Resistance. The report also mentions that, similarly, in Bayamo the young dissident Yoandri Montoya convoked a gathering of youths which denounced the dictatorial regime about the death of Laura Pollan, while back in Havana again other activities were being presided over by Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy president Eriberto Liranza Romero.
The Cuban resistance members have kept their word in regards to demonstrating throughout the island on each 24th of the month, despite the aggressive repression against them, proving once more that their convictions are much stronger than any weapon the regime could ever employ.
Dissidents will continue demonstrating throughout the island, because as Caridad Caballero said, “the streets do not belong to Castro, they do not belong to State Security- they belong to the people and we are going to continue taking to them to demand human rights, the freedom of all political prisoners, and so that the true culprits and responsible ones for such violence face justice- those who kill and oppress the people“.