Amid Repression, Solidarity

Far too often, and unfortunately, Cubans in and out of the island are accustomed to associating the Cuban Catholic Church more with word “accomplice” than with “protectors”.  Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that various figures from the Cuban Catholic community have risked their positions and their own lives to publicly support and harbor dissidents on numerous occasions (and throughout history).  This solidarity, demonstrating the true meaning of the Christian doctrine, was once again evident this past weekend in Cuba, when various nuns and a priest stood up for a number of Ladies in White about to be physically assaulted by the dictatorship’s mobs. 

In addition, a very important display of solidarity was seen among the ‘everyday Cubans’ as loyal churchgoers also showed solidarity with the Ladies in White, joining the religious figures in their successful attempt to deter a savage beat down of the non-violent women who simply demand freedom. 

Displays of solidarity such as this- coming from official religious figures and everyday people- are a clear sign that Cubans are losing their fear of the Castro brother’s iron-fist rule and of their support and sympathy with the Resistance.

Diario de Cuba’ has the report (my translation):

A Priest and Various Nuns impede aggressions against the Ladies in White in El Cobre Sanctuary

This Sunday, a priest, various nuns, and churchgoers impeded 7 Ladies in White from suffering a mob repudiation attack and possible aggressions in the Cobre Church of Santiago de Cuba, the independent journalist Caridad Caballero Batista informed ‘Dario de Cuba’.

The women were able to arrive to the sanctuary on Saturday, having to take different routes in order to surpass the police operations, and spend a night in a hostel.

“Thanks to the people working in the hostel and others who approached us, we found out that the political police knew of our presence there, but the priest of El Cobre sanctuary was concerned for us”, said Caballero Batista, one of the women who was able to assist mass.

The other women who made it were Belkis Cantillo Ramirez, Aimee Garces Leiva, Mari Blanca Avila Expósito, Oria Casanova Moreno, Adriana Núñez Pascual and  Tania Bandera González, according to the former political prisoner from the group of the 75 Jose Daniel Ferrer.

Another 7 women also made it to the Cathedral of Santiago.  At least two of them, Liudmila Rodríguez Palomo and Ana Celia Rodríguez Torres, were detained after the mass in order to impede them from carrying out a march.

“Those of us who were in El Cobre were victims of a mob repudiation attack on behalf of paramilitary troops who wanted to attack us” after leaving mass.  “Churchgoers and nuns had to intercede and protect us from being beat”, recounted Caballero Batista.  “The nuns went out and got us a car to drive us out of there”.

The independent journalist pointed out that after the Eucharist, the priest Jorge Palma “said that the Ladies in White were present in the church, that they were peaceful women who demanded freedom for prisoners and for all Cubans, and that on many occasions they have been beat”.

“Churchgoers approached us and nuns offered us their support”, Caballero Batista assured.  “We felt very reassured.  It was something we appreciate”.

Ladies in White denounced on the 17th of July and 8th of September that they suffered “brutal beat-downs” at the hands of groups organized by the regime after they assisted mass in El Cobre.  Various of these women needed medical attention after the beatings.

José Daniel Ferrer pointed out that the State Security operations set in motion to impede these women from traveling to Santiago de Cuba began the previous day.

Various female activists were impeded from stepping out of their homes.  Mayelín la O Montero and Yarisel Figueredo Valdés were detained together with their husbands at 2 AM in Contramaestre.

Caballero Batista added that Maria Elena Matos, Doraida Correoso Pozo and Ana Alegre Pécora were also arrested.   All have already been released.

Ferrer told “DIARIO DE CUBA” that, in order for the women to surpass the police operations which, each weekend are organized by authorities to keep dissidents from assisting mass, “dozens of members from the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) had to mobilize from the prior day, having to sleep in sugarcane fields, near the security checkpoints of the political police”

“The activists accompany the women, who on occasions have to walk more than 10 kilometers at night in order to surpass political police security check points”, he added.

In Havana, around 40 Ladies in White assisted mass in the Church of Santa Rita and then carried out their habitual march throughout Fifth Avenue, displaying a sign with the image of their fallen leader, Laura Pollan.

According to the independent journalist Roberto de Jesus Guerra, at least 6 women were visited and/or warned by State Security and received threats in an attempt to keep them from visiting the church.  Among them are Magaly Norvis Otero, Sandra Guerra, Elizabeth Kawooya and Dignora Figueredo.

The spokesperson of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, affirmed to the Miami based newspaper ‘El Nuevo Herald’ that the women have planned to participate in the pilgrimage of the Virgin of Charity throughout Havana which began this Sunday.

“We are going to participate like the Cubans we are”, said Soler.  “We will do so dressed in white”

Amid Repression, Solidarity

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