Countless testimonies inundated independent Cuban news outlets during Human Rights Day, celebrated internationally on December 10th, as well as during the following days. There were vigilance operations, brutal beatings, arbitrary arrests, deportations, and other forms of violence against those who publicly demonstrated on the streets of the island in defense of human rights and against the tyranny from one point to another. In Havana, some of the brutal events consisted of a strong police operation against the Ladies in White who were congregated in the house of their recently fallen leader Laura Pollan. Caridad Caballero Batista, a member of the Ladies in White hailing from Cuba’s East, narrated the details of the violent repression the women faced, from her perspective.
Batista explained that the women were confined to the house on Neptuno Street for three days “without being able to step out because there were two large mob repudiation acts which lasted for hours“. According to the dissident, on Friday December 9th was when the first mob attack occurred at around 4:30 pm and lasted until 8:30 that night. This first display of government-orchestrated repudiation consisted of a mob made up by soldiers and State Security officials. Another act of hate and intolerance took place the following day (Dec. 10th, Human Rights Day) during the morning hours and lasting until 8:30 pm once again.
“During this whole time“, recounts the activist, “Neptuno Street was closed down and the officials were even asking neighbors for ID cards when they would step out of their homes“. Caridad adds that as yet another form of humiliation and aggression, the flow of water was cut for Laura Pollan’s house, the headquarters of the Ladies in White. “They cut the water from the 9th until the 10th, we spent an entire day without showering“.
It wasn’t until that Sunday that the women were able to make it out of the house and onto the street, marching down to Santa Rita Church located on Havana’s 5th Avenue. Upon arriving to the church, other Ladies joined the group and they all assisted mass together. After mass, the Ladies in White carried out another march in which they shouted slogans demanding freedom for all political prisoners and also prayed.
The Cuban Resistance activists decided to take their peaceful demonstration to the nearby park when a bus rapidly arrived, full of State Security officials who, along with numerous police officers, completely closed off 3rd Avenue. “Right then and there, the mobs attacked us“, explained Caridad Caballero.
“As a form of Resistance, we all sat on the street and they surrounded us. We screamed ‘freedom for all political prisoners’ and ‘long live human rights’. After a while of hurling insults at us, they started to physically attack us and drag us, shoving us all in a bus they had waiting for us. They were the same buses used to transport the military mobs for the repudiation act against us. It was very violent“.
Caballero Batista, who was just recently awarded the Carlos Manuel de Cespedes award by the Eastern Democratic Alliance, added that she and the other women suffered “punches, the pulling of hair, and scratches“.
After this initial physical aggression, Caridad was taken to a Unit known as Micro 5. “This unit was completely unknown to me“, she explains, “I was able to find out that it was previously used as a prison and was now a military zone“.
The tireless dissident added that “for each Lady in White from Havana the officials used a police vehicle with 4 policemen in order to simply take one out at a time, taking them to different detention centers. We Eastern citizens were the last to be taken out of the Unit at around 4:30 pm. On the bus back there were 3 of us from Matanzas, 1 from Camaguey, and 6 from Holguin“. During this time, a police guard sat between each woman, keeping them separate and under strict vigilance. Batista was deported back to her native town of Holguin.
“In our case, those of us from Holguin were simply left out in an unknown neighborhood, much before the bus terminal we needed to reach in order to board another bus to arrive closer to our homes. The women from Banes and Moa had had to board even more buses to get to their houses, and when they arrived, it was very late”.
Batista, who has not been able to accept her Carlos Cespedes Award because she was in the middle of a violent arrest, pointed out that “despite all of this, we are fine, and we feel strengthened and stronger than ever. None of these manipulations and techniques will make us step back on our path and desire to struggle for the freedom of our country and for fighting for the liberation of all political prisoners and so that human rights be respected“.
The pro-democracy activist also added that she felt it was interesting to point out that, “the Castro regime constantly broadcasts images of protesters in the United States who are victims of physical aggressions at the hands of police officers. But usually such actions only consist of one or two policemen, but here in Cuba they use 20 men to repress one woman or any other dissident. Those are the images which should be displayed on television, proving how they publicly harass us“.