Marta Díaz Rondón, Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez and Miladis Rosa are three Ladies in White and pro-democracy activists that have been beaten, dragged, arrested, and kept under surveillance for the simple act of paying tribute to their deceased brothers in struggle, for peacefully and publicly opposing the tyranny, and for trying to assist religious mass.
The 3 women- all of them residents from Banes, Holguin- suffered a brutal attack at the hands of state agents on the morning of Saturday, January 14th, as they were traveling towards the city of Holguin aboard a friend’s car to assist mass that Sunday along with other Ladies in White. The violence began when a group of State Security agents and political police officials gave orders to the women to get off the car. Considering that neither of the three had committed a single crime, they refused. The violence began at that very moment.
“It was a group of police agents, headed by State Security agent Freddy Aguero”, explains Marta Díaz Rondón, “they dragged us off the car as they were beating us”. As they dragged the women, in addition to the accustomed physical blows delivered by officials, the women were being hurt as they were thrown against the car seats, the car steps, and the outside pavement. In the case of Rondon, she suffered serious injuries on her head and on her thighs. As for Gertrudis Ojeda, who just a few weeks ago was brutally beaten inside her own house by Cuban political police, they “twisted her arms and hands, they nearly broke them“. Afterward, the three activists were thrown inside a police vehicle.
The activists were first taken to a State Security department in Banes, where they once again were dragged, by their hair and by their arms- this time up the stairs to the 3rd floor where the offices of the department are located. Once upstairs, the agents decided where each woman would be taken to. In the case of Diaz Rondon, she was taken to the unit known as Vagano, in Holguin, where she remained arrested for a total of 29 hours. Gertrudis was taken to the Rafael Freire Unit (also for 29 hours), and Miladis was detained in a police unit in Banes for a number of hours until that afternoon.
“During the arrest, we all carried out a protest. We did not accept a single thing from them”, affirmed Rondon.
The State Security agents confiscated Marta’s cell phone and kept it for an entire week, in an attempt to impede her from communicating the news to people outside the country, or even within the country.
The brutal actions were repeated against Marta Diaz Rondon and Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez the Sunday of the following week, January 21st. This time, the activists were able to assist mass in a local church of Banes, all dressed in white. After the mass, they received word of arrests in the city of Holguin, the majority of them Ladies in White. Rondon and Suarez decided to travel to Holguin to show solidarity with her brothers and sisters.
They were both able to arrive to the city, but upon arriving to the home of Caridad Caballero Batista, they noticed that no one was there. Caridad and her husband Esteban had been victims of arrests, as had the majority of the Ladies in White in that area. Rondon and Suarez headed towards the nearest State Security Unit, located right in front of San Jose Park.
“That entire area was surrounded by State Security agents,” explained Diaz, “I told them I was there to find out about those who had been detained, but a number of agents aggressively ran up to us, headed by the official known as ‘The Polish’. They threw us inside police vehicles and returned us back to Banes”. The agents accused the women of ‘disobedience’ and they were kept in jail cells for various hours in a police center of Banes.
Despite the aggressions, a tribute ceremony was held for Orlando Zapata
Still full of bruises and reeling from very strong pains, Marta Diaz Rondon provided her home to carry out a tribute for Orlando Zapata Tamayo on that 23rd of January, 23 months after the political prisoner was killed by the Castro dictatorship.
“We lit candles and deposited flowers in front of an Orlando Zapata monument we have in my house. 11 activists participated”, explained Rondon.
During the display of solidarity, the home of Rondon was surrounded by numerous State Security agents. The Lady in White denounced that “everywhere that I go, I am constantly under surveillance. They do not let me leave my own municipality. And if I somehow find a way to sneak out, then they arrest me and send me back. There are groups of agents stationed outside my house who watch me 24 hours a day“.
In addition, Diaz Rondon condemned the “repressive crackdown unleashed by the regime against all men and women of the opposition after the assassination of Wilman Villar Mendoza. The regime does not respect anything, they are beating us constantly“. In fact, the dissident explains that a cyst has developed on her thighs, product of the ruthless beatings she had endured in the recent weeks, as policemen have also “dragged her around as if she was a sack of clothes“- repressive tactics which Rondon has compared to those employed by Nazis during Germany’s fascist era. “The dictatorship’s henchmen are just like the Gestapo, they are equally assassins and beat any peaceful person as they wish“.