This past weekend- from Friday February 10th to Sunday the 12th- was marked by the accustomed brutality of the communist Cuban dictatorship against the non-violent Resistance movement, especially on Sunday against Ladies in White and other dissidents who were simply trying to go to their respective churches. It is yet another case which Pope Benedict XVI should jot down on his agenda before visiting the island in March.
In the city of Holguin, Lady in White Caridad Caballero Batista and her husband (and also activist) Esteban Sandez Suarez were arrested at 8 in the morning. Like every Sunday, the husband and wife were trying to assist mass in the local Jesus Christ Redeemer of Man Church when they were violently interrupted “by a group of soldiers, uniformed Interior Ministry officials, political police officers, and State Security agents” who detained them under the orders of agent Douglas Torres, according to Caballero.
The arrest occurred a few blocks from the home of Batista and Suarez, and directly in front of ‘Hilda Torres’ Primary School, where a conglomeration of everyday citizens were standing about. These people saw everything. “We let all of these people know why we were being detained, who we are, and where we would be taken to“, explains Caballero, “none of these citizens reacted against us“. As they tend to do each weekend, the officials took the Lady in White and her husband to the Instructional Unit of Pedernales, where they are always confined to sealed off dark and damp cells which consist of concrete ‘beds’.
While in Pedernales, Caballero and Esteban were kept in separate cells. “While we were detained, the officials screamed very offensive and grotesque words at us“, denounces Batista, adding that among the many perversions the regime guards carry out, they also “told Esteban to take off his pants and enter the cell like that, which Esteban absolutely refused to do“. It was under that harassment and violence which both dissidents were kept detained until 12:30 in the afternoon of that Sunday.
Caridad and Esteban walked back home down the same route which led them to the detention center, and Caballero explained that the same people who had witnessed the attacks in front of the primary school “started to come up and talk to us as a sign of support“.
Meanwhile, in the town of Cacocum (Holguin province), the Lady in White Berta Guerrero Segura and her husband s were arrested in a similar fashion as they tried to go to the city of Holguin to join Caridad Caballero and Esteban Sandez in church.
Peregrino denounced that their home had been under total vigilance for days, “surrounded by State Security agents and Rapid Response Brigade members who were threatening us with sticks and cables“, but despite this, the activists decided to leave their homes and head towards church.
“During the arrest, they punched me on the mouth, and the agents started to push my wife and I into a police vehicle“, adds Franklin. From there, they were taken to the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) Unit, where they were kept until 11:30 AM. “Upon being released, our home remained under vigilance until 3 in the afternoon. This harassment occurs Sunday after Sunday, as well as on Wednesdays when we try to go to the home of Caridad Caballero to participate in a weekly vigil held there in solidarity with Cuban political prisoners. Once again, we denounce this torture to the world, this torture which State Security carries out against the peaceful opposition“, said the activist.
Dissidents Anni Sarrion Romero (Lady in White) and her husband Juan Carlos Vazquez Osoria- residents of Moa- were kept in dungeons from Friday until Sunday, after being arrested at 11 pm on Friday. Sarrion Romero explained that “we left our home in Moa on Friday in order to make it to the Cobre Sanctuary by Sunday, and we even had to take many shortcuts and go through fields“. Upon arriving to the town of Mayari, however, a police vehicle was already awaiting them. They were rapidly arrested by force and shoved into the vehicle to be taken to the police unit of Mayari.
In this specific unit, they were constantly harassed each day. “They have a rule in the police units which says that every prisoner has to be lined up at 7 in the morning as the guards are changing shifts, and that is when 7 or 8 police chiefs arrive to carry out an inspection, or inventory“, explains Sarrion Romero. “On the first morning, they signaled out my husband, telling him that he had to take off his clothes for the inspection, which is a form of humiliation. And Juan Carlos refused. They told him that his attitude was disobedience (a crime for the dictatorship) and that they would beat him“. Osoria did not cooperate.
On the following day- on Sunday morning- the guards of the punishment cells tried doing the same with Anni. “They tried to pull me and throw me from my cement ‘bed’. I told them ‘you could accuse me of countless cases of disobedience but I was not going to step down, I will not lower myself before you all‘”. The Lady in White says that the guards responded by telling her “remember that they knocked your teeth out in Moa“, referencing a beating on Tuesday February 7th where two henchmen of the dictatorship punched Sarrion Romero, breaking two of her front teeth. In fact, an official named Leandro Mordago cynically told Anni during her arrest that she “looks very good with her teeth like that“. “I told them that they will have to kill me because I am not going to stop, and perhaps I will always be detained because I am going to continue traveling…and they really do not want us to travel to Santiago to assist mass in the Cobre Sanctuary“.
At 3 in the afternoon, both dissidents were released, although separately. “They took me under custody to my home in Moa, aboard a cop car. My husband was released and abandoned without money or anything else. He was able to make it all the way to the home of Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia in Palma Soriano“. The home of Romero and Osoria is constantly under attack by the forces of the Cuban dictatorship, as are their family members. In fact, their children are victims of beatings along with their parents and are not even allowed to work or travel within their own country.
Ex prisoner of conscience Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia informed through ‘Hablalo sin Miedo‘ that on Sunday the 12th, Ruben Torres, Julio Cesar Salazar and Yuselin Ferrer Espinosa (activists from the Patriotic Union of Cuba) were arrested in Palmarito de Cauto as they were waiting to protest in case Ladies in White from that area were arrested. But despite the stifling repression, Ferrer pointed out that 42 Ladies in White made it to the Sanctuary of El Cobre in Santigo de Cuba while 9 Ladies made it to mass in Guantanamo, surpassing the chords of vigilance and violence of the Castro dictatorship.