After carrying out a number of activities during February 23rd (for Orlando Zapata Tamayo) and 24th (for the Brothers to the Rescue and the Day of Resistance), and after having suffered repercussions because of this, members of Cuba’s Resistance continued to go out to the streets this past Sunday 26th. Many of these activists had just been released from arbitrary detentions or had just returned to their homes after long acts of repudiation.
Such was the case of the Ladies in White Caridad Caballero Batista and Marta Diaz Rondon, whom were both present at the headquarters of the Ladies in White in Havana on Thursday the 23rd, paying tribute to Orlando Zapata Tamayo and suffering an act of repudiation for it along with 40 other women. Regime-led mobs held an extensive operation of hate against the headquarters (which is also the home of the recently fallen Laura Pollan), chanting offensive slogans throughout the entire day. In fact, Rondon affirms that during the repudiation attack, one the aggressors screamed a message directly at her and Batista through a megaphone. The person said: “The mercenaries Caridad Caballero Batista and Marta Diaz Rondon were outside the US Interests Section, trying to find an exit permit to get out of the country“, a declaration which is completely false, according to the dissident.
Rondon also narrated that a Spanish journalist was trying to walk by the mob and was aggressively pushed and even hit by participants, which the Lady in White classified as “drunkards and mentally sick people“, in their majority.
On the following day, Rondon and Batista were on their way back to their homes in the Cuban East. In the case of Caridad, she headed to her city of Holguin, while Marta went to Banes. Caballero explains that “we spent two whole days in the bus station of Havana known as La Cubre, trying to find any sort of transportation back to Holguin“. They finally were able to find a bus which left them near their towns during morning hours of February 26th. Batista arrived to her house at around 3 AM. In the case of Marta Diaz, she decided to go to the home of her mother and sister in the same town of Banes, finally arriving at about 2 AM. At that same time, State Security agents “surrounded the home and stationed a police vehicle outside, with the intention of impeding me from going out to mass that same morning“, denounced Rondon.
Although Diaz Rondon is used to this constant harassment, she explains that her elderly mother (who was recently in the hospital for health complications), and her sister “became extremely nervous, and in the case of my sister her blood pressure shot up, because she is not used to this vigilance. I am holding State Security responsible for anything that could happen to my mother and sister“.
Meanwhile, and nearly without having even rested, Caridad Caballero managed to leave her home at 8 AM along with her husband Esteban Sandez, with intentions of assisting mass in the Jesus Christ Redeemer of Men Church. They were only able to walk a few blocks when they noticed a number of State Security agents running towards them. “At that moment I tried to call my son and let him know, as well as Luis Felipe Rojas (so he’d spread the news through his Twitter) but all phone lines were cut“, recounts Caballero, adding that various everyday citizens were witnessing the events, among them one of the church’s pastors. “Esteban looked at all those people and said ‘look at what is going to happen to us just for trying to go to church’“. Precisely, the dissidents were physically assaulted and shoved into a police vehicle, under the direction of Major Douglas Torres, one of the culprits of Orlando Zapata’s death and of the constant repression in that area. Two other Ladies in White- Berta Guerrero Segura and Adnisnidia Cruz- were arrested in the same city also for trying to go to church on that morning.
All the activists detained in that zone that morning were taken to the Instructional Unit of Pedernales. En route to the unit, Caballero tells that “the agents driving the vehicle Esteban and I were in were driving very fast and began to break suddenly various times, with the intention of having us hit our heads with the glass which divides the back and front seats. And that lasted the entire way to Pedernales“, where they were placed in separate cells with very little space and, as usual, were threatened with that they could not continue going to church.
Esteban Sandez was confined to a “very small room that is used for interrogations which has various cameras which were filming him. The room is hermetically sealed off with double doors, the floor is covered with a red carpet and the walls are covered with wood and curtains. They turned on a machine which, instead of releasing air, released vapor. When Esteban came out, he was very red in the face and had somewhat of a fever after all the heat and torture he was exposed to“, said Caballero. The dissidents were released at around 12 in the afternoon.
In Havana, 41 Ladies in White were able to make it to the Santa Rita Church and carry out their traditional march after mass. After this march, a number of these women boarded buses back to their homes, while 19 others decided to carry out another march through Third Street in honor of Orlando Zapata Tamayo. Among these women were Berta Soler and Sara Marta Fonseca. The latter had her home surrounded during the 23rd and 24th of February.
Fonseca explains that they decided to carry out this second march because the activities they had planned on the 23rd were impeded by the dictatorship, which, they ended up doing again that Sunday. “When we had walked about 3 blocks, mobs of paramilitary agents and political police agents ran up to us, along with female soldiers with Ministry of the Interior uniforms“, denounced Fonseca, “these people began to physically attack us and tried to put us in a bus by force“. The response of these female activists was to sit on the floor as a form of civil disobedience, shouting ‘Zapata Lives‘ and ‘Long Live Human Rights‘.
Another bus arrived on the scene with more mobs which started to carry out an act of repudiation against the women, shouting offenses and slogans in favor of the dictatorship. At this moment, the agents detained the women, pushing them onto the bus. They were taken to the military unit of Mayabeque where they were held until 6 pm amid threats. All the women were taken back in separate vehicles.
Fonseca affirms that she saw that Raul Borges, father of hunger-striking political prisoner Ernesto Borges, had been detained as well. “I was able to see him inside a police vehicle. They were searching him, they confiscated his camera and some papers. We saw that they took him away later, but we could not confirm anything else about his whereabouts“.
At this moment, Ernesto Borges is in a critical state of health, since he has been on hunger strike since February 10th and is still being held in a punishment and isolation cell in the Combinado del Este Prison of Havana. On January 6th of the present year, Ernesto had declared himself on hunger strike but deposed his protest a few weeks later. When he started his current strike, he was still suffering the effects of the first. His father, Raul, was able to see him on Saturday the 25th, confirming that he is being held in inhumane conditions despite his critical state, suffering from arrhythmia and extreme weight loss. Despite this, Raul said that his son assured him that he was going to continue his hunger strike and that his spirit will remain “very firm“. Raul Borges denounced that the penal functionaries are refusing to take his son to a hospital to be treated for his numerous health complications, and that they want to “finish him off the same way they did with Orlando Zapata Tamayo“.
Meanwhile, Jose Daniel Ferrer García declared that 34 Ladies in White had made it to mass in the El Cobre Sanctuary of Santiago de Cuba, while another 8 Ladies made it to mass in Guantanamo along with other dissidents.
Despite this critical situation and the constant repression on behalf of the Cuban dictatorship, activists of the Resistance have raised their voices in defense of the life of Ernesto Borges and have continued taking to the streets to protest against the regime, regardless of the fact that they are being subjected to constant repudiations, deportations, beatings, and threats.