This past 11th of March was the twelfth consecutive Sunday that Lady in White and independent journalist Caridad Caballero Batista was forcefully kept from reaching church alongside other Ladies in the city of Holguin. This time, Caballero was arbitrarily detained on Saturday, March 10th, together with her 19-year old son, Eric Sandez Caballero, at around 8:30 AM as they were both aboard a car headed towards a taxi and bus stop at the center of the city to take care of some personal chores.
“As soon as we stepped down from the car, various State Security and political police officials ran at us and aggressively arrested us”, explained the activist, adding that the operation was led by agents Duglas Torres Pupo and Yordanis Martinez Leon, among others. The arrest occurred before the eyes of a number of everyday citizens which were passing by that centric area. Regardless, the regime deployed a number of police vehicles just to arrest two people.
Both mother and son were introduced in one of those police vehicles and taken to the Instructional Unit of Pedernales where they were kept in separate interrogation rooms. “They told us that they were not going to allow us to move freely throughout the country and that they were going to start a smear campaign against us. We responded by saying that we do not care for how many campaigns they carry out against us and that we are anti-Castro until the death, and that we will keep fighting for our rights: for freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and the respect of human rights in Cuba“.
After this exchange of words, Caridad and Eric were moved to separate small and sealed off cells. In the case of Eric, there were 4 other prisoners in his cell, all of who were being charged with different crimes, including robbery. The guards did not give him a mattress and the 19-year old had to sleep on a piece of concrete in the cell. Eric Sandez suffers from a medical condition where his sugar level and blood pressure suddenly drop and the blood flow to his brain becomes insufficient. Whenever this happens to him, he must urgently be rushed to a doctor or a hospital. Despite suffering from such a delicate condition, the functionaries of the Cuban regime still subject Eric to cruel and degrading treatment.
In the case of Caballero Batista, she was the only person in her cell, which was completely sealed off. “The bathroom of the cell was a small hole on the floor and it was clogged. I had to put up with that very strong smell, among mosquitoes, roaches, spiders, and other bugs“. As she usually does, the Lady in White began to shout messages from her dungeon: “Down with Communism“, “Down with the Castros“, and “Long live Human Rights“. Caballero affirms that she heard some common prisoners in the distance repeat her slogans. “In fact, one of them told me to scream louder so it could be heard in all of the prison, and others would repeat my phrase when I would say ‘long live Human Rights‘”.
Caridad and Eric were kept in those cells (without drinking water) until Sunday at 11:30 AM, once the mass in the Jesus Christ Redeemer of Men Church of Holguin had concluded. During this whole time, Caballero’s home was surrounded by numerous police vehicles and State Security officials with the intentions of keeping Esteban Sandez, Caridad’s husband, from leaving his own home. Despite this, the dissident found a way to leave his house and directed himself to the nearest State Security unit where he publicly demanded the liberation of his wife and son.
In regards to her son, Caridad Caballero assured that although the regime is trying to “frighten him, he has come out much stronger. Every time he has one of these situations he gets even more inspired to stay in the struggle“.
Meanwhile, in the town of Banes the Ladies in White Marta Diaz Rondon, Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez, and Miladis Pinales Rosa were once again arrested at around 5:30 AM as they were trying to travel to the city of Holguin to march to mass alongside other Ladies. Diaz Rondon explained that in her case her home had been under “tight surveillance since Wednesday“. Despite the vigilance, the dissident and these other two women decided to leave their homes during the early morning hours. They noticed that barely any State Security officials and political police officers were around their homes at that time. They took advantage of the moment and boarded a bus. However, as the bus arrived to the exit point of Banes, a military checkpoint composed of numerous State Security officials were waiting for the Ladies.
“They took us down from the buses by force, and at that moment, we were arrested. They put us inside police vehicles and took us to the State Security headquarter of Banes”, said Rondon. The three women were kept separated in that unit for 6 hours until mass in Holguin and Banes came to an end. “They told each of us that every time we leave our homes we will be detained“. Diaz Rondon has not been able to leave her own city for various weeks now.
“All the exits of Banes are under control of State Security and the political police, but I have told all the officials that my house is not a dungeon”, affirmed the Lady in White.
Other Ladies in White, such as Berta Guerrero Segura in Cacocum and Adisnidia Cruz in the city of Holguín, were reportedly detained also on that Sunday. Only 3 women made it to mass in Jesus Christ Redeemer of Men Church, under much vigilance and constant threats on behalf of functionaries from the communist regime.
During that same Sunday night, it was confirmed that dissidents Jorge Luis García Pérez Antúnez, Eriberto Liranza Romero (president of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy) and Rene Rouco Machín (President of the Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia Movement) were suddenly arrested. The detentions were reported by Yris Tamara Aguilera, wife of Antunez and active dissident in her own right, who published various Twitter messages (@YrisCuba) with the information. In the case of her husband, his arrest occurred in the central town of Placetas as he stepped out of his house and was walking to the corner of his block when guards detained him “under orders of the high command from Havana“. Eriberto Liranza and Rene Rouco were arrested in their respective homes in Havana. Yris Aguilera added that she does not know the whereabouts of her husband or of Liranza or Machin, and that in the town of “Sagua la Grande all homes of dissidents are surrounded“.
In regards to all these arbitrary arrests, Caridad Caballero declared that “as Pope Benedict’s visit to Cuba nears, the political police increases its repression against the peaceful defenders of human rights and the Ladies in White“.
For more information from Cuba:
Caridad Caballero Batista – Cell Phone: 011-5352-629-749; Twitter: @caricaballero / Marta Díaz Rondón – Cell Phone: 011-5352-771-639; Twitter: @MartaDiazRondon / Yris Tamara Aguilera – Cell Phone: 011-5352-417-749 ; Twitter: @YrisCuba