With less than 24 hours until Pope Benedict’s visit to Cuba, the arrests of Ladies in White and other dissidents in Cuba have dramatically increased, according to the former political prisoner of conscience Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU). “These arrests are multiplying as we come closer to the first mass which Pope Benedict XVI will offer in Santiago de Cuba“, said the activist, referring to the mass on Monday, March 26th and 5:30 PM.
Ferrer cited that in the East, up to the moment (the afternoon of Sunday, March 25th), there have been “60 arrests for political reasons, out which 19 are Ladies in White“. He added that there are more cases of arrests but that he is still confirming the details.
At approximately 2 in the afternoon, 3 Ladies in White were en route to El Cobre Sanctuary in Santiago de Cuba from Palmarito de Cauto. These women were Belkis Cantillo Ramirez (wife of Ferrer), Yanai Ferrer Santo, and Marta Beatriz Ferrer Cantillo. “They are aboard an independently owned vehicle, but behind them there is a Lada brand automobile following them [these cars are used as police vehicles]. It has a license plate from Havana and there are a number of State Security agents inside“, said Ferrer Garcia. The former prisoner warned that they were expecting the worst in this case, “for these women will surely be arrested as soon as they step off the vehicle“.
Other arrests occurred in Palma Soriano, Santiago de Cuba, Contramaestre, Palmarito de Cauto, Guantanamo, Bayamo, Moa, Baracoa, Colombia, San German, Las Tunas, and Holguin. In this last province the Lady in White Caridad Caballero Batista was arrested on the morning of the 25th. Jose Daniel Ferrer explained that he was actually on the phone with her during the arrest. “I could not confirm how many dissidents were with Caballero, but I was able to hear the voices of various others screaming alongside her, shouting ‘Long Live Human Rights’ and ‘Down with the Dictatorship‘”. Caballero Batista was trying to get to mass in the Jesus Christ Redeemer of Men Church of Holguin city, as she does every single Sunday. Up to this moment, her home phone is also blocked. It has not been confirmed if her son Eric Sandez and her husband Esteban Sandez were with her during the arrest. In Buenaventura, Marta Diaz Rondon– also a Lady in White- was reported detained as well while leaving her mother’s home. Ferrer informed that in the town of San German blogger Luis Felipe Rojas was also victim of an arrest on Saturday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Ferrer Garcia explained that he confirmed that “the dictatorship is pressuring its own militants from the Communist Party, as well as members of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution [and others] so that they assist the Pope’s Mass. We confirmed that various communist functionaries have said that they have no interest whatsoever in going to the Mass, for they do not feel the most minimal sympathy for the Pope, but their leaders have convinced them that it is a necessity for the tyranny which they call ‘revolution’“.
“They have told the communist militants that during the Pope’s Mass there may occur demonstrations against the tyranny and that the revolutionaries, better known as henchmen of the dictatorship, should be alert in all parts and in all massive concentrations ready to squash and control any type of spontaneous protest that could happen. They are even violating the rights of their own members, the communists, because they are forcing them to go somewhere they do not want to be“, pointed out Ferrer.
The dissident also reminded international opinion that the political detainee, Rogelio Tabio, is still on hunger strike. This Sunday marked the 23rd day of his protest and Ferrer explains that “his situation is dangerous. His wife saw him yesterday, she says that his health is very poor. He needs help to move himself“.
Ferrer also emphasized that any Eastern dissident that is not detained is under police operations which impede them from leaving their own homes, as is the case of Aime Garces Napoles, who is being “surrounded in her own home“. Despite so much violence and so many repressive operations against dissidents, 2 Ladies in white managed to make it to the Cobre Sanctuary in Santiago de Cuba. These are Taimi Vega Biscet (one of the Ladies in White who recently lost her unborn child due to political police aggressions) and Darmis Saldiva, according to Ferrer.
The former prisoner declared, “as the Pope’s visit nears, the arrests of peaceful dissidents rises in order to keep them from going to Mass. In Cuba, they are violating their religious freedoms and their freedom to travel throughout their own country. The political police is beating non-violent dissidents, especially defenseless women. But the strengths of these women, and of all these dissidents, reside in their morality and in their dignity”
For more information from Cuba:
José Daniel Ferrer García – Cell Phone: +5353- 631- 267 / Twitter: @jdanielferrer