Lady in White was beaten along with her elderly father, accused of “public disorder” and confined to punishment cells
In Velazco, Holguin the Lady in White Mariblanca Avila Exposito was arrested on Wednesday, March 21st- 5 days prior to the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI to the island. Her arrest took place as she was on her way to a clinic to pick up some medications with her elderly father, whom also suffered the violence. Her son, the dissident Yonart Rodriguez Avila had declared his mother as “disappeared”, considering that the communist functionaries refused to give him any information on her whereabouts or medical condition.
Mariblanca explained that her arrest occurred when “two police officials intercepted me and began to violently beat me. I was scratched all over my arms and my father fell on the floor“. The activist narrates that various neighbors joined in solidarity and began to shout against the henchmen who were beating the dissidents, screaming “assassins” and “abusers“.
Avila Exposito was forcefully introduced into a Operational Guard Jeep which took her to the police unit of Velazco. Her father was left behind. Once in the unit, the prison officials decided to transfer the dissident to the #6 Attention Unit. Upon arriving at this Unit, the guards left Mariblanca under surveillance in the jeep under the scorching sun and with music blasting at full volume. Once again, the functionaries decided to send Mariblanca to another unit, one known as “La Primera” [‘The First’]. There were over 40 police officials waiting for her. “They pushed me off the vehicle and took me to an office where I was interrogated by an officer known as Juan Miguel“, narrated Avila. This same official tried to blackmail and threaten the activist, even telling her that he was going to snatch the necklaces she was wearing. In addition, agent Juan Miguel confiscated Exposito’s cell phone.
For various hours, Mariblanca was confined to a small cell which consisted of a “horrible urine smell“. But the Lady in White was transferred yet again, this time to the Instructional Unit of Pedernales under charges of “public disorder”. A police guard told Mariblanca: “You are too old to be starting these kinds of situations. We are going to sentence you to 30 years of prison“. The activist replied: “I am prepared to defend my country“. Due to her response, she was confined to another dungeon which had no light and no running water. It was then that Exposito started suffering a hyperglycemia crisis after being kept in inhumane conditions and carrying out a hunger strike as a form of protest against her unjust incarceration. She maintained that protest for 5 days.
Exposito narrated that on Friday, March 25th, she started to bleed from an ulcer which she suffers from due to her gastritis. “I felt very bad…on Sunday I bled again. But other dissidents who were also jailed there started to scream at the police guards to bring me medical assistance“, said the activist. These jailed dissidents were from all over Eastern Cuba- Banes, Holguin, Santiago de Cuba, and Bayamo, and they were all victims of the same wave of repression due to the papal visit. According to Mariblanca, a young man who she could not identify started to shout “Zapata Lives” and “Down with the dictatorship“. A guard approached his cell and “punched him and then took him to a punishment dungeon“.
The Lady in White was released on the night of Tuesday, March 27th, when Pope Benedict was in Havana. Before the guards left her near her house, they threatened her, affirming that she would be processed under “public disorder”, something which she paid no attention to.
Exposito said she felt physically exhausted and weak, “with dizziness and having had lost several pounds“. However, the faith which this Cuban harbors has not been shattered. “God has given me the strength to continue this struggle, which is a struggle for humanity. We are going to continue out on the streets, going to church, and we will not stop doing what we do. Even with the torture they subjected me to, I will not stay in my house. I am going to recuperate myself and I will continue demanding human rights for all Cubans“, she affirmed.
For more information from Cuba:
Yonart Rodríguez Ávila – Cell: +5353 – 602 – 782 / Twitter: @yonartcuba