As the Cuban regime increasingly violates the rights of democracy activists on the island, the members of the Resistance, or opposition, have also increased their civic actions and demonstrations in demand of not only their rights, but the rights of all Cubans, especially those who are behind bars for defending the idea of freedom. During this past week (and weekend), a number of dissidents throughout the island have carried out different kinds of protests- from pots and pan demonstrations to strikes- demanding the release from prison of various political prisoners/detainees, among them Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia (arrested on April 2nd after the political police raided his home), Jorge Vazquez Chaviano (detained on March 27th as he was trying to travel to Havana from Santa Clara to assist the Papal Mass), Niurka Luque Alvarez (a Lady in White who was arrested on March 16th while she protested against a forced eviction in Havana) and Sonia Garro Alfonso (arrested after being shot at by police agents with rubber bullets).
This past Tuesday, April 17th 2012, a number of activists from the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and Ladies in White met at the home of former political prisoner Raumel Vinajera in Palma Soriano to initiate a strike, demanding the release of Jose Daniel Ferrer, the coordinator of UNPACU, as well as other detainees. The demonstrators declared that they would fast (only eating during the night) and they hung signs outside the house with the names of those unjustly arrested. Among those present was Lady in White and wife of Jose Daniel, Belkis Cantillo Ramirez. A number of dissidents were violently detained by the state police while trying to arrive to Vinajera’s home.
Five days later, on Sunday April 22nd, the strike continued, with the participation of 26 activists in total, among them representatives of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front, in coordinator with UNPACU and the Ladies in White, according to testimonies offered by Raumel Vinajera and his wife Tania Montoya.
“We are not going to stop this proest“, declared Vinajera, “We will be here, demanding freedom for Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia and all of our other brothers who are unjustly imprisoned. We are here to support them and to demand justice“.
He added, “Many brothers from other provinces have been able to arrive here, they have come with much effort and sacrifice in order to show solidarity with this protest, all in efforts to achieve the freedom of our brothers. We are calling on international public opinion to show support for this protest, this strike needs that support in order for it to extend all the necessary time. We are not leaving here until they give us a positive answer, and the not the answer of a document, just freedom“.
The activists began shouting slogans in favor of freedom and against the dictatorship: “Down with Fidel!”, “Long live human rights!”, “Freedom!”.
(Listen to the audio, in Spanish:)
Meanwhile, another similar strike took place in the home of Victor Campa Almenares in the neighborhood of La Ceiba, where 12 activists participated. These were all impeded from arriving to the home of Vinajera due to a strong police operation which consisted of a number of security check points set up to detain dissidents. For this reason, they decided to organize their own strike.
During the afternoon of that same Sunday, three Ladies in White in Banes, Holguin- among them Marta Diaz Rondon and Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez- carried out a pots and pans protest in the neighborhood of Nuevo Banes, demanding the liberation of Ferrer, Chaviano, Garro, Luque, and others. The activists had just returned from Sunday mass, which they were able to assist despite persecution and vigilance on behalf of the political police. They nevertheless carried out this civil protest.
Human rights activist Guillermo Farinas reported on his Twitter account (@Chirusa32) that, at around 9:30 PM on Sunday, the former political prisoner Librado Linares, a resident of Villa Clara, suffered a “violent act of repudiation (…) for putting up signs outside his house demanding freedom for Jose Daniel Ferrer and others”. Later, it was confirmed that Linares was physically assaulted by regime-organized mobs. However, he was not detained.
At 6 PM on Friday, April 20th, about 10- 12 activists from the Eastern Democratic Alliance sent out a message of solidarity with the Patriotic Union of Cuba and demanded that the regime release all political detainees through a peaceful march all the way to the political police headquarters in the Eastern city of Baracoa. The demonstration was headed by Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, national coordinator of the Eastern Democratic Alliance. Lobaina explained that the march consisted of “zero provocations”, in other words saying that if the dissidents were threatened by functionaries of the regime, they would not respond and would simply continue marching. The demonstrators were persecuted by State Security agents and in a matter of minutes were beaten and detained before arriving to the headquarters. All these dissidents were released throughout Sunday, yet Lobaina was released on the morning of Monday April 23rd.
On her part, Belkis Cantillo, wife of Jose Daniel Ferrer, informed that on Sunday 10 Ladies in White arrived to the town of El Cobre with intentions to assist sunday Mass in the Sanctuary, but only 8 women were able to arrive, considering that 2 were arrested. In addition, Cantillo reported that she would try to visit her imprisoned husband on Monday, April 23rd.
The Lady in White Tania Montoya also demonstrated much worry not only for Jose Daniel Ferrer, whom she said was being held in an isolation cell and was suffering from health problems, but also for new political prisoners such as Dany Lopez de Moya who was sentenced to 1 year and 6 months behind bars on false charges of “disobedience” and Bismark Galan, an activist who was arrested on April 1st for filming a documentary about a young girl who was not receiving medical attention in Cuba.
It was also reported that the Cuban regime intercepted/blocked various dissident phone lines, among them that of Lady in White Caridad Caballero Batista.
UPDATE: Belkis Cantillo was able to see Jose Daniel Ferrer this Monday. The former political prisoner, whom may face charges again for peacefully dissenting, asked his wife to tell the world that he had begun a hunger strike, protesting his arbitrary arrest and demanding freedom. The international community must remain attentive.
For more information from Cuba:
Marta Díaz Rondón – Cell: +5352-771-639 // Tania Montoya/Raumel Vinajera – Cell: +5353-146-329 // Belkis Cantillo Ramírez – Cell: +5353-790-867 // Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina – Cell: +5353-399-783