Neighbors, Everyday Citizens Defend Dissidents in Pedro Betancourt, Matanzas

Juan Francisco Sigler Amaya

I want to thank the people from the town of Pedro   Betancourt for the support they have given us and I ask God that He bless them all”.

That was the expression of Caridad Gonzalez Gonzalez in reference to the residents of that city in Matanzas province who rebelled against the Cuban regime’s mobs and defended a group of human rights activists who were being beaten and arrested.

The events occurred this Sunday, August 12th 2012, at around 5:30 PM, when agents from State Security, the Rapid Response Brigade, and the political police broke into the home of dissident Felix Sotomayor to carry out a search for supposed “subversive propaganda“, according to Gonzalez Gonzalez, who is an activist of the Independent Alternative Option Movement and wife of the well known dissident Juan Francisco Sigler Amaya, president of the mentioned pro-democracy organization and one of the detainees.

During the moment of the search, former political prisoner and leading dissident figure Angel Moya Acosta, Felix Sotomayor, Dagoberto Santana, Edel Perez, Edilie Moreno Fernandez, Rogelio Ibanez and Roberto Ibanez were also violently arrested. “In addition“, says Caridad, “they were all savagely beaten“.
As the violence occurred, Guliver Sigler Gonzalez– also an active opposition activist and relative of the well known Sigler Amaya dissident family- was filming the events on camera. When the mobs noticed this, they rapidly lashed out against him in a very aggressive manner, described Caridad. “Guliver was the one who suffered the worst beatings because he was recording“, explained the activist.

Others who were beaten along with Guliver were Jesus Sousa Moreno and Eugenio Sousa Moreno, the underage children of Edilie Moreno Fernandez. It was at this moment that the everyday citizens- neighbors of the Pedro Betancourt town- came out in defense of the victims.

The people responded with what they had- stones and sticks“, said Caridad Gonzalez, “they did this to defend the opposition“. The Matanzas native added that there were more than 50 people who joined in solidarity against the oppressors.

In fact, “when they were taking Angel Moya detained, the people began to shout at the mobs ‘Assassins’ and ‘fascists’“. Some of the neighbors threw rocks at the police agents.

According to Caridad, popular support was so high that the agents of the dictatorship had to leave the scene.

These events were also confirmed by Angel Moya’s sister- Lidice Moya Acosta– who witnessed the confrontations.

The police was very afraid“, explained Acosta, who had a verbal confrontation with the agents. “They ended up telling me ‘calm down, we are not going to search your house’. In fact, within the mobs there was a woman who I know because my mother was her professor, and she is the one who screams the most insults. But their were so many people there helping us that she had to run away and hide in someone else’s house“.

The police could not arrest any of the neighbors“, added Lidice.

An emotional Caridad Gonzalez reiterated that she is grateful of the neighbors who showed solidarity with her relatives and brothers in struggle, while Lidice Moya Acosta assured that if this would have happened in her house, which is located very near to the scene of the events, “the same thing would have happened“.

It is not the first time that everyday citizens- not affiliated to any dissident group on the island- come out in defense of human rights activists. During the beginning of 2012, in the same province of Matanzas but in the city of Colon, neighbors of the Lady in White Caridad Burunate refused to participate in a repudiation attack against her convoked by the political police. Meanwhile, in Palma Soriano, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia has said on numerous occasions that citizen solidarity with the Ladies in White has been increasing, as has been confirmed when these women are arrested and the passerby’s start to protest. Similarly, Lady in White Rosario Morales la Rosa has narrated that citizens have congratulated her for setting up a sales spot in Eastern Havana and have defended her against police officials who have wanted to arrest her.

When Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo and other 3 women were arrested for carrying out a civic demonstration on the steps of Havana’s Capitol building in 2011, everyday people started to shout at the repressors, shouting “abusers” and demanding that they do not beat the women. In another similar protest, also in 2011, when Ivonne Malleza and other activists demanded “food for our children” and “fair salaries” at Havana’s centric FraternityPark, the response of the citizens was the same. In fact, an elderly lady who is not a member of any dissident organization joined the protest and was arrested for several weeks.

These accounts are just some examples of the solidarity of the people with dissidents, considering that the latter do not only demand freedom for a group of people, but instead for all Cubans, and in sum, they are also the people.

**UPDATE 08/13/12 – Ex political prisoner Ivan Hernandez Carrillo reported via Twitter (@ivanlibre) that more than 20 neighbors who defended the dissidents have been cited and summoned to police units for their actions.

A special thanks to Ivan Hernandez Carrillo (from Cuba) and activist Maria Cama (@mspianoteacher) for providing the audios for this interview.

Neighbors, Everyday Citizens Defend Dissidents in Pedro Betancourt, Matanzas

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