Testimony: 98 Hours Behind Bars for Trying to go to Church

Martha Diaz Rondon shows bruise after beating at hands of regime thugs. Photo by: Luis Felipe Rojas

Marta Diaz Rondon, Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez and Miladis Pinales Rosa- all of who are Ladies in White from Banes, Holguin- were aboard a bus en route to Havana to assist the religious activities for the Day of the Virgin of Mercy on Wednesday, September 19th, when they were suddenly carried off by force by a number of State Security agents who intercepted the vehicle just minutes after it had set off from the station.

I was asleep when I noticed that they were lifting me up out of my seat to take me out of the bus by force”, recounted Diaz Rondon.  It was an action which caught her off guard, seeing as she had already paid her boarding pass and was already traveling.  “The three of us were taken down from the bus and shoved into a police vehicle… there was a very large police operation around the entire bus”.

According to the Lady in White, the agents organizing the repression were Douglas, Roylan, Freddy Aguero, Yordanys Martinez and various other unidentified officials.  All those mentioned are well-known oppressors in the province of Holguin, especially against women.

Marta, Gertrudis y Miladis were taken to the “Anillo” Unit, just to be transferred once again in another vehicle towards Velaya, where they left Gertrudis Ojeda in a local police unit in the municipality of Freire.  They confined Miladis Pinales and Marta Diaz in a dungeon of the Banes police unit.

As usual, the conditions in the cells were inhumane”, said Diaz Rondon, “they put us among roaches, rats, a plethora of mosquitoes and even crabs.  There was also human feces everywhere.”

The response of the two Ladies in White was to protest through a hunger strike, the form of protest they turn to when they are demanding their liberation.  In addition, the activists affirm that they do not trust the foods given to them in the regime’s penitentiaries.

In sum, the three women were behind bars for a total of 98 hours.  Throughout this whole time they remained on hunger strike, which led them to suffer a drop in blood pressure, taquicardias and lots of fatigue.

Díaz Rondon explains that “the official who goes by the name of Roylan told us that we owed him 98 hours because we went to Santiago de Cuba on September 8th”, referring to the Day of the Virgin of Charity, when a number of Ladies in White and other activists were detained throughout the island, but a group of women from the Eastern region- among them these three- managed to surpass the police cordons and arrive to the Sanctuary to participate in Mass.  “All of this was a form of vengeance against us”, said Diaz, who recently underwent a very delicate operation.  Regardless, she kept her protest, although clearly affected health wise.

Meanwhile, Gertrudis Ojeda suffered a hypoglycemia crisis in her cell.  After a long while, various women of the Ministry of the Interior entered her cell and told her she had to go to the hospital. However, Ojeda refused the orders.  “Their response was to throw me from the concrete bed which I was on (which is a few feet high up) against the concrete floor.  I suffered an injury on my breasts and I now have bruises all over”, recounted the dissident.

I also suffered physical blows on my hands and I was dragged around the unit, but I maintained myself in protest”, said Ojeda, highlighting the irony of the case- that she was being physically assaulted in order to be taken to the hospital for a health checkup.  But a common prisoner in that same unit showed solidarity with the activist and intervened, telling the guards and the MININT women that she would give Gertrudis a drink of her soda to help her with her sugar crisis.

That lady helped me…she gave me some of her soda and I felt a bit recuperated”, said Gertrudis.

Marta Diaz Rondon, who is the recipient of the Pedro Luis Boitel 2012 Freedom Award along with 4 other dissidents, expressed that “I sincerely thought we were going to die, or at least suffer some sort of heart attack”.

In reference to the 98 hour hunger strike, Diaz Rondon reiterated that it was the only way she could protest so much arbitrary actions against her.

They don’t even respect the fact that we are women, but we will continue fighting”, affirmed Diaz.

These women are constantly under vigilance by the State police, who impede them from assisting Mass and, in many cases, from going out to the market, to the home of a friend or to meet up with other dissidents.  They carry the scars of physical blows all over their bodies but their convictions and reasons for fighting against totalitarianism continue intact.

For more information from Cuba:

Marta Diaz Rondon – Cell Phone: +5352-277-1639 // Twitter: @MartaDiazRondon

Testimony: 98 Hours Behind Bars for Trying to go to Church

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