At just 14 years old, Martha Beatriz Ferrer Cantillo is one of the youngest, and most active, Ladies in White in Cuba, and not only because her parents are renown human rights defenders on the island (former political prisoner Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia and Belkis Cantillo Ramirez), but because she believes that “it is a just cause” and that “all Cubans deserve a sovereign and free country“.
Her young age, however, does not exempt her from the same police repression which all these women face every Sunday and nearly every day, as was proven this past Sunday, October 21st, when Martha Beatriz and three other minors- her sister (7 year old Fatima Victoria), her brother (9 year old Daniel), and another young member of the Ladies in White (11 year old Daniela Garces)- were all taken down from a bus by force and then harassed and physically assaulted by police agents who impeded them from reaching their destination.
“We were on our way from Palma Soriano to the Shrine of El Cobre when we were intercepted on the street by political police agents“, said Ferrer, “they boarded the bus and told us 4 that we had to get off, but we refused to do so because us going to Mass does not constitute a crime, as it is not a crime for any other Cuban”.
The agents responded the same way they respond against any other dissident: with physical aggressions.
“They shouted obscene words at us and then took us down by force… then a police bus arrived and they told us we had to go inside. We refused. Various uniformed women shoved and dragged us to the bus. One of these women, whose name I could not confirm, grabbed me by the neck and choked me. Daniela was scratched. And my brother Daniel was pushed and hit a couple of times when they were putting him on the bus. We fell to the steps of the bus because they were pushing us so much“, recounted the youth.
The 4 minors were forcefully put inside the bus. In the case of Daniela Garces, she was left at the entrance of Palma Soriano, near her house, while Martha Beatriz and her siblings were “abandoned in the bus station“. They all directed themselves to the home of Lady in White Aime Garces.
But it is not the first time that these 4 have been subjected to detentions, physical aggressions or threats, affirmed Martha Beatriz without any hints of fear in her voice.
“My little sister and brother have been detained along with my mother when we have been traveling on buses to get to church, while Daniela and I have been removed from buses together before“, she explained.
Much has been said about the ‘apathy’ which ‘consumes’ young Cubans. However, the adolescent Martha Beatriz affirms that there are more like her, in the Eastern part of Cuba as well as the rest of the island. The young Lady in White sent a clear message to the youths of her country:
“To the Cuban youth I say, we must fight for our rights, so that they no longer violate them. Fight for a free Cuba where all rights are respected, as well as the rights of our parents. So that our parents can have decent salaries and access to jobs as well“.
Meanwhile, to the Cuban youth outside of the island she asks they “support us, because we are fighting for the freedom of all Cubans“.