(This is a partial summary from Sunday, December 9th, on the eve of Human Rights Day. A report of repression and activism on actual Human Rights Day will be posted in continuation…)
A large number of police agents were mobilized throughout the island by the Cuban regime this past Sunday, December 9th, in order to crackdown on the Ladies in White and other peaceful dissidents who had plans to celebrate the eve of International Human Rights Day.
The morning began with the habitual march of the Ladies in White throughout the country to try and assist Mass at their respective churches. Some of them managed to arrive, while others were violently arrested upon stepping out of their homes.
In Havana- the capital- former political prisoner Ivan Hernandez Carrillo published a series of Twitter messages (@ivanlibre) detailing that 44 women carried out their march to Santa Rita Church, although under tight police vigilance. Angel Moya, also a former prisoner and husband of Berta Soler, the leader of the Ladies in White, added in his Twitter account (@jangelmoya) that the operations in Havana were all under the command of State Security agent Camilo.
Other messages by Ivan confirmed the assistance to Mass of 10 Ladies in White in Guantanamo province, 4 in Pinar del Rio, and 20 in Matanzas. However, after Mass, the 44 women from Havana left the church to carry out a peaceful march on their way back when, suddenly, all communications with them- cell phones, twitters, etc.- were blocked and each of them were arrested.
Roberto de Jesús Guerra, director of the independent news agency “Hablemos Press”, informed on his Twitter account (@HablemosPress) that witnesses of the arrests in the capital said it was violent. According to them, the women were dragged through the streets, beaten, shoved, insulted and finally arrested in various buses, all by uniformed police agents. Among the detainees were Berta Soler, Laura Labrada (daughter of Laura Pollan), Magaly Niorvis, Aime Moya, Tatiana Lopez, Aime Garcia Leyva, Lisandra Farray and many others.
In the westernmost province of Pinar del Rio, the Ladies arrested were Caridad Peinado, Belkis Perez Perez, Amparo Milagros, Donaris Martin and Olga Torres. In Matanzas it was reported that Yaneris Perez was disappeared.
Meanwhile, in the Eastern province of Holguin, 12 Ladies in White stepped out of the home of Berta Guerrero Segura, representative of the group in that province, with plans to assist Mass at the Jesus Christ Redeemer of Men Church when they were rapidly arrested by a large number of political police and State Security agents. All 12 spent the entire day in dungeons of police units.
Eleiny Villamonte Cardozo,one of the young members of the Ladies in White who was detained, described the operation as being “very large, as if they were searching for criminals“. She added that during the arrest, the 12 women were divided in groups of 3 and shoved into police cars, later transferred to different police units throughout the East.
The names of the 12 were Eleiny Villamonte Cardozo, Berta Guerrero Segura, Glisedis Piña Gonzalez, Romelia Piña González, Nelda Molina Leyva, Noemí Gómez, Bárbara Bauza Drigg, Marlenes Abreu, Liliana Campos, Mercy González, Adriana Aguilera Piña and Gertrudis Ojeda Suárez.
The latter- Ojeda Suarez, who comes from the municipality of Banes- recounts that she was taken to the police unit known as “La Segunda” aboard vehicle #489 with 2 police agents inside, one with license #21878 and the other #21982. Once in the unit, she was threatened a number of times that she would be arrested for long periods of time if she kept trying to march with the Ladies in White.
“Afterward, they transferred me to Banes“, explains Ojeda, “where Lieutenant Colonel Roilan told me I could not travel to Holguin. In Cuba, we can’t celebrate Human Rights Day because the reality is that here, all of these rights are violated. In my case, they do not allow me to move freely. I am detained every time I step out of my home“.
In the province of Santiago de Cuba, 8 Ladies in White made it to church, while another 30 were arrested, according to Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, general coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and former political prisoner of conscience.
“Sunday was a day full of repression“, signaled Ferrer Garcia, “16 of the detained Ladies in White were brutally beaten by police agents in Palma Soriano“.
The dissident leader points out that a new approach by State Security was put in practice on Sunday to easily jail a number of women. He explains that they spread “fleas, spiders and other insects throughout the hostels of the Cobre Shrine in Santiago a few days before, which led the Department of Public Health to publish a statement demanding it be closed down. The Ladies in White of this area tend to spend a couple of nights in those hostels in order to better surpass police cordons but this time they could not do so, having to take to the street all the way to the Shrine, which was completely surrounded by the police. The agents brutally beat these women“.
Among the detainees of Santiago were Belkis Cantillo Ramírez (wife of Ferrer), Fátima Victoria Ferrer Cantillo (8 year old daughter of Ferrer), Daniela Garcés (11 years old), Aime Garcés, Vivian Pena Hernández, Milagro Leyva Ramírez, Annie Sarrion Romero, Karina Céspedes, Zuleidis Girón Ortiz, Ania Alegre Pecora, Ailin González, and more.In Palma Soriano, at the Our Lady of the Rosary Church, political police agents went up to the door of the temple to aggressively arrests various Ladies in White by force, said Ferrer. “In one last attempt, after having detained a few already, some agents tried to arrest 2 more Ladies in White but priest Eliosbel witnessed the situation and ordered the police to cease their violence“.
Jorge Palma,the parish priest, then went on to mention the repressive situation against the Ladies in White and the opposition in general during his Mass. Afterward, he took the 2 Ladies in White and 1 activist from UNPACU- Prudencio Villalon- to the home of Ferrer Garcia in Palmarito de Cauto, protecting them from being arrested.
“The priest Jorge Palma also mentioned in his Mass the fact that Belkis Cantillo had been beat. This displayed much bravery on his part and we are very thankful for him“, expressed Jose Daniel.
The dissident added that another 16 human rights activists from UNPACU were also arrested. Among them are Ángel Verdecía Díaz, Miguel Rafael Cabrera Montoya, Rubén Armas, Alexander Colon Fernández, Yosvany Leyva Rodríguez, Heriberto García, Eric Díaz Guerrero, Enelio Céspedes Hernández, Gabriel Ernesto Torres Velázquez (violently beat) and others. He highlighted the case of Ariel Cruz Meneses, from Banes, who was arrested and who political police officials told they would take away his cell phone because it was left to him by an activist who went into exile recently, and the authorities assure that “he cannot have a phone with an owner who no longer exists in national territory“.
In Santa Cruz del Sur, Camaguey, dissident Yoan David Gonzalez Milanes reported on Twitter (@YoanDavidLibre) that the activists Santos Manuel Fernández Sánchez and David Millet Jiménez were arrested. Later, Gonzalez also confirmed the arrests of Maury Emilio Dupuy and Juan Luis Pérez in the same province.
In a similar situation, dissident leader and Lady in White Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo used her Twitter (@SaraMartaCuba) to denounce the arrest of dissident Neldo Ivan Echevarria. The same scenes were repeated throughout the island and nearly all- if not all- dissident groups suffered arrests of their members, which was a foreshadowing of the increase of repressive actions to come the following day, when the world celebrated human rights day.
On his part, Jose Daniel Ferrer reiterated that “we know that more repressive actions will take place because the tyranny greatly fears human rights defenders… they are well aware that the population has a high discontent level, and it grows more everyday, because the misery is worse each time. As the population starts finding out who are their true friends, and who really defend their rights, they start using their conscience and then they start sympathizing with us. Sympathy leads them to collaboration and then towards activism. And that is why the dictatorship is so afraid“.
For more information from Cuba:
José Daniel Ferrer García – Cell Phone: +5353-146-740 / Twitter: @jdanielferrer
Gertrudis Ojeda Suárez – Cell Phone: +5358-025-501
Alexei Jiménez, Eleiny Villamonte – Cell Phone: +5352-552-925
Berta Soler – Cell Phone: +5352- 906-820
Iván Hernández Carrillo- Cell Phone: +5352-599-366 / Twitter: @ivanlibre