On the night of March 18th, the Cuban political police organized a mob of more than 200 people to attack a group of 50 Ladies in White in Palma Soriano who were holding their monthly meeting, dedicating it to the 10th anniversary of the Black Spring crackdown when 75 dissidents were arrested and sentenced to prison. These actions resulted in the hospitalization of one of the Ladies in White and the violent arrests of various neighbors who came out in their defense.
Belkis Cantillo, the representative of the Ladies in White in the province of Santiago de Cuba, was present and explained to this blog that the meeting took place without any incidents, but “at around 4 PM, when we were going to leave the house, we noticed that there were mobs on each corner. It was then that act of repudiation began“.
Cantillo estimated that there were about 200 people in the acts of repudiation, many of them drunkards, and all of them responding to the orders of the political police. Some of the agents who were at the forefront of the mobs were Edgar, Norberto, Yunier, Ernesto, Rodolfo and Agustin (the latter a chief of the Confrontation Unit in Santiago de Cuba), although the activist points out that these are just code names, seeing as the agents never use their actual names.
In addition, there were underage students in the mob. They were taken there by their teachers.
“The teachers would tell the kids to scream insults at us like ‘worms‘”, said Cantillo, “but the majority of the parents showed up, angry, and punished their children and took them away from there. They also confronted and protested against the teachers for taking them there without their authorization“.
The mobs remained outside of the home of Denia Hernandez and started to throw rocks against the walls, windows and roof. There were also underage children inside- 3,8,12, and 15 years old. The eldest being Martha Beatriz Ferrer, daughter of Belkis and leading dissident Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia.
“These kids were terrorized. All they could hear were the rocks crashing against the walls. It felt like it was raining rocks, it wouldn’t come to an end“, recounts Belkis, “And the political police was just there, controlling those mobs, encouraging them“.
At one point, one of the rocks landed inside the house of a neighbor. Clearly bothered, he came out to defend the women. He wasn’t the only one.
“This man came out to defend us. He told the police officers to stop the violence“, said the Lady in White, “and many other people came out to defend us- both men and women. In fact, there were 6 women (neighbors) who stood up for us. They started to shout at the mobs, asking why they were throwing rocks at us because we were only defending our rights”.
The result of the displays of solidarity was the beating and arrest of the 6 women at the hands of the political police. Each of them were taken away to an undisclosed location. Two of them were identified on Jose Daniel Ferrer’s Twitter account (@jdanielferrer) as Jessica Hernández and Maricela Chea.
Meanwhile, the Lady in White Miraida Martin was physically assaulted by the mobs when she stepped out of the house. The aggression was so intense that she had to be urgently rushed to the clinic of Palma Soriano, where they had to give her oxygen, according to another tweet by Ferrer Garcia, which also detailed that she was in “a very delicate state of health“.
The home of Denia Hernandez remained under police vigilance long after the mobs began to disperse at around 9 PM. It remained that way all night long.
Belkis Cantillo said that despite the fact that they were very violent moments, the Ladies in White were not afraid, although they are “very worried about the women who defended us and were assaulted. They are still detained and were very beat, being held in an undisclosed location“.
Her husband and leader of UNPACU, Jose Daniel Ferrer, added on Twitter that the 6 women demonstrated a high level of bravery and expressed that “when everyone who desires a better future does the same as Jessica, Maricela, and the rest of the neighbors, the abuses, the hunger, and the misery will come to an end”.
For more information from Cuba, contact:
Belkis Cantillo- Cell Phone: +58-323-612