The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba highlights the situation which a number of political prisoners of the mentioned group are facing, speaks about the repressive methods employed by the State against activists and affirms that activism and opposition out on the streets has only increased in the Eastern region of the country, attracting further solidarity from everyday people.
Protest marches, debates and the handing out of flyers with pro-freedom messages are occurring with much more frequency in different areas of Eastern Cuba. Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, former political prisoner and current executive secretary of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), points out that in the month of May these actions have increased as part of the Boitel and Zapata Live Campaign, where dissidents throughout the country pay tribute to martyrs Pedro Luis Boitel and Orlando Zapata Tamayo, both deceased after lengthy hunger strikes in prison.
On May 20th, Cuba’s Independence Day, two marches were carried out in Santiago de Cuba. One of them was led by 11 activists and finished in the Antonio Maceo Plaza, where police officials beat the demonstrators with helmets, sticks and other objects, all of this while everyday citizens were watching.
A second march was carried out by 16 dissidents who managed to walk down various blocks of the El Sueno neighborhood, shouting pro-freedom messages. The result was police persecution. “State Security and Rapid Response Brigade agents came and began to throw rocks and beat activists“, recounted Ferrer Garcia. The repressors also threw tar and tried to raid the home of Daniel Barriel, secretary of the “Zapata Lives” sector of UNPACU in that neighborhood, where the activists congregated after the march. But the police was not able to achieve their objective, considering that the civic protests of the dissidents only intensified, forcing the aggressors to leave.
“Our activists came out and did not allow the attack. Also, they took up a clever posture. When the regime organized mobs shouted ‘long live the youth’, our dissidents would shout ‘live!’, but when the mobs shouted ‘long live Fidel’, the activists would say ‘down!’. The agents had to leave the house eventually“, explained Jose Daniel, “the police is losing space because they use so many people and use so much gasoline to repress us, but there is not enough gasoline for ambulances and other necessary services. In addition, everyday people are not cooperating with them“.
On the following day, May 21st, another group of UNPACU activists walked to the Palma-Santiago highway and took out a large sign with numerous anti-regime messages, such as “UNPACU in favor of fair salaries” and “democracy and justice“. This captured the attention of various passerby’s who actually would stop their cars to read the messages and show support with the dissidents.
Ferrer Garcia explains that UNPACU has “been following up the Boitel and Zapata Live Campaign as well as on the other commemorative dates like the death of Jose Marti and May 20th” with spontaneous marches and other demonstrations which have lasted more than 30 minutes, shouting slogans in favor of “freedom, democracy, the respect of human rights, the end of hunger, misery, low salaries and so many other ills which affect the population“.
The former political prisoner of conscience denounces that the repression on behalf of the regime has been increasing, but despite this, “the tyranny keeps losing in their confrontation against UNPACU, because even the people who in one way or another serve them are feeling very ashamed of the actions which State Security carries out against us“.
“The people are responding by criticizing the political police. On a daily basis they join the peaceful opposition movement in this area, where UNPACU has been carrying out a labor in favor of the society, working for the community, and this presents a serious problem for the tyranny, and it will just continue to create even more problems“, added Ferrer.
Currently, UNPACU has 40 of its members behind bars because of political motives. This past 21st of May Ferrer Garcia was able to establish communication with one of these prisoners who is being held in the Mar Verde Prision of Santiago.
“The activist told me about the situation which they find themselves in Mar Verde. He told me that Arcelio Noa had already been taken out of the punishment cell, but that he had intentionally hurt himself as a form of protest against the inhumane conditions he was being held in, and which the other 10 political prisoners we have in that prison have had to withstand“, said Ferrer, “lots of mistreatment, aggressions, and the guards are using common delinquents to harass them. These common prisoners are dangerous, many of them murderers, who lend themselves to such actions in exchange for food and other privileges. They are turned against the human rights defenders“.
Ferrer emphasized the situation of dissident rapper Angel Yunier Remon Arzuaga, known as “El Critico”, who is also the secretary of UNPACU for the city of Bayamo. The musician has been behind bars for more than 2 months in the Bayamo prison known as Las Mangas, still without a trial. He was violently arrested after the political police raided his home in March, attacking him and other relatives with tear gas.
“I was able to briefly speak with Angel Yunier on May 20th. In Las Mangas prison there is a very critical situation“, said the dissident leader, “Angel told me about the horrible medical attention offered to sick prisoners. He also told me that numerous prisoners have so many problems and they turn to self-infliction to call attention on so many abuses, the severe hunger, the lack of medical care and other cruel treatments“.
The young dissident continues to be in a judicial limbo while the authorities have not given his family any details as to what his fate will be.
The situation of activist Jorge Cervantes Garcia, from Contramaestre, is also critical. Ferrer says that “he is still recuperating from the lengthy hunger strike carried out to demand the freedom of Luis Enrique Lozada. Cervantes is still in Las Tunas prison, also amid a very hostile atmosphere. He was physically assaulted last week by a common prisoner who is addicted to mood-altering pills”.
Ferrer Garcia expressed that although the number of political prisoners is increasing, so too is the number of activists, mainly young ones, who are willing to go out to the streets to work towards a new Cuba.
Take a listen to the following audio (in Spanish) of Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia:
For more information from inside Cuba, contact:
Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia – Cell Phone: +53 – 146-740 / Twitter: @jdanielferrer