Numerous Cubans on the island reported that activities in commemoration of the victims of the ’13 de Marzo’ Tugboat Massacre took place throughout the country this past Saturday, 13th of July, the 19th anniversary of the crime, where forces of the dictatorship received orders to open fire on children, women and men who were trying to escape the country on an old tugboat.
Independent journalist Alexei Jimenez Almarales sent a note to this blog about how these innocent Cubans were remembered in the Eastern province of Holguin:
Victims of ’13 de Marzo’ Tugboat Massacre remembered with much pain by dissidents in Holguin
Activists from the Republican Party of Cuba paid tribute to the people assassinated under the orders of Fidel Castro Ruz on July 13th 1994.
The members of the PRC deposited flowers in the river as a sign of respect to the men, women and children who lost their lives when the Cuban authorities sunk the 13 de Marzo tugboat on the coasts of Cuba.
“The assassination of these people who were aboard the 13 de Marzo Tugboat will not remain with impunity, we will remember them each year so that the people who perpetrated this horrible massacre know that the Cuban people demand justice”, commented Jorge Luis Recio Arias, director of the PRC in the municipality of Holguin.
Those who participated were: Jorge Luis Recio Arias, Amilkar Pérez Riverón, Lisbet Peñas Hernández, Ania Isabel Martínez Perdomo, Carmen Oropesa Ramírez, Julio Cesar Ramos Cúrvelo.
Activists of the Claridad Human Rights Movement pay tribute to victims of the 13 de Marzo Tugboat on the 19th anniversary of its drowning
Activists from the Claridad Human Rights Movement pay tribute to the victims of the 13 de Marzo Tugboat on the 19th anniversary of its sinking
Six member of the Claridad Human Rights Movement were able to make it to a local river, where they honored the people who lost their lives on that fateful 13th of July 1994.
After sharing a few words in remembrance of the horrible murder, the present deposited flowers in honor of the more than 40 people who died after being drowned by Cuban authorities in the shores of Havana.
They also commemorated the 11th anniversary of the Claridad Movement which was founded on July 13th of 2002 with the objective of denouncing human rights violations committed by the communist government of Cuba.
The participants were: Julio Cesar Álvarez Marrero, Alexander Casavielle Hidalgo, Yolanda Pérez Días, Wilmer Escalona Molina, Wilver Gomes Gracias.
Many words or phrases can describe what happened to the Ladies in White and other dissidents at the hands of the political police and State Security on the morning of Sunday, July 14th, in the province of Matanzas, but brutality would be the best choice, considering the amount of punches, kicks, arrests and injections with mysterious substances against peaceful men and women which took place.
One of the main recipients of this state-sponsored violence was Leticia Ramos Herreria, representative of the female group in the central province of Matanzas. Ramos recounts that 11 women in the city of Cardenas carried out their accustomed march in the morning, participating in Mass to pray for the liberation of all political prisoners on the island. But upon stepping out of the temple and just before starting to carry out their march in return, State Security intercepted the demonstration with severe violence.
Leticia explains that they were “intercepted by paramilitary mobs organized by State Security. They tore the flowers we were carrying and then, in my case, they hit me with a piece of wood on the shoulder, which is inflamed right now. I have scratches and bruises all over my body“.
The blows were also for the other 10 women, while Ramos Herreria was victim of a mysterious injection.
“A State Security official, whose name I could not confirm but who had beat me previously on March 19th of this year, grabbed and twisted my right arm, put it under hers and pinched me with 3 needles. I have been bleeding in that spot and I do not know what those injections contained“, denounced the dissident, highlighting that during that night she began to feel nauseous and very weak.
The women were “verbally threatened by the police, who told them that if they continued assisting church they were going to kill them, while one woman from the Federation (a government organization) said she was going to cut our faces if we kept marching“. Ramos Herreria also pointed out that “there are other Ladies in White in the city of Cardenas who have bruises on their eyes, scratches on their backs, injuries on their feet and more…it was a brutal attack carried out by State Security officials“.
Marisol Fernández, another member of the Ladies in White, and dissident Javier Erbello, were also injected by needles that morning.
Ramos Herreria said that “anything that may happen to any Lady in White in Matanzas or in any part of Cuba, State Security are the responsible ones. If they injected some sort of virus in me, the culprits are State Security, especially Colonel Joaquin, who is an assassin and who was in charge of the entire operation“.
Former political prisoners Ivan Hernandez Carrillo and Felix Navarro Rodriguez, as well as human rights activist Lazaro Diaz Danchez, suffered the same fate in the city of Colon, Matanzas, when they were beat and arrested alongside other Ladies in White.
(This audio captures the moment these activists were being harassed and beat by paramilitary mobs in Colon. In Spanish, via @mspianoteacher):
Ivan Hernandez informed on his Twitter account (@ivanlibre) when he was released a few hours later, explaining that “they took me to a town called 6 de Agosto. They hit me a lot, especially on my stomach and on my back“.
The dissident adds that “as the agents were beating me they told me: ‘We are just waiting for the orders to kill all of you’“.
Meanwhile, Felix Navarro suffered a fractured rib while Lazaro Diaz Sanchez was injured on his head.
Another tweet sent by Hernandez Carrillo detailed that 8 Ladies in White were arrested in Pinar del Rio, the westernmost province of Cuba. However, 3 women were able to march and assist Mass there, surpassing police cordons.
In the capital – Havana – 54 Ladies in White marched to and from Santa Rita Catholic Church, while 5 were able to do so in Santa Clara Villa Clara. (In addition to the 12 in Colon and 11 in Cardenas, Matanzas that were able to make it but who suffered repression afterward).
In the Eastern province of Holguin, 26 Ladies in White assisted Mass and 50 of them managed to do so in El Cobre National Shrine in Santiago de Cuba. In Bayamo 5 marched and 11 did so in Guantanamo.
Ciego de Avila province had 4 Ladies in White who arrived to Mass while in Isla de Pinos 2 women marched.
The women dedicated their march that Sunday to the 19th anniversary of the ’13 de Marzo’ Tugboat Massacre, where dozens of children, women and men were gunned down and drowned by regime forces as they tried to flee the country in a tugboat.
The Cuban dictatorship has increased violence against dissidents of all organizations on the island, but all indications point out that this has been due to the strengthening of the pro-freedom movement in the country as well as an increase in its members, as is the case of the Ladies in White.
On her part, Leticia Ramos reiterates that “we will continue going to church on Sunday to pray for the freedom of Cuba and for the liberation of all political prisoners, and we are going to continue demanding that human rights be respected in Cuba. The streets belong to Cubans, and I am Cuban, and I am not leaving from here“.
“We are going to keep taking to the streets and going to church. We will keep marching“.
18 years ago, forces of the Cuban regime assassinated 41 people who were trying to flee the country in search of freedom in the United States aboard an old tugboat (“13th of March”). The crime occurred on July 13th, 1994, when a couple of other state vessels persecuted the tugboat (which had 69 people on board), blocked its path, and used a cannon to fire water at the Cubans. 41 of those people died, drowned or from the impact, and among them were 11 minors.
In 2012, during the anniversary of this massacre, the repression of the regime (the same one which committed the crime) was not able to impede Cubans throughout the island from honoring the victims.
On the eve of the anniversary, about 18 activists in Santa Cruz del Sur, Camaguey, met at the home of dissident Yoan David Gonzalez Milanes to carry out a candlelight vigil followed by a pots and pan protest in memory of the vicitms. On the following day, July 13th, this same group had plans to march out of the home up to a local river, where they would deposit flowers in honor of those assassinated. However, government mobs surrounded the home, shouted violent slogans, kicked down the door, and impeded the dissidents from stepping out. Regardless, on the morning of Saturday July 14th, the dissidents once again tried to step out of the house, and this time they did, although they were arrested by forces of the political police.
Another successful pots and pan protest took place on July 12th in the city of Placetas, in Santa Clara, where dissidents like Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez”,Marta Díaz Rondonand Leticia Ramos Herrería participated. They were carrying out a meeting there, debating a new opposition campaign dubbed “Towards the National Strike”.
July 13th began with the news that 6 activists from the Central Opposition Coalition in Santa Clara also carried out a peaceful march to a local river to also deposit flowers, but all of these members were violently arrested. Among them was Idania Yánez Contreras, Rolando Ferrer Espinosa, Alcides Rivera and Damaris Moya Portieles. However, Alcides Rivera managed to throw the flowers into the river right before being arrested. In the case of Yanez Contreras, she was shoved into a police vehicle and kept in there for nearly an hour before being taken into custody in a police unit, with the engine off, the windows up and under the scorching sun.
The Free Yorubas Association of Cuba, a religious organization independent from state control, carried out a religious ceremony a couple of days before the anniversary, in which they prayed for the victims and prayed for the freedom of Cuba.
In Havana, the home of Lady in White Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo had already been completely surrounded by the political police for 5 days, keeping her family and other dissidents from going out to the street. Fonseca explained that, although they could not make it out, she managed to hang a large sign on her porch with messages condemning the Castro regime for the tugboat massacre and honoring the victims, highlighting that there were minors among the murdered. The activist added that other members of the group which she presides over- the Pro Human Rights Party of Cuba– did manage to surpass police cordons and pay tribute to the victims publicly in the same province of Havana.
Meanwhile, also in Havana but in the neighborhood of Arroyo Naranjo, Eriberto Liranza Romero said that various activists from the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy shocked the police, despite having been under threats and vigilance for 2 weeks, managing to throw flowers into a local river. On the morning of Saturday the 14th, Liranza explained on Twitter that other activities were being carried out by other members of the same youth group.
In Banes, Holguin, a group of dissidents from the Eastern Democratic Alliance marched to a river as well, successfully throwing flowers. These same dissidents managed to surpass a police cordon which had been set up by State Security Major Roilan Cruz, one of the main culprits of Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s assassination in 2010.
Other similar activities were reported in other provinces and cities, although telephone interruptions made it difficult to confirm further details.
Meanwhile, various Cubans across the island sent out messages through Twitter, using the hashtag #Remolcador13M (#Tugboat13M). One of these Twitter users was former political prisoners Pedro Arguelles Moran who mentioned the anniversary and emphasized that the crime was executed under “orders of the Castro tyranny“.
The Pastor and blogger Mario Felix Barroso tweeted, “The assassins are still out on the street, but God will do justice“. Meanwhile, Yoani Sanchez recalled that she was 17 years old when the massacre occurred and mentioned that many people, including her friends, would also risk their lives at sea in search of freedom. She explained that she did not know of the crime until “a couple of months after“, but affirmed that “ignorance does not free us of responsibility“.
“Help us to not forget them“, continued another Tweet by Sanchez, “to denounce the injustice“. The blogger also published a link to a harrowing testimony by one of the survivors.
The Lady in White and spokesperson for the National Resistance Front, Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo, was arrested at around 8 AM this past Monday, July 9th, in Havana, along with a group of other pro-human rights activists who had plans to carry out a tribute to the victims of the 13th of March Tugboat Massacre, which occurred on July 13th 1994, where the Cuban regime gunned down a group of Cubans- among them children and women- who were trying to flee the country in search of freedom aboard a tugboat.
In the case of Fonseca Quevedo, she remained behind bars until approximately 9 PM. She was first kept in the police unit of Cojimar and later in the 4th Unit of El Cerro. Another detainee was Yanelis Cabrera Bouza, also a Lady in White, who was released after an interrogation session during the afternoon.
Bouza told “Radio Republica” that, in her case, she was arrested separate from Fonseca Quevedo, when she was about to arrive to the spot where they had plans to carry out the peaceful activity, where they were to throw flowers into the ocean in memory of each victim of the massacre. When she was taken to the police unit of Alamar, uniformed agents accused her of trying to plan an illegal exit from the country, an accusation which is completely false, according to the dissident.
Upon being released, Cabrera Bouza head to the home of Fonseca Quevedo, where a number of dissidents were congregated, among them the independent rapper Rodolfo “El Primario” Ramirez, who also shared declarations with “Radio Republica”, explaining that the demonstrators were carrying out a vigil and a peaceful protest, demanding the immediate release of Sara Marta Fonseca, who suffers from numerous medical ailments.
During night hours, Fonseca was released, which was proven by a Twitter message she managed to publish on her account (@SaraMartaCuba). “From the PNR Unit in Cojimar, transferred to the 4th of El Cerro”, explained the message of the Lady in White, “liberated at 9:20 PM, they took away my sign with messages paying tribute to victims of Tugboat Massacre. My home is surrounded”.
On a dark and late night, 72 Cubans tried fleeing the island aboard an old tugboat called “13 de Marzo” in search of freedom. Many young mothers boarded their small children on the tugboat, while many other adults clung onto the faith that, soon, they would be able to work and live like dignified people. Wrapped in fear, but with much hope that beyond the horizon they would be ree, these Cubans were planning to reach the United States, but destiny and the cruelty of a regime impeded this dream, which was born out of desperation, to become reality.
Tomorrow, July 13th, will be another dark anniversary of Cuban history- the “13 de Marzo” tugboat massacre. This slaughter, which stole the lives of 41 innocent Cubans- among them many children and adolescents- is one of the many atrocities committed by the Cuban dictatorship against its own people. Official representatives of the repressive police force of the island used their hate, in this case personified by viciously hosing down the victims who were trying to escape, in order to prevent the tugboat from reaching land of liberty. Despite the fact that 17 years have passed since the cruel assassination, justice has not been done, the same way that there has been no justice for the shot down Brothers to the Rescue victims, the thousands of innocents executed by firing squads since 1959, the countless cases of death behind the prison bars, and, in sum, the thousands of anonymous Cubans who have lost their lives at the hands of totalitarian communism.
Let it be clear in Cuba, and in the rest of the world: we will never forget the victims of the dictatorship and tomorrow, July 13th, and always, we will remember the victims of the “13 de Marzo” tugboat.
Below is a report made on the massacre, sent to the Interamerican Human Rights Commission:
REPORT Nº 47/96
VICTIMS OF THE TUGBOAT “13 DE MARZO” vs. CUBA
October 16, 1996
1. On July 19, 1994, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights received a complaint stating that in the early morning hours of July 13, 1994, four boats belonging to the Cuban State and equipped with water hoses attacked an old tugboat that was fleeing Cuba with 72 people on board. The incident occurred seven miles off the Cuban coast, opposite the port of Havana. The complaint also indicates that the Cuban State boats attacked the runaway tug with their prows with the intention of sinking it, while at the same time spraying everyone on the deck of the boat, including women and children, with pressurized water. The pleas of the women and children to stop the attack were in vain, and the old boat–named “13 de Marzo”–sank, with a toll of 41 deaths, including ten minors. Thirty-one people survived the events of July 13, 1994.
2. On February 28, 1995, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights received another complaint concerning the same events, which was added to Case File No. 11.436, in accordance with Article 40.2 of its Regulations.