Rodiles: Solidarity Triumphs Once Again in #Cuba

Rodiles and friends celebrate his release, which they classify as a victory. Photo from: Estado de Sats Facebook page

It has been proven once against that solidarity and unity are the most efficient weapons to combat a dictatorship which attempts to control all aspects of everyday life and condemn all forms of opposition to long years of silence or even death.

In the afternoon of November 26th it was confirmed that Antonio Rodiles was released in Havana after more than 2 months behind bars in the Acosta Police Unit after he peacefully protested for the release of other fellow dissidents, among them bloggers, journalists, and human rights activists.

It is no secret that Estado de Sats, the televisual project created by Rodiles as a space for debate and exchange of information and nominated for an Emmy Award, has put the regime in a very difficult spot, considering that all these images have gone around the world and they promote the diversity of ideas- something which no dictatorship can tolerate if they wish to survive.  Meanwhile, the Campaign for Another Cuba, promoted mainly by the Citizen’s Demand for Another Cuba, has also put the dictatorship against the wall, a fact seen in the quickness with which the repressive forces respond to detain all those who hand out copies of the initiative to everyday citizens out on the street.  Rodiles is also one of the main author of the Demand.

After his arrest, countless Cubans who consider themselves dissidents, intellectual, humble workers, activists, writers, bloggers, journalists and other representatives of a growing civil and independent society demanded his release.  The same happened in exile, as well as within other citizens of other nationalities who joined in solidarity around the world, while the virtual world erupted with hashtags on Twitter, posts on blogs and messages on Facebook also demanding his freedom.

Internal and international pressure achieved Rodiles’ release, but that doesn’t save him from danger, starting with the fact that there is a pending fine of 800 pesos over him.  However, it has been a significant signs that citizens do have power and that solidarity can achieve very important objectives.

Minutes after the announcement that Rodiles was released, his wife Ailer Gonzalez Mena told  ‘Radio Republica’ that the fact he was released constitutes “a victory for Cuba, for all Cubans”.  A short while after, Rodiles spoke with ‘Radio Martí’ and expressed that he appreciated all the solidarity in his favor and explained that he believes that “now it is very necessary for Cuba to change”.

Although 2012 has been a difficult year for the Cuban opposition in terms of hard hits (starting with the death of Wilman Villar Mendoza and in one of the most recent cases, the death of Oswaldo Paya), it has also brought very important lessons in terms of the power of solidarity and unity amongst Cubans, despite different opinions.  It was seen how when everyday citizens, neighbors and activists in and out of Cuba managed to pressure the regime so that Lady in White Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez would not be sentenced to prison in Banes, Holguin, and when a massive hunger strike by various dissidents saved the life of then political prisoner Jorge Vazquez Chaviano and achieved his release.  Pressure and activism also led to the liberation of Niurka Luque Alvarez, a Lady in White who had been imprisoned since mid-March.

But there are still far too many citizens behind bars for reasons of conscience- Sonia Garro, Ramon Munoz, Calixto Martinez, Bismark Mustelier, Andry Frometa, Dany Lopez, and many more- as well as other citizens who do not even consider themselves dissidents but are still being harassed and subjected to torture by the State, as the case of  Michel Martínez Pérez in the province of Matanzas.  These, too, can be freed.

And, in sum, Cuba also can be freed…and it will.

As Rodiles said, “Now we must continue with even more strength

Solidarity with #AntonioRodiles. ‘Estado de Sats’ will go on.

Despite the fact that Antonio Rodiles is still behind bars in a Cuban prison, the show he help create- “Estado de Sats”- will go on, thanks to his friends and brothers in struggle- independent journalists, bloggers, activists, etc. In the most recent episode of the program, launched this past 16th of November, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo (photographer and blogger) moderates the show, highlighting the presence of an empty chair which was “symbolically placed in his (Rodiles) memory and also a promise that, sooner or later, he will be with us again to continue this project“.

Rodiles remains detained in the Acosta Police Unit of Havana since this past 8th of November when he set off there to peacefully protest the arrest of various fellow dissidents. The wave of arrests started with the detention of independent blogger and lawyer Yaremis Flores. Afterward, other detainees included Yoani Sanchez, Laritza Diversent, Angel Santiesteban, Claudio Fuentes, Jose Diaz Silva, Veizant Boloy and others. All were released (some with pending accusations), except for Rodiles. His girlfriend, Ailer Gonzalez Mena, has been able to see him briefly and under the constant presence of State Security agents. She has described that he is physically bruised- due to various beatings- but that his spirit remains firm and convinced that he is doing what is right to defend freedom of expression.

Yoani Sanchez managed to publish an article on Huffington Post about Antonio Rodiles’ situation. The article was translated into English by Mary Jo Porter. Read it here.

Use the following hashtags on Twitter to demand the release of Antonio Rodiles: #AntonioRodiles, #Rodiles, #FreeRodiles, #LibertadRodiles.

“Cuba’s Ladies in White”, a documentary by Al Jazeera

The Arab news station “Al Jazeera” has produced an excellent documentary about the Ladies in White and the civic opposition in Cuba, simply titled “Cuba’s Ladies in White”.

In my opinion, the documentary does a great job at highlighting what it’s like to be a dissident in Cuba- the vigilance, the arrests, the hidden microphones, the acts of repudiation, etc.  And most importantly: their valor.

There’s only one comment, though, I’d like to make about it.  At some point the narrator mentions that the Ladies in White are the only public opposition to the dictatorship.  While the Ladies are one of the bravest, important, and emblematic groups of the Resistance, there are many other groups and individuals who publicly manifest their opposition throughout the island, from East to West.

Regardless, the film is very well done and has interviews with Berta Soler, Angel Moya, Antonio Rodiles, Elizardo Sanchez and other dissidents.  In addition to Al Jazeera’s reporter, it also relies on the reports and work of restless human rights activist, independent journalist and former political prisoner of conscience Ivan Hernandez Carrillo.

The video includes English subtitles and runs for about 25 minutes.  It’s important to share the link of the video so the English-speaking world knows what goes on inside the island.  Take a look, below:

For more details about this documentary and what it was like to film it, click here.

Regime Attacks Dissidents But Cannot Impede Tributes to Laura Pollan

Laura Pollan’s daughter Laura Labrada (left) and Berta Soler. October 14th, 2012.

This Sunday 14th of October, the year anniversary of the death of Laura Pollan, leader of the Ladies in White, operations unleashed by the police forces of the Cuban regime produced numerous arrests throughout the island, but such actions were not able to impede the activities carried out in honor of Pollan.

A wide range of tributes were reported in the country since Berta Soler, representative of the Ladies in White, announced a week of activities last October 7th.

For example, that same day women carried out their traditional march along Havana’s 5th Avenue and screamed slogans like “Laura Pollan Lives“, while dissident Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello managed to arrange a daily Mass throughout the week in the San Juan Bosco Church in Havana in memory of the fallen leader of the Ladies in White.  In the eastern town of Manzanillo, where Laura was born, various human rights activists met at the cemetery where part of her ashes remain and carried out a prayer vigil and deposited several white gladiolus flowers, the symbol of the peaceful struggle of the Ladies in White.

The actions continued all week in other regions: Holguin, Baracoa, Bayamo, Matanzas, Santa Clara, and Pinar del Rio, among others.

On Saturday the 13th, the Ladies in White held a meeting in their headquarters, situated in Pollan’s home on Neptuno Street, in Havana.  Many of these women were arrested or kept from leaving their homes so that they not arrive to the encounter, but 18 of them were able to carry out the activity.

Marta Díaz Rondon, a Lady in White from the Eastern municipality of Banes, in Holguin province, was one of the women who were present.  Diaz Rondon had to leave days before in order to arrive to the capital, where she managed to surpass numerous police cordons and arrive to the group’s headquarters.

Diaz says that the activity was carried out in an atmosphere of peace in the house, as the women “lit candles in front of pictures of Laura Pollan and deposited various flowers”.  Meanwhile, outside the atmosphere was not the same.  The regime organized mobs around the home which consisted of state police agents in civilian clothing and various pre-university students and even dancers who tried to make the act of repudiation seem like a simple “celebration” before the eyes of the international media.

Not only did the mobs blast pro-government music, but their members also shouted insults and obscene words at the women.  The Ladies in White simply responded by singing the national anthem and shouting such slogans like “Laura Pollan Lives” and “Free Cuba“.

Nearby streets were closed off by the police and all traffic was re-routed to keep any other activists from arriving to the encounter.

On the following day- Sunday the 14th- a number of women throughout the country were reported as detained.

In the case of Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo, the renown dissident recounted that her home was surrounded by political police agents since 1 AM to keep her from leaving her house and joining the peaceful march to the Santa Rita Catholic Church.  Neighbors told her that uniformed officials were keeping a tight vigilance over all the corners of the Rio Verde neighborhood of Boyeros, Havana, where her home is located.

In addition, the agents had the objective of keeping any other dissident from arriving to my house to pay our own tribute to that grand leader that was Laura Pollan Toledo“, said Fonseca.

Meanwhile, the State Security agents Sanper and Alejandro ‘visited’ the headquarter of the group and threatened the women, telling Berta Soler that the Ladies in White could not march.  However, Soler and Laura Labrada Pollan (Laura’s daughter) told the agents that they would not accept their instructions and they went out anyway and carried out their march with 48 women.  They were accompanied also by other figures of the opposition like Hector Maceda (former prisoner and husband of Pollan), Ofelia Acevedo (widow of Oswaldo Paya), Antonio Rodiles, Hugo Damian Prieto and former political prisoners Ivan Hernandez Carrillo and Arnaldo Ramos.

Hernandez Carrillo was reporting from the scene of the activities through his Twitter account: @ivanlibre.

A group of women from Santiago de Cuba managed to surpass numerous police cordons and arrive to the Santa Rita church, joining the group of more than 40 women who had already arrived.  Meanwhile, back in Santiago, another 30 women made it to the El Cobre Shrine.

In the central city of Santa Clara, 6 women from the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights were violently arrested when they were showing solidarity with the Ladies in White by trying to assist Mass in La Pastora Church.  The detainees were Idania Yánez Conteras, Damaris Moya Portieles, Yaite Cruz Sosa, Ana Rosa Alfonso, Xiomara Martin Jiménez and Yanisbel Valido Pérez.

Idania Yanez explains that the women were dressed in white- as a form of solidarity, as these women always wear black during their protests- and that they were dragged off the bus they were aboard while they were “beaten“.

State Security official Yunier Monteagudo Reina and other agents intercepted the bus we were traveling and started to physically assault us“, detailed Yanez, “Yunier hit Damaris Moya in the face and broke her lips… they dragged us throughout the floor, they shoved us and then they detained us and took us to the local police unit“.

The activists from the Rosa Parks Movement started to shout slogans against the government and others in honor of Laura Pollan while they were being assaulted.

Yanez said that at no point did the everyday people demonstrate hate towards them.  Instead, they looked at the events in horror and demonstrated their solidarity with the protestors.

Other activists were arrested as was the case of  Angel Moya Acosta and Raul Borges, among many others, but the internal opposition achieved their objective:  honoring Laura Pollan, that Lady who made the Cuban regime tremble with just a flower, demanding peace, freedom and justice.