On the morning of Friday, June 28th, the political police raided the home of activist Daniel Barriel Sanjurjo, of UNPACU, in Santiago de Cuba, beating him and later arresting him.
Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, leader of the pro-freedom group, sent out a document with details of these aggressions and denouncing the rise of violence against the Cuban opposition. The document has been published via Twitter by the young activist Anyer Antonio Blanco Rodriguez (@anyerantoniobla).
Here’s my English translation:
Another assault, more arbitrary beatings and arrests of UNPACU members
Santiago de Cuba, June 28th 2013
At around 7 AM, more than a dozen Political Police and National Police agents violently raided the home of Daniel Barriel Sanjurjo, secretary of the “Zapata Lives” Cell of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), located on E Street, between 5 and 6th, Sueno Neighorhood, in Santiago de Cuba. Lieutenant Colonel Dorquis and Captain Julio Fonseca led the assault.
Daniel Barriel was beat inside his house, in front of his wife Yileisis Chaovin and their two underage children. He was then dragged out (in underwear) and taken to the Political Police Unit in Alturas de Versalles, in the southern part of the city.
The home was searched for more than two hours and the agents ended up taking three cell phones, various CDs, USB drives with audio-visual material, printouts and one photo camera.
Daniel Barriel and the “Zapata Lives” Cell, which is mainly made up of young dissidents, have been carrying out a series of important pro-democracy activities in the city of Santiago de Cuba. This is why the regime has acted against them with such aggression. On UNPACU’s YouTube channel a number of these videos have been published, showcasing their creativity and their dynamic attitude.
In the last 22 months, members of UNPACU have been victims of countless house raids, robbery, beatings, arbitrary detentions and imprisonment for political reasons, as occurs against all peaceful dissidents in Cuba.
Recently, Gohart Cruz Zamora, secretary of the “Harold Cepero” Cell in Altamira, Santiago de Cuba, was victim of a machete attack on his left shoulder. The political police awarded the aggressor, who committed a crime of “attempt of murder”, with food and other benefits which promise to not process him or to evict him from the hut he lives in.
Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia
Executive Secretary of UNPACU
For more information from Cuba, contact:
Jose Daniel Ferrr – Cell Phone: +53-146-740 / Twitter: @jdanielferrer
*Note: Daniel Barriel appears in this video handing out pro-freedom literature in Santiago de Cuba recently.
A young Cuban can finally hug his father- unjustly imprisoned for nearly one month- and a massive hunger strike by more than 60 citizens has come to an end, yielding positive results.
The protest was initiated by members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) in demand for the release of activist Luis Enrique Lozada Igarza. He was arrested by the political police on April 9th after they raided his home in Maffo, Contramaestre. His crime? Offering his house each Tuesday to impart courses on peaceful resistance and civil disobedience. At the moment of his arrest, Lozada started a hunger strike. Members of his family followed his protest, starting their own strikes. Among them his 17-year old son Enrique Lozada, his wife Darmis Aguedo, his brother Arnoldo Lozada, and others. In just a few days about a dozen other activists, under the lead of former political prisoner and leader of UNPACU Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, also started strikes. Eventually, more than 60 dissidents in different regions such as Palma Soriano, Holguin, San Luis and Gibara were on hunger strike.
After what seemed like countless acts of repudiation, arrests, and threats by the political police, as well as serious health complications product of more than 4 weeks on strike, the activists achieved their objective on the night of May 7th: The authorities handed a document to Enrique Lozada, explaining that his father would be released, promising that he would be back home in Contramaestre on the following morning.
Upon confirming the news, the young activist finally stopped his strike, drinking juice. Enrique moved the world after he published a video assuring that he was willing to die for his father. His health was seriously affected.
“I am giving thanks in the name of the family and in the name of the hunger strikers, thanks to the hundreds of UNPACU activists that were carrying out different actions throughout the country, thanks to activists of other organizations who joined us in solidarity, thanks to our brothers in exile who have always backed us with solidarity”, expressed Jose Daniel Ferrer in one of the first audios published on the YouTube account of UNPACU.
The release of Lozada Igarza did not come easy. The same day in which the news was made public- May 7th- the regime unleashed a brutal wave of repression against various strikers and other activists showing solidarity. On that same afternoon, the political police assauled the Juan Bruno Zayas Hospital of Santiago de Cuba, where some of the strikers had been taken, forcefully removing them. Some were beat and abandoned in different parts of the province. In the case of Lady in White Ana Celia Rodriguez, police agents ripped off her IV, which caused her much bleeding, according to a report by her son, the young activist Anyer Antonio Blanco Rodriguez. The same occurred with Ernique Lozada, who even passed out after strong aggressions.
Another activist who was forcefully removed from the hospital was 60-year old Dionisio Blanco Rodriguez, while activists displaying solidarity in front of the hospital were also beat and detained, as was the case of Ovidio Martin Castellanos, among others.
In Holguin, the hunger strikers Franklin Peregrino del Toro and Pedro Leiva Gongora were denied medical assistance on various occasions, but the protests by a number of dissidents forced the local hospital to assist him. The State-sponsored violence could not impede activists from joining the strikers in support. In Pinar del Rio, more than 50 dissidents held fasts, backing the call for Lozada Igarza’s freedom. Members of other pro-freedom movements like the Ladies in White, the Republican Party of Cuba and the OZT National Resistance Front carried out marches, protests, encounters and other activities in solidarity.
A campaign started by everyday citizens was created outside of Cuba, where activists used social networks to denounce the situation plaguing the strikers and in search of support. Various petitions were created with the purpose of taking the details to international human rights organizations, while in Twitter the hashtag #HuelgadeHambreUNPACU (“HungerStrikeCuba”) was created. This pressure led various politicians and other public figures to make public statements in favor of Luis Enrique Lozada’s release.
Luis Enrique Ferrer Garcia, representative of UNPACU in exile, started a fast alongside other activists in a display of support for those risking their lives on the island. They maintained the fast until the very moment in which Lozada’s liberation was announced.
This has been another series of actions that prove that Cubans can achieve positive things in their country and it is more proof that citizens do have power. The internal opposition, through the civic protests of UNPACU and others, left the dictatorship with no other option but to release human rights activist Luis Enrique Lozada.
It is clear that the regime has sent a message of violence to the opposition with their wave of aggressions during the strike, specially on the last day, just minutes before releasing the activist. But dissidents have also responded, sending their own message to the dictatorship:
“We will keep up the struggle…we have been able to get one man out of the dungeons of the tyranny, but other political prisoners are still behind bars in inhumane conditions”, said Jose Daniel Ferrer, mentioning more than 40 UNPACU activists who are imprisoned for having different ideas, “but we will continue fighting for their freedom, and for the freedom of Cuba, with much more strength, with much more dedication, and much more desire than ever”.
*Congratulations to all those who risked their lives for the release of an innocent man. – (Pedazos de la Isla)
After more than 2 weeks on hunger strike, three activists of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) have been urgently rushed to the JuanBrunoZayasHospital in Santiago de Cuba due to serious health complications.
The strikers are Lady in White Ana Celia Rodriguez (suffering from diabetes), the elderly activist Dionisio Blanco Rodriguez, and 17-year-old Enrique Lozada. The latter is the son of Luis Enrique Lozada Igarza who was arbitrarily arrested on April 9th. His arrest was what led to the massive strike by UNPACU activists. Now, the health of all the strikers is getting worse.
Anyer Antonio Blanco Rodriguez, a youth activist from UNPACU, published various messages on Twitter (@anyerantoniobla) detailing the situation.
“The general health of the hunger strikers is critical”, read one message written by Blanco Rodriguez.
In an audio published by “Radio Republica” Anyer points out that the three hunger strikers have been taken to the same hospital where Wilman Villar Mendoza was, while Luis Enrique Lozada has been confined to the same exact cell in the Aguadores Prison of Santiago where Villar was tortured and taken to his death. Wilman Villar was a political prisoner who died after a lengthy hunger strike in early 2012.
Recently, other strikers have also been taken to hospitals, as was the case of Lady in White Adriana Nunez Pascual and the activists from Holguin, Franklin Peregrino del Toro and Pedro Leiva Gongora.
There is much worry about the health of the strikers, especially the young Enrique Lozada. In a recent video published by UNPACU he said that he is willing to take his protest, for the liberation of his father, “to the final consequences”.
“We need the solidarity of all Cuban, inside and outside of the island”, expressed Blanco Rodriguez.
Pictured in this photo is Luis Enrique Lozada (right), an activist of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), along with his family, in Maffo, Contramaestre. Lozada has been imprisoned for more than 2 weeks, after he was arbitrarily arrested by the political police. He offers his home each Tuesday to impart courses on civil disobedience and non-violent struggles for local activists as well as everyday citizens- neighbors, friends, etc. These encounters usually end in acts of repudiations and house raids at the hands of State Security, and it is also the reason for his detention last April 9th.
Luis Enrique was kept in the Third Police Unit of Santiago de Cuba for various days before being transferred over to the Boniato Prison. In response, approximately 14 relatives and friends stood outside the unit demanding his release, carrying out hunger strikes and protests. On his part, Lozada also declared himself on hunger strike.
The protest expanded when a total of 20 activists from UNPACU joined in. But now, there are more than 50 Cubans on hunger strike for the same cause. Here are the faces and stories of some of them:
Pictured above is Enrique Lozada Aguedo. He’s the 17-year old son of Luis Enrique Lozada. For a while, he was the youngest member of UNPACU, and in 2012 called on the Cuban youth to join the dissident movement to demand their rights. Now, he has put his life on the line to demand his father’s release.
Darmis Aguedo Zaldivar, wife of Luis Enrique Lozada, mother of Enrique; she is a Lady in White and member of UNPACU. She demands an end to the violence against her husband, her children, and the rest of her family and members of the peaceful opposition movement in the Eastern region of the country.
Arnoldo Lozada Igarza is Luis Enrique’s brother. He is frequently subjected to police violence along with his brother while they participate in the courses on non-violent civic struggles.
This is Lady in White Ana Celia Rodriguez, from Santiago de Cuba. She is frequently persecuted and arrested by the political police when she tries to make it to Sunday Mass at the National Cobre Shrine. She is the mother of the young activist Anyer Antonio Blanco Rodriguez.
José Daniel Ferrer García, executive secretary of UNPACU, he is a former political prisoner of conscience and one of the leaders of the internal opposition on the island. He started his hunger strike alongside dozens of other activists in the Cespedes Park of Santiago de Cuba, right in front of the Cathedral of Santiago. Afterward, he took his protest back to his home in Palmarito de Cauto, which serves as one of the main meeting points of UNPACU. He said his protest was for the release of Luis Enrique Lozada as well as for the release of all detained UNPACU activists. In addition, he is calling for an end to violence against all peaceful dissidents in Cuba and is shedding light on the situation of more than 40 members of UNPACU who have been sentenced to prison terms for several years. Ferrer Garcia suffers from various health issues, all of them acquired in dungeons during his 7 year prison sentence, and his hunger strike may intensify these complications.
Sirley Avila, an ex delegate of the Popular Power Department in Limones, Las Tunas. She was fired for speaking without censorship and for trying to truthfully represent the people. Recently, she has joined the opposition. She’s been blacklisted by the government since.
More photos of some other hunger strikers:
Anyer Antonio Blanco, who provided the photos shown in this post, said on his Twitter account (@anyerantoniobla) on April 23rd that there are now a total of 54 hunger strikers. They hail from Palmarito de Cauto, Palma Soriano, San Luis, Holguin, Banes, Las Tunas, Pinar del Rio and many other places. The strikers are from UNPACU, but many other activists from diverse pro-freedom organizations have joined in fasts or with public protests, like the case of Grua Nueva, Ciego de Avila, where members of the Pedro Luis Boitel Movement and of the Rosa Parks Movement have been carrying out several demonstrations, and the members of the Democratic Alliance of Pinar del Rio, who have more than 60 members fasting in the province of Pinar del Rio. The Ladies in White and national coalitions such as the Orlando Zapata Tamayo Resistance Front have also joined in solidarity.
The political police has increased the level of violence against all those who lend their homes to show solidarity with the strikers, as well as against those who carry out marches or other civic protests. Many have been arrested and beaten, as was the case of Rubislandi Avila, rushed to a hospital after a brutal beat-down at the hands of the police in the town of Mella (Santiago de Cuba).
Meanwhile, in exile, Luis Enrique Ferrer Garcia and Ana Belkis Ferrer Garcia (siblings of Jose Daniel Ferrer) have started a fast in solidarity with the strikers. Various Cubans living in different cities have joined the call. They are convoking others to participate in this display of support. Visit their webpage here.
Dozens of members of the Ladies in White assisted Mass this Sunday, April 21st, despite numerous cordons set up by the political police. The women prayed for the freedom of all political prisoners as they habitually do, and also in solidarity with victims of violence in Cuba, like the 40 hunger strikers of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), as well as the victims of a terrorist attack this past week in the US city of Boston.
Former political prisoner of conscience Angel Moya Acosta offered more details on his Twitter account (@jangelmoya). “50 Ladies in White marched down 5th Avenue and dedicated their march to the hunger strikers in Santiago de Cuba, as well as the victims of the terrorist attack in Boston”.
More than 170 people were injured while 3 died in the Boston bombings. Meanwhile, in Eastern Cuba, the repressive actions of the government have dramatically increased against the 40 hunger strikers, among them Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, as they demand the release of detained dissident Luis Enrique Lozada (also on hunger strike) and calling for an end to the brutality against human rights activists in the country.
The strikers, as well as numerous other dissidents who have joined them in demonstrations of solidarity, have been victims of acts of repudiation, death threats, house raids and arrests this week.
A total of 20 Ladies in White in the province of Matanzas managed to march with flowers in their hands, according to Sayli Navarro (@SayliNavarro), a young member of the group.
Navarro added that in Guantanamo 8 women marched and made it to Mass. When the religious service came to an end, the Ladies carried out their monthly meeting in the headquarters of the group in that area.
Anyer Antonio Blanco, an activist of UNPACU, reported that 34 Ladies in White participated in Mass at Palma Soriano, where Father Palma (the local priest) dedicated the sermon to the women and prayed for their protection, as well as for the hunger strikers.
Blanco said that 16 women carried out their civic march in Santiago de Cuba, and as far as he confirmed, only 1 woman was arbitrarily arrested.
During night hours of that same Sunday, the renown Ladies in White Laura Pabrada, daughter of the fallen leader of the group Laura Pollan, and Belkis Cantillo, representative of the group in Santiago de Cuba and wife of Jose Daniel Ferrer, traveled to Brussels to meet up with Berta Soler, representative of the movement, to finally receive the Sajarov Award, given to them in 2005. The Cuban dictatorship had denied Laura Pollan and other members of the group to travel outside of the country to pick up the award, but now the 3 mentioned women have been able to travel.
Soler has expressed that, in reality, these things don’t represent reforms, but instead attempts to distract international attention over the escalating level of repression against the internal opposition. However, she has been internationally denouncing the constant human rights violations in Cuba during her time outside the country, emphasizing cases such as that of Sonia Garro, Lady in White imprisoned in Havana for more than 1 year along with her husband Ramon Alejandro Munoz.
A total of 26 member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), among them one of its leaders, former political prisoner Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, remain on hunger strike as a civic protest against the growing number of violent detentions of human rights activists and the increase of political prisoners. As of now, all the strikers hail from the Eastern region of the country.
The protest originated on Monday, April 15th, when a group of about 14 activists stood outside the Third Police Unit of Santiago de Cuba, demanding the release of dissident Luis Enrique Lozada, of UNPACU, who has been detained and on hunger strike in the mentioned unit since Tuesday, April 9th. His underage son, Enrique Lozada, as well as other relatives and brothers-in-struggle decided to carry out their own hunger strikes in solidarity.
On Tuesday, April 16th, a total of 24 dissidents of the same pro-freedom organization took the protest to the Cespedes Park of Santiago de Cuba, in front of the Cathedral of Santiago and the Communist Party of that area. Here is the video, courtesy of UNPACU, of the protest. One can also see various violent arrests of peaceful dissidents who tried to join the demonstration:
During the night of the 16th, monsignor Dionisio Garcia Ibanez, of Santiago, personally told Jose Daniel Ferrer that he would intercede for them, so that the political detainees, like Luis Enrique Lozada, be liberated.
Ferrer and the other hunger strikers returned to their homes, but they are still on strike. In this video, they explain their reasoning:
This 18th of April the UNPACU strikers are as follows: 11 in Palmarito de Cauto, 6 in San Luis and 9 in Santiago de Cuba, with a total of 26.
Meanwhile, on Twitter the young activist Anyer Antonio Blanco Rodriguez created the hashtag #huelgadehambreUNPACU (“hungerstrikeUNPACU”) to demonstrate solidarity with those carrying out the protest and the political prisoners. Blanco Rodriguez also published various messages informing that in diverse regions of the island there have been signs appearing with messages in favor of the strikers, while many public protests have been carried out, also in solidarity with the 26 dissidents which have put their own lives at risk for the freedom of others.
For more information from Cuba, contact:
José Daniel Ferrer García- Cell Phone: + 53-146-740 / Twitter: @jdanielferrer
Anyer Antonio Blanco- Cell Phone: +58-146-606 / Twitter: @anyerantoniobla
In what was an emotional encounter, 43 Ladies in White managed to carry out their habitual march in Havana this Sunday, 14th of April, not only with the presence of various human rights activists, but also with the participation of recently released independent journalist Calixto Ramon Martinez Arias. The Ladies, in addition to celebrating the victory of Calixto’s liberation, also demanded the release of the many other political prisoners still behind bars in the island.
“When liberated, it is the duty of all political prisoners to come with the Ladies in White and stand with them in their bastion of freedom”, said Martinez Arias in declarations made to former political prisoner Ivan Hernandez Carrillo, published on his Twitter account (@ivanlibre).
Calixto Ramon Martinez was released from prison after more than 7 months behind bars, thanks to the solidarity of people in and out of Cuba who carried out campaigns and public activities to pressure the regime.
The Ladies in White also dedicated their march to Enrique Ros, famous Cuban exiled historian who passed away this week.
Ivan Hernandez tweeted that 16 Ladies in White marched and assisted Mass in the province of Matanzas, while 2 surpassed police cordons in Ciego de Avila and made it to church.
In Guantanamo, 10 Ladies in White marched and participated in Mass.
Meanwhile, in the province of Santiago de Cuba, 32 Ladies in White made it past operations set up by State Security and made it to El Cobre National Shrine. A number of women were reportedly detained between Saturday and Sunday.
Anyer Antonio Blanco, member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), published an audio on his Twitter account (@anyerantoniobla) where his mother, Lady in White, Ana Celia Rodríguez, was being arrested alongside another activist in Santiago. Rodriguez was forcefully taken out of a vehicle and sent to a police unit for various hours.
The Ladies in White have made it very clear that despite that they are being subjected to different forms of repression, they will continue risking it all on the streets to demand freedom for each and every Cuban who resides behind bars for thinking differently.
José Daniel Ferrer, leader of UNPACU, later expressed in his Twitter account (@jdanielferrer) that “with all the brutal repression, and the advantage of media and resources, once again, the Ladies in White surpass the methods of the political police”.
Each Sunday various arrests of Ladies in White in different parts of Cuba are reported, but this 7th of April, the first Sunday of the month, a group of 60 women were detained by the political police in the province of Santiago de Cuba, simply for trying to make it to Mass. Regardless, members of the group managed to march in other provinces, defying police operations organized by the regime.
Under the direction of Laura Labrado Pollan (daughter of Laura Pollan) and Belkis Cantillo (visiting from Santiago), 54 Ladies in White marched down Havana’s 5th Avenue after participating in Mass at Santa Rita Church, where they prayed for the freedom of all political prisoners, emphasizing the case of Sonia Garro, who has just recently been transferred to a hospital due to a skin infection obtained in prison, according to her sister Yamilet Garro.
These activists from Havana were accompanied by more than 30 men, all of them public dissidents.
In Matanzas province a total of 17 women marched and participated in Mass. 3 made it in Ciego de Avila and 10 in Guantanamo.
Pro-freedom activists Iván Hernández Carrillo (@ivanlibre), Sayli Navarro (@SayliNavarro), Ángel Moya Acosta (@jangelmoya) and Anyer Antonio Blanco (@anyerantoniobla) reported and confirmed these numbers in their respective Twitter accounts.
Despite 60 arrests in Santiago de Cuba, 4 women surpassed police cordons and made it to El Cobre National Shrine. In Holguin province, various Ladies were reportedly arrested.
It is common for these women from Santiago (many who hail from other Eastern regions) to leave their homes since Friday or Saturday to surpass police operations and arrive to mass at El Cobre Shrine. Many times they have to sleep at bus stations, cross and hide in fields or walk miles under rain and intense heat to escape police persecution. Some times, once near the temple they are refused vacancy by priests at the service of State Security.
On his Twitter account, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia (@jdanielferrer) explained this Sunday that “the Ladies in White of Santiago de Cuba, cross fields, hills, rivers and creeks to try and stay a night in the small hotel of El Cobre”.
The Ladies in White continue marching because they have already conquered a public space, all due to their 10 years of relentless perseverance. They will not allow any government soldier and/or official to take this space from them. The arrests may increase, but so too will the public demonstrations by these brave women.
Closed streets, diverted traffic, countless police vehicles, agents dressed in civilian clothing, and a wave of arrests. That was how the operation of the Cuban regime against the Ladies in White looked like this Wednesday, February 13th, when women from throughout all the provinces of the country set out towards their national headquarters in Havana to pay tribute to Laura Pollan– deceased leader of the group-who would have turned 65.
Despite the repressive measures, the Ladies continued onward with their plans to celebrate the date.
Since the morning hours, former political prisoner Angel Moya Acosta published a series of Twitter messages detailing what was happening with these women.
“Repressive forces are stationed on the streets leading to the headquarters of the Ladies in White on Neptune Street”, read Moya’s first tweet. The activist continued to describe the presence of numerous “police and private vehicles” ready to arrest any of the women who would try to arrive to the encounter.
At around 9 AM, there had already been 5 confirmed arrests of Ladies in White. Just minutes later, the number rose to 27. Throughout the day, many more arrests were confirmed.
Two of the detained women were Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo and Yanelys Cabrera who set out from Boyeros (Havana) towards Neptune Street. The arrests were violent.
“I received physical blows on my head, back and arms. I am dizzy”, tweeted Fonseca Quevedo upon being released minutes later. “Police vehicle # 570 left me in a desolate area in the municipality of Lisa”, added another message, but Sara Marta assured that she would head out again towards the meeting to “carry out her her right to freedom of peaceful association and assembly”.
In that second attempt, Sara Marta and Yanelys were once again detained.
Despite all the police cordons which kept dozens of other women from arriving to the event, more than 50 Ladies in White were able to participate in the encounter in honor of Laura Pollan in their headquarters.
Once the event came to an end, the repressive measures only increased.
When a group of 29 women from the Eastern provinces set out to the bus terminal known as “La Coubre” that night to board a bus to head back home, the transportation never showed up. Hours passed and the situation remained the same, until Berta Soler and Angel Moya head out from their homes and showed up at the terminal in solidarity with the women. Also present was Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) activist Osmany Cespedes Napoles.
The total of 30 women- 13 from Santiago de Cuba, 11 from Holguin, 3 from Guantanamo and 2 from Villa Clara (as well as Berta Soler from Havana)- decided to carry out a peaceful protest at around 2 AM in front of the terminal, shouting slogans such as “We want transportation”.
(Ángel Moya published this video of the protest):
The result of the protest was the brutal arrest of the 30 women, as well as of the other activists present, Angel Moya and Osmany Cespedes. Radio/TV Marti published a detailed video-report of what happened with the activists.(In this video published by ‘Hablemos Press’, Ladies in White express their discontent regarding the lack of transportation).
The young activist Anyer Antonio Blanco, from UNPACU, informed that his mother, Lady in White Ana Celia Rodríguez, managed to establish communication with him during the moment of the arrests. Ana denounced that all the women, including herself, were being violently beat and Anyer heard screams of “Long Live Laura Pollan”.
At around 2 AM, the Ladies in White and other activists were detained and transferred to undisclosed locations and it was during night hours on Thursday and morning hours of Friday that they started to be released and/or deported. All these arbitrary actions against the Ladies in White between the 13th and 14th of February occurred because these women were paying tribute to Laura Pollan when she would have turned 65. The same regime which lead Pollan to her death can’t tolerate that her legacy be celebrated. Regardless, as Angel Moya tweeted:”Do not doubt it, the repressive operations set out through Neptune St in Havana prove the moral strength of the Ladies in White in Cuba”.
Between the days of January 19th and 22nd, state sponsored violence against the Cuban opposition aggressively increased in different parts of the country. Some of the aggressions started on Saturday 19th, the year anniversary of the death of Wilman Villar Mendoza, a dissident who spent more than 50 days on hunger strike demanding his release from an unjust prison sentence, and continued through the morning hours of Tuesday the 22nd, when Rapid Response Brigades used unknown toxic substances to try and interrupt an encounter among dissidents in the central region of the country:
After brutality in Mafo, Contramaestre, vigilance and repudiation continues
As numerous activists and blogs reported on Saturday, January 19th, the home of Luis Enrique Lozada in Mafo, Contramaestre was raided by mobs made up by Rapid Response Brigades, State Security and political police agents of the regime. The home was destroyed and all those present were beat with cables, sticks, knives, and a sort of whip, as well as other sharp weapons. Images of the results- broken heads, wounded bodies, etc. – went around the world (see here) and, on the following day, the harassment continued.
José Daniel Ferrer García, general coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) denounced that during the dawn hours of Sunday, “another attack took place, this time against the home of Ovidio Martin Castellanos, a coordinator of UNPACU in the province of Santiago de Cuba“. (Video)
Meanwhile, the home of political prisoner Jorge Cervantes, also located in Contramaestre, was attacked in a similar fashion, reducing it to ruble, leaving the wife of Cervantes, Lady in White Kenia Leguen, and her two underage children without a roof.
In an act of solidarity, Luis Enrique Lozada offered his home to the Lady in White and her two children.
“So many stones were thrown at Kenia’s home that the roof was considerably damaged“, explained Ferrer Garcia, “This is not the first time this happens to this family- the young Kenia told me, with much pain in her voice, that she was condemned to live without a roof“.
In other news, on Saturday afternoon, dissident Jesus Diaz Morales was arrested in Velasco, Holguin, for having convoked a peaceful march in honor of Wilman Villar. On Monday, the 21st, mobs once again surrounded the home of Luis Enrique Lozada, watching and intimidating all those who were inside. In this case, the mobs left a few hours later, according to a tweet published by Anyer Anotnio Blanco (@anyerantoniobla).
“These aggressive actions will continue, and they will correspond with the level of non-violent activism carried out by UNPACU, in favor of freedom and democracy in Cuba, as we keep growing in number of activism and actions“, declared Ferrer, “Without a doubt, our activism in a phenomenon that is very worrying for the tyranny but very hopeful for the people“.
Mobs try to impede encounter of the Ladies in White
On Monday, January 21st, when the world celebrated Martin Luther King day, the Ladies in White held an encounter at their headquarters on Neptune Street in Havana to pay tribute to the civil rights leader and, at the same time, to Wilman Villar Mendoza, as well as to demand the freedom of all political prisoners. The presence of State Security was not absent.
According to Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo, one of the Ladies in White who managed to make it to the encounter, “during the 116th meeting of the group, various women who tried to make it were arrested, while the headquarter was surrounded by paramilitary mobs, the political police, and State Security. They also blocked off traffic on Neptune Street, a main street in Havana. No car could pass by…all of this to keep women from arriving“. However, the dissident points out that 42 members managed to surpass cordons of vigilance and make it to the house.
But the mobs increased their violent actions, shouting slogans such as “Use a machete, theirs only a few of them“, and other offensive phrases. (Video here)
10 women were reported detained upon trying to arrive.
Despite the offensive slogans, the Ladies in White responded by maintaining their civility, shouting “Freedom“, “Long live human rights“, “Long live Laura Pollan“, and “Freedom for all political prisoners“.
“Once again, it has been demonstrated that the regime highly fears unity within the opposition, as well as the Ladies in White, out on the streets of Cuba“, expressed Fonseca Quevedo, “This implants terror in them, to think that peaceful women march through the streets of Havana to demand freedom. I want everyone to know that we, the Ladies in White, will keep walking for freedom in Cuba“.
On the previous day, Sunday January 20th, ‘Hablemos Press’ reported that 116 Ladies in White managed to march and arrive to Mass throughout the country, but a total of 36 were arbitrarily arrested, deported, and threatened.
Toxic gases and substances against dissidents in Sagua la Grande
In Sagua la Grande, Villa Clara, paramilitary mobs and police agents lasted the entire day of January 21st carrying out an act of repudiation and keeping vigilance over a group of activists from the Central Opposition Coalition and the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front who were meeting in the home of former political prisoner Jorge Vázquez Chaviano, to pay tribute to Martin Luther King Jr, Wilman Villar Mendoza and to discuss important subjects of the opposition.
Jorge Luis García Pérez ‘Antúnez’, leader of the Front and one of the dissidents present, explained that during the acts of repudiation, the agents “shouted offensive phrases” at the group of more than 20 dissidents in the house. He added that there were “underage children and an elderly woman inside as well“.
In the afternoon, two activists of the Cuban Reflection Movement– Nosbel Jomolca and Juan Carlos Fernandez– were arrested as they tried entering the house.
Regardless, Antunez feels that the encounter was “a success“, considering that none of the neighbors of Vazquez Chaviano participated in the repudiation.
“The mobs of the dictatorship have not been able to receive support of the neighbors. Far from helping them, they maintained their solidarity with us“, said Antunez, “The soldiers became very aggressive, inciting us to come out of the house to beat us with stick, but we congratulate and appreciate the support of the people of Sagua la Grande. Right in front of the repressive mobs, they refused to participate“.
Clearly bothered, during the dawn hours of Tuesday, January 22nd, political police officials launched toxic gases and liquids at the home full of dissidents. The attack caused cough, skin eruptions, tachycardia, and breathing problems on its victims, including the underage ones.
Antunez sent out an alert to the world of what could happen to all those who suffered the attacks, seeing as they have already begun to show some symptoms.
Despite all of this, the dissident leader said that they will continue resisting and that “regardless of all the tactics of the tyranny, the Cuban Resistance, beyond any organization, is united…united in action“.
The repression against Cuban dissidents, organized by the dictatorship and carried out by agents of State Security, the political police, the Ministry of the Interior and members of the Rapid Response Brigade, has not stopped, but it has clearly increased during the first weeks of 2013. This past weekend it escalated to a level of immeasurable violence, where the lives of all those who have decided to fight for freedom are in danger.