The Faces Which the Pope Did Not See

Young Cuban who shouted “Freedom” and “down with communism” during the Papal mass in Santiago de Cuba. His name and whereabouts are unknown since the Cuban secret police beat him and forcibly took him from the scene.
Days and hours before Pope Benedict XVI landed on Cuban soil, the Castro regime massively arrested members of Cuban civil society- peaceful dissidents, human rights activists, bloggers, artists and independent journalists. Those who were not confined to pestilent dungeons were under house arrest in order to impede them from participating in the Pope’s mass. During Benedict’s first Mass in Santiago de Cuba, the arrests multiplied in the Eastern region of the country.  However, as the Pope traveled to Havana, the repression trailed along behind him. In spite of these repressive actions from the Castro regime, Pope Benedict XVI did not meet with members of the Cuban Resistance, not even the Ladies in White, who had publicly expressed that  they wished to meet with him “even if for just a minute”.
The Assembly of the Resistance, a coalition of more than 50 pro-democracy organizations in and out of Cuba, launched an Information and Support Center for the duration of the Pope’s visit to Cuba. Its purpose was to report the abuses perpetrated by the regime against the peaceful dissidents while the media covered the masses and the pilgrimages. Although it was difficult to report the arrests and the violence since the regime censored Resistance members by cutting their phone lines, the Assembly managed to confirm 250 arrests.
Click here to view the confirmed cases of arrests. Although some have been released, others are still held unjustly behind bars. Most of those jailed are on hunger strike.
In continuation to this post, this blog will publish a series of testimonies of some of the Cubans that suffered violence for stepping out of their homes, for trying to get to Mass, and for being free. They are the faces which the Pope did not see.
The Faces Which the Pope Did Not See

Cuban Exiles to Pay Tribute to the Memory of Vaclav Havel

The Assembly of the Resistance, a coalition of more than 50 pro-democracy organizations inside and outside of Cuba, has announced that they will host a mass in honor of Vaclav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic who passed away during December of 2011.  The mass will take place at 7 PM this Friday January 6th in Corpus Cristi Church, located on 3220 NW 7th Avenue, Miami.

Vaclav Havel was one of the most important democratic leaders of the XX Century.  The persecuted and the oppressed people of the world really appreciate what he would do“, expressed the note published by the Assembly of the Resistance inviting not only exiled Cubans but also any other person who defends freedom and democracy.

Havel was committed to the struggle for freedom and against communism and totalitarianism, as can be seen in the following video where he talks about Cuba, which he explains is a “country that occupies a very special place” for him.

Cuban Exiles to Pay Tribute to the Memory of Vaclav Havel

The Cuban Resistance Begins 2012 with Peaceful Protests, Dictatorship Begins with Repression

Via the Assembly of the Resistance:
Among the activities which were carried out by members of the Cuban Resistance on the first day of 2012, a significant march occurred in the streets of Santa Clara, under the direction of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights.  The Cuban regime rapidly responded with savage beatings and arrests, as well as obscene threats against dissidents, who were in their majority women.

(January 1st, 2012)

Dissidents from the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights announced during the last days of December 2011 that their organization would carry out public protests out on the streets of Cuba every 1st day of the month, and that is exactly what they did on the first day of 2012.  Idania Yanez Contreras, who besides being member of the Rosa Parks Movement is also president of the Central Opposition Coalition, explained that on Sunday, January 1st, the group led a march through the streets of Santa Clara “for the freedom of Cuba, against impunity, and in support and solidarity with Ivonne Malleza Galano” who is still behind bars since November 30th, along with her husband Ignacio Martinez and Isabel Aydee, a Cuban citizen who joined the protest which was headed by the dissident couple.  Meanwhile, officials of the Cuban dictatorship also kept their promise of violently repressing any dissenting activists, as well as any other person who joined the protest.

Yanez Contreras narrates that the march head out from the home of Damaris Moya Portieles, provincial delegate for the Rosa Parks Movement.  In the demonstration, numerous activists participated, including Damaris Moya, Maria del Carmen Martinez Lopez, Ana Iris Burune Rivera, Yanoisi Contreras Aguilar, Alcides Rivera Rodríguez, Frank Reyes López, Jorge Luis García Pérez ‘Antúnez’, Natividad Blanco Carrero, Aramilda Contreras Rodríguez and Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera.

The participants carried signs with the initials of the Rosa Parks Movement, as well as other messages demanding freedom for Ivonne Malleza and other Cuban political prisoners.  In just an instant, recounts Yanez, “we were victims of the cruel and brutal aggression of the political police, along with members of the Rapid Response Brigade and the Communist Party“.  The dictatorship’s paid oppressors took their own signs which consisted of vulgar offenses against the activists.  They also began to shout numerous violent slogans.  The demonstrators responded with their own slogans: “Food for the people”, “Freedom for Ivonne Malleza and her husband”, “Freedom for all political prisoners”, and “Down with the Castro dictatorship“.

 The activists then congregated in the front porch of Idania Yanez’s home, which is also the headquarters of the Central Opposition Coalition, and they continued their peaceful protest.  Contreras describes that “the agents broke into my front porch…they took most of us from there by force“.   In the case of Frank Reyes Lopez, who was filming all of these events from the roof of the house, members of the Special Brigade climbed up and “threw him off, under orders of State Security“.  The dissident suffered a fracture in his right arm.  Maria del Carmen Martinez also suffered a fracture in one of her arms, product of a beating, while Aramilda Contreras was victim of serious injuries.

In addition to being violently beaten, all the demonstrators were arrested.  They were taken in police vehicles to different detention units and thrown in jail cells, where most of them spent a day of arrest.  Robert Alcides Rivera Yanez, the son of Idania and a minor, was also “beaten and shoved by police officials“, according to Yanez, who painfully witnessed the brutality against her young son.  “He has bruises and injuries all over his small body“, she painfully expressed.  Various neighbors joined in solidarity and broke up the violence and managed to shelter the child from the police.

The first dissidents to be released from their arrest were Iris Burune Rivera, Natividad Blanco Carrero, Aramilda Contreras Rodríguez, Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera and Antúnez, who were all deported to Placetas.  When the news of the violence against the group began to spread, another concentration of 11 activists head out from the headquarters of the Central Opposition Coalition and carried out another march, protesting the brutality which had just occurred.

“The protest-march head out from the headquarters and dissidents were shouting anti-government slogans throughout the central road all the way to the Police Unit, where an official stepped out and, upon seeing the demonstration, put his hands on his head and started to shout for other officials to come”, recounts Yanez, adding that this group was also arrested.  After the detainment, the political police began to leave some of the dissidents in different municipalities, including Alexei Sotolongo, Alberto Reyes and  Yanoaisi Contreras, while others were kept arrested, like Rolando Ferrer Espinosa, Ramón Arbolaes Abreu, Victor Castillo Ortega, Maribel Rodríguez Prieto and Yanisbel Valido Pérez.

Idania Yánez Contreras described her time behind the bars as “horrible“.  According to the dissident, in her cell “the guards, under the orders of State Security, were screaming obscenities at us” and even threatened with raping the women.  Yanez denounced that one of the obscene threats she has not been able to forget was that “they began to tell me ‘I am going to sleep with Idania because she has the largest ass‘”.  She added that the guards were ‘raffling’ the women amongst themselves, choosing which one they would rape.

Meanwhile, Damaris Moya also suffered verbal and physical attacks.  “I was treated horrible under the orders of Captains Andro, Yuniel Monteagudo and another by the last name Gil“, denounced the co-president of the Central Opposition Coalition, adding that the initial violence occurred in front of her young son who is only 13 months old.  “He was desperately screaming in the arms of his grandmother while the agents were applying martial arts immobilization locks on me.  And that’s how they dragged me to the police vehicle and later to the detention center“.  In the case of her husband, Yanoisi, he was beaten and “choked and he now has his face swollen…they also punched him on the stomach and in the testicles“.

The same official- Yuniel Monteagudo- was also responsible for the brutality against Antunez, even while he was detained in the back seat of a police vehicle.  “That official told one of the Rapid Response agents: ‘punish him during the entire trip‘”, explained Antunez, “and then they started to punch me the entire way.  While he was hitting me he was saying ‘piece of shit nigger, scream ‘Fidel Lives'”.  The dissident responded with the contrary.  “I started to scream ‘Down with Fidel'”, amid even more blows, “and that’s how the entire trip was until we reached the police unit of Santa Clara“.  The blows against Garcia Antunez resulted in numerous swellings on his head, and he is currently suffering from dizziness and lack of vision in his left eye, where he was also hit.

However, the dissident affirmed that although 2012 began with lots of violence against the peaceful Resistance, something positive was that during one of the marches in demand for freedom of those who were detained on that morning, “neighbors of Santa Clara were also fed up with the violence and joined the protest…they would scream ‘abusers’, ‘hunger and misery’ and some of these citizens were even arrested“.  Antunez, like Idania Yanez and Damaris Moya also affirmed that they would not give in or give up in the face of the terror that the Cuban dictatorship tries to impose on its people.  “Despite the beatings“, assures Antunez, “I feel satisfied and convinced that now, more than ever, we are witnessing the final days of the tyranny“.  The dissident classified 2012 as a year of  “importance” for the Cuban Resistance.

Damaris Moya also sent out a direct message to dictator Raul Castro.  “If the supposed measures which Castro was enforcing are just to massacre us, well then we will be massacred because we are going to continue with our marches demanding food for the people, demanding justice and always out on the street“.  Idania Yanez echoed this same attitude:  “Here we are, and we are going to continue with our actions“.

The Cuban Resistance Begins 2012 with Peaceful Protests, Dictatorship Begins with Repression

Partial Summary of Resistance (Nov. 24 – Nov. 27)

The Assembly of the Resistance, coalition which groups more than 50 pro-democracy organizations in and out of Cuba, published a report this past Thursday November 24th through the website of the Cuban Democratic Directorate.  In it, numerous Resistance events which were carried out in honor of the Day of the Resistance were outlined.  There were also lots of reports about repression against dissidents and also many reports of activities which were successfully carried out without arrests or beatings, proving that the Cuban Resistance has been able to surpass certain oppressive operations set in motion by the dictatorship, thanks to their immense bravery, valor, and persistence.

The following reports were also carried out by the Assembly of the Resistance and are other situations which occurred during the Day of the Resistance and the days that followed, up to November 27th:

Thursday. November 24th, 2011

San German, Holguin. Independent journalist and blogger Luis Felipe Rojas informed that there were various dissident homes surrounded by State Security and political police officials since the night of the 23rd.  Among those under strict vigilance were Eliecer Palma Pupo, Jose Antonio Mullet, and Rojas himself.  According to Rojas,  the agents ceased their vigilance (at least the most noticeable) during the morning of the 24th because their main objective was to impede the group of activists from leaving the town of San German.  Despite this, the dissidents took to the local streets and walked to a park where they noticed many people.  Taking advantage of the moment, the dissidents engaged in conversation with the locals, explaining the importance of human rights, the slogan of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Front of “our homes are not prisons“, the work carried out by human rights activists and most importantly that they have inalienable rights to defend their very rights and freedoms.

Villa Clara.  Former political prisoner Librado Linares reported that he had congregated with 14 other dissidents in the home of an independent Baptist minister in Villa Clara.  The group of activists had plans to walk to the Central Freedom Park in the municipality of Camajuani in order to take the message of the resistance to many locals who meet there.  Upon setting out towards the park, however, State Security agents intercepted them and did not allow them to continue walking.  Linares was told that if he did not return home he would be jailed. “I told them that I would not accept my home as a prison“, declared the dissident.  After having said this, he was detained and taken to a detention center in Caibarien.  “I was kept there in a sealed off cell, one in which I have been in many times before“, narrated the former prisoner of conscience.

Placetas, Villa Clara. Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Antunez explained that activists from the Rosa Parks Movement- Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera and Donaida Perez Paseiro- were released during night hours of the 24th.  The female dissidents had been violently arrested on the 23rd while they were on their way to the General Placetas Hospital in search of medical attention for Yris.  Both women carried out a hunger and thirst strike during their entire arrest.  Perez Aguilera explained that during her arrest the chief of State Security for Placetas, Raul Azahari Rodriguez, reiterated to her that she had no right to leave her house, despite the fact that he had already known that she was simply only going to the hospital.  Aguilera added that this upcoming Monday, the 28th, she will once again attempt to travel to the hospital.

Antunez added that the Orlando Zapata Tamayo Resistance Front, along with the Frank Pais 30th of November, have convoked a nation-wide “pots and pans” protest for the following November 30th.

Friday. November 25th, 2011

Mella, Santiago de Cuba.  Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia denounced that in the city of Mella government sponsored mobs threw rotten eggs at the home of dissident Carina Quintana Hernandez.  In addition, the mobs tore down signs and photos of the fallen leader of the Ladies in White, Laura Pollan Toledo.

Placetas, Villa Clara.  Rene Fernandez Quiroga, active member of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo Resistance Front who was arrested on the 24th, was released at around 9 pm on the 25th.  Quiroga’s arrest took place in Sagua la Grande and he was then transferred to the UPO Unit of Santa Clara, according to Antunez, whom also added that “on the 25th they took Rene on the police vehicle number 256 and left him at Kilometer 270 where he was thrown into a truck driving towards Camaguey.  Only later on was he returned to Placetas“.  Quiroga declared that during his ride to Placetas he was victim of a brutal beat-down at the hands of a State Security Lieutenant a political police sub-Lieutenant.

 Sunday. November 27th, 2011 

Santiago de Cuba.  The coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba and former political prisoner Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia also reported that on the night of the 26th 25 Ladies in White were able to surpass chords of police vigilance and made it to the Sanctuary of El Cobre in Santiago.  Ferrer was present at the temple and was able to speak to many of the Ladies.  According to him, on Sunday morning another group of Ladies in White arrived to the sanctuary, adding up to 38 women in total who were able to make it and assist Sunday mass.  “Despite all the operations which agents who are instruments of the political police have been carrying out within the opposition here in the East, as they try to divide and destroy this group of women“, Jose Daniel declared, “they continue growing and consolidating themselves in the Eastern region“.

The 38 Ladies in White who assisted mass were:

1. Belkis Cantillo Ramírez
2. Aimé Calcé Leiva
3. Yumila Rodríguez Palomo
4. Vivian Peña Hernández
5. Yanelis Elégica Despaine
6. Oria Josefa Casanova Moren
7. Tania Bandera González
8. Yunelis González Pavón
9. Milagros Leiva Ramirez
10. Mayelin la O Montero
11. Yarisel Figueredo Valdés
12. Darnis Aguedo Saldval
13. Yaquelin García Jay
14. Yudisladis Travieso Garlobo
15. Yusmari Chacón Lamot
16. Karina Quintana Hernández
17. Danniellys Betancourt Leiva
18. Grisis Reves Sauñó
19. María Alfonso Córdova
20. Elisa Milagro Reinier Acosta
21. Ana Celia Rodríguez Torres
22. Rosaida Ramírez Matos
23. Matilde Mejías Roque
24. Arelis Rodríguez Chacón
25. Aurora Martín Calderín
26. Marcia Odualdo Mustelier
27. Lumila Cedeño Martínez
28. Beatriz Árias Díaz
29. Yanisbel Ayala Callamo
30. Marina Parada Licéa
31. Eluvije Isac Rodríguez
32. Alicia Fonseca Guerrero
33. Yumislaysi Zamora Álvarez
34. Juana Irene Parada Parada
35. Yubisleysi Vázquez López
36. Yaima Vejerado Díaz
37. Yelena Galcé Nápoles
38. Arisnidia Cruz

Ferrer Garcia added that there was a 39th woman who “passed by the Sanctuary yesterday and we have not heard from her since, we believe she may have been detained“.  Her name is Osmeydis Jimenez Dominguez and she is from Moa (Holguin).  Meanwhile, the other 38 women left mass and as of the time of these declarations (late Sunday afternoon) there has been no communication with these women.  It is possible, according to Ferrer, that they may have suffered detentions, though nothing has been confirmed.  What is known, however, is that they were walking through areas which do not have a telephone signal, making it very complicated to communicate with them.

Havana.  Berta Soler informed that 46 women walked along Havana’s 5th Avenue, all of them wearing white and carrying photos of Laura Pollan, as well as their accustomed white gladiolus flowers.  All of them were able to make it to mass in the Santa Rita Church.  Soler explained that “for us it was a very important day because we had received word that in the Eastern region of the country 39 women made it to the Sanctuary of El Cobre.  Those are 39 women who are winning back their public space.  It also means that the community is respecting them“.  In addition, according to Soler, there was also a significant presences of the Ladies in White in Colon, Cardenas, and Perico, all cities of Matanzas province.

Angel Moya, husband of Soler and former political prisoner, reiterated that the National Boitel and Zapata Live March continues active promoting its fundamental points, which are: 1) To not accept our homes as prisons; 2) To not let oneself lose hope; 3) To be non-violent when the repressive forces arrest, and to divulge the objectives of the national march.  The main objectives are that the regime publish, respect, and divulge the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that it ratify all the pacts belonging to it; that repression cease against the opposition and the people in general; that all political prisoners be liberated without any sort of conditions and that all the legal processes which take them to prison in the first place be abolished.

Partial Summary of Resistance (Nov. 24 – Nov. 27)

Prayer Vigil for the Day of Resistance- Nov. 22 (PHOTOS and VIDEO)

The prayer vigil held last night in Miami for the internal Cuban Resistance was a success. Both young and old attended, Cubans and non-Cubans. Prayers were sent up for those who struggle from the inside of the island while the night up with candles. Here is a video with a summary of the event (parts in English, parts in Spanish):

And some photos:

Prayer Vigil for the Day of Resistance- Nov. 22 (PHOTOS and VIDEO)

Prayer Vigil in Solidarity with the Cuban Resistance (Tuesday, November 22th)

Photo taken from the internet

There will be a prayer vigil in Miami tomorrow- Tuesday November 22nd- in solidarity with the Cuban Resistance, whose members have chosen the 24th of each month as the “Day of Resistance“.  Since the 24th of November is Thanksgiving Day in the US, the vigil for this month could not be carried out on that specific day.  Therefore, it will be celebrated two days prior. Internal opposition activists have declared that they will publicly demonstrate throughout the streets of Cuba on the 24th, and the vigil not only aims to create solidarity and pray for them, but also to call attention onto their brave choice to coordinate anti-dictatorial protests throughout the island.

It will take place at 7 pm in Ponce Circle Park (2810 Ponce de Leon Boulevard) in Coral Gables.  According to the Assembly of the Resistance, coalition which organized the event, the invitation is open to anyone- Cuban or not- who wishes to express their solidarity with the internal resistance whose members not only risk their lives and take to the streets on the 24th, but also on a daily basis.

Similar events will be held in other US cities such as New York, New Jersey, and Los Angeles and around the world in cities in Uruguay, Costa Rica, Spain, Mexico and Colombia.

We are all Resistance!

Prayer Vigil in Solidarity with the Cuban Resistance (Tuesday, November 22th)

Assembly of the Resistance Lauches Solidarity Campaign for the “Day of the Resistance”

(Miami, FL)- On the morning of Thursday November 17th, members of the Assembly of the Resistance- coalition which groups more than 50 dissident organizations in and out of Cuba- carried out a press conference in which they called for solidarity with dissidents on the island who risk their lives as they publicly protest against the dictatorship and who have designated every 24th of the month as “the Day of the Resistance“.

Sylvia Iriondo, president of Anti-Repression Mothers and Wives (MAR por Cuba)- also part of the Assembly of Resistance- explained before the cameras of the media that the 24th was chosen by dissidents inside Cuba due to that date’s historic symbolism.  “In Cuba, the war of independence from Spain began on February 24th 1895“, signaled Iriondo, adding that “101 years later, the airplanes of the Brothers to the Rescue were shot down by the Castro dictatorship“, and in addition, on the 24th of February 2010 the political prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died after a lengthy hunger strike and after suffering various savage beatings while behind the bars.

In order to better support the freedom fighters inside the island, the Assembly of the Resistance has decided to effectuate activities throughout diverse cities of the world such as Miami, New Jersey, and Madrid, in coordination with the activists in Cuba.  However, due to the fact that on the 24th of  November and December there will be holiday celebrations throughout the US (and the world), it will be difficult to plan something on those days.  Therefore, for those months the activities will take place a few days before the 24th.  According to declarations made by Aramis Perez,  young Cuban-American activist and member of the Assembly’s secretariat board, for the month of November “we will be holding a prayer vigil” on Tuesday the 22nd in the Ponce Circle Park of Coral Gables (Miami).  “This kind of vigil shows that every Cuban, despite wherever they may be, can be spiritually united with Cubans inside Cuba“, added Perez.

The former president of Uruguay, Luis Alberto Lacalle, a loyal friend of the Cuban freedom cause who was also present in the press conference, affirmed that he too was completely committed to carry out activities for the Cuban resistance in cities throughout Uruguay.  Lacalle explained that friends of his in other countries of the region- such as Mexico and Costa Rica- have confirmed to him that they will also hold demonstrations in their respective cities on the 22nd of the upcoming months.

Bertha Antunez, the exiled sister of dissident Jorge Luis Garcia “Antunez” also spoke and highlighted the perseverance and bravery of the members of Cuban’s internal resistance, those freedom fighters who “carry out public dissident activities throughout the island everyday“, not just on the 24th of each month.  It was precisely on the 24th of September, however, when various activists protested in a street of Havana, outside the home of renowned opposition leader Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo.  On that day, political police officials of the regime violently arrested all those who participated, savagely beating and detaining Fonseca and her husband Julio Leon, who both ended up spending 2 weeks in detainment cells.  As tends to occur during any protest on any date, on October 24th another repressive wave swept through the island as activists in a wide range of cities took to the streets.

In addition, also present were numerous former political prisoners such as Angel de Fana (Plantados Hasta la Libertad), Huber Matos, and Luis Infante (Casa del Preso), along with various unwavering pro-freedom activists.  For all the diverse groups which make up the Assembly of the Resistance, they seek one thing from the exile community, and anyone who is willing to listen: solidarity.

Assembly of the Resistance Lauches Solidarity Campaign for the “Day of the Resistance”