Ladies in White make it clear that they will continue on the streets of Cuba

Despite a propaganda-based campaign by the Cuban dictatorship against the Ladies in White in recent days, this 30th of June – the last day of the month – these women managed to march and assist Mass in different areas of the country, demanding freedom for all those Cubans who reside behind bars for thinking differently.

A total of 70 Ladies in White marched in Havana and participated in Mass at Santa Rita Catholic Church, according to a message published by former political prisoner Angel Moya Acosta on his Twitter account (@jangelmoya).  The women were accompanied by 43 male dissidents.

In Matanzas province, 25 Ladies in White carried out their activities on the streets of different cities, reported Sayli Navarro (@SayliNavarro), a young member of the group.

Ivan Hernandez Carrillo, an independent unionist and former political prisoner, confirmed via Twitter (@ivanlibre) that in the central province of Villa Clara 6 Ladies in White marched to and from church without any problems.

Amid police vigilance, 1 Lady in White marched in the province of Ciego de Avila.

Hernandez Carrillo added in the Eastern province of Holguin, despite some arrests, 5 women were able to march.  Among these was Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez, from the municipality of Banes, who managed to march for the first time in 2013.

I’ve been arrested as soon as I step out of my house each Sunday of 2013“, explained Ojeda Suarez to this blog, “and this Sunday I was finally able to march to the Catholic Church of Banes…with strong police vigilance, but I was able to go inside and there were 2 other  Ladies in White from the municipality waiting for me“.

As soon as Mass concluded, the 3 women marched, dressed in white and carrying flowers.

This has been a huge blow for State Security and we are very happy with this in Banes“, expressed Gertrudis, “despite the constant harassment, we carried out our march…and we will continue going out, even if they arrest us“.

In Guantanamo another 11 members of the female group marched and in Granma 5 managed to do so.

Ivan Hernandez added that 44 Ladies in White participated in Mass in El Cobre National Shrine in Santiago de Cuba and later carried out their symbolic march in solidarity with the political prisoners on the island.  State Security had blocked service on Belkis Cantillo’s cell phone for the entire day.  Cantillo is the representative of the group in that province.

The Ladies in White have made it more than clear that they will continue firm, marching out on the streets of Cuba, despite police persecution, while their membership increases.


Ladies in White make it clear that they will continue on the streets of Cuba

Photos: Ladies in White at the Freedom Tower in Miami

This 20th of May 2013, Cuban Independence Day, Cuban exiles and other members of the community of Miami went to the historic Freedom Tower, where hundreds of Cubans passed through in the 1960’s when they arrived to the United States as refugees, to participate in a chat with 3 Ladies in White: Berta Soler (national representative of the group), Laura Labrada (daughter of Laura Pollan) and Belkis Cantillo (representative of the group in Santiago de Cuba).  It was an event organized by Miami Dade College.

Before the chat, the 3 Ladies in White offered a press conference, in which dissident Guillermo Farinas also took part in.  There, they responded various questions by the press and debated topics such as the constant repression they face in the island for trying to assist Sunday Mass, the fact that former political prisoners of conscience can’t travel outside of the country, the warm welcome on behalf of the Cuban exile community and the current situation of the youth on the island.

Soler called on young Cubans on the island to not leave the country and to stay and fight for it, while she also called on the children and grandchildren of the older exiles to keep supporting the struggle for freedom from wherever they are.

Once the last questions were asked by the press, the 3 activists went up on stage, where Miami Dade College’s president, Eduardo Padron, awaited them.  The audience received them with a standing ovation.

Visiting dissident Manuel Cuesta Morua also present in the audience
Laura Labrada greets audience with “L” for “Libertad” (Freedom)

Cuban-born international pop star Gloria Estefan shared some words about the symbolism of the Freedom Tower and about the importance of the Ladies in White and their peaceful activism in Cuba.  She pointed that “we Cubans are just one people, and nothing will ever change that, ever“.  The singer handed the women a plaque with photos of the march in which thousands of Miami residents took to the streets in support of the Ladies in White on March 25 of 2010. The march was convoked by the Estefans after the women were brutally beat by State Police in Havana on March 17th and was caught on film.  Estefan explained that the police authorities of Miami had confirmed to her that more than 230,000 people took part in the historic march for solidarity down Miami’s emblematic Calle Ocho.

Soler, Labrada and Cantillo were interviewed by Miami-based journalist Maria Elvira Salazar.  They discussed topics such as the acts of state repression against them and other dissidents for defending freedom, the current situation of the everyday Cuban citizen, the motives which led them to take up their struggle, their convictions, and the legacy of Laura Pollan, fallen leader of the group.  Her daughter, Laura Labrada, or “Laurita” as she is known within the Ladies in White, affirmed that the regime had to do with Pollan’s death.  In an emotional statement, she also expressed that her mother’s passing only gave her more strength to march not only for the freedom of all political prisoners, but also the freedom of an entire nation.

Before the event came to an end, Eduardo Padron handed the women the Miami Dade College’s Presidential Medal of Freedom with the words “Guardians of Freedom” engraved.

It was another one of those encounters which reminds Cubans that, despite the geographic distance and the difference of ideas, we are only one people, one nation, that fights for freedom and needs each and every one of its sons and daughters to achieve this goal.

Belkis Cantillo. It’s her second trip outside of Cuba. When she returned the first time, she was brutally beat by the police in Santiago de Cuba.

All photos taken by Raul Garcia and Jennifer Hernandez from “Pedazos de la Isla”.  Feel free to share. 


Photos: Ladies in White at the Freedom Tower in Miami

Brutality on behalf of the regime, bravery on behalf of the Ladies in White

A number of Ladies in White were violently attacked and arrested by agents of the Cuban dictatorship this Sunday, April 28th, as they tried to assist Mass to pray for the freedom of Cuba.

One of the women who suffered the worst beatings was Belkis Cantillo Ramírez, representative of the group for the province of Santiago de Cuba who recently returned to Cuba after traveling to Brussels to receive the Sajarov Award alongside Laura Labrada Pollan and Berta Soler.

Cantillo’s arrest took place when a group of these women were on their way to the Rosario Church of Palma Soriano. The activist told ‘Diario de Cuba’ that various men, agents of the political police, were the ones who carried out the beating against her, even punching and attacking the women with umbrellas. “They punched me in one of my breasts, they kicked my ribs”, Belkis told the digital newspaper.

Other detainees were Taimi Vega Biscet, Yaima Naranjo, Mariela Rodríguez, Niurka Carmona, Denia Fernández, Madelaine Santos, Yasnay Ferrer and Yanela Ferrer, according to ex prisoner and dissident José Daniel Ferrer García who published the information on his Twitter account (@jdanielferrer).

Another 30 women managed to make it inside the church, but the political police organized an act of repudiation which consisted in shouts of death threats, racial slurs and other offensive phrases, according to Aime Garces, one of the Ladies inside. She explained to this blog that despite the repression “the Ladies in White will continue firm and without fear”.

Jose Daniel Ferrer recounted that Father Palma displayed solidarity with the persecuted women. On the YouTube channel of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) videos of what happened in Palma Soriano have been published:

In the same channel there are also videos of interviews with some of the detained Ladies in White, here and here.

In other parts of the island, Ladies in White marched and assisted Mass, as was the case in the province of Matanzas and in Havana. Dissident leader and former political prisoner of conscience Angel Moya Acosta published various photos of these women marching in Havana on his Twitter account (@jangelmoya).

Moya recounts that 44 Ladies marched in the capital, demanding the release of Sonia Garro Alfonso (one of their members, jailed for more than a year) and her husband Ramon Alejandro Munoz. They were accompanied by more than 40 men, human rights activists.

Published by @jangelmoya

Meanwhile in Miami, the representative of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, participated in an emotional and very symbolic Mass at the Ermita Shrine, along with exiled Ladies in White and former political prisoners, as well as many members of Miami’s exile community. The Mass, hosted by Father Rumin, was dedicated to the fallen Laura Pollan and all martyrs of the Cuban dictatorship. There was a moment of prayer for the Ladies who were violently arrested that morning in Cuba, simply for trying to do what so many people were doing on that afternoon in Miami.

Soler was handed a Cuban flag with the image of the Virgin of Chartiy, while she presented a Cuban flag at the altar.

A moving surprise came when Cuban musician Amaury Gutierrez showed up to sing “Laura“, a song written by Luis Piloto and dedicated to Laura Pollan. In Cuba, the Ladies in White sing this song each Sunday after carrying out their Sunday marches.

Soler has been received with much affection by the Cuban exile, while she has been seeking more international support for the internal opposition.

Through an excessive amount of violence, the dictatorship has sent a clear message to Berta Soler and other activists who have traveled outside the country to let the world know about the Cuban reality, as was the case of the repression against Belkis Cantillo, just days after having returned from her trip abroad. However, the Ladies in White are also sending out a clear message to that same dictatorship: they do not fear them, they will continue out on the streets and they will not rest until Cuba is free.

Brutality on behalf of the regime, bravery on behalf of the Ladies in White

Ladies in White march in solidarity with victims of violence

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.


Ladies in White march in solidarity with victims of violence

Repression against Ladies in White increases, but they keep marching

Ladies in White in Havana, 4/7/13. Photo by @jangelmoya

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.

Ladies in White in Havana, 4/7/13. Photo by @jangelmoya
Ladies in White in Havana, 4/7/13. Photo by: @jangelmoya
Ladies in White in Cardenas, Matanzas, 4/7/13. Photo by @SayliNavarro
Repression against Ladies in White increases, but they keep marching

Stoning against the Ladies in White, neighbors come out in their defense

State organized mobs assault the Ladies in White

On the night of March 18th, the Cuban political police organized a mob of more than 200 people to attack a group of 50 Ladies in White in Palma Soriano who were holding their monthly meeting, dedicating it to the 10th anniversary of the Black Spring crackdown when 75 dissidents were arrested and sentenced to prison.  These actions resulted in the hospitalization of one of the Ladies in White and the violent arrests of various neighbors who came out in their defense.

Belkis Cantillo, the representative of the Ladies in White in the province of Santiago de Cuba, was present and explained to this blog that the meeting took place without any incidents, but “at around 4 PM, when we were going to leave the house, we noticed that there were mobs on each corner.  It was then that act of repudiation began“.

Cantillo estimated that there were about 200 people in the acts of repudiation, many of them drunkards, and all of them responding to the orders of the political police.  Some of the agents who were at the forefront of the mobs were Edgar, Norberto, Yunier, Ernesto, Rodolfo and Agustin (the latter a chief of the Confrontation Unit in Santiago de Cuba), although the activist points out that these are just code names, seeing as the agents never use their actual names.

In addition, there were underage students in the mob.  They were taken there by their teachers.

The teachers would tell the kids to scream insults at us like ‘worms‘”, said Cantillo, “but the majority of the parents showed up, angry, and punished their children and took them away from there.  They also confronted and protested against the teachers for taking them there without their authorization“.

The mobs remained outside of the home of Denia Hernandez and started to throw rocks against the walls, windows and roof.  There were also underage children inside- 3,8,12, and 15 years old.  The eldest being Martha Beatriz Ferrer, daughter of Belkis and leading dissident Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia.

These kids were terrorized.  All they could hear were the rocks crashing against the walls.  It felt like it was raining rocks, it wouldn’t come to an end“, recounts Belkis, “And the political police was just there, controlling those mobs, encouraging them“.

At one point, one of the rocks landed inside the house of a neighbor.  Clearly bothered, he came out to defend the women.  He wasn’t the only one.

This man came out to defend us.  He told the police officers to stop the violence“, said the Lady in White, “and many other people came out to defend us- both men and women.  In fact, there were 6 women (neighbors) who stood up for us.  They started to shout at the mobs, asking why they were throwing rocks at us because we were only defending our rights”.

The result of the displays of solidarity was the beating and arrest of the 6 women at the hands of the political police.  Each of them were taken away to an undisclosed location.  Two of them were identified on Jose Daniel Ferrer’s Twitter account (@jdanielferrer) as Jessica Hernández and Maricela Chea.

Meanwhile, the Lady in White Miraida Martin was physically assaulted by the mobs when she stepped out of the house.  The aggression was so intense that she had to be urgently rushed to the clinic of Palma Soriano, where they had to give her oxygen, according to another tweet by Ferrer Garcia, which also detailed that she was in “a very delicate state of health“.

The home of Denia Hernandez remained under police vigilance long after the mobs began to disperse at around 9 PM.  It remained that way all night long.

Belkis Cantillo said that despite the fact that they were very violent moments, the Ladies in White were not afraid, although they are “very worried about the women who defended us and were assaulted.  They are still detained and were very beat, being held in an undisclosed location“.

Her husband and leader of UNPACU, Jose Daniel Ferrer, added on Twitter that the 6 women demonstrated a high level of bravery and expressed that “when everyone who desires a better future does the same as Jessica, Maricela, and the rest of the neighbors, the abuses, the hunger, and the misery will come to an end”.

For more information from Cuba, contact:

Belkis Cantillo- Cell Phone: +58-323-612

Stoning against the Ladies in White, neighbors come out in their defense

Adolescent dissident maintains position after being mistreated by professors in her school

Martha Beatriz Ferrer Cantillo

Just days from turning 15, Martha Beatriz Ferrer Cantillo– daughter of renown dissident Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia and Lady in White Belkis Cantillo Ramirez– is being victim of a blackmail and harassment campaign at the hands of functionaries of the Communist Party and teachers from her school, the Pre-University of Palmarito de Cauto. The smear campaign culminated in an argument and a physical aggression against the young student when she expressed her opinion during a political act which she had been tricked into attending during class time.

Ferrer Cantillo says that harassment against her and the rest of her family is constant, but that in the last two weeks it has increased in school. “The professors and the members of the Communist Party are very bothered because the students in my class agree with me when I say my opinion“, said the youth, “it hurts them that I have friends and that they visit my house often“.

In addition, points out Ferrer, “a few days ago a professor started teaching a history class, in which he said that in Cuba human rights were not violated, to which I raised my hand and responded, saying that it wasn’t true. And my classmates agreed with me“.

This past Monday, December 10th, precisely when International Human Rights Day was being celebrated throughout the world, the professors of her school announced a mandatory activity. When Martha Beatriz asked if it was a political act- which she always refuses to attend- all her professors assured her that it was a “common” activity. She noticed that this allegation wasn’t true upon entering the place, seeing that in fact it was a political activity.

The event started with a couple of kids from the primary school- who were being manipulated and pressured by the professors- who went up on stage and started saying that human rights are respected in Cuba, and that Fidel Castro is one of the leaders of the revolution who most respects these rights“, recounts Martha Beatriz, who did not wait to respond. “I quickly said that in Cuba human rights are not respected- nothing of the sort. Suddenly, a member of the Communist Party hit me on my arm and told me to shut up, saying that I did not have the right to say that“.

At that moment, the adolescent left the classroom, declaring that she would not return to school until her opinions are respected.

I’m not going back to school until they apologize to me for doing this and until my rights are respected“, she said. However, Martha explains that her classmates were once again supporting her during the entire ordeal.

Jose Daniel Ferrer, father of Martha Beatriz, added that there are already a number of police operations which have already been set in motion to impede his daughter’s friends from coming to their home to celebrate her birthday this Thursday, December 13th.

In one of his tweets, Ferrer (@jdanielferrer) highlights that “members of the Communist Party and of the Education sector are already pressuring classmates of Martha Beatriz so that they won’t associate themselves with her” and also “pressuring their parents“.

On her part, Martha Beatriz, who is also one of the youngest Ladies in White in Cuba, affirms that her position in regards to the situation has not changed with the passing of the days. The youth has been beat and detained by the political police on a number of occasions for participating in activities of the Ladies in White and the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and says that she will not allow manipulations from her teachers and members of the Communist Party to cause any fear in her, assuring that she will continue expressing her thoughts.

For more information from Cuba:

José Daniel Ferrer García – Cell Phone: +5353-146-740 // Twitter: @jdanielferrer

Adolescent dissident maintains position after being mistreated by professors in her school