Ladies in White throughout the country made it to Mass and carried out their weekly march this last Sunday of 2012, the 30th of December, after a year in which repression against them, and the opposition in general, has increased drastically.
32 of these women arrived at Mass in the Santa Rita Church of Havana, 7 in Pinar del Rio, 20 in Matanzas, 6 in Guantanamo, 2 in Ciego de Avila and 2 in Holguin, affirmed Berta Soler, representative of the female group.
Soler considered the situation to be “an achievement“, considering that in nearly all the cases, in the mentioned provinces the Ladies in White arrived at their respective churches, surpassing police cordons and evading arrests, except in Holguin where 9 of the women were detained.
The detainees in the mentioned Eastern province were Bertha Guerrero Segura, Ana María Aguilera Panque, Romelia Piña González, Marlene Abreu Almaguer, Rosa María Naranjo Nieve, Eleiny Villamonte Cardozo, Viviana Campo, Eunices Céspedes Estrada y Bárbara Bauza Driggs.
Bertha Guerrero, representative of the group in Holguin, detailed that the arrests occurred during early morning hours, especially that of Eunices Cespedes, resident of the municipality of Velasco, who was abruptly arrested at 4 in the morning.
“They kept us arrested up to around 12:30 in the afternoon, after Mass had ended in the Jesus Christ Redeemer of Men Church“, said Guerrero, “Afterward, they left us stranded in different parts on the outskirts of Holguin, forcing us to walk miles to get to our homes“. State Security agents placed a video camera this year in front of the mentioned church to keep watch over the Ladies. The same camera had previously been installed outside the home of recently exiled Lady in White and human rights activist Caridad Caballero Batista, who also suffered countless arrests this year for trying to make it to church. The camera was relocated as soon as she left the country.
During her arrest, Bertha Guerrero denounced that the Second Chief of Confrontation, known as Yordanis Martinez Leon, told her that “if the Ladies in White want to make it to church, we’d have to buy ourselves a helicopter to drop us off at the church because they were never going to let us get there“. It is not the first time this repressor tells her that.
“Sunday after Sunday we have been detained and, in addition, also threatened with our children and families“, added Guerrero, citing the case which also occurred this Sunday, where one of the detainees- Barbabra Bauza- “had her son arrested because on Saturday, some citizen burned a Cuban flag in the Calixto Garcia park. Her son was arriving home in the morning and since State Security had not been able to arrest or blame anybody, they did so with him, taking him to the instructional unit known as Pedernales. Agent Rafael Chapman, of State Security, told Barbara that he does not care if her son is a minor (16 years of age), for he would invent a crime for him and take him to prison. This happens simply because he is the son of a Lady in White“. She added that the women are ready to take to the streets in protest to demand his freedom.
Guerrero said that despite the repression, the Ladies in White of Holguin will continue marching and that she has hope that 2013 will bring good things for Cuba.
In an emotional case, Leticia Ramos Herreria, representative of the Ladies in White in the province of Matanzas, explained that in addition to the fact that 20 women of the province made it to Mass, in the church known as “The Parish” in the city of Cardenas, a group of these acitvists were greeted with respect and admiration by churchgoers.
“The people rose from their seats when it was time to share the greeting of peace, and they came up to us, hugged us, and gave us their blessings“, recounted Ramos, “When we left the church, we carried out our march and many people also came up to us, displaying their support, greeting us, saying that we are doing the right things and saying that they hope more people rise like us“.
Leticia said she felt lots of happiness, considering that “we have achieved to carve out a space not only in the church but also amongst the people“.
There have been far too many beatings, arrests, deportations, threats, and other forms of State persecution and violence against the Ladies in White this 2012. In fact, one of the most repressive of cases occurred in February when two members of the group- one from Pinar del Rio and the other from Palma Soriano- suffered miscarriages after police arrested and harassed them. Their names are Noralys Martin Hernandez and Taimi Vega Biscet. (Read more about these cases here).
Regardless, everything signals that the increase in repression is attributed to the fact that the group has significantly increased in size and that its members have not stopped defying the dictatorship for one moment. They have been persistent in their marches, declarations and activities.
“Despite the repression“, said Berta Soler, “the most important thing is that the Ladies in White will continue stronger and more prepared than ever. We will continue our peaceful struggle for the freedom of all political prisoners as well as the respect of human rights in 2013. We will continue to grow throughout the island. The Cuban government’s repression has only made us more united“.
For more information from Cuba:
Berta Soler- Cell Phone: +5352-906-820
Bertha Guerrero Segura- Cell Phone: +5353-632-110
Leticia Ramos Herrería- Cell Phone: +5352-481-807