Testimonies of repression and Resistance (January 8th, Pt. II)

Franklin Peregrino (during hunger strike in 2010) along with his wife, Lady in White Berta Guerrero

Franklin Peregrino del Toro: “The Pope needs to know about this when he comes to Cuba”

The home of the dissident couple, Franklin Peregrino del Toro and Berta Guerrero, in the municipality of Cacocum, Holguin, was under vigilance since January 6th and until the 8th when State Security agents beat and detained both just for trying to assist mass in the local Catholic Church.

According to Peregrino himself, the arrest occurred right outside his home.  “We were beaten, dragged, and then detained”, narrated the Eastern dissident, adding that he suffered physical blows “on the arms, hands, and elbows” as the agents applied a martial arts immobilization lock on h im and aggressively pinned him down to the floor.  In the same aggressive manner, Franklin and Berta were thrown into a State Security vehicle.

The dissidents were held in a Police Unit of Cacocum, where they were threatened and harassed until 12 in the afternoon.  When they were released and returned back home, they noticed that there were still State Security and Rapid Response Brigade agents surrounding their home, which remained under tight vigilance until 11 pm.

We are condemning, before the eyes of the world, all the violations committed by Cuban State Security”, declared Franklin Peregrino del Toro, highlighting that both he and his wife will continue publicly demonstrating against the Castro dictatorship.  Peregrino added that he would do everything in his possible reach to take his denouncements to Pope Benedict himself when he visits the island in March, considering that the repression does not even let dissidents assist their respective churches.

The Pope needs to know about this when he comes to Cuba, he needs to know as well that the Ladies in White can’t even march through their own streets”.

Dissident Family, Including Small Girl, Violently Oppressed by Cuban Agents for Trying to get to Church

The dissident couple- Franklin Peregrino del Toro and Berta Guerrero Segura- along with their very young daughter, were violently attacked by officials from the Cuban regime while they were trying to get to a Catholic Church in Holguin province from Cacocum this past Sunday December 4th.

According to Peregrino, it was around 7:50 in the morning when an official known as Raymundo intercepted the family along the way on the Central road from Holguin-Bayamo known as “Los Amarillos”.  Raymundo let them know that they were not allowed to continue on their path.  “I told him that it was not possible, that it was so unbelievable that I wanted to direct myself to the Pope himself to tell him about these violations“, declared Franklin, classifying the abuses not only as human rights violations but religious rights violations.  The official responded by saying that even if the Pope were consulted he did not care, he was not going to stop his mission of impeding the dissident’s from moving freely.

As a form of protest, the three Cubans sat down on the side of the road (Bertha with her young child in her arms) when “another political police official showed up with another State Security agent. They grabbed me by the arm, twisted it, hit me on the neck and forced me up“, explained the dissident who continued to non-violently resist the arrest, sitting down on the floor once more.

It was at that moment that the uniformed oppressors physically assaulted Berta Guerrero and her small daughter.  “They grabbed them also by the arms and pushed them.  Another official by the name of Vilma arrived and grabbed my daughter by her arm, digging her nails down on her skin.  Now she is wounded there“, the activist denounced.

The three were arrested and during the whole aggressive operation a member of the regime’s Rapid Response Brigade began to offend them verbally, especially Berta.  “That person shouted to my wife that they were going to break her mouth, while Vilma continued pushing her.  Meanwhile, Raymundo took me in the front, pushing me and hitting me“.

Peregrino, Guerrero, and their daughter were taken to a police unit on Camilo Cienfuegos Street in Cacocum, where they were kept until around 10:40 in the morning.  Although compared to other detentions this one did not last particularly as long, the dissidents suffered various physical blows, a minor was harassed and hurt, and they suffered constant threats while they were being held in separate cells.

Franklin Peregrino narrated that when they were released, they were warned that they could not step out of their municipality , to which he replied with the slogan of the National Boitel and Zapata Live March: that his house was not a prison.

We were only going to Church to pray for the political prisoners and for a free and democratic Cuba“, said Peregrino, assuring that he will not stop doing so.

Constant Violations Against Dissidents Franklin Peregrino and Berta Guerrero

Franklin Peregrino and his wife, Berta Guerrero, during a hunger strike carried out by Peregrino in 2010

This past Saturday November 12th in Cacocum, Holguin, the Cuban dissident Franklin Peregrino del Toro, who is director of the opposition organization Republican Party of Cuba (PRC), was victim of a violent repressive crackdown along with his wife, independent journalist Berta Guerrero Segura, at the hands of State Security and Rapid Response Brigade officials. 

The violence began as soon as the dissident couple decided to step out of their own house on that same Saturday.  “The government officials (who had been surrounding my home for a while) harassed me and then threw me on the floor and began to beat me on the head“, denounces del Toro, adding that his wife was also victim of the physical aggressions.   “The agents then twisted my right arm upward and continued the beating until police vehicles arrived to detain me“.

Although she was beaten and threatened, Guerrero was able to remain in the house, but del Toro was detained and taken to the National Revolutionary Police Unit, where he was kept for three hours.  Upon being released, Franklin returned to his home and decided to continue carrying out his dissident activities. 

On the following day- Sunday- both Peregrino and Guerrero decided to assist mass in the local church.  It was around 7:40 AM when the same story unfolded.  Franklin explains that “a State Security official by the name of Reymundo told us that we could not leave our house“.  The dissident’s response was the same one echoed by so many other Cuban freedom fighters within the past months: “my house is not a prison“.  Franklin then commenced to leave his house and was able to make it outside, though the police vehicles were already on their way.  “I was detained at around 7:50 and this time they kept me until 9:30 AM but the vigilance and aggression has been constant since then“, he denounces. 

As of that moment, the home of Franklin and Berta was completely surrounded by government agents (among them agents Pena Silva, Reymundo, and Canegue) who remained for a very long portion of the day outside, hurling insults at the couple and threatening them.  “They reiterated that we could not step out of our house, and much less out of the municipality of Cacocum, and my wife and I simply reiterated that our home is not a prison“.

Months of Repression 

Franklin Peregrino and Berta Guerrero also denounced that, along with numerous dissidents throughout the region and the entire island, they have been suffering entire months of repression.  In his personal case, Peregrino explains that “September was also a month defined by constant repression against us“, referring to the 19th when he was brutally detained in the province of Holguin and kept in horrid conditions until the 22nd in the ‘El Anillo’ Unit.  During this detention, the dissident carried out a hunger strike which left him with serious health issues.  “In addition, I also contracted a fever and a virus.  They had forced me to share a cell with a young man who was infected with some sort of virus, he was very sick and it spread to me.  This is a tactic which the government uses on purpose“.

Now, during November, the repression has escalated once more.  We are constantly being watched, in every part of this town“, Peregrino states.

For the young Franklin and his wife, it is very difficult to live under these conditions, especially when the couple has a 2 year old daughtr and a 14 year old son to look after.  “They impede us even from going out to get food for our kids.  It is very exhausting“.

Message for the Cuban dictators

Despite the difficulties faced by Franklin Peregrino del Toro and Berta Guerrero Segura, both have decided to convert their suffering into resistance, sending out a clear and direct message to the dictatorship which rules over the country with an iron fist.  “We are not stepping down“, expresses Peregrino, “we are going to maintain ourselves very firm and will continue denouncing the abuses because the impunity must cease.  We are going to denounce every violation committed by the Castro dictatorship.  I will always say ‘Down with the Castros’ and we will always be against them because we are defending the people“.

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Below is an audio (in Spanish) of Franklin Peregrino, delivering his message to the Cuban dictatorship:em>