Technology and social networks once again prove their importance when it comes to Cuba, despite the fact that the totalitarian system practices a severe form of censorship.
Caught on camera above is Kenny Aguero, a State Security agent in the province of Matanzas. The photo was taken by former political prisoner Ivan Hernandez Carrillo and published on his Twitter account (@ivanlibre). Aguero operates mainly in the city of Cardenas and is a repressor of dissidents, especially of Ladies in White, such as Leticia Ramos Herreria and Elizabeth Pacheco. He dedicates himself to persecute this women, verbally offend them, arrest them and beat them without mercy (testimony in this audio). In one of his most recent actions against the opposition, he summoned Marisol Fernandez Socorro, also a Lady in White, to a police unit because of her activism out on the streets.
In the following photo, also published by Hernandez Carrillo, is Aurio Cueto, another collaborator of the regime:
According to Ivan, Cueto testified against him and also activist and former prisoner of conscience Felix Navarro during their trial in the Black Spring of 2003, when 75 journalists were sent to prison. Both Matanzas natives were sentenced to 25 years behind bars. Cueto currently continues to keeping a tight vigilance over activists in different cities of Matanzas, as well as helping the police to arrest them for their peaceful activities.
With each photo, each Tweet, and each post in an alternative and free blog, the impunity of the dictatorship continues to dissolve.
For more information from Cuba, contact: Ivan Hernandez Carrillo- 52-599-366 / Twitter: @ivanlibre
Numerous Ladies in White defied police operations and marched throughout Cuba this Easter Sunday, March 31st, to mark the religious date and also to celebrate the 10th anniversary in which they were founded as a movement composed by the mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, aunts and other relatives of the political prisoners rounded up and jailed during the Black Spring. Various arrests of these women were reported at the hands of the political police this Sunday as well.
Laura Labrada, daughter of the fallen leader and founder of the group, Laura Pollan, kicked off the march in the capital, Havana, carrying a photo of her mother. A total of 54 women were present in this march. They were also able to assist Easter Mass at the Santa Rita Church according to former political prisoner of conscience Angel Moya Acosta on his Twitter account (@jangelmoya). Moya added that more than 35 male dissidents accompanied the women.
Sayli Navarro, a young member of the group and daughter of former political prisoner Felix Navarro, tweeted (@SayliNavarro) that a total of 20 Ladies in White marched and assisted Mass in the province of Matanzas.
Meanwhile, in the Eastern region of the country, the political police arrested a total of 24 women between Saturday and Sunday, according to Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU). Among the detainees was his 15 year old daughter, Martha Beatriz Ferrer Cantillo.
“In the case of Martha Beatriz, she was detained twice“, explained Ferrer, “she was first detained when she head out from Palmarito de Cauto alongside 3 other Ladies in White to the El Cobre Shrine during morning hours. She was forcefully returned to her home in Palmarito de Cauto and decided to once again head out to the Shrine. She was detained again“.
The majority of the other detainees were from Santiago de Cuba, Mella and Contramaestre.
Regardless, a total of 43 Ladies in White marched to Mass in the Cobre National Shrine according to the dissident leader, “despite all the repressive actions against them“.
The Ladies in White have proven to be one of the most active and successful pro-freedom movements on the island during the past 10 years. The majority of their members were not public activists when their relatives were arbitrarily arrested and sentenced to years in prison in 2003. However, these women took to the streets just days after to demand the release of their loved ones. From that moment on, the police unleashed a repressive wave against them, consisting of beatings, arrests, and in the majority of the cases, the expulsion of their work centers.
The group has been internationally awarded and acknowledged and they have also been able to practice a significant amount of pressure against the regime, up to the point where their relatives have had to be freed as well as many other political prisoners. Throughout the years, women throughout the country who are not related to any political prisoner but who support and compose the internal opposition began to march alongside the Ladies in White. They became known as “The Ladies of Support“. Eventually, the leaders of the group declared them all Ladies in White.
Laura Pollan, founder and leader of the movement, was taken to her untimely death by the Cuban regime, according to relatives and fellow members of the internal resistance. Yet, Berta Soler has successfully assumed the role of leader of the group, which has only grown and strengthened in recent times.
“The Ladies in White have become very active throughout the entire week“, highlighted Jose Daniel Ferrer, explaining that not only do these women march on Sundays, but also carry out social activities for impoverished citizens and underage children.
State violence has not been able to impede these women from gaining public space and the respect of everyday citizens throughout the country.
In this video published by the independent news agency ‘Hablemos Press’, 53 Ladies in White march down Havana’s popular 5th Avenue carrying small posters with the face of Calixto Ramon Martinez Arias, imprisoned independent journalist who is currently on hunger strike. The women also dedicated the march to the 10th anniversary of the Black Spring, when 75 dissidents (the majority journalist) were jailed and sentenced to years in prison after false, corrupt and very quick trials. The events in this video took place on Sunday, March 18th.
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”.
Lady in White Sonia Garro Alfonso and her husband Ramon Alejandro Munoz have spent exactly one year in prison, without a trial, this Monday 18th of March, the same day of the 10th anniversary of the Black Spring, when 75 dissidents were imprisoned because of their pro-freedom posture.
Garro and Munoz, both members of the Independent Afro-Cuban Foundation, were arrested after being attacked with rubber bullets and suffering a beating by police forces in their Havana home. The prison authorities have not provided any clear information to their relatives as to why they are in prison or why they have not had a trial, although it is obvious that this has happened to them because of their activism. Yamilet Garro, Sonia’s sister, has taken on the task of visiting and taking care of Sonia and Ramon, although many times she has been denied her right to visits or to give them medicines or food, despite the fact that they both have health complications.
Sonia Garro and Ramon Munoz have an underage daughter together, which Yamilet has also been caring for.
In an audio recently published by former political prisoner Iván Hernández Carrillo, Yamilet Garro asked for more solidarity to free her loved ones. Meanwhile, an online petition was created to collect signatures to demand the same, while the hashtag #FreeSoniaGarro has gained much popularity on Twitter and Facebook.
Ladies in White as well as other dissidents throughout the island have dedicated their marches, protests, vigils and other activities in solidarity with Garro, Munoz, and the rest of the political prisoners in the country.
This 17th of March was the first Sunday in which the Ladies in White marched throughout the streets of Cuba with their leader- Berta Soler– out of the country. The women also dedicated their weekly march in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Black Spring, when 75 dissidents (the majority independent journalists) were arrested and sentenced to years of prison after quick trials.
Ivan Hernandez Carillo, an ex political prisoner from this same group of the 75, informed on his Twitter account (@ivanlibre) that in Havana 51 Ladies in White marched and made it to Mass at the Santa Rita Church.
Hernandez also pointed out that in the province of Matanzas a total of 18 women marched. 4 did so in the city of Colon, 3 in Perico, 1 in the Espana Central and another 10 in Cardenas. In Ciego de Avila province 2 women reportedly made it to Mass.
In the Eastern region of the country, 60 Ladies in White assisted Mass in the National ‘El Cobre’ Shrine (Santiago de Cuba) and 8 made it in Guantanamo province.
Former political prisoner (also from the 75) and leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, denounced on his Twitter account (@jdanielferrer) that a group of Ladies in White in the province of Holguin were arrested by the political police, among them the representative of the group in that area, Berta Guerrero Segura.
“These dignified Cuban women suffer persecution, violence, arbitrary arrests, economic asphyxiation, hunger, etc.”, highlighted another tweet by Ferrer.
Isael Poveda Silva, from the Eastern Democratic Alliance, said on his Twitter account (@IsaelCuba) that Lady in White Mildred Noemi Sanchez Infante was “insulted, offended, and arrested by State Security agents” as she was stepping out of her home in Antilla, Holguin. The same thing happened to her last Sunday.
Meanwhile, Berta Soler, national representative of the group, has been denouncing the situation each of these women face on her first trip ever outside of Cuba, on international forums and interviews with diverse media outlets. With the slogan “Yes to Cuba, No to Castro“, Soler has declared that the Ladies in White and the opposition in general have grown stronger despite the regime’s violent tactics and that, in reality, there have been no actual reforms by the totalitarian system, instead “tiny moves” which try to give an image of change to the rest of the world.
The repressive wave known as the Black Spring of 2003 was what led to the creation of this female group, made up by mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and aunts which demanded freedom for their relatives.
This Sunday was also the third anniversary in which many of these women were beaten and violently arrested by police agents in Havana, just days after the death of political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo. These acts of violence are common each Sunday, but when this happened on that March of 2010, the images were captured by the cameras of the international media and went around the world, inspiring a high level of solidarity, including a march of more than 100,000 people in Miami just days later.