Cuban dissident Luis Enrique Santos Caballero, who has been on hunger strike since May 24th demanding a home after he was evicted by the regime, is in an extremely delicate state of health, according to various reports coming from the island this week.
Members of the opposition such as Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo and Felix Reyes Gutierrez wrote on their Twitter accounts (@SaraMartaCuba and @FelixReyesGutie, respectively) that Santos Caballero “is suffering from a hypoglycemia crisis with much frequency, he runs the risk of dying at any moment” and that in dawn hours of July 16th, he “lost consciousness on three occasions”, classifying his state as “critical”.
Carlos Michael Morales Rodriguez, an independent blogger and a member of the Central Opposition Coalition, a pro-freedom group which Santos also belongs to, has been echoing the severity of the situation, offering a detailed report to ‘Radio Republica’ in regards to the health of the striker.
“The hunger striker is suffering a hepatic paralysis and his liver is starting to stop working or possibly could have already stopped”, detailed Morales Rodriguez in the audio, pointing out that the striker only has one kidney. He lost the other vital organ during a severe beating by jailers while he was in prison.
In addition, Morales highlighted that Luis Enrique Santos has been on hunger strike for 54 days as of this 17th of July. During these nearly 3 months of protest, Santos has been beat and threatened by members of the political police, and has also been lied to and manipulated by these same forces. However, he has said that he will keep up his protest to the final consequences, demanding what belongs to any Cuban citizen: a place to reside and establish one’s life.
On the night of Wednesday, April 17th, Cubans in diverse parts of the country rang their pots and pans as a display of support and solidarity with the Venezuelan opposition, a movement which also uses these methods of civil disobedience.
The protest was convoked by the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front, a coalition which groups numerous internal opposition organizations. Other groups, as well as members of Cuba’s civil society, participated.
Jorge Luis García Pérez ‘Antúnez’, secretary general of the Front, said in an audio published on his YouTube account that “a group of members of the Cuban resistance in different provinces shook neighborhoods and towns with the pots and pans protest” despite the fact that “the political police had a violent reaction against these activists”.
In the city where Antunez lives- Placetas, Villa Clara (right in the center of Cuba) – dissidents rang their pots and pans despite being surrounded by political police agents which threw rocks and shouted profanity. One of the rocks hit a 6 year old as well as the leading dissident Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, president of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights, who is still suffering from a brutal beat-down at the hands of State Security agents in March.
Santa Clara (another city in the province of Villa Clara) was the scene of another demonstration, where member of the Central Opposition Coalition met at the home of Damaris Moya Portieles to carry out the protest. There, the political police arrested various dissidents, while they organized a violent act of repudiation. Regardless, independent blogger Carlos Michael Morales said that those present began to shout “Down with Nicolas Maduro, Down with Communism” and “Long Live Capriles“.
Other pots and pans protests were reported in the province of Camaguey, according to activist Santos Fernandez Sanchez, member of the Pro-Human Rights Party of Cuba. Former political prisoner of conscience Librado Linares Garcia reported on his Twitter account (@LibradoLinares) that in Cienfuegos there were also protests, which provoked a violent reaction by the State police.
In Havana, numerous demonstrations were reported in more than 6 different municipalities, according to dissident Jose Diaz Silva. Among the municipalities was Boyeros, where Lady in White Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo carried out a significant pots and pans protest along with her family and other activists. Agents of the Rapid Response Brigades and the political police surrounded the house and began to throw rocks, dirty water, eggs, tar and even used condoms. Julio Leon Fonseca, husband of Sara Marta, received a death threat from one of the agents in the mob.
“We have done this in support of the Venezuelan opposition, who are out on the streets demanding their rights”, said Sara Marta Fonseca in an audio published on ‘Radio Republica’, “they [the political police] have broken our windows…they came in to our porch and tore down signs. These are the things dictatorships do when they are about to topple…they are very bothered because the pots and pans rang in many parts of Cuba in support of the opposition and people of Venezuela”, said the dissident.
Alternative blogger Yusnaby Perez said on his Twitter account (@Yusnaby) that pots could be heard in parts of Central Havana.
“Not only in Central Havana”, read another message by Perez, “the pots and pans could also be heard in the town of Santa Fe…there are people on the street with signs”.
He managed to publish a video of the demonstration on YouTube minutes later:
Other pots and pans protests were confirmed in places like Mayabeque, Granma, Holguin and Guantanamo.
“We paid tribute and showed our support with our brothers in Venezuela, a country which was victim of a grotesque electoral fraud at the hands of Nicolas Maduro’s regime which is trying to perpetuate itself in power”, reiterated Antunez, “may these words serve to send all of Venezuela our respect, our admiration, our affection, and so that they know that the Cuban Resistance stands with them”.
Each day, there are more Cubans who, through the “internet without internet”, use Twitter to narrate the real Cuba and to shatter censorship. They are dissidents, bloggers, intellectuals, farmers…Cubans hailing from diverse corners of the country. It’s difficult for them to send out these messages, considering that it costs 1 dollar (an elevated amount for Cubans), and yet, they still do it.
The following are a couple of follow recommendations of new or recent Twitter users, straight from the island:
Maydelis González Almeida
Resident of Quemado de Guines, Villa Clara, member of the Cuban Reflection Movement. She and her family are constantly persecuted by the political police but they continue defying the dictatorship out in the streets.
Carlos Michael Morales
An independent journalist and alternative blogger (‘El Amante de la Libertad’), Carlos Michael is also a member of the Central Opposition Coalition. He has used his account to denounce cases of political repression, social issues and achievements by pro-freedom activists.
Isael Poveda Silva
Member of the Eastern Democratic Alliance and of their information agency ADO-Press, Isael Poveda tweets from Guantanamo, narrating the reality of that Eastern region: cholera outbreaks, signs which appear in public with anti-regime messages, public marches, evictions, and more.
Santa Gonzalez Pedroso
A very brave Cuban woman, member of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights, she carries out frequent public protests alongside other dissidents in Grua Nueva, Ciego de Avila. Santa Gonzalez does an excellent job on Twitter denouncing human rights violations in that area and documenting the growing level of opposition.
Tweeting from San German, Holguin, Eliecer just opened his account, promising important news from the Cuba ignored by the state media. Palma has been reporting important social issues, like a recent massive strike by carriage drivers in San German.
Yanisbel Valido Perez
One of the most active young dissidents in the city of Santa Clara, Villa Clara province. Valido Perez is the representative of the Cuban Rafters without Frontiers Movement and member of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights. She is frequently arrested by the political police but does not stop carrying out public activities in favor of freedom, nor does she stop informing about them on her account.
These were just some of the new Twitter users from Cuba. Everyday there are more. Give them a follow!
“With all and for the good of all” – one of the most famous phrases by Jose Marti is, perhaps, also one of the ideas which the totalitarian system in Cuba fears the most, proven- year after year- every 28th of January when countless uniformed agents are sent out throughout the island to try and impede civic demonstrations to commemorate the anniversary of his birth. 2013, the 160th anniversary, was no exception.
The police operations began on Sunday the 27th. In Palma Soriano, Santiago de Cuba, the home of dissident Yuniesky Dominguez Gonzalez– member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU)– was attacked with feces, staining the door and windows. Dominguez directly blamed the political police for this, since he and his wife, Lady in White Taimi Vega Biscet, had plans to carry out a tribute to Marti.
“These are methods employed by the political police, I hold them responsible as well as the Communist Party and all other instruments of the regime“, said the activist.
Meanwhile, despite police vigilance and direct threats by State Security, in Havana 41 Ladies In White managed to carry out their traditional march to Santa Rita Church and later to Mahatma Gandhi Park (See video, courtesy of ‘Hablemos Press’). These women deposited flowers in a statue of Marti in that park and commenced to read various phrases by the poet.
In Cardenas, Matanzas, Leticia Ramos Herreria and other Ladies in White marched for 26 blocks until they arrived to a local park to also deposit flowers in another Jose Marti statue. This achievement bothered the authorities to the point that State Security officials summoned Ramos to a police unit for the following day. The activist recounts that she was threatened and offended during the interrogation but that she refused to sign any sort of document and let them know very clear that she would continue going out to the streets of Cuba.
On Monday, the 28th, the repression increased but so did the peaceful and public demonstrations. In the same province of Matanzas, but in the city of Colon, Juan Francisco Rangel was also summoned to the police station and later surrounded in his own home by agents to try and impede a march. However, he managed to take to the streets along with other activists from the Pedro Luis Boitel Party for Democracy, successfully carrying out the activity and depositing flowers for Marti, according to a Tweet published by Carlos Olivera (@COliveraCuba).
In Santa Clara, Villa Clara, a group of dissidents from the Central Opposition Coalition also took to the streets shouting slogans in favor of change and honoring Marti. They were all violently arrested, according to a report by independent journalist and blogger Carlos Michael Morales Rodríguez.
Not too far from that city, in Placetas, members of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front carried out a protest against the regime, also screaming slogans such as “Jose Marti Lives“, as was captured in an audio published by ‘Radio Republica’ in the voice of dissident leader Jorge Luis García Pérez ‘Antúnez’.
A successful march with signs containing anti-regime messages and Jose Marti phrases took place on the streets of Quemado de Guines, Villa Clara, by various members of the Cuban Reflection Movement, among them Maydelis Gonzalez Almeida, who said the march “took place despite strong police vigilance“.
Despite acts of repudiation and some arrests, in Camaguey a public activity was carried out by activists of the Pro-Human Rights Party of Cuba, said Daniel Millet Jimenez.
In Grua Nueva, Ciego de Avila, dissidents of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights and from the Pedro Luis Boitel Resistance Movement congregated to honor Jose Marti.
Throughout the Eastern region of the country, members of the Eastern Democratic Alliance in Baracoa, according to Francisco Luis Manzanet Ortiz, and of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy (CYMD) in Velasco, according to Yonart Rodríguez Avila, also carried out their own meetings, marches and demonstrations in honor of Marti. Yoandri Montoya Aviles said that in Bayamo, members of the Youth Movement of Bayamo paid homage to the “Apostle of Cuba”.
CYMD also carried out other activities in the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, in Havana, publishing some photos of the events in their blog. In the same province, Lady in White Sara Marta Fonseca held a vigil and an encounter in her home located in Rio Verde, Boyeros.
UNPACU also published some testimonies on their YouTube channel detailing repressive actions against activists for trying to carry out their own tributes in Guantanamo.
Former political prisoner of conscience Ivan Hernandez Carrillo published a series of Twitter messages (@ivanlibre) denouncing that dissidents Pastor Alexis Huerta and Carlos Alberto Gómez, members of the Independent and Democratic Cuba Party (CID), were violently arrested in the central city of Sancti Spiritus also for trying to carry out similar tributes as those occurring throughout the country. Cases of repression, police cordons, and beatings were also confirmed in Pinar del Rio against other CID members and the Pinar del Rio Democratic Alliance.
These were only a few of the events which took place on the island between the 27th and 28th of January, when Cubans paid tribute to one of the figures most representative of their culture- a culture which does not belong just to one political group or dictator.
“A just cause, from the bottom of a cave, is more powerful than any army”