The young Cuban Yunior Ramirez Roca is the cultural promoter of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy, an opposition group which, as the name suggests, focuses on working with the youth of the island. 28-year old Ramirez also distinguishes himself as a Hip-Hop dancer, or B-Boy, and dedicates much of his time to impart classes to other youths in Havana in this style of dance with the purpose of keeping them away from drugs, alchoholism and participation in State events such as acts of repudiation against non-conformists.
The following video was published by the CYMD on its YouTube channel and shows a performance by Ramirez Roca. It is precisely because of these dances and his project to attract the youth that State Security has violently arrested him on various occassions. In the two most recent cases the authorities have deported the activist from the capital to Isle of Youth (originally known as Isle of Pines), his place of birth, despite the fact that he has been living in Havana for several years.
During his arrests Yunior has been threatened by police officials that if he continues in the opposition and working with civil society he would be sent to prison. Apparently, his Hip-Hop dance skills turn out to be very dangerous for the military regime of Havana.
UPDATED on November 19th 2013: Eriberto Liranza Romero, president of the CYMD, informed via text message that Yunior Ramirez was arrested once again on Monday, November 18th in Havana and is being held in the police unit known as “El Vivac”.
Yunior Ramirez Roca is the 26 year old Cultural Promoter for the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy. He dedicates his time to handing out pro-freedom literature on the streets of Havana as well as using art – specifically music and dance – to carry out activities aimed to attract young Cubans and keep them away from drugs and alcohol, as well as keeping them away from participating in State-sponsored acts of violence and propaganda.
At around 6 AM on Saturday, October 5th, agents of Cuba’s political police pounded on the door of the home where Yunior had been living in the Cotorro neighborhood of Havana. Shocked and confused, the onwer of the house- a lady named Maria – opened the door just to find the police barge in and forcefully take Yunior, destination unknown, according to Eriberto Liranza, president of the CYMD.
No one knew where Yunior was being kept for various days until Liranza finally managed to investigate and confirm late in the week that the young dissident was being held in the detention center known as Vivac.
After further invesigation, Liranza confirmed that “the police wants to deport Yunior Ramirez to Isle of Youth”. The Isle of Youth is a small island-province below mainland Cuba and was originally known as Isle of Pines before the Castro dictatorship took over.
Eriberto explained that Ramirez is originally from the mentioned province but has been living in Havana for some time now. His activism is enough reason for the State to try and get rid of him and maintain him in a more isolated location.
“On behalf of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy, we hold the regime accountabile for the life of Yunior Ramirez Roca”, declared Liranza.
The Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy (MCJD), a pro-freedom group made up of young activists in different regions of the country, has launched their own YouTube channel, where they will publish videos of activities they carry out as well as videos which show the Cuban reality, according to the president of the group, Eriberto Liranza Romero.
The first video which MCJD has published was one where some of its members are turning in a document demanding an end to the Law of Pre-Criminal Social Dangerousness to the General Fiscal Office of the Republic (Havana). The law dictates that any person who is suspicious of possibly committing a crime in the near future could be sent to prison. The same law has taken thousands of young Cubans to prisons arbitrarily. MCJD carried out a campaign of debates this past 23rd and 24th of April with young Cubans throughout the country in regards to the law. The majority of the participants agreed that the law should be abolished. They drafted a document with the same demands, including numerous signatures.
Eriberto Liranza presents the video, where 3 activists hand in the document with signatures, surprisingly without suffering arrests, although towards the end a guard orders the person filming to stop doing so:
You can check out MCJD’s new channel by searching for “CubaMCJD” on YouTube.
Death threats, nocturnal attacks, persecution and confrontations against human rights activists of different pro-freedom groups. Those are the scenes being reported from Velasco, Holguin. In all of these cases, government officials- retired and active- have been signaled as the culprits.
This April 1st, Yonart Rodriguez Avila, the representative of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy in the Eastern region of the country, denounced that while he was with his mother, Lady in White Mariblanca Avila Exposito, in their home, the retired Rapid Response Brigade official Miguel Leyva Leyva showed up to offend and threaten them.
“Leyva Leyva said that he is the owner of this area and that he would destroy our home and anything we build“, said Yonart, explaining that the repressor had threatened to destroy a small fence they had been building around the house a few days before.
“I want to mention that this individual is very dangerous“, said the dissident, “He dedicates himself to provoke activists out on the street. If he walks near us on the street he bumps into us on purpose, he spits towards us, and he asks us what we are looking at“.
Leyva has participated in acts of repudiation and beatings against dissidents in Velacsco, as well as other regions of Holguin.
George Luis Leyva Ferras, of the Cuban Youth Movement and the Eastern Democratic Alliance, reported that on March 31st the dissident Julio Perez Zaldivar, of the Republican Party of Cuba, received a death threat by an active functionary of the Rapid Response Brigades named Mario Naranjo Sanchez.
“Naranjo Sanchez told this activist that he was carrying a gun, which the political police gave him and authorized him to use as he wished, and that on his list to kill was Perez Zaldivar, my wife Daylin Guerrero and me [Leyva Ferras]“.
The agent also told Leyva Ferras that “all the karate experts in Velasco are at his disposition so that, when he decided, they attack us“.
Meanwhile, on April 1st Miguel Leyva, Mario Naranjo, Fernando Molina and Ruben Velazquez (whom all operate together) were seen walking through the streets of Velasco carrying knives, according to neighbors.
“A neighbor who is my friend confirmed this to me“, explained Ferras, “and the same neighbor heard them say that they were going to stab me to death. The repressors are saying this everyday“.
The homes of Mariblanca Avila and Eirnice Cespedes, respectively, have also been stoned during the night recently.
Also, on the night of April 2nd, activist Raul Rodriguez Leyva, of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) was assaulted by an unidentified person who tried to stab him. Rodriguez managed to escape the attack, dodging the stabs, but the knife sliced the dissident’s shirt, according to Yonart Rodriguez. This happened on 18th Street in the Varona neighborhood of Velasco.
José Daniel Ferrer García, leader of UNPACU, denounced the same situation on his Twitter account (@jdanielferrer), explaining that those nocturnal attacks “are ordered by the regime’s political police”.
Rodriguez Avila described it as “an attempt on the activist’s life“.
Among the recently threatened and affected dissidents are Mariblanca Avila Expositio, Yonart Rodriguez Avila, Julio Perez Zaldivar Raul Rodriguez Leyva, Eirnice Cespedes Estrada, George Luis Leyva Ferras and Daylin Guerreron, as well as the two small children of the latter- Jason (3 years old) and Jessica (1). Within this group there were members of the Ladies in White, the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy, the Republican Party of Cuba, the Patriotic Union of Cuba and the Eastern Democratic Alliance.
Some of these activists have turned to state organisms to denounce their cases but the functionaries have ignored their claims.
“We want to send an alert to the world about these situations, and not only what is happening to us, but what is happening with all activists in Cuba“, said Yonart Rodriguez Avila, “we say no to violence, no to death, no to abuses and we say no to beatings“.
“Anything that happens to us is the fault of the regime and its repressors… they are capable of doing anything against us“.
During afternoon hours of February 26th, in Havana, a building located directly across the street from the Central Train Station collapsed, killing one 15 year old boy who was trapped in the rubble, and injuring another two, according to “Hablemos Press” . The scene turned even more chaotic when various political police agents who were present lashed out against various people who were trying to figure out the whereabouts of their loved ones. Also witnessing the events were dissidents Yonart Rodríguez Ávila and Denis Pino Basulto, both from the Eastern region of the country, who were arrested for displaying solidarity with the victims’ relatives.
Rodriguez Avila described his arrest in the “Foro Juvenil Cubano“, the blog of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy, explaining that police agents covered the mouth of one of the relatives of the deceased and applied martial arts locks on others, keeping them from getting close to the scene of the disaster. It was then that the activists started to shout out slogans against the regime and in solidarity with the victims, which led to their arbitrary arrests.
Denis Pino told this blog that “a police agent applied a headlock on me, pushed down on my neck and strangled me. They dragged me, and delivered physical blows on my ribs and my head. They asphyxiated me until the point that I passed out“. The dissident was later taken to a nearby hospital but, once he awoke, he refused to be treated there for fear that they would attempt on his life.
“I left the hospital, I just walked out through a hallway“, he said.
Upon knowing that Yonart Rodriguez was still detained in the Dragones Unit of Havana, Pino Basulto set out towards that unit, protesting outside along with Yonart’s mother, the Lady in White Mariblanca Avila Exposito, also from Velasco, Holguin.
“We were protesting there, demanding the release of Yonart“, explained Denis, “but they kept him there until the following day, on February 27th, and I was detained again for a few hours“.
Mariblanca Avila added that February 26th was her son’s 32nd birthday, which he spent in a dungeon.
On his part, Denis points out that he emerged from his arrest with “lots of pain in my throat, pain in my ribs and on my arms. It was a very violent arrest. We were treated like animals“.
“I want the world to know what is happening in Cuba. After 50 years of dictatorship, the buildings are still collapsing“, expressed Pino Basulto, also highlighting the absurd fact that activists were arrested for displaying solidarity with a family at the time of their profound pain and desperation. “This regime has increased repression against human rights activists. We are demanding that this repression, which is constant, come to an end“.
Denis Pino Basulto has been victim of police violence on numerous occasions due to his pro-freedom activism within various groups such as the Pedro Luis Boitel Movement, the Eastern Democratic Alliance (ADO) and Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID). One of the most violent cases against this young dissident occurred on January 8th, 2012, when he was savagely beat by police officials in Holguin province, who covered his face with a plastic bag.
Various sources have indicated that politically-driven arrests have upped on the island so far during this year. The independent news agency based in Havana, “Hablemos Press“, for instance, documented 471 arrests of activists throughout Cuba only in the month of February, the shortest month of the year.
At around 3 PM on Wednesday, February 20th, leaders of different dissident groups were arrested by the State Police in the Eastern municipality of Antilla after a series of meetings.
The detainees were Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, general coordinator of the Eastern Democratic Alliance, Yoandri Montoya, president of the Bayamo Youth Movement, and Eriberto Liranza Romero, president of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy. After the arrests, all the dissidents were abandoned in different desolate locations throughout the province of Holguin.
Eriberto Liranza, from Havana, recounts that he was visiting the Eastern region of the country since February 14th and that he had been trying to dodge police vigilance and persecution since then.
“On the 15th, I evaded persecution in the city of Velasco, in the municipality of Gibara. I was with a couple of other activists and we managed to escape without being arrested until arriving to Antilla“, where he participated in the 9th Anniversary celebration of the Eastern Democratic Alliance along with another 50 activists.
He explains that after carrying out another commemorative activity in Antilla during morning hours of the 20th, a group of dissidents congregated outside the home of Lady in White Mildred Noemi Sanchez and carried out a protest, shouting slogans like “Orlando Zapata Lives” and “Down with the dictatorship“. Zapata was the political prisoner who, after tortures, mistreatment, and a lengthy hunger strike, died on February 23rd, 2010. He is considered a martyr and symbol of resistance by the internal Cuban opposition.
“It seems that this protest was too much for the regime. It bothered them very much that we were freely going out to the streets“, said Liranza.
It was at that moment that the arrests occurred.
“They arrested a group of us- Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, Yoandri Montoya, Delmides Fidalgo and me… they aggressively put the handcuffs on us, they put them on very tightly, hurting our hands and arms“, recounts the dissident, “then they shoved us into police vehicles, where there was a glass window dividing us from the drivers seat. It was extremely hot inside“. They were taken to the Pedernales Unit, a center notorious for its mistreatment and torture of recluses, both political and common ones.
After various minutes in Pedernales, where they were mistreated and threatened with further repression, each of the activists were abandoned in different desolate areas. Rodriguez Lobaina was left in the rural area of Holguin known as La Caballeriza, while Liranza was left on the outskirts of Holguin, afterward being forced to leave the province. The whereabouts of Yoandri Montoya were unknown for a while but it was later confirmed that he arrived to his city of residence, Bayamo.
Montoya has been denouncing the increase of violence on behalf of the regime against him and other activists from the Movement which he heads in Bayamo. On recent occasions, in declarations to this blog and other independent outlets, the young activist has said he has been detained numerous times and that the young members of the group live under the constant vigilance of State Security officials and collaborators. In this month of February, police agents threatened Yoandri with taking him to prison. The dissident explains that this repression is due to the group’s increasing opposition on the streets of Cuba, demanding freedom, as well as their work with the community- one of the most prominent projects being the foundation of numerous independent gyms which provide exercise services and equipment for young locals, free of charge.
That same Wednesday, during morning hours, other detentions of Eastern Democratic Alliance members were reported, as were the cases of Yubel Cansino Acosta, Miladis Piñales Rosa, Yoandri Naoki Ricardo Mir (in Banes) and Luis Noa Silva (in Baracoa), according to Twitter messages published by Rolando Rodriguz (@LobainaCuba). Noa Silva was summoned to a police unit on the following day, where he was threatened with years of prison if he chose to continue his activism.
The detentions of the leaders of these different pro-freedom groups unleashed a wave of solidarity among other members of the opposition in the Eastern region, such as other activists of the Eastern Democratic Alliance in the neighborhood of Los Negritos, in Banes, as well as other delegations of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy throughout Holguin.
Meanwhile, former political prisoner of conscience and general coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, published a series of tweets (@jdanielferrer), denouncing the arrests. Minutes later, Ferrer reported that members of UNPACU in Holguin carried out peaceful actions, demanding the liberation of the detainees.
“I am very thankful of all the brothers who heard what was happening to us and protested for our freedom“, expressed Eriberto Liranza, “We appreciate all the support…I have the best of opinions of the opposition here in Holguin. There is lots of youth involved, and there is a strong spirit of protest against the tyranny“.
For more information contact Eriberto Liranza in Cuba: +5353- 341-682
“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”