On Wednesday, August 28th, a number of members of the “Zapata Lives” cell of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) in the Vista Alegre neighborhood of Santiago de Cuba set out to the Confrontation Unit of the Political Police to demand the release of a fellow dissident, Armando Gil, who was being processed for a crime of “disrespect” and “attempt” which he never committed.
Daniel Barriel Sanjurjo, coordinator of the Zapata Lives cell, told this blog that the group of dissidents stood outside the political police unit as a sign of protest.
“There were about 40 of us activists, demanding the liberation of our brother, in a completely peaceful fashion. In just a couple of minutes, we were surrounded by agents of the political police, the National Revolutionary police and more than 5 police cars“.
Upon seeing the confrontational response of the authorities, the dissidents decided to carry out a protest march to the nearby Ferreiro Park, where the arrests began.
“When we arrived to the park, the majority of us were arrested“, recounts Barriel. He was shoved in a cop car and taken to the Police Unit of San Luis, where he was kept in “a dungeon in inhumane conditions” for 8 hours. “Afterward, I was taken to the Unit known as The Third where i spent another 3 hours“.
The activist explains that in The Third he was interrogated. One of the officials called Barriel’s home to speak with his wife, ordering her to put an end to a demonstration that was taking place there by about 20 dissidents who were demanding the release of the detainees.
“They wanted me to call the house so I could speak with my wife and tell her to stop the activity in demand of our freedom. The political police had to give in and they went all the way to my house and had to speak with my wife, begging her to stop the activities. They told all the activists present that they were going to release us“, said Daniel, “and they released me and the majority of the detainees, but minutes before there were forceful detentions of some activists of my cell, as was the case of Angel Pese and Ernesto Jimenez Rodriguez. Both received physical blows“.
During night hours of Thursday the 28th and on the morning of Friday the 29th, there were still some activists detained, but Barriel considers that it was a “victory” because the police had to ask the demonstrators to stop, seeing as their intimidation methods were not working. The dissidents did not stop but did feel content with the release of their fellow members.
“We know that this is not going to stop, we know that the dictatorship is still going to keep carrying out acts of repression against us because they have the power to do so, and because they don’t want us to have rights“, expressed Daniel.
But the opposition member alleges that “we will continue with our struggle, with our methods, until we can achieve the freedom and democracy that the people need“.
To contact Daniel Barriel in Cuba: Cell Phone: +53-388-130
When dissident Daniel Barriel Sanjurjo, organizer of the “Zapata Lives” cell of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) in Santiago de Cuba, heard abrupt knocks on his door on the morning of June 28th and noticed that they were coming from agents of the Cuban political police, he knew there were going to be problems, all because of his pro-democracy activism. The agents ordered him to open the door, but since they did not present a search warrant, Barriel refused. Police officials kicked down the door, breaking parts of it and raiding the house.
“Upon entering my home, the 6 agents rushed towards me“, recounted the young dissident, “they started to beat me in front of my wife and my 5 year old son“.
Barriel was aggressively handcuffed (he still has the marks) and he was forcefully taken out of his home while still wearing underwear and shoved into a police vehicle. He was taken to the Operations Unit of Versalles.
The police agents were accusing the activist of having painted messages against the Cuban regime on top of a mural with images of dictators Fidel and Raul Castro. Daniel denies this, not because he is against the gesture, but because he explains that his activism is “public” and he does not have to hide his actions.
“Upon arriving to the unit, they put me into an inhumane cell with only enough room for 2 prisoners which were already there. One of these prisoners was an assassin and the other was a marijuana dealer“, said Barriel, who assures that he was victim of “psychological tortures” at the hands of State Security agents who continuously warned him that they would “disappear” him and that he “would not see the light of day again“.
The Santiago native adds that he was interrogated 2 more times and was then moved to another cell at around 4 in the afternoon, where the threats that he would go to prison continued.
Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, leader of UNPACU, explains that the Versalles Unit is known for the psychological tortures against detainees, as agents “try to break the will-power of the dissident and try to convince them to drop out of the opposition movement“.
In this torture process the detainees are usually kept for various days, weeks or months, but in the case of Daniel Barriel he was released the same day. “All of this is due to the brave response of more than 40 of our activists“, explains Ferrer.
Numerous activists “met at the home of Barriel in the Sueno Neighborhood and publicly declared that they were going to take to the streets to protest“, recounts the former political prisoner.
“Upon seeing the intelligent ad rapid response of the dissidents, the police decided to surround them in the house and brought members of the Rapid Response Brigades (paramilitary group) who tend to attack human rights defenders with weapons such as sticks, rocks, metal objects, etc”. Despite this, the demonstrators remained firm and ready to go out to the street.
The persistence of the activists led the police to release Barriel Sanjurjo.
“Suddenly, a couple of agents visited me and told me that there was a process open against me for the crime of writing over the murals and that they would summon me again to the unit, but that I would be released for the time being“, recounts the activist. At the same time, Barriel’s mother received a phone call from a police agent asking her to please keep the more than 40 activists “calm” because they were going to release her son.
Daniel details that he was taken to his home in a police vehicle. Upon arriving, he noticed the presence of mobs who were carrying out an act of repudiation. He pointed out that the aggressors were all officials or members of paramilitary groups but “none of them were neighbors or everyday people“.
Barriel pointed out that he was still in danger of going to prison, considering that the police told him accusations against him were still open. Regardless, he thanked all dissidents who showed solidarity with him during his arrest and affirmed that he will continue carrying out his work as director of the “Zapata Lives” Cell of UNPACU, which is made up mostly of young activists who define their activism with public activities on the streets, such as marches or the handing out of pro-freedom pamphlets.
This effort of working together and using pressure to achieve the liberation of a detained activist is not an isolated case. This Monday, July 1st, for example, 3 activists were detained in the municipality of Banes, Holguin, among them Rafael Meneses Pupo.
The 3 were released from the National Revolutionary Police Unit when Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez, member of the Ladies in White and of the Eastern Democratic Alliance, and her husband Yoandri Naoki Ricardo Mir carried out a protest inside the unit.
Cases such as these “prove that the political police doesn’t feel sure of itself, not even with their own officials“, while everyday citizens and the organized opposition continue gaining space, expresses Jose Daniel Ferrer.
For more information from Cuba, contact: Daniel Barriel Sanjurjo – Cell Phone: +53-388-130
On the morning of Friday, June 28th, the political police raided the home of activist Daniel Barriel Sanjurjo, of UNPACU, in Santiago de Cuba, beating him and later arresting him.
Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, leader of the pro-freedom group, sent out a document with details of these aggressions and denouncing the rise of violence against the Cuban opposition. The document has been published via Twitter by the young activist Anyer Antonio Blanco Rodriguez (@anyerantoniobla).
Here’s my English translation:
Another assault, more arbitrary beatings and arrests of UNPACU members
Santiago de Cuba, June 28th 2013
At around 7 AM, more than a dozen Political Police and National Police agents violently raided the home of Daniel Barriel Sanjurjo, secretary of the “Zapata Lives” Cell of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), located on E Street, between 5 and 6th, Sueno Neighorhood, in Santiago de Cuba. Lieutenant Colonel Dorquis and Captain Julio Fonseca led the assault.
Daniel Barriel was beat inside his house, in front of his wife Yileisis Chaovin and their two underage children. He was then dragged out (in underwear) and taken to the Political Police Unit in Alturas de Versalles, in the southern part of the city.
The home was searched for more than two hours and the agents ended up taking three cell phones, various CDs, USB drives with audio-visual material, printouts and one photo camera.
Daniel Barriel and the “Zapata Lives” Cell, which is mainly made up of young dissidents, have been carrying out a series of important pro-democracy activities in the city of Santiago de Cuba. This is why the regime has acted against them with such aggression. On UNPACU’s YouTube channel a number of these videos have been published, showcasing their creativity and their dynamic attitude.
In the last 22 months, members of UNPACU have been victims of countless house raids, robbery, beatings, arbitrary detentions and imprisonment for political reasons, as occurs against all peaceful dissidents in Cuba.
Recently, Gohart Cruz Zamora, secretary of the “Harold Cepero” Cell in Altamira, Santiago de Cuba, was victim of a machete attack on his left shoulder. The political police awarded the aggressor, who committed a crime of “attempt of murder”, with food and other benefits which promise to not process him or to evict him from the hut he lives in.
Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia
Executive Secretary of UNPACU
For more information from Cuba, contact:
Jose Daniel Ferrr – Cell Phone: +53-146-740 / Twitter: @jdanielferrer
*Note: Daniel Barriel appears in this video handing out pro-freedom literature in Santiago de Cuba recently.
A new video has arrived from Cuba, courtesy of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), where we can see some young members of this opposition group on the streets of Santiago de Cuba handing out pro-freedom literature. Various activists hand out these pamphlets in the first half of the video, all the while they are not attacked by any citizen. In fact, they actually accept the papers.
In the second half of the video, activist Daniel Barriel speaks in front of a sign painted by the regime which says “Victorious Revolution”. Barriel puts up writing over the sign- one about Goart Cruz Zamora, a dissident who was recently attacked by a State Security agent wielding a machete, and another report about the political prisoners on the island. Minutes later, passer-bys stop to read the messages.
This past 20th of May, Cuban Independence Day, numerous pro-freedom activities were carried out throughout the island. Now, a video has arrived from Santiago de Cuba which shows a march carried out by 16 dissidents, members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), throughout various blocks of the Sueño Neighborhood. The participants of the march described it as a “spontaneous” and “successful” demonstration.
The activists who marched were not repressed by the political police during the moment of the activity, and much less by everyday citizens. They demanded freedom for all political prisoners, mentioning specific names such as Bismark Mustelier, Jorge Cervantes Garcia and Dany Lopez de Moya. They also shouted “Zapata Lives“, “Harold Cepero Lives” and “Oswaldo Paya lives“, among other messages in favor of freedom and true change.
Cuban political police agents, infuriated by the success of the march, organized a mob which carried out an act of repudiation against the dissidents when they returned to the home of Daniel Barriel Sanjurjo. The mob shouted offensive slogans as well as things like ‘Down with the worms’ and ‘Leave the country’. As a response, the activists expressed “Down with the political police” and “Long live the Cuban People“.
The dissidents did not back down at any moment. Some of them were detained and beat later on. See the video here:
The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba highlights the situation which a number of political prisoners of the mentioned group are facing, speaks about the repressive methods employed by the State against activists and affirms that activism and opposition out on the streets has only increased in the Eastern region of the country, attracting further solidarity from everyday people.
Protest marches, debates and the handing out of flyers with pro-freedom messages are occurring with much more frequency in different areas of Eastern Cuba. Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, former political prisoner and current executive secretary of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), points out that in the month of May these actions have increased as part of the Boitel and Zapata Live Campaign, where dissidents throughout the country pay tribute to martyrs Pedro Luis Boitel and Orlando Zapata Tamayo, both deceased after lengthy hunger strikes in prison.
On May 20th, Cuba’s Independence Day, two marches were carried out in Santiago de Cuba. One of them was led by 11 activists and finished in the Antonio Maceo Plaza, where police officials beat the demonstrators with helmets, sticks and other objects, all of this while everyday citizens were watching.
A second march was carried out by 16 dissidents who managed to walk down various blocks of the El Sueno neighborhood, shouting pro-freedom messages. The result was police persecution. “State Security and Rapid Response Brigade agents came and began to throw rocks and beat activists“, recounted Ferrer Garcia. The repressors also threw tar and tried to raid the home of Daniel Barriel, secretary of the “Zapata Lives” sector of UNPACU in that neighborhood, where the activists congregated after the march. But the police was not able to achieve their objective, considering that the civic protests of the dissidents only intensified, forcing the aggressors to leave.
“Our activists came out and did not allow the attack. Also, they took up a clever posture. When the regime organized mobs shouted ‘long live the youth’, our dissidents would shout ‘live!’, but when the mobs shouted ‘long live Fidel’, the activists would say ‘down!’. The agents had to leave the house eventually“, explained Jose Daniel, “the police is losing space because they use so many people and use so much gasoline to repress us, but there is not enough gasoline for ambulances and other necessary services. In addition, everyday people are not cooperating with them“.
On the following day, May 21st, another group of UNPACU activists walked to the Palma-Santiago highway and took out a large sign with numerous anti-regime messages, such as “UNPACU in favor of fair salaries” and “democracy and justice“. This captured the attention of various passerby’s who actually would stop their cars to read the messages and show support with the dissidents.
Ferrer Garcia explains that UNPACU has “been following up the Boitel and Zapata Live Campaign as well as on the other commemorative dates like the death of Jose Marti and May 20th” with spontaneous marches and other demonstrations which have lasted more than 30 minutes, shouting slogans in favor of “freedom, democracy, the respect of human rights, the end of hunger, misery, low salaries and so many other ills which affect the population“.
The former political prisoner of conscience denounces that the repression on behalf of the regime has been increasing, but despite this, “the tyranny keeps losing in their confrontation against UNPACU, because even the people who in one way or another serve them are feeling very ashamed of the actions which State Security carries out against us“.
“The people are responding by criticizing the political police. On a daily basis they join the peaceful opposition movement in this area, where UNPACU has been carrying out a labor in favor of the society, working for the community, and this presents a serious problem for the tyranny, and it will just continue to create even more problems“, added Ferrer.
Currently, UNPACU has 40 of its members behind bars because of political motives. This past 21st of May Ferrer Garcia was able to establish communication with one of these prisoners who is being held in the Mar Verde Prision of Santiago.
“The activist told me about the situation which they find themselves in Mar Verde. He told me that Arcelio Noa had already been taken out of the punishment cell, but that he had intentionally hurt himself as a form of protest against the inhumane conditions he was being held in, and which the other 10 political prisoners we have in that prison have had to withstand“, said Ferrer, “lots of mistreatment, aggressions, and the guards are using common delinquents to harass them. These common prisoners are dangerous, many of them murderers, who lend themselves to such actions in exchange for food and other privileges. They are turned against the human rights defenders“.
Ferrer emphasized the situation of dissident rapper Angel Yunier Remon Arzuaga, known as “El Critico”, who is also the secretary of UNPACU for the city of Bayamo. The musician has been behind bars for more than 2 months in the Bayamo prison known as Las Mangas, still without a trial. He was violently arrested after the political police raided his home in March, attacking him and other relatives with tear gas.
“I was able to briefly speak with Angel Yunier on May 20th. In Las Mangas prison there is a very critical situation“, said the dissident leader, “Angel told me about the horrible medical attention offered to sick prisoners. He also told me that numerous prisoners have so many problems and they turn to self-infliction to call attention on so many abuses, the severe hunger, the lack of medical care and other cruel treatments“.
The young dissident continues to be in a judicial limbo while the authorities have not given his family any details as to what his fate will be.
The situation of activist Jorge Cervantes Garcia, from Contramaestre, is also critical. Ferrer says that “he is still recuperating from the lengthy hunger strike carried out to demand the freedom of Luis Enrique Lozada. Cervantes is still in Las Tunas prison, also amid a very hostile atmosphere. He was physically assaulted last week by a common prisoner who is addicted to mood-altering pills”.
Ferrer Garcia expressed that although the number of political prisoners is increasing, so too is the number of activists, mainly young ones, who are willing to go out to the streets to work towards a new Cuba.
Take a listen to the following audio (in Spanish) of Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia:
For more information from inside Cuba, contact: Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia – Cell Phone: +53 – 146-740 / Twitter: @jdanielferrer