Protests and hunger strikes by UNPACU to demand release of detainees

Jose Daniel Ferrer and other strikers infront of Cathedral of Santiago. Via: UNPACU

A group of 14 activists from the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) spent all day on April 15th and the 16th protesting outside the Third Police Unit of Santiago de Cuba, demanding the release of dissident Luis Enrique Losada, member of UNPACU, who has been detained and on hunger strike since this past April 9th. Losada’s son (Enrique Losada, 17 years old) and his brother (Arnoldo Losada) also declared themselves on hunger strike.

(Audio of Enrique Losada about his father’s situation, in Spanish):

Lady in White Ana Celia Rodriguez was also in the demonstration, and she explained that they were under the strict vigilance of numerous State Security, National Revolutionary Police agents, as well as other members of the regime’s security apparatus.

Rodriguez added that “we are here and will continue here, and we will remain peaceful, with the disciplines which characterizes us. We do not want confrontations; we just want freedom for our brother, Luis Enrique Losada“. She pointed out that the demonstration was also in protest of many other UNPACU members that had been arrested by the political police recently.

During afternoon hours of Tuesday, April 16th, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, executive secretary of UNPACU, publicly declared himself on hunger strike to demand the liberation of all the recent detainees, moving the protest over to Cespedes Park of Santiago de Cuba, in front of the Cathedral of Santiago. Another 24 activists joined this strike, while another 10 accompanied them to protest (but not on strike), making it a total of 34 people. Ferrer sat in front of the Cathedral, carrying a sign demanding the end of political violence, persecution and incarceration.

(Audio of José Daniel Ferrer, update about the strike, April 16th, 5:00 PM):

Our demand is that they release all the recent activists of our group that have been detained in the past days“, said Ferrer. Among other detainees are Wilber Parada and Roberto Hernandez, in Havana, as well as another 8 activists arrested along Luis Enrique Losada in Santiago de Cuba. Numerous Ladies in White from Santiago have also suffered violent arrests in Sundays past to impede them from arriving at El Cobre National Shrine.

Ferrer Garcia explained that he demands that “all the recent detainees, arrested violently, be released immediately, and at the same time we want to shed light on all the activists of UNPACU we have in prison, in other words political prisoners, which already are more than 40… we also call attention on the excessive violence against other UNPACU activists and other peaceful dissidents throughout the country, but especially in the Eastern region, where attacks are carried out at night, attacking people with sticks and stones. The police has been raiding homes, robbing and intimidating people, hurting them, threatening them and even attempting against their lives- the lives of innocent people, like the elderly, children, women and even pregnant women“.

Jose Daniel Ferrer, on strike, with signs calling an end to violence. Via: UNPACU

The dissident leader blamed the Ministry of the Interior, State Security and all police organisms of the Cuban regime of carrying out these acts of terror against peaceful activists.

Numerous UNPACU activists and other pro-freedom groups have denounced the continuous death threats by State Security in places like Velasco, Holguin, during this month of April, while new dissidents have been taken to dungeons and will probably be sentenced to years behind bars, such as rapper Angel Yunier Remon Arzuaga, along with relatives and neighbors, in the city of Bayamo.

The rise of incarcerations because of political motives is alarming“, expressed Ferrer.

The 34 demonstrators in Santiago   de Cuba are under harassment by the political police. Agents have been throwing rocks at them and shouting insults at the dissidents, and at least 6 have been violently arrested as they have tried to join the protest.

We spoke with the Bishop of Santiago de Cuba“, said Ferrer, “and we gave him our word that we would not respond to the insults and rocks they are throwing our way. We are sitting in front of the Cathedral, waiting to see what the response of this tyrannical regime will be. We want our activists to be freed, immediately. Our activists have been beaten, detained and confined in inhumane conditions in filthy dungeons of police units“.

Mobs have been organized by the State Police to provoke the strikers, even playing loud pro-government music, while the majority of the telephone lines of the dissidents have been blocked during night hours. Activists fear that the demonstrators will be arrested and beaten, but they have said that they will maintain their protest, while UNPACU, as an organization, said that all its members will take to the streets if these activists are victims of further violence.