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.
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
This past 16th of July 2012, the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy celebrated its 21st anniversary of having been founded and carrying out pro-freedom activities and projects for the Cuban youth.
Eriberto Liranza Romero, president of the CYMD, said he felt very satisfied upon seeing numerous youths assisting the celebration in his home in Arroyo Naranjo, Havana, where various activists highlighted some successful projects carried out by this youth organization, among them “University Students Without Frontiers” and “The Cuban Youth Forum of Democracy and Economy“. Liranza explained that political police agents were keeping a tight vigilance over the location throughout the entire event but that no arrests were reported.
The CYMD was founded on July 16th 1991 by the former political prisoner Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina in the Eastern city of Baracoa. During a sports event in that same city, a group of youths (Lobaina among them) entered the stadium and started to hand out copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That is how the group was formed. After being jailed on a number of occasions and for lengthy periods of time, as well as a hunger strike which nearly cost him his life, Rodriguez Lobaina was exiled to Spain towards the end of 2010. At that moment, the activists from the Youth Movement voted for Eriberto Liranza to represent them as president.
Since then, CYMD has continued to work in favor of freedom of expression, movement and thought. The members of this youth group frequently hand out pamphlets with pro-democracy messages, offer their homes to carry out meetings, debates or other events which interest young people- such as the Video Clubs, where films and documentaries which are censured in the island are shown.
From the United States, the now exiled former political prisoner and former National Coordinator for the CYMD, Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, also celebrated the anniversary, recalling that “The CYMD was the first dissident youth organization which was born from inside the country, and no less than in the extreme Eastern region, and in a very organized fashion which was well structured from East to West of the island“.
Because of this structuring and spirit of Resistance, Herrera Acosta explains that “the regime never got over the fact that we lit a Torch of Rebellion in their so-called bastion. We were always non-conformist and we demanded freedom for the Cuban people out on the street, as well as freedom for students in the House of High Studies, which had been converted into centers of indoctrination. Such demands went beyond frontiers and the world got to know of our existence. It was an entire life dedicated to saving and rescuing the values which had been lost under the indoctrination and the false idealization of a backward system which is the antithesis of freedom, democracy and human values“.
Throughout the years, the members of the mentioned Movement have suffered countless arrests, beatings and other forms of state-sponsored repression. However, the regime “has not been able to kill CYMD… we were and continue being thorns for the system which rules our nation“, according to Herrera Acosta, who adds that the slogan of CYMD has always been “God, Country, and Freedom“.
The exiled activist also pointed out names of other dissidents who have been essential in the foundation of CYMD in Guantanamo: “Heriberto Leyva Rodríguez, Radamés García de la Vega, Rafael Fonseca Ochoa, Yamila Alonso Rodríguez, Yesenia Rodríguez Aguilar, Ileana Danger Hardy, Armando Rodiles Revilla, Ernesto Lucas Corral Cabrera, Yordis García Fournier, Yaquelín Delisle Caballeros, Jorge Abad Herrera, and many others“.
For both Herrera Acosta, from exile, to Eriberto Liranza, from Havana, the CYMD will continue to stand “Firm Against Terror”
Many of the projects which CYMD has worked on and is working on can be found on their blog.
18 years ago, forces of the Cuban regime assassinated 41 people who were trying to flee the country in search of freedom in the United States aboard an old tugboat (“13th of March”). The crime occurred on July 13th, 1994, when a couple of other state vessels persecuted the tugboat (which had 69 people on board), blocked its path, and used a cannon to fire water at the Cubans. 41 of those people died, drowned or from the impact, and among them were 11 minors.
In 2012, during the anniversary of this massacre, the repression of the regime (the same one which committed the crime) was not able to impede Cubans throughout the island from honoring the victims.
On the eve of the anniversary, about 18 activists in Santa Cruz del Sur, Camaguey, met at the home of dissident Yoan David Gonzalez Milanes to carry out a candlelight vigil followed by a pots and pan protest in memory of the vicitms. On the following day, July 13th, this same group had plans to march out of the home up to a local river, where they would deposit flowers in honor of those assassinated. However, government mobs surrounded the home, shouted violent slogans, kicked down the door, and impeded the dissidents from stepping out. Regardless, on the morning of Saturday July 14th, the dissidents once again tried to step out of the house, and this time they did, although they were arrested by forces of the political police.
Another successful pots and pan protest took place on July 12th in the city of Placetas, in Santa Clara, where dissidents like Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez”,Marta Díaz Rondonand Leticia Ramos Herrería participated. They were carrying out a meeting there, debating a new opposition campaign dubbed “Towards the National Strike”.
July 13th began with the news that 6 activists from the Central Opposition Coalition in Santa Clara also carried out a peaceful march to a local river to also deposit flowers, but all of these members were violently arrested. Among them was Idania Yánez Contreras, Rolando Ferrer Espinosa, Alcides Rivera and Damaris Moya Portieles. However, Alcides Rivera managed to throw the flowers into the river right before being arrested. In the case of Yanez Contreras, she was shoved into a police vehicle and kept in there for nearly an hour before being taken into custody in a police unit, with the engine off, the windows up and under the scorching sun.
The Free Yorubas Association of Cuba, a religious organization independent from state control, carried out a religious ceremony a couple of days before the anniversary, in which they prayed for the victims and prayed for the freedom of Cuba.
In Havana, the home of Lady in White Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo had already been completely surrounded by the political police for 5 days, keeping her family and other dissidents from going out to the street. Fonseca explained that, although they could not make it out, she managed to hang a large sign on her porch with messages condemning the Castro regime for the tugboat massacre and honoring the victims, highlighting that there were minors among the murdered. The activist added that other members of the group which she presides over- the Pro Human Rights Party of Cuba– did manage to surpass police cordons and pay tribute to the victims publicly in the same province of Havana.
Meanwhile, also in Havana but in the neighborhood of Arroyo Naranjo, Eriberto Liranza Romero said that various activists from the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy shocked the police, despite having been under threats and vigilance for 2 weeks, managing to throw flowers into a local river. On the morning of Saturday the 14th, Liranza explained on Twitter that other activities were being carried out by other members of the same youth group.
In Banes, Holguin, a group of dissidents from the Eastern Democratic Alliance marched to a river as well, successfully throwing flowers. These same dissidents managed to surpass a police cordon which had been set up by State Security Major Roilan Cruz, one of the main culprits of Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s assassination in 2010.
Other similar activities were reported in other provinces and cities, although telephone interruptions made it difficult to confirm further details.
Meanwhile, various Cubans across the island sent out messages through Twitter, using the hashtag #Remolcador13M (#Tugboat13M). One of these Twitter users was former political prisoners Pedro Arguelles Moran who mentioned the anniversary and emphasized that the crime was executed under “orders of the Castro tyranny“.
The Pastor and blogger Mario Felix Barroso tweeted, “The assassins are still out on the street, but God will do justice“. Meanwhile, Yoani Sanchez recalled that she was 17 years old when the massacre occurred and mentioned that many people, including her friends, would also risk their lives at sea in search of freedom. She explained that she did not know of the crime until “a couple of months after“, but affirmed that “ignorance does not free us of responsibility“.
“Help us to not forget them“, continued another Tweet by Sanchez, “to denounce the injustice“. The blogger also published a link to a harrowing testimony by one of the survivors.
Just hours before Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Cuba, this blog will continue publishing statements of numerous Cuban dissidents and activists about his visit to the island. The question is: Now that the cameras of the world will be focused on Cuba: what message would you send the Pope and the world?
This response is from Eriberto Liranza Romero, president of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy (MCJD)
“My message and that of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy (MCJD) for Pope Benedict XVI is that we believe it is his right to come here to Cuba to meet his followers and his parishioners in the church. But there is still time to rectify his mistake of not receiving the Ladies in White and not meeting with the opposition, which is an opposition, for the most part, that has always been in the streets demanding freedom and human rights which are also proclaimed in the same Bible. And those are our rights which the Castro dictatorship violates and it is those very same rights which they deny the Church itself on many occasions, interfering with churches, tearing down churches, taking pastors and priests prisoner at the beginning of the Revolution and expelling them from this country when they raised their voices to denounce the slander and lies of this 52-year dictatorship.
This is our message, and I’d also like to remind the Holy Father that we, as the MCJD, have been demanding for over 20 years the re-opening of the Santo Tomas de Villa Nueva Catholic University, a university that the regime closed. We have also demanded that the regime return Villa Marist Catholic church and all the convents stolen from the church, which the Church has kept silent against these abuses and violations.
This is our message to Benedict XVI. He can rectify this, he still has time to meet with the opposition, for he has all the authority to do so.”
Among the countless arrests of human rights activists which occurred in Cuba this past Sunday March 18th- the ninth anniversary of the Black Spring– one of them was of Niurka Luque Alvarez, vice-delegate in the West for the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy (CYMD) who was marching alongside the Ladies in White in Havana. According to the president of this organization- Eriberto Liranza Romero– the dissident finds herself in a “difficult state” as she has started a hunger and thirst strike on March 21st, according to information provided to Romero by Luque’s daughter.
Luque Alvarez is being kept in a police station of the Ministry of the Interior in Arroyo Naranjo, Havana and, according to Liranza Romero, “she is in a weak state of health because she suffered an epileptic attack which caused her some injuries when she fell on the floor. In addition, Niurka suffered a brutal beating at the hands of the police police a few days prior to her Sunday arrest“. The agents which assaulted the dissident then accused her of “aggression”- charges which were proved false by various witnesses. Luque was left with numerous bruises, scratches, and scars after that specific case of violence.
“We, the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy, are standing on the side of justice and we demand the immediate and unconditional release of Niurka Luque“, declared Liranza, “and we will fight to denounce the lies which the regime intends to use to accuse Niurka of false charges“.