Via the Assembly of the Resistance:
Among the activities which were carried out by members of the Cuban Resistance on the first day of 2012, a significant march occurred in the streets of Santa Clara, under the direction of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights. The Cuban regime rapidly responded with savage beatings and arrests, as well as obscene threats against dissidents, who were in their majority women.
(January 1st, 2012)
Dissidents from the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights announced during the last days of December 2011 that their organization would carry out public protests out on the streets of Cuba every 1st day of the month, and that is exactly what they did on the first day of 2012. Idania Yanez Contreras, who besides being member of the Rosa Parks Movement is also president of the Central Opposition Coalition, explained that on Sunday, January 1st, the group led a march through the streets of Santa Clara “for the freedom of Cuba, against impunity, and in support and solidarity with Ivonne Malleza Galano” who is still behind bars since November 30th, along with her husband Ignacio Martinez and Isabel Aydee, a Cuban citizen who joined the protest which was headed by the dissident couple. Meanwhile, officials of the Cuban dictatorship also kept their promise of violently repressing any dissenting activists, as well as any other person who joined the protest.
Yanez Contreras narrates that the march head out from the home of Damaris Moya Portieles, provincial delegate for the Rosa Parks Movement. In the demonstration, numerous activists participated, including Damaris Moya, Maria del Carmen Martinez Lopez, Ana Iris Burune Rivera, Yanoisi Contreras Aguilar, Alcides Rivera Rodríguez, Frank Reyes López, Jorge Luis García Pérez ‘Antúnez’, Natividad Blanco Carrero, Aramilda Contreras Rodríguez and Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera.
The participants carried signs with the initials of the Rosa Parks Movement, as well as other messages demanding freedom for Ivonne Malleza and other Cuban political prisoners. In just an instant, recounts Yanez, “we were victims of the cruel and brutal aggression of the political police, along with members of the Rapid Response Brigade and the Communist Party“. The dictatorship’s paid oppressors took their own signs which consisted of vulgar offenses against the activists. They also began to shout numerous violent slogans. The demonstrators responded with their own slogans: “Food for the people”, “Freedom for Ivonne Malleza and her husband”, “Freedom for all political prisoners”, and “Down with the Castro dictatorship“.
The activists then congregated in the front porch of Idania Yanez’s home, which is also the headquarters of the Central Opposition Coalition, and they continued their peaceful protest. Contreras describes that “the agents broke into my front porch…they took most of us from there by force“. In the case of Frank Reyes Lopez, who was filming all of these events from the roof of the house, members of the Special Brigade climbed up and “threw him off, under orders of State Security“. The dissident suffered a fracture in his right arm. Maria del Carmen Martinez also suffered a fracture in one of her arms, product of a beating, while Aramilda Contreras was victim of serious injuries.
In addition to being violently beaten, all the demonstrators were arrested. They were taken in police vehicles to different detention units and thrown in jail cells, where most of them spent a day of arrest. Robert Alcides Rivera Yanez, the son of Idania and a minor, was also “beaten and shoved by police officials“, according to Yanez, who painfully witnessed the brutality against her young son. “He has bruises and injuries all over his small body“, she painfully expressed. Various neighbors joined in solidarity and broke up the violence and managed to shelter the child from the police.
The first dissidents to be released from their arrest were Iris Burune Rivera, Natividad Blanco Carrero, Aramilda Contreras Rodríguez, Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera and Antúnez, who were all deported to Placetas. When the news of the violence against the group began to spread, another concentration of 11 activists head out from the headquarters of the Central Opposition Coalition and carried out another march, protesting the brutality which had just occurred.
“The protest-march head out from the headquarters and dissidents were shouting anti-government slogans throughout the central road all the way to the Police Unit, where an official stepped out and, upon seeing the demonstration, put his hands on his head and started to shout for other officials to come”, recounts Yanez, adding that this group was also arrested. After the detainment, the political police began to leave some of the dissidents in different municipalities, including Alexei Sotolongo, Alberto Reyes and Yanoaisi Contreras, while others were kept arrested, like Rolando Ferrer Espinosa, Ramón Arbolaes Abreu, Victor Castillo Ortega, Maribel Rodríguez Prieto and Yanisbel Valido Pérez.
Idania Yánez Contreras described her time behind the bars as “horrible“. According to the dissident, in her cell “the guards, under the orders of State Security, were screaming obscenities at us” and even threatened with raping the women. Yanez denounced that one of the obscene threats she has not been able to forget was that “they began to tell me ‘I am going to sleep with Idania because she has the largest ass‘”. She added that the guards were ‘raffling’ the women amongst themselves, choosing which one they would rape.
Meanwhile, Damaris Moya also suffered verbal and physical attacks. “I was treated horrible under the orders of Captains Andro, Yuniel Monteagudo and another by the last name Gil“, denounced the co-president of the Central Opposition Coalition, adding that the initial violence occurred in front of her young son who is only 13 months old. “He was desperately screaming in the arms of his grandmother while the agents were applying martial arts immobilization locks on me. And that’s how they dragged me to the police vehicle and later to the detention center“. In the case of her husband, Yanoisi, he was beaten and “choked and he now has his face swollen…they also punched him on the stomach and in the testicles“.
The same official- Yuniel Monteagudo- was also responsible for the brutality against Antunez, even while he was detained in the back seat of a police vehicle. “That official told one of the Rapid Response agents: ‘punish him during the entire trip‘”, explained Antunez, “and then they started to punch me the entire way. While he was hitting me he was saying ‘piece of shit nigger, scream ‘Fidel Lives'”. The dissident responded with the contrary. “I started to scream ‘Down with Fidel'”, amid even more blows, “and that’s how the entire trip was until we reached the police unit of Santa Clara“. The blows against Garcia Antunez resulted in numerous swellings on his head, and he is currently suffering from dizziness and lack of vision in his left eye, where he was also hit.
However, the dissident affirmed that although 2012 began with lots of violence against the peaceful Resistance, something positive was that during one of the marches in demand for freedom of those who were detained on that morning, “neighbors of Santa Clara were also fed up with the violence and joined the protest…they would scream ‘abusers’, ‘hunger and misery’ and some of these citizens were even arrested“. Antunez, like Idania Yanez and Damaris Moya also affirmed that they would not give in or give up in the face of the terror that the Cuban dictatorship tries to impose on its people. “Despite the beatings“, assures Antunez, “I feel satisfied and convinced that now, more than ever, we are witnessing the final days of the tyranny“. The dissident classified 2012 as a year of “importance” for the Cuban Resistance.
Damaris Moya also sent out a direct message to dictator Raul Castro. “If the supposed measures which Castro was enforcing are just to massacre us, well then we will be massacred because we are going to continue with our marches demanding food for the people, demanding justice and always out on the street“. Idania Yanez echoed this same attitude: “Here we are, and we are going to continue with our actions“.