Massive hunger strike by UNPACU ends with the release of Luis Enrique Lozada

Luis Enrique Lozada (far right) and his family

A young Cuban can finally hug his father- unjustly imprisoned for nearly one month- and a massive hunger strike by more than 60 citizens has come to an end, yielding positive results.

The protest was initiated by members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) in demand for the release of activist Luis Enrique Lozada Igarza.  He was arrested by the political police on April 9th after they raided his home in Maffo, Contramaestre.  His crime?  Offering his house each Tuesday to impart courses on peaceful resistance and civil disobedience.  At the moment of his arrest, Lozada started a hunger strike.  Members of his family followed his protest, starting their own strikes.  Among them his 17-year old son Enrique Lozada, his wife Darmis Aguedo, his brother Arnoldo Lozada, and others.  In just a few days about a dozen other activists, under the lead of former political prisoner and leader of UNPACU Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, also started strikes.  Eventually, more than 60 dissidents in different regions such as Palma Soriano, Holguin, San Luis and Gibara were on hunger strike.

After what seemed like countless acts of repudiation, arrests, and threats by the political police, as well as serious health complications product of more than 4 weeks on strike, the activists achieved their objective on the night of May 7th: The authorities handed a document to Enrique Lozada, explaining that his father would be released, promising that he would be back home in Contramaestre on the following morning.

Upon confirming the news, the young activist finally stopped his strike, drinking juice.  Enrique moved the world after he published a video assuring that he was willing to die for his father.  His health was seriously affected.

“I am giving thanks in the name of the family and in the name of the hunger strikers, thanks to the hundreds of UNPACU activists that were carrying out different actions throughout the country, thanks to activists of other organizations who joined us in solidarity, thanks to our brothers in exile who have always backed us with solidarity”, expressed Jose Daniel Ferrer in one of  the first audios  published on the YouTube account of UNPACU.

The release of Lozada Igarza did not come easy.  The same day in which the news was made public- May 7th- the regime unleashed a brutal wave of repression against various strikers and other activists showing solidarity.  On that same afternoon, the political police assauled the Juan Bruno Zayas Hospital of Santiago de Cuba, where some of the strikers had been taken, forcefully removing them.  Some were beat and abandoned in different parts of the province.  In the case of Lady in White Ana Celia Rodriguez, police agents ripped off her IV, which caused her much bleeding, according to a report by her son, the young activist Anyer Antonio Blanco Rodriguez.  The same occurred with Ernique Lozada, who even passed out after strong aggressions.

Another activist who was forcefully removed from the hospital was 60-year old Dionisio Blanco Rodriguez, while activists displaying solidarity in front of the hospital were also beat and detained, as was the case of Ovidio Martin Castellanos, among others.

In Holguin, the hunger strikers Franklin Peregrino del Toro and Pedro Leiva Gongora were denied medical assistance on various occasions, but the protests by a number of dissidents forced the local hospital to assist him. The State-sponsored violence could not impede activists from joining the strikers in support.  In Pinar del Rio, more than 50 dissidents held fasts, backing the call for Lozada Igarza’s freedom.  Members of other pro-freedom movements like the Ladies in White, the Republican Party of Cuba and the OZT National Resistance Front carried out marches, protests, encounters and other activities in solidarity.

A campaign started by everyday citizens was created outside of Cuba, where activists used social networks to denounce the situation plaguing the strikers and in search of support.  Various petitions were created with the purpose of taking the details to international human rights organizations, while in Twitter the hashtag #HuelgadeHambreUNPACU (“HungerStrikeCuba”) was created.  This pressure led various politicians and other public figures to make public statements in favor of Luis Enrique Lozada’s release.

Luis Enrique Ferrer Garcia, representative of UNPACU in exile, started a fast alongside other activists in a display of support for those risking their lives on the island.  They maintained the fast until the very moment in which Lozada’s liberation was announced.

This has been another series of actions that prove that Cubans can achieve positive things in their country and it is more proof that citizens do have power.  The internal opposition, through the civic protests of UNPACU and others, left the dictatorship with no other option but to release human rights activist Luis Enrique Lozada.

It is clear that the regime has sent a message of violence to the opposition with their wave of aggressions during the strike, specially on the last day, just minutes before releasing the activist.  But dissidents have also responded, sending their own message to the dictatorship:

“We will keep up the struggle…we have been able to get one man out of the dungeons of the tyranny, but other political prisoners are still behind bars in inhumane conditions”, said Jose Daniel Ferrer, mentioning more than 40 UNPACU activists who are imprisoned for having different ideas, “but we will continue fighting for their freedom, and for the freedom of Cuba, with much more strength, with much more dedication, and much more desire than ever”.

*Congratulations to all those who risked their lives for the release of an innocent man. – (Pedazos de la Isla)

Update: Tense situation for Cuban hunger strikers who demand release of jailed activist (Videos)

Dissident leader Jose Daniel Ferrer weakened during 19th day of hunger strike
Youngest hunger striker, Enrique Lozada (17) during hunger strike

More activists keep joining the massive hunger strike encompassing more than 60 people throughout Eastern Cuba, demanding the release of detained dissident Luis Enrique Lozada Igarza, while the other strikers who have already been refusing to eat for more than 3 weeks maintain their protest, which has led to the deterioration of their health.  The Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) has been publishing a series of videos and audios in their  YouTube channel with updates on the situation.In this video (above), the youngest of the strikers, 17-year old Enrique Lozada, who is the son of Luis Enrique Lozada, defends his protest before various doctors sent by the government to try and make him give up on his demands in the Juan Bruno Zayas hospital of Santiago de Cuba.

“With the level of stress I have  right now, knowing that my mother is also on hunger strike, as well as my uncle, seeing as how my family is being torn apart, do you really think I feel like living?”, the young Cuban tells the team of doctors, “Why am I going to live knowing that my father is dying in a prison cell because of a crime he never committed?  Knowing that my family is falling to pieces”.

The video concludes with the protest of various hunger strikers that are present in that room.  They point out that the regime has ignored their demands and has not even acknowledged the situation of Luis Enrique Lozada and the other strikers.

In this audio (above), Darmis Aguedo, wife of Luis Enrique Lozada, mother of Enrique, and also on hunger strike, explains that she was able to see her husband recently in the Provincial Hospital of Santiago.  She said he was being held in an “isolated” room and under the “permanent” custody of two armed police guards.  They were able to speak for a few minutes.  She said he was still strong in spirit but his health proved otherwise, as he has lots of weight due to the hunger strike.

Meanwhile, independent journalist Alexei Jimenez informed on his Twitter account (@jugandomelavida) that the hunger strikers in Holguin- Franklin Peregrino del Toro and Pedro Leiva Gongora– were taken to a hospital for a few hours on the night of May 5th.  Berta Guerrero, a member of the Ladies in White and wife of Franklin Peregrino, offered more details.  She said both strikers had been denied medical assistance various times.

On the afternoon of Sunday May 5th, various activists directed themselves to the nearest medical center, asking for an ambulance for Pergrino and Leiva but the medical employees ignored them.  A few hours later, a doctor finally showed up at the house, taking both dissidents to the Lenin Hospital to be hydrated.  Guerrero explains that the health of the Holguin hunger strikers- whom have already been in their protest for 15 days- has drastically weakened but that they will maintain their protest “until Lozada Igarza is freed”.  In Gibara (Holguin), another 4 activists have joined the strike.  The response of the political police has been to organize acts of repudiation against them.

Solidarity with the hunger strikers on behalf of the internal opposition has been national, however.  In Palma Soriano, various UNPACU members recently carried out a public march, demanding Luis Enrique’s liberation, as can be observed in the following video:

Former political prisoners of conscience Ángel Moya Acosta and Félix Navarro Rodríguez were able to travel to Santiago de Cuba to show solidarity with Enrique Lozada, Ana Celia Rodriguez, Jose Daniel Ferrer and other strikers this Sunday, May 5th, while the Ladies in White dedicated their Sunday march to Luis Enrique Lozada.

On the morning of May 6th, former political prisoner Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’, leader of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front, published a declaration in the name of the mentioned pro-freedom coalition in solidarity with the hunger striking activists.

As for the international scene, several activists have created a petition directed to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other organizations so that there be an increase in solidarity with the case of Luis Enrique Lozada, his family, and all the strikers who have put their lives at risk for freedom.  The petition can be signed by clicking here.

The cell phones of more than 40 dissidents in Cuba, the majority members of UNPACU, have been blocked in the past couple of days in order to prevent them from publishing information about the strike.  Regardless, activists have been reporting the details any possible way they can.  The lives of all those who are taking part in this strike are in danger, but they have all said they will continue onward, pressuring the dictatorship to free a Cuban who has not committed a crime and is being held behind bars.

“Urgent Solidarity” with Lady in White Ana Celia Rodriguez, one of the hunger strikers. Artwork by Rolando Pulido

Hunger strikers in Cuba: Minor, Lady in White and elderly man rushed to hospital

Enrique Lozada, 17 years old

After more than 2 weeks on hunger strike, three activists of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) have been urgently rushed to the JuanBrunoZayasHospital in Santiago   de Cuba due to serious health complications.

The strikers are Lady in White Ana Celia Rodriguez (suffering from diabetes), the elderly activist Dionisio Blanco Rodriguez, and 17-year-old Enrique Lozada. The latter is the son of Luis Enrique Lozada Igarza who was arbitrarily arrested on April 9th. His arrest was what led to the massive strike by UNPACU activists. Now, the health of all the strikers is getting worse.

Anyer Antonio Blanco Rodriguez, a youth activist from UNPACU, published various messages on Twitter (@anyerantoniobla) detailing the situation.

“The general health of the hunger strikers is critical”, read one message written by Blanco Rodriguez.

In an audio published by “Radio Republica” Anyer points out that the three hunger strikers have been taken to the same hospital where Wilman Villar Mendoza was, while Luis Enrique Lozada has been confined to the same exact cell in the Aguadores Prison of Santiago where Villar was tortured and taken to his death. Wilman Villar was a political prisoner who died after a lengthy hunger strike in early 2012.

Recently, other strikers have also been taken to hospitals, as was the case of Lady in White Adriana Nunez Pascual and the activists from Holguin, Franklin Peregrino del Toro and Pedro Leiva Gongora.

There is much worry about the health of the strikers, especially the young Enrique Lozada. In a recent video published by UNPACU he said that he is willing to take his protest, for the liberation of his father, “to the final consequences”.

“We need the solidarity of all Cuban, inside and outside of the island”, expressed Blanco Rodriguez.

Health of hunger strikers in Holguin worsens

Independent journalist Alexei Jiménez Almarales, from Holguin, has sent the following note with an update on the worsening health of some of the hunger strikers in the mentioned province which have joined the protest of more than 50 activists of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), demanding the release of activist Luis Enrique Lozada, detained and on hunger strike after a brutal arrest last April 9th.

The hunger strikers in Holguin are Franklin Peregrino del Toro and Pedro Leiva Gongora. Here is their situation:

Health of Holguin activists on hunger strike is worsening

Pedro Leiva
Franklin Peregrino

Strong headaches and weakness are plaguing hunger strikers Pedro Leiva Gongora and Franklin Peregrino del Toro.

These two dissidents form part of a group of various dozens of hunger strikers demanding the release of Luis Enrique Lozada.

Although more peaceful dissidents have been joining the strike, the Cuban government has not pronounced itself in the national media, and the everyday people remain uninformed about what is happening in the nation.

“We cannot allow them to die… we will take to the streets it necessary. The dictatorship has gone way too far”, expressed Rosa Maria Naranjo Nieves, a member of the Ladies in White.

For more information from Cuba, contact:

Phone Number: 52552925

Strength in Unity: Diverse pro-freedom groups protest in Holguin

“Change”, a popular message written on anti-regime signs hung in Cuba

The pro-freedom groups Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID), Claridad, the Pedro Luis Boitel Movement, the Eastern Democratic Alliance (ADO), the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and the LGBTA Observatory (an organization which champions rights for Cuban homosexuals) joined forces this Friday, 15th of February, and marched in the Eastern city of Holguin to protest the countless abuses against the Ladies in White this week and to honor the memory of Laura Pollan Toledo, fallen leader of that women’s group.

Since morning hours of that Friday, dissident Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, general coordinator of ADO, informed about the activities on his Twitter account (@LobainaCuba).  Meanwhile, former political prisoner and general coordinator of UNPACU, Jose Daniel Ferrer, published a link on his Twitter account (@jdanielferrer) with an audio-testimony of some of the participants in the demonstration.

Javier Eduardo Martínez Reyes, president of the LGBTA group, provided details in the UNPACU YouTube channel, explaining that the political police unleashed a repressive operation against all participants, interrupting the activity.  Martinez Reyes detailed that the activists set out from his home, marching, but were quickly arrested.  There were a number of police vehicles waiting for the dissidents outside.

Martinez Reyes was detained alongside Franklin Peregrino de Toro (UNPACU) and Yunier Jimenez de la Cruz (ADO and CID) in a vehicle belonging to the Ministry of the Interior with license plate #021114.  They were taken to the police unit known as El Anillo, where they remained detained for various hours.  Other members of the LGBTA, ADO, CID and Claridad were also being held there, while other activists were taken to other police units.  The police threatened all of them, saying that they would confiscate all of their materials- cameras, cell phones, laptops, etc.

The dictatorship’s State Security apparatus has made it very clear with this arrest that they deeply fear the union of diverse dissident groups on the island.  Generally, groups which act completely independent from one another manage to march at least a few blocks before they are violently arrested, but when various organizations come together to carry out a public activity, the objective of the regime is to impede the everyday people from seeing this unity in action.  The regime spends countless resources on its propaganda machine to try and create divisions among pro-freedom groups, both in and out of Cuba.

Yunier Jimenez, photo-reporter from ADO and also a member of CID, held a conversation with “Radio Republica”, where he detailed what happened from his point of view.

“We were psychologically tortured (in the Anillo police unit)”, said Jimenez, “Captain Juan Ramon Chapman told me that he would do all in his power to cause me harm, and he tried to intimidate me, saying that that he was going to kill me.  He told me my days were counted and that they were going to find me one day with my mouth full of ants.  He said that if the same thing that happened to Oswaldo Paya didn’t happen to me, then something very similar would”.

The dissidents were released after 1 PM, after more threats from their oppressors.

“However, in the end we achieved our objective, which was to have the different movements here in Holguin work together and to demonstrate to the regime that we are all Resistance and that we do not fear them, because this year is the year of the opposition in Cuba”, declared Yunier in the recording.

Jose Daniel Ferrer Will Not Allow Threats of Being Returned to Prison Impede his Activism


Former political prisoner and general coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, was kept in a dungeon for more than 72 hours during his most recent detention and was threatened by State Security agents that he could be sent back to prison if he continues participating in and organizing dissident activities throughout the Eastern region of the country. This time, his jailers filmed him on numerous occasions, such as when they read him an official warning letter which informed him that he’d be sent back to prison for continuing to cause what they termed as “public disorders”.

They had that camera during the entire time, but they only filmed the parts they found necessary”, explained Ferrer Garcia, “for example, when they put me in a cell with a terrible amount of heat, without food, without communication, and without my medicines for my health conditions- they didn’t film any of that”. The response of the dissident leader when they read him the warning was “that until in Cuba human rights are not respected, until there is no freedom, as long as Cubans can’t decide for themselves and be protagonists of their own destinies, I am going to continue doing the same thing we have been doing, and many other things- in a peaceful manner- in favor of freedom and democracy”.

This most recent arrest of Ferrer Garcia took place on Friday, August 24th, when UNPACU was celebrating its 1 year anniversary of having been created. For days prior to the date, combined forces of the political police, the Rapid Response Brigades, and State Security unleashed a wave of arrests and house raids against members of the mentioned organization throughout Eastern Cuba.

One of the first cases was that of Jorge Cervantes García on August 23rd, when a number of armed officials raided his home in Contramaestre, occupied many materials, threatened all those inside, and jailed Cervantes Garcia and his two underage children. He still remains detained.

In the case of Ferrer, his home had been surrounded by police agents for various days until they finally raided the house on the morning of the 24th. “They ransacked the house”, said the dissident, “they robbed everything they felt like, and what they did not steal they destroyed. I am talking about even toys and belongings of my children…they have robbed them or destroyed them”.

In addition, in the home of Ferrer Garcia, as well as those of other UNPACU activists, the police took printers, cameras, laptops, pamphlets and other materials, none of which have been returned, as tends to happen.

Marta Beatriz Ferrer Cantillo, 14 year old Lady in White and daughter of Jose Daniel, explained in an audio uploaded onto UNPACU’s YouTube account that police agents beat all those inside the house in the moment of the arrest, including herself, her cousin, her mother (Belkis Cantillo) and an aunt. Her elderly grandmother was also inside the house and suffered a sharp increase in her blood pressure.

Other detainees on that day were Anyer Antonio Blanco, Rafael Miguel Cabrera Montoya, Franklin Peregrino del Toro and Berta Guerrero Segura. The latter, who is the representative of the Ladies in White in Holguin, was arrested and mistreated along with her underage daughter, who she was carrying at the time of her arrest and forceful entry into a police vehicle.

Other reports denounced that another 6 homes were raided that day and more than 60 arrests occurred.

Meanwhile, activist Luis Miguel Gomez Hernandez reported that a group of UNPACU members were arrested in the municipality of Gibara on that same Friday, among them Ladies in White like Yoandra Garrido Silva and Maydaly Garrido Silva, as they too celebrated the anniversary. Gomez Hernandez was one of the detainees that afternoon and explained that they were all subjected to “interrogations and threats that we could not leave Gibara and that we would not be allowed to carry out any dissident activity, and that not even the Ladies in White could to Mass on Sundays“. This group was released but many other activists remain imprisoned, and some are on hunger strike (Ferrer Garcia put the number at more than 20).

Despite all that they have done to us, our activists celebrated the anniversary of UNPACU with marches, signs, pamphlets, slogans and other diverse ways, not only in the East but also in the West”, said Ferrer Garcia, referencing the case of Hugo Damian Prieto Blanco, in Havana, who was arrested after carrying out commemorative events.

Other activists of diverse pro-democracy groups also paid tribute to UNPACU and demanded freedom for their detained members, as was the case of Lady in White and member of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights and the Pro-Human Rights Party of Cuba, Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo, who carried out a public protest in Havana to commemorate the Day of the Resistance and in solidarity with the mentioned dissidents. In Placetas, Villa Clara, dissident leader Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez” also included messages of freedom for Jose Daniel Ferrer and congratulating UNPACU as he also carried out a public protest along with other activists.

Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia was released during the morning hours of Sunday, August 26th and was quick to reiterate his compromise with the pro-freedom movement in Cuba.

The tyranny is very afraid”, affirmed the dissident, “and like a wounded beast, it will retaliate and cause lots of damage to peaceful people who want freedom for all Cubans, but we are willing to give it all. As Jose Marti said: ‘Freedom has a high price, and it is necessary to either give up and live without her, or decide to obtain it at its price’“.

For more information from Cuba:

Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia – Phone: +5353-146-740 // Twitter: @jdanielferrer

Faces Which the Pope Did Not See: Franklin Peregrino del Toro, Berta Guerrero Segura

Detention, threats, and house arrest in order to impede dissident couple from assisting papal Mass

Lady in White Berta Guerrero together with her husband Franklin Peregrino during a hunger strike he carried out in 2010.

From the municipality of Cacocum, Holguin, the non-violent dissident Franklin Peregrino del Toro informed that he and his wife, Lady in White Berta Guerrero Segura, were also victims of arrests and other aggressions as Cuba prepared itself to welcome Pope Benedict.

On Sunday March 25th, at around 7:50 AM, my wife [Berta Guerrero Segura] was detained as she tried to reach Sunday Mass in the local Catholic Church of Cacocum”, denounced Peregrino.  Upon seeing that after several hours his wife had not returned home, Franklin took his children to his mother-in-law’s house and he directed himself to the PNR (National Revolutionary Police) Unit of Cacocum.  The dissident was rapidly and forcefully arrested upon arriving to the Unit.

My wife Berta and I were released at 10 PM of that same day.  They returned us to our house but kept a vigilance cordon around us throughout the entire time”, explained Peregrino. This police operation impeded these dissidents from leaving their homes.  They were two more of the many who were prohibited from assisting the papal Mass in Santiago de Cuba.

The dissident denounced that the situation which he and his wife are going through in these very moments is “critical“.  He explains that “on Saturday the 24th I left my house to pick up my son when an agent of the regime violently attacked me.  He caught me by surprise and started to punch me.  My wife stepped out of the house to see what was happening and then the agent also tried to hit her, and he ended up scratching her arms“.  Peregrino assures that the aggressor was sent by Reymundo Rodriguez Pupo, a State Security official from Cacocum who regularly threatens dissidents in that municipality.

“This is yet another form of blackmail and violence against dissidents on behalf of the Castro regime.  I am denouncing this violence before the world”, said Franklin Peregrino.

For more information from Cuba:

Franklin Peregrino del Toro – Cell phone: + 5353- 139-855

Another Sunday, Another Day of Repression (Weekend of February 10th- 12th)

This past weekend- from Friday February 10th to Sunday the 12th- was marked by the accustomed brutality of the communist Cuban dictatorship against the non-violent Resistance movement, especially on Sunday against Ladies in White and other dissidents who were simply trying to go to their respective churches.  It is yet another case which Pope Benedict XVI should jot down on his agenda before visiting the island in March.

In the city of Holguin, Lady in White Caridad Caballero Batista and her husband (and also activist) Esteban Sandez Suarez were arrested at 8 in the morning.  Like every Sunday, the husband and wife were trying to assist mass in the local Jesus Christ Redeemer of Man Church when they were violently interrupted “by a group of soldiers, uniformed Interior Ministry officials, political police officers, and State Security agents” who detained them under the orders of agent Douglas Torres, according to Caballero.

The arrest occurred a few blocks from the home of Batista and Suarez, and directly in front of ‘Hilda Torres’ Primary School, where a conglomeration of everyday citizens were standing about.  These people saw everything.  “We let all of these people know why we were being detained, who we are, and where we would be taken to“, explains Caballero, “none of these citizens reacted against us“.  As they tend to do each weekend, the officials took the Lady in White and her husband to the Instructional Unit of Pedernales, where they are always confined to sealed off dark and damp cells which consist of concrete ‘beds’.

While in Pedernales, Caballero and Esteban were kept in separate cells.  “While we were detained, the officials screamed very offensive and grotesque words at us“, denounces Batista, adding that among the many perversions the regime guards carry out, they also “told Esteban to take off his pants and enter the cell like that, which Esteban absolutely refused to do“.  It was under that harassment and violence which both dissidents were kept detained until 12:30 in the afternoon of that Sunday.

Caridad and Esteban walked back home down the same route which led them to the detention center, and Caballero explained that the same people who had witnessed the attacks in front of the primary school “started to come up and talk to us as a sign of support“.

Meanwhile, in the town of Cacocum (Holguin province), the Lady in White Berta Guerrero Segura and her husband s were arrested in a similar fashion as they tried to go to the city of Holguin to join Caridad Caballero and Esteban Sandez in church.

Berta Guerrero and her husband Franklin Peregrino, when Peregrino was on hunger strike in 2010

Peregrino denounced that their home had been under total vigilance for days, “surrounded by State Security agents and Rapid Response Brigade members who were threatening us with sticks and cables“, but despite this, the activists decided to leave their homes and head towards church.

During the arrest, they punched me on the mouth, and the agents started to push my wife and I into a police vehicle“, adds Franklin.  From there, they were taken to the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) Unit, where they were kept until 11:30 AM.  “Upon being released, our home remained under vigilance until 3 in the afternoon.  This harassment occurs Sunday after Sunday, as well as on Wednesdays when we try to go to the home of Caridad Caballero to participate in a weekly vigil held there in solidarity with Cuban political prisoners.  Once again, we denounce this torture to the world, this torture which State Security carries out against the peaceful opposition“, said the activist.

Dissidents Anni Sarrion Romero (Lady in White) and her husband Juan Carlos Vazquez Osoria- residents of Moa- were kept in dungeons from Friday until Sunday, after being arrested at 11 pm on Friday.  Sarrion Romero explained that “we left our home in Moa on Friday in order to make it to the Cobre Sanctuary by Sunday, and we even had to take many shortcuts and go through fields“.  Upon arriving to the town of Mayari, however, a police vehicle was already awaiting them.  They were rapidly arrested by force and shoved into the vehicle to be taken to the police unit of Mayari.

In this specific unit, they were constantly harassed each day.  “They have a rule in the police units which says that every prisoner has to be lined up at 7 in the morning as the guards are changing shifts, and that is when 7 or 8 police chiefs arrive to carry out an inspection, or inventory“, explains Sarrion Romero.  “On the first morning, they signaled out my husband, telling him that he had to take off his clothes for the inspection, which is a form of humiliation.  And Juan Carlos refused.  They told him that his attitude was disobedience (a crime for the dictatorship) and that they would beat him“.  Osoria did not cooperate.

On the following day- on Sunday morning- the guards of the punishment cells tried doing the same with Anni.  “They tried to pull me and throw me from my cement ‘bed’.  I told them ‘you could accuse me of countless cases of disobedience but I was not going to step down, I will not lower myself before you all‘”.  The Lady in White says that the guards responded by telling her “remember that they knocked your teeth out in Moa“, referencing a beating on Tuesday February 7th where two henchmen of the dictatorship punched Sarrion Romero, breaking two of her front teeth. In fact, an official named Leandro Mordago cynically told Anni during her arrest that she “looks very good with her teeth like that“.  “I told them that they will have to kill me because I am not going to stop, and perhaps I will always be detained because I am going to continue traveling…and they really do not want us to travel to Santiago to assist mass in the Cobre Sanctuary“.

At 3 in the afternoon, both dissidents were released, although separately.  “They took me under custody to my home in Moa, aboard a cop car.  My husband was released and abandoned without money or anything else.  He was able to make it all the way to the home of Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia in Palma Soriano“.  The home of Romero and Osoria is constantly under attack by the forces of the Cuban dictatorship, as are their family members.  In fact, their children are victims of beatings along with their parents and are not even allowed to work or travel within their own country.

Ex prisoner of conscience Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia informed through ‘Hablalo sin Miedo‘ that on Sunday the 12th, Ruben Torres, Julio Cesar Salazar and Yuselin Ferrer Espinosa (activists from the Patriotic Union of Cuba) were arrested in Palmarito de Cauto as they were waiting to protest in case Ladies in White from that area were arrested.  But despite the stifling repression, Ferrer pointed out that 42 Ladies in White made it to the Sanctuary of El Cobre in Santigo de Cuba while 9 Ladies made it to mass in Guantanamo, surpassing the chords of vigilance and violence of the Castro dictatorship.

As Pope Benedict’s Visit to Cuba Nears, Another Sunday of Repression on the Island

Just weeks before Pope Benedict’s visit to Cuba in March, another Sunday on the island- February 5th 2012-  was marked by an excessive level of violence on behalf of the dictatorship against the peaceful Resistance, for simply trying to attend church.

In the city of Holguin, 5 Ladies in White were brutally arrested around 9 in the morning as they tried to reach the Jesus Christ Redeemer of Men Church.  The women arrested were Caridad Caballero Batista (Holguín), Marta Díaz Rondon (Banes), Isabel Peña Torres (Holguín), Berta Guerrero Segura (Cacocum) and Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez (Banes).  The 5 head out from the home of Caridad Caballero, despite the fact that the entire neighborhood had been surrounded by agents of the political police and the Rapid Response Brigades for various days.  Caballero Batista explained that the arrest occurred “just 4 blocks from my house” and consisted of a “very violent operation“.

There were various police vehicles, motorcycles, uniformed officials and more, all under the direction of the State Security officials Douglas Torres Pupo“, said Caballero.  The agent Torres Pupo was one of the henchmen who would constantly attack Reina Luisa Tamayo (mother of the fallen Orlando Zapata) in Banes and other areas of Eastern Cuba when she would try to march towards her son’s tomb or participate in any other dissident activities.  In addition, the independent journalist and Lady in White points out that “the operation consisted of female and male police officers, officials from the Ministry of the Interior, and they all applied immobilization headlocks on us, they shoved us, and even kicked us“.

After the brutality, the 5 women were violently introduced into police vehicles and then taken to the Instructional Unit of Pedernales, better known by those who pass through it as “Everyone sings“.  As this arrest was occurring, in another part of Holguin the Lady in White Adis Nidia Cruz was also aggressively detained as she tried to make it to church.  Cruz was also taken to Pedernales.

The total of 6 Ladies were confined to torture cells, which, according to Caballero, are “completely sealed off, with bad odor, and full of insects, roaches, and rats“.  During this temporary imprisonment, the women were threatened on multiple occasions.  During one of the threats, recounts Caballero, the Cuban Counter Intelligence official Eduardo Rivas Noreiga- a very corpulent and tall person- “aggressively threatened us; he told us that what we were doing of trying to go to church was not going to be allowed by them, to which we responded that we are Christians and we will continue, and if they do not let us go to church, well then we will continue to see each other in Pedernales.  Noriega told us that our choice would bring us serious consequences for our lives“.

Another agent responsible for the violent operation and the threats was Major Roilan Cruz Oliva, also one of the main culprits of the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo in 2010.  Caridad Caballero denounces that “Roilan was the main assassin who sent Zapata to the prison known as ‘I lost the key‘, and he had Zapata’s life in his hands there, and he chose to let him die. This man is the one who took Zapata to his death and he was also part of the operation this Sunday, February 5th“.

Despite these violations, 10 Ladies in White from Holguin successfully assisted mass in the Jesus Christ Redeemer of Men Church- that’s 6 more than last Sunday when only 4 were able to make it.  Meanwhile, Caballero Batista highlighted that 20 human rights activists from Holguin marched to the local State Security headquarters, located in front of the San Jose Park, and demanded the freedom of the 6 women behind held.  “After their protests, they began to release us at around 3 in the afternoon“, said Caballero.

Also released was Franklin Peregrino del Toro, husband of Berta Guerrero, who had been arrested since Friday, February 3rd, when he was on his way to his mother-in-law’s house in Cacocum to pick up his young daughter. It was around 9 pm when the arrest occurred.

State Security arrested Franklin with the intent of producing fear in Berta Guerrero so she would change her mind and not participate in activities as a Lady in White, and so she’d return home” , denounced Batista, “but despite this degrading method, Berta did not give in to the manipulation and participated with us in the end, something which hurt the regime very much“.

Caridad Caballero Batista, Marta Díaz Rondon, Isabel Peña Torres, Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez,  Adis Nidia Cruz, Berta Guerrero Segura and Franklin Peregrino del Toro are just some of the names of brave dissidents who are violently attacked by the dictatorship Sunday after Sunday (as well as any other day).  Despite all this, they also represent the persistence of the Cuban opposition- that Resistance which stands firm and unbreakable in the face of so many macabre methods.

In Guantanamo, 11 Ladies in White were able to make it to church, despite a constant vigilance.  Another 20 Ladies in White assisted mass in the Santuary of El Cobre in Santiago de Cuba.  16 women were arrested as they tried to get to that mass, however, according to the Twitter account of Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia (@jdanielferrer).  Among those arrested, according to his Twitter, were Oria Casanova who was “violently arrested, dragged, and beaten by 4 oppressive agents” and Liudmilla Cedeno who was victim of “sexual harassment in the cell where she was being held“.  Ferrer Garcia denounced, also through his Twitter, “that is how the henchmen who sustain the Castro brothers are- they beat, sexually assault, and harass defensless women in Cuba“.

In Cuba, the Ladies in White and other pro-democracy activists will continue marching, whether Pope Benedict publicly speaks out for them or not.

Peaceful Activities Interrupted by Regime’s Violence (January 18th)

The repressive tactics of the Cuban dictatorship include forcefully impeding peaceful activities from taking place, even when they are to be held in the homes of dissidents. On Wednesday, January 18th, numerous arrests occurred throughout the island with the intent of preventing vigils and reunions. Here are three of the testimonies:

…In Holguin:

Every Wednesday activist and Lady in White Caridad Caballero Bastista unites dissidents from nearby areas in her home in the city of Holguin to pray and inform each other of the most recent happenings in Cuba. The Cuban Political Police, although aware that these are completely peaceful meetings, tend to use violence against them or extreme vigilance. This Wednesday, January 18th, they utilized both repressive tactics.

It was 5 am when two dissidents- Juan Sacaría Verdecía Torres and Edilberto Sartorio– were violently detained by the political police while traveling to Batista’s home, who also added that “Later on, around 8:30 am Juan Carlos Mendoza was detained” when he was on his way to her house to make presence at the vigil.

They didn’t let me leave my house,” explained Mendoza, “and I told them that my house was not a jail cell. And I started shouting ‘Down with the Castro’ and ‘Down with Communism’, when out of nowhere three policemen detained me.” During the minutes that followed, Batista’s home, as well as that of other dissidents, was surrounded by uniformed regime officials.

At 4pm, Caridad Caballero, Franklin Peregrino del Toro, Isabel Peña Torres and Juan Carlos Mendoza’s wife were walking towards the police unit where it was suspected that the three activists were being held, when they were forcibly stopped by a mob organized by the dictatorship.

We were at the San Jose Park when they attacked us,” narrates Caballero, describing the group as a “mob of female members of the Ministry of the Interior and State Security“. From there, the activists were pushed inside the police cars.

Caballero Batista explains that the agents applied “a martial arts immobilization headlock on me all the way to the Instructional Unit of Pedernales” where the harassment continued. “They were two very tall policemen that applied the headlock on me, and they both twisted my hands…I felt incredible pain, I thought they were breaking my hands.”

The Lady in White explains that in addition to the beating, a group of guards wanted to undress her. “I told them that the only way they could take off my close was ripping it because I wasn’t going to let them…I held on to my clothes and they were not able to take it off from me.”

It was around 9 pm when Caridad Caballero was released along with Isabel Peña, and later Juan Carlos Mendoza. The three dissidents were left in a deserted and obscure zone nearby the Pedernales Unit. “It was extremely cold, since we had been detained in sealed-off cells, and now we were exposed to the air,” narrated Caballero. The dissidents had to find transportation to return to their homes, but it was very difficult since they had been left at a remote area.

…In Havana

At Sara Marta Fonseca‘s home in Rio Verde, Havana, a weekly vigil is also held under the slogan “Total freedom without exile for all political prisoners,” where prayers were said for Wilman Villar Mendoza (deceased on the 19th), Ivonne Malleza, Ignacion Martinez and Isabel Alvarez (the three were released on the 20th).

As expected, Fonseca narrates that “the political police organized an oppressive operation nearby my house to prevent activists from arriving to the vigil“. Amid the vigilance, the participants carried on with the vigil. Around 1 pm, Sara Marta left her house, since she was going to attend the Ladies in White’s literary tea (weekly meeting) in Calle Neptuno (at the house of the fallen Laura Pollan). “I left my house because it is not a prison, and when we have to participate in an activity we are going to do so no matter what,” reaffirmed Fonseca.

Amid the threats, Fonseca continued to her destination but was quickly surrounded by the political police only 4 blocks away from her house. Aware that she was going to be detained, Fonseca had prepared a Twitter message denouncing the events. The dissident tells of how a state agent showed extreme worry and demanded she give him her cellphone when he noticed she had sent a Twitter message. The message went through telling the world in real time: “Castro police is arresting me. LONG LIVE FREE CUBA, FREEDOM, JUSTICE, AND DEMOCRACY! DOWN WITH THE DICTATORSHIP!“.

Agents of the political police and two members of the Revolutionary National Police (PNR) forcibly took her, pushing her inside a police vehicle and taking her to the Police Unit in Santiago de las Vegas.

Even though Sara Marta Fonseca is a woman who suffers from 2 disk hernias on her back, the oppressive political police agents, still treated her aggressively. At the Police Unit she was detained in a sealed-off and extremely humid  cell which had a concrete slab which was supposed to be a bed. Fonseca hurt a finger on her right hand while she tried climbing “the bed- or piece of concrete- since it was located in a high place“. At the same time, these conditions worsened her back pains.

The Lady in White was kept that way until 10 pm when she was released and left in a dark, remote area far away from her home. She had to walk home by herself.

…In Placetas

On that same January 18th, Yris Tamara Aguilera was arrested in Placetas, Santa Clara when she was on her way to Idania Yanez Contreras’s house, where she was going to meet with various activists members of the Rosa Parks Civil Rights Movement- a pro-freedom organization which she heads. In addition to meeting, they were planning a vigil as well.

Yris Aguilera is still suffering from a physical blow to the back of her head which she received at the hands of State Security a few months ago. Her husband, Jorge Luis Garcia Antunez, explains that the arrest was very violent and she was pushed inside of a police car and detained for many hours. Xiomara Jimenez and Giseira Espinosa were also detained when both women  went to “show solidarity with Yris“.

During the arrest, Antunez denounces, “Yris was threatened by an officer called Yuniesky, who threatened with raping her in the cell. Aside from this being a danger, we consider this an offense against these brave women who have chosen to take to the streets to demand freedom in Cuba“. The identification number on the tag of agent Yuniesky is 43348.

All the dissidents whose testimonies are recorded here coincided that they will not stop carrying out their activities regardless of the consequences until there is a free Cuba.