The intolerance of a dictatorship leaves its marks on a child in Banes, Holguin

Gertrudis Ojeda and her daughter Bianca. Foto by: Martha Diaz Rondon

Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez and her husband Yoandri Naoki Ricardo Mir are no strangers to what it means to be a dissident in Cuba.  She is a member of the Ladies in White and both are members of the Eastern Democratic Alliance, two groups which oppose the communist dictatorship.  Because of this, they have been arbitrarily arrested by the political police, beat, deported, kept under vigilance and threatened with death.  These are consequences which they have accepted in their struggle for freedom.  But now, their three children are directly suffering from this State repression, especially their 6 year old daughter, Bianca Ricardo Ojeda.  

The three children of the couple have first-handedly witnessed how police agents have raided their home in Banes, Holguin, physically assaulting their parents.  They have also seen how mobs organized by State Security have surrounded their home and shouted obscene words and severe threats.  They have all suffered the fear, but the young Bianca seems to be the most seriously psychologically affected.

On Saturday, August 17th 2013, Gerturids, Naoki, their children and other relatives were in the town of Guardalavaca when – during afternoon hours – they tried to board a bus back home to Banes.  Upon seeing the extremely long lines at the terminal and after waiting several hours without transportation, the dissidents decided to carry out a public protest, demanding transportation for everyone who was waiting.

Suddenly, agents of the National Revolutionary Police arrived and they brutally attacked me along with my brother Luis Manuel Garcia Mir“, recounts Yoandri, “they attacked us with sticks, shoving us, kicking us, and even launched pepper spray against us.  They then detained my brother and I in a police vehicle and took us to the police unit of Banes, where they threw us into dark dungeons.  We remained there until 10 AM of the next day“.

Also present was Janet Vergara, Gertrudis’ sister who is 6 months pregnant. “We were also mistreated…Janet was pushed and beat.  Right now she has pains in her stomach“.

The 3 minors of Suarez and Ricardo witnessed all the violence.

My little girl, Bianca, is sick in the nerves…she is very afraid.  This has happened on various occasions but now she seems to be worse.  We are considering taking her to receive psychiatric help, because she has too much trauma after seeing all these violent actions“, expressed Yoandri Naoki, notably worried.

She saw everything…how they punched us, handcuffed us, kicked us, and how they sprayed us…everything“.

One of the agents who was most violent to the Holguin natives could not be identified by name but his badge number was 21771, according to Gertrudis and Yoandri.

Dissidents in Banes, Holguin. 6 year old Bianca Ricardo Ojeda is at the bottom left infront of her father Yoandri Ricardo. Photo by: Martha Diaz Rondon

After the arrests, Gertrudis traveled with her 3 children to the police unit, where she remained outside until very late at night as a form of protest, demanding the liberation of her relatives. She did not receive a single response from any official and had to eventually leave because of her children.

These are the typical problems faced by dissidents in Cuba“, says Gertrudis, explaining that entire families are subjected to repressive measures, from the elders to the youngsters.  “My daughter is traumatized and I hold State Security accountable for what may happen to her“.

Ojeda Suarez managed to dodge police cordons on Sunday, August 18th, and arrived at Mass as part of her habitual march as a member of the Ladies in White, but she denounced that her home remained under very tight police vigilance.  Agents – such as Freddy Aguero, among others – frequently knock on their door and let them know that they will be jailed if they step outside.

Despite the risks, Gertrudis and Yoandri continue to carry out vigils, debates and other encounters with members of the opposition in the Eastern city of Banes, as well as spontaneous protest marches which usually end in detentions.

Ojeda also said to feel extremely concerned for the fate of her pregnant sister.

My sister Janet still has pains after the physical mistreatment at the hands of the police in Guardalavaca.  These agents did not care that she was pregnant.  We really do not know how this will end, if she will have to go to the hospital for some time or – hopefully not – she may even lose the child“.

To contact Gertrudis and Yoandri in Cuba:
Cell Phone – +58-025-501

The intolerance of a dictatorship leaves its marks on a child in Banes, Holguin

Son of military official attacks dissident family, underage children

Jorge Cardona, son of a Major (with the same name) of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and of the Military Counter-Intelligence, stoned the home of the dissident family of Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez and Yoandri Naoki Ricardo Mir and physically attacked one of their underage children in Banes, Holguin, in Eastern Cuba.

The events took place at around 7 PM on July 3rd when two of Ojeda and Mir’s children were playing outside their house.

Jorge Cardona showed up and started to throw rocks towards my children and my house“, recounts Gertrudis Ojeda, notably agitated by the actions which put the lives of her children in danger, “Cardona rushed up to my oldest son, Ernesto, who is 14 years old, and kicked him twice on his left leg, causing him some injuries“.

When they noticed what was happening, Gertrudis and Yoandri rushed out of the house in defense of their children, just to find Jorge Cardona shouting pro-government slogans at them, as well as offensive phrases, such as “worms“.

Ojeda Suarez says that Cardona, who is 18 years old, began to throw more rocks which nearly hit Yoandri in the head, as well as their 5 year old son.

We know that this was all set up by State Security against us because, earlier that day, we had gone to the police unit to show solidarity with one of our brothers in struggle from the opposition“, explained Ojeda, who could confirm her declaration even more when “suddenly a Suzuki motorcycle (used by State Security) arrived on the scene and rapidly took the 18 year old away“.

On the afternoon of that same day, Gertrudis, her husband and other activists protested in front of the police unit of Banes, as a display of solidarity with Antonio Gonzalez Costa, a member of Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID), who had been summoned to the police unit and threatened by State Security because of his activism.  Just 2 days before, Gertrudis and Yoandri also protested in the same unit, demanding the release of dissident Rafael Meneses Pupo and 2 other activists who had been arrested upon leaving their home.  The pressure they carried out led to the liberation of the 3.

It’s common practice for State Security to retaliate against citizens who publicly oppose the totalitarian system through actions like these, using members of the military forces to carry out acts of violence.

The Cardona family frequently participates in these acts of repression, whether it be Jorge (father) or his wife, affirm the Holguin activists.

The wife of Jorge Cardona (father) has participated in acts of repudiation against us“, recounts Gertrudis, “State Security uses these people since they are military officials to try and provoke us and then jail us“.

However, it’s not necessary for a dissident to respond to a provocation to be taken to a prison in Cuba.  Gertrudis, a member of the Ladies in White, and Yoandri Naoki, both member of the Eastern Democratic Alliance (ADO), are continously detained for various hours and, many times, days, just for carrying out marches, organizing debates, workshop and vigils, as well as carrying out other acts of civil disobedience in public.  When they are not detained, they are victims of beatings and house raids at the hands of the political police.

In their monthly report of human right’s violations in Cuba, the independent news agency ‘Hablemos Press‘ documented less arbitrary arrests of pro-freedom activists in the month of June, but noted the sharp increase in excessively violent actions carried out by the political police, paramilitary forces and highly dangerous citizens used by Cuban Intelligence.  Among them: machete attacks, house raids, beatings during dawn hours, and deportations.

I want to call on Amnesty International and public opinion in general, so that they please intercede for us…because this dictatorship is putting the lives of my children in danger“, declares Gertrudis Ojeda, “They could have hit my kids with a rock and could have killed them, as well as my husband.  I am very fearful of what may happen to my family, and it’s likely that this cruel dictatorship will attempt against our lives again, considering that this is a dictatorship with absolutely no feelings and very violent“.

The violence against us is constant.  It doesn’t consist just of shouting slogans against us, but also carrying out violent actions with rocks, beatings, and more“, she adds.

Audio: Declarations by Gertrudis Ojeda (in Spanish):

For more information from Cuba, contact:
Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez – Cell Phone: +58-025-501

Son of military official attacks dissident family, underage children

Daniel Barriel recounts house raid, arrest and the solidarity which achieved his release

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

Daniel Barriel recounts house raid, arrest and the solidarity which achieved his release

Ladies in White make it clear that they will continue on the streets of Cuba

Despite a propaganda-based campaign by the Cuban dictatorship against the Ladies in White in recent days, this 30th of June – the last day of the month – these women managed to march and assist Mass in different areas of the country, demanding freedom for all those Cubans who reside behind bars for thinking differently.

A total of 70 Ladies in White marched in Havana and participated in Mass at Santa Rita Catholic Church, according to a message published by former political prisoner Angel Moya Acosta on his Twitter account (@jangelmoya).  The women were accompanied by 43 male dissidents.

In Matanzas province, 25 Ladies in White carried out their activities on the streets of different cities, reported Sayli Navarro (@SayliNavarro), a young member of the group.

Ivan Hernandez Carrillo, an independent unionist and former political prisoner, confirmed via Twitter (@ivanlibre) that in the central province of Villa Clara 6 Ladies in White marched to and from church without any problems.

Amid police vigilance, 1 Lady in White marched in the province of Ciego de Avila.

Hernandez Carrillo added in the Eastern province of Holguin, despite some arrests, 5 women were able to march.  Among these was Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez, from the municipality of Banes, who managed to march for the first time in 2013.

I’ve been arrested as soon as I step out of my house each Sunday of 2013“, explained Ojeda Suarez to this blog, “and this Sunday I was finally able to march to the Catholic Church of Banes…with strong police vigilance, but I was able to go inside and there were 2 other  Ladies in White from the municipality waiting for me“.

As soon as Mass concluded, the 3 women marched, dressed in white and carrying flowers.

This has been a huge blow for State Security and we are very happy with this in Banes“, expressed Gertrudis, “despite the constant harassment, we carried out our march…and we will continue going out, even if they arrest us“.

In Guantanamo another 11 members of the female group marched and in Granma 5 managed to do so.

Ivan Hernandez added that 44 Ladies in White participated in Mass in El Cobre National Shrine in Santiago de Cuba and later carried out their symbolic march in solidarity with the political prisoners on the island.  State Security had blocked service on Belkis Cantillo’s cell phone for the entire day.  Cantillo is the representative of the group in that province.

The Ladies in White have made it more than clear that they will continue firm, marching out on the streets of Cuba, despite police persecution, while their membership increases.


Ladies in White make it clear that they will continue on the streets of Cuba

Regime carries out acts of repudiation against dissidents in Gibara, Holguin

Members of different opposition groups were targets of acts of repudiation this past June 18th in the municipality of Gibara, in the province of Holguin.

Gabriel Arcángel Martínez Leyva, director of the Republican Party of Cuba in the mentioned municipality, said that the actions – organized by functionaries of the regime – began at 7:30 AM and ended near 12 in the afternoon.

An act of repudiation was carried out around the home of Trinidad Rodriguez.  Agents of the Rapid Response Brigade, the political police and of the National Revolutionary Police surrounded the house“, explained the activist, “it was a total of about 30 or 40 people who were shouting at us and threatening to beat us if we stepped out of the house.  This happened because we had plans to go to the Gibara Terminal to travel to the town of Velasco“.

‘Acts of repudiation’ is the name given to the situation where the Cuban government organizes groups of people who shout offenses and threats at dissidents outside their homes.  Many times, the actions end in house raids and the vast majority of its participants are members of the regime.  Very few times do activists confirm the participants as neighbors, and when they do, they are usually drunkards or criminals.

Martinez Leyva considers that the persecution and harassment are due to various social projects that are being carried out in the area.

This happens because of some projects carried out by the Republican Party of Cuba and by FLAMUR for the benefit of all Cubans“, said Martinez, “among these projects is ‘One Currency’ and ‘Increase and Lower’“.

The latter of the initiatives demands the totalitarian system to increase salaries of Cuban workers and lower prices of products and services of basic needs, like food, clothing and transportation.

Acts of repudiation also took place at the same time against other activists, among them Ylienly Aguilera Santos and Arselio Osvaldo Cruz Velazquez, members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) in Gibara.

Repression against other members of the opposition in the province of Holguin have increased within the last months.  The Ladies in White in the area have also been denouncing these situations.

For example, Berta Guerrero Segura, representative of the Ladies in White in that province, has said that State Security agents arrest a number of women each Sunday so that they do not make it to Mass, while other members like Gertrudis Ojeda Suárez (in the municipality of Banes) and Mildred Noemí Sánchez Infante (in the municipality of Antilla) have backed up these claims, seeing as they are some of the women who are quickly arrested by the political police when they step outside of their homes each Sunday.

Regime carries out acts of repudiation against dissidents in Gibara, Holguin

177 Ladies in White march on Father’s Day

Ladies in White march in Havana. Photo by Angel Moya Acosta (@jangelmoya)

A total of 177 Ladies in White marched in different provinces of Cuba this past Sunday, June 16th, dedicating the walk to Father’s Day, according to a tweet publish by former political prisoner of conscience Ivan Hernandez Carrillo (@ivanlibre).

In Havana, 58 women made it to Mass in the Santa Rita Church and afterward marched down 5th Avenue, demanding freedom for all political prisoners.  The Ladies celebrated Father’s Day together with various male dissidents which accompanied them.

Leticia Ramos, representative of the female group in the province of Matanzas, told Sayli Navarro that a total of 22 women marched there.  Navarro published the information on her Twitter account (@SayliNavarro).

2 women were able to march and participate in Mass in Ciego de Avila.

Ivan Hernandez also tweeted that a total of 62 Ladies in White marched in Santiago de Cuba and made it to Mass in the National Cobre Shrine.

In other Eastern provinces various women marched and made it to Mass.  In Guantanamo 12 managed to do so and in Holguin another 15 did.  However, in Holguin, specifically in the municipality of Banes, Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez was arrested when she tried to leave her house to march to church.  Ojeda denounced that the same thing happens to her every Sunday and that they are “completely arbitrary detentions“.  Other arrests were reported in Eastern Cuba, while other women marched in that same area.

This Father’s Day, the situation of the numerous political prisoners who are unjustly behind bars in Cuba was highlighted.  The majority of these prisoners happen to be fathers.  Among the cases are that of Ramon Munoz Gonzalez, husband of Sonia Garro (also a political prisoner) and president of the Independent Afro-Cuban Foundation, dissident rapper Angel Yunier Remon Arzuaga “El Critico” who is the father of a little girl who is just months old and Osvaldo Rodriguez Castillo who is in prison for creating a new dissident group and for protecting his son from participating in military service (his son Osvaldo Rodriguez Castillo is also in prison).  These are just three cases.  There are many more like them.  And it’s for these Cubans that the Ladies in White march.

177 Ladies in White march on Father’s Day

More than 163 Ladies in White march in Cuba for the freedom of all political prisoners

As occurs each Sunday, dozens of Ladies in White took to the streets of their respective cities this June 9th to participate in Mass and pray for the freedom of all political prisoners and later carry out civic marches carrying flowers and photos of some prisoners.

In the Cuban capital- Havana- 76 Ladies in White participated in Mass in the Santa Rita Church, according to a message published by dissident and former political prisoner Ivan Hernandez Carrillo on his Twitter account (@ivanlibre).  Moments later, Angel Moya Acosta, also a former political prisoner of conscience, tweeted (@jangelmoya) that 62 women carried out the habitual march down 5th Avenue accompanied by another 40 male activists.

In the central province of Villa Clara, 6 Ladies in White marched and assisted Mass, while in Sancti Spiritus 2 women managed to do the same.

Ivan Hernandez added that a total of 21 women marched and made it to Mass in the province of Matanzas.  7 of them made it to the city of Colon, 12 in Cardenas and another 2 in Perico.

In the Eastern province of Santiago de Cuba 40 women marched to El Cobre National Shrine.  At least 3 arrests were confirmed, however, according to Hernandez Carrillo.  The detainees were Moraima Díaz Pérez, Edelmis León and Graciela Domínguez.

Sayli Navarro, a young member of the Ladies in White, informed on her Twitter account (@SayliNavarro) that a total of 12 women marched and made it to Santa Catalina de Ricci Parish in the province of Guantanamo, despite the strong vigilance on behalf of State Security agents.

In Holguin province, various arrests occurred, among them of Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez in the municipality of Banes.  She told this blog that “just like every other Sunday, I was detained by State Security and forcefully taken to the local police unit, amid verbal threats“.  Last weekend, the same agents threatened to handcuff and beat Ojeda.

The dissident has been victim of constant vigilance and police persecution. In fact, the government agents have raided her home and carried out numerous acts of repudiation on various occasions.  These actions have mainly affected her underage children.

“All of this is proof that repression against Ladies in White and the opposition continues in Cuba.  That is why I am denouncing, for all the world to hear, all these arrests I am being victim of, as well as my other sisters in struggle, all of them carried out by the dictatorship of the Castro brothers“, declared Gertrudis.

A number of other women were able to march in the municipality of Holguin.  Meanwhile, in the municipality of San German activist Eliecer Palma used his Twitter account (@eliecerpalma1) to confirm that 6 Ladies in White “managed to march and participated in the Church of San German, along with other dissidents”.

It’s important to point out that each one of these cases where Ladies in White march there has also been a strong presence by the political police which sets up cordons days before to arrest the women or to keep watch over them.  Many times, the Ladies in White have to leave their homes on Friday or during dawn hours of Saturday and passing through fields or desolate places to arrive to their respective churches and surpass these cordons.

Regardless, these women continue out on the streets so that the everyday people can listen to their demands and to show them that it is possible to obtain a public space on the island, despite the dictatorship’s repression.

More than 163 Ladies in White march in Cuba for the freedom of all political prisoners