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.

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

Once Again, Women Beaten by Cuban Political Police (Part I- Yris Tamara Perez)

When it became known that the young peaceful dissident Michel Oliva Lopez would be sentenced under false accusations of “threat”, various pro-democracy activists decided that they could not let this event pass by without denouncing it.  Among these dissidents was Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, president of the Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights and wife of well known and respected dissident Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez”, along with Giseira Paseiro Espinosa and Daimara Reyes Mesa.  The day of Thursday July 21st began with the attempt of these 3 activists of trying to get to the city of Santa Clara in order to demonstrate their solidarity with their accused brother-in-struggle.  However, upon arriving to the bus station Perez Aguilera noticed that, as usual, they were being watched.  “When I arrived, I noticed that State Security agents- Major Rivel Gonzalez and also Perez Perez alias ‘The Weightlifter’- were following us“, explains Aguilera.  The agent with the ‘Weightlifter’ nickname is the same one who carried out a nearly fatal beating on Yris a few weeks ago.  Since then, Yris has suffered from various serious health complications.

I decided to give a phone call to Damaris Moya Portieles in Santa Clara so that she knew we were on our way to her but that we were being closely watched by State Security“, explains the activist from Placetas, “While I was still on the phone, the agents intercepted me.  I quickly asked them what was the reason for this arrest“.  The response of the corrupt officials was the same one they tend to use, one which consists of severe intolerance and a tendency of blindly following the orders of a commander who does not tolerate any form of dissent:  “They told me that they do not owe me an explanation, that I simply had to go with them“, recounts Yris.  It was then that she began shouting slogans against the tyranny- “Down with Fidel“, “Down with the Dictatorship“, and “Long Live Human Rights“- and, according to her declarations, with her protest she was able to stop traffic on the main street right across from the bus terminal of Placetas, capturing the attention of the passer-bys.

From there on began the brutality which makes up the status quo of the Cuban regime.  “They beat me in order to shove me into the police car and they then took me to the police unit“, shares Perez Aguilera, adding that ‘The Weightlifter‘, who she classified as a “terrorist” prepared a “brigade of women so that they could do the beating this time.  These women were hitting me all the way from the bus terminal to the police unit”.  While at the unit, Yris Tamara was put in a cell where she remained for over 3 hours.  “When they decided to release me, the key for the cell I was in did not appear“, explains the activist.  Apparently, the ‘lost key’ act was a tactic used to keep her behind the bars longer, a form of slow torture.  During this time, Yris was worried about her health considering that she is a diabetic and has other cervical complications; complications which were caused by the violent beatings which she has suffered at the hands of political police agents.  Perez Aguilera was released at around 3:15 pm, but not before she was accused of various ‘crimes’.  “They accused me of attempt and disrespect, but I didn’t attempt against anyone.  They were the ones that beat me in front of everyone“.

As mentioned previously, Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera suffers from various serious health ailments, among them diabetes and nausea.  Recently, she and her husband, Antunez, had to travel to Havana in search of a neurologist that would treat her.  The road to Havana was bumpy, however, as the couple suffered various beatings, threats, and deportations.  Now, back in Placetas, they continue to be victims of mob attacks and violence.  “I fear what could happen to me within the next hours,” affirms Yris Tamara, “seeing as I am being threatened“.

Once Again, Women Beaten by Cuban Political Police (Part I- Yris Tamara Perez)