Santa Clara: Another Forceful Eviction; Dissidents Violently Arrested as they Tried to Intercede

A Cuban house; Photo taken from internet

On the morning of November 20th, Idania Yanez Contreras received a peculiar phone call from Yulema Benitez Sigler.  Yanez, along with various other dissidents, had been helping Benitez Sigler as she was going through a forced eviction at the hands of the Cuban regime.  In the phone call, Sigler told Idania (and the rest of the dissidents) to not show up in her house as they had planned to do so on that Monday, the day in which the authorities had declared they would demolish the house, saying that the regime had already given her a free plot of land and had already constructed her a new home.  But dissident Yanez Contreras noticed that Yulema was crying and something was wrong.  This led her to call another opposition member who lives nearer to Yulema and she asked him to please investigate what was really happening.  As it turns out, according to Benitez herself,  a State Security official by the last name of Gil along with a political police official, had threatened her with prison time and with taking away her three children if she did not make that phone call.  It was a plan to keep activists away and to impede any sort of public protest.

Upon hearing this, Idania Yanez decided to go on with the original plans and she and a group of dissidents head out towards the humble and improvised home of Yulema, located by the Sagua Highway, Kilometer 1 1/2 in Santa Clara.  With very little help, “Yulema constructed that house on a dump site“, explains Yanez, “along with her small children- the eldest who is 11, and the younger two who are 7 and 8- they cleaned out the site and managed to get rid of some animals living there.  She had to sell the only television set she had in order to purchase the wood to make the house“.  The family had no running electricity and the only light they had emanated from candles.

The first group of dissidents arrived to the house at around 6 AM on that Monday- they were three activists from the United Anti-Totalitarian Council: Yasmin Riveron, Yusmany Rafael Alvarez, and Jose Luis Lopez.  They were also the first to be removed from the premises by force and then aggressively detained by State Security and political police agents.  Just a few minutes after, another group of three (Damaris Moya Portieles, Enrique Martinez Marin, and Idania Yanez) was approaching the area.  However, Yanez explains, they were also all violently arrested, detained, and sent off to different police units.

Damaris was taken to the Encrucijadas Unit, Enrique deported back to the municipality of Manicaragua, and I was kept in a Police Unit of Santa Clara“, narrates Yanez, “Yasmin, Yusmany, and Jose were also detained in a police unit of that region“.

It was at that moment that the forces of the regime began to demolish Yulema’s  house.  When this news reached other members of the Resistance, some began to protest publicly.  Yanez tells that “the fellow dissidents Guillermo del Sol Pérez, Alcides Rivera Rodríguez, Víctor Castillo Ortega, Ana Rosa Alfonso, Jose Luis Lopez, María del Carmen López, Ramón Abreu, Mayra García, Rolando Ferrer Espinosa and Omar Núñez Espinosa all showed up and began to protest outside the Police Unit where some of us were being kept“.  All these activists who joined in solidarity were also arrested and taken into detention cells of the same Unit.

Other dissidents- Alberto Reyes Morales, Michel Oliva Lopez, Yanisbel Valido Perez, and Rodolfo Perez Benitez- decided to also protest outside that Unit.  Though these were not detained, they remained there the entire day until 8:30 PM when the last of the activists was released.

As of now, we do not know the whereabouts or situation of Yulema Benitez Sigler and her young children“, declared Idania Yanez to this blog during the afternoon hours of Tuesday, November 22nd.  “What we do know is that her smallest son- 7 year old Reiko- fainted” during the violent arrests and the demolishing of the house.

Idania Yanez was savagely beaten and arrested a mere two weeks ago and suffered serious health complications along with her husband Alcides Rivera Rodriguez and dissident Rolando Ferrer Espinosa who were both on hunger strike at the time.  Despite the fact that they were still recuperating they decided to try and assist a victim of the abuses of the Cuban dictatorship, someone who has not committed a single crime.

Santa Clara: Another Forceful Eviction; Dissidents Violently Arrested as they Tried to Intercede

(October 29th)- Update on Hunger-Strikers Alcides Rodriguez and Rolando Ferrer, Both in Critical Condition

Alcides Rivera Rodriguez, with his wife Idania Yanez and their two children.

As has been recently reported, Santa Clara opposition activists Alcides Rivera Rodriguez and Rolando Ferrer Espinosa have been urgently rushed to the Provincial Arnaldo Milian Castro Hospital during a 29 day (up to now) hunger strike.  Rodriguez was taken during the night hours of Thursday the 27th while Ferrer was checked in on the 28th.

In the case of Rivera Rodriguez, upon arriving to the hospital he was diagnosed with bronchopneumonia.  Shortly after, doctors informed his relatives that the diagnosis was not very clear and that his potassium levels were alarmingly elevated.  The dissident from Placetas, Jorge Luis Garcia ‘Antunez’ informed through his Twitter account that the Milian Castro Hospital was completely “militarized” due to the presence of the activists.

The president of the Central Opposition Coalition and wife of Rodriguez, Idania Yanez Contrera reiterated that the strikers were willing to take their protest, which they began on September 28th, to the final consequences.  She added that with the protest, they are demanding “an end to the excessive violence against the non-violent opposition and the people of Cuba in general, that dissidents be allowed to have their own social spaces, and that, once in for all, the activists jailed within the past months in Santiago de Cuba and other provinces be released“.  Yanez explains that the two strikers did not want to be taken to the hospital, especially after the sudden death of Lady in White Laura Pollan.  However, their physical conditions left no other option.  “On Thursday, Alcides couldn’t even get himself up from bed and it was nearly impossible for him to urinate“.  In the case of Rolando Ferrer, “he has been suffering from severe abdominal pains“.

Yanez Contrera warns that a third activist is also taking part in this strike, though from the Prison known as “Pre”.  His name is Arselio Lopez Rojas and is a political prisoner  whom “joined the strike on October 1st and since then has been physically and verbally attacked by the penitentiary authorities, especially by an official by the name of Osmany Febles de la Paz” who has even threatened with killing him.

The hunger strike initially included three other dissidents- Frank Reyes Lopez, Guillermo del Sol Perez, and Jorge Vazquez Chaviano.  Each one of these men stopped the strike due to serious health complications, according to Yanez.  “Frank Reyes stopped the strike last Saturday, the 22nd of October.  He was suffering from a chronic gastritis and is currently still in the hospital“, while the other two suffered similar outcomes.  “In the case of Jorge Vazquez he was urinating blood“.

A seventh dissident- Franklin Peregrino del Toro, from Cacocum, Holguin joined the hunger strike on the 10th of October but discontinued it on the 27th.

Idania Yanez declares that she, along with all the other relatives of the strikers, are extremely concerned for their lives.  “Their health is deteriorating daily.  Alcides entered the hunger strike weighing 220 pounds and is now weighing 165.  Rolando Ferrer was 156 and is now weighing 125 pounds.  Meanwhile, the government has paid no attention to their demands whatsoever“.  But Yanez also points out that these are “very brave actions on behalf of the three remaining protesters and all those who participated in the strike, who for diverse reasons have found themselves in a position where they had to discontinue it“.


(UPDATE- Saturday, October 29th.  6:00 PM)- As of the afternoon hours of Saturday the 29th, Idania Yanez offered declarations to this blog about her husband Alcides and also Rolando Ferrer, both of which are still in critical condition with health complications.  In the case of Ferrer, he cannot even speak and the doctors have not decided what will be done with him, while they wanted to move Alcides to an Intermediate Care Unit but the families protested and refused, for that floor on the hospital is commonly known as “The Slaughter Room”.  Yanez adds that the hospital continued to be completely militarized.  State Security agents are stationed all over the building, making decisions and watching over everyone and everything.  But this has not kept Idania and other fellow dissidents from showing up to the hospital and spending the night.

(Excuse the quality, but here are Idana Yanez’s audio declarations, in Spanish):

(October 29th)- Update on Hunger-Strikers Alcides Rodriguez and Rolando Ferrer, Both in Critical Condition