During the afternoon hours of October 20th, dissident leader Jorge Luis García Pérez ‘Antúnez’, published a photo on his Twitter account (@antunezcuba) of a reunion taking place in the city of Santa Clara, in Villa Clara province, at the home of renown activist Idania Yánez Contreras.
Also present in that meeting was recently released dissident Jorge Vázquez Chaviano, who was behind bars since the 27th of March of 2012 until the 10th of October, for simply trying to travel from Villa Clara to Havana to assist the Catholic Mass which was to be offered by Pope Benedict during his visit to the island.
Vázquez Chaviano was released thanks to the joint effort of the internal opposition, whose members carried out a massive hunger strike as well as a number of demonstrations throughout the island. His release is also a product of international solidarity on behalf of Cubans and non-Cubans who echoed Chaviano’s demands and supported his family in their demands for his liberation.
According to a Tweet published by Antunez, Vazquez Chaviano officially reincorporated himself to the internal opposition in this meeting, where he reiterated his compromise with the Central Opposition Coalition and the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front.
This Sunday 14th of October, the year anniversary of the death of Laura Pollan, leader of the Ladies in White, operations unleashed by the police forces of the Cuban regime produced numerous arrests throughout the island, but such actions were not able to impede the activities carried out in honor of Pollan.
A wide range of tributes were reported in the country since Berta Soler, representative of the Ladies in White, announced a week of activities last October 7th.
For example, that same day women carried out their traditional march along Havana’s 5th Avenue and screamed slogans like “Laura Pollan Lives“, while dissident Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello managed to arrange a daily Mass throughout the week in the San Juan Bosco Church in Havana in memory of the fallen leader of the Ladies in White. In the eastern town of Manzanillo, where Laura was born, various human rights activists met at the cemetery where part of her ashes remain and carried out a prayer vigil and deposited several white gladiolus flowers, the symbol of the peaceful struggle of the Ladies in White.
The actions continued all week in other regions: Holguin, Baracoa, Bayamo, Matanzas, Santa Clara, and Pinar del Rio, among others.
On Saturday the 13th, the Ladies in White held a meeting in their headquarters, situated in Pollan’s home on Neptuno Street, in Havana. Many of these women were arrested or kept from leaving their homes so that they not arrive to the encounter, but 18 of them were able to carry out the activity.
Marta Díaz Rondon, a Lady in White from the Eastern municipality of Banes, in Holguin province, was one of the women who were present. Diaz Rondon had to leave days before in order to arrive to the capital, where she managed to surpass numerous police cordons and arrive to the group’s headquarters.
Diaz says that the activity was carried out in an atmosphere of peace in the house, as the women “lit candles in front of pictures of Laura Pollan and deposited various flowers”. Meanwhile, outside the atmosphere was not the same. The regime organized mobs around the home which consisted of state police agents in civilian clothing and various pre-university students and even dancers who tried to make the act of repudiation seem like a simple “celebration” before the eyes of the international media.
Not only did the mobs blast pro-government music, but their members also shouted insults and obscene words at the women. The Ladies in White simply responded by singing the national anthem and shouting such slogans like “Laura Pollan Lives” and “Free Cuba“.
Nearby streets were closed off by the police and all traffic was re-routed to keep any other activists from arriving to the encounter.
On the following day- Sunday the 14th- a number of women throughout the country were reported as detained.
In the case of Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo, the renown dissident recounted that her home was surrounded by political police agents since 1 AM to keep her from leaving her house and joining the peaceful march to the Santa Rita Catholic Church. Neighbors told her that uniformed officials were keeping a tight vigilance over all the corners of the Rio Verde neighborhood of Boyeros, Havana, where her home is located.
“In addition, the agents had the objective of keeping any other dissident from arriving to my house to pay our own tribute to that grand leader that was Laura Pollan Toledo“, said Fonseca.
Meanwhile, the State Security agents Sanper and Alejandro ‘visited’ the headquarter of the group and threatened the women, telling Berta Soler that the Ladies in White could not march. However, Soler and Laura Labrada Pollan (Laura’s daughter) told the agents that they would not accept their instructions and they went out anyway and carried out their march with 48 women. They were accompanied also by other figures of the opposition like Hector Maceda (former prisoner and husband of Pollan), Ofelia Acevedo (widow of Oswaldo Paya), Antonio Rodiles, Hugo Damian Prieto and former political prisoners Ivan Hernandez Carrillo and Arnaldo Ramos.
Hernandez Carrillo was reporting from the scene of the activities through his Twitter account: @ivanlibre.
A group of women from Santiago de Cuba managed to surpass numerous police cordons and arrive to the Santa Rita church, joining the group of more than 40 women who had already arrived. Meanwhile, back in Santiago, another 30 women made it to the El Cobre Shrine.
In the central city of Santa Clara, 6 women from the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights were violently arrested when they were showing solidarity with the Ladies in White by trying to assist Mass in La Pastora Church. The detainees were Idania Yánez Conteras, Damaris Moya Portieles, Yaite Cruz Sosa, Ana Rosa Alfonso, Xiomara Martin Jiménez and Yanisbel Valido Pérez.
Idania Yanez explains that the women were dressed in white- as a form of solidarity, as these women always wear black during their protests- and that they were dragged off the bus they were aboard while they were “beaten“.
“State Security official Yunier Monteagudo Reina and other agents intercepted the bus we were traveling and started to physically assault us“, detailed Yanez, “Yunier hit Damaris Moya in the face and broke her lips… they dragged us throughout the floor, they shoved us and then they detained us and took us to the local police unit“.
The activists from the Rosa Parks Movement started to shout slogans against the government and others in honor of Laura Pollan while they were being assaulted.
Yanez said that at no point did the everyday people demonstrate hate towards them. Instead, they looked at the events in horror and demonstrated their solidarity with the protestors.
Other activists were arrested as was the case of Angel Moya Acosta and Raul Borges, among many others, but the internal opposition achieved their objective: honoring Laura Pollan, that Lady who made the Cuban regime tremble with just a flower, demanding peace, freedom and justice.
18 years ago, forces of the Cuban regime assassinated 41 people who were trying to flee the country in search of freedom in the United States aboard an old tugboat (“13th of March”). The crime occurred on July 13th, 1994, when a couple of other state vessels persecuted the tugboat (which had 69 people on board), blocked its path, and used a cannon to fire water at the Cubans. 41 of those people died, drowned or from the impact, and among them were 11 minors.
In 2012, during the anniversary of this massacre, the repression of the regime (the same one which committed the crime) was not able to impede Cubans throughout the island from honoring the victims.
On the eve of the anniversary, about 18 activists in Santa Cruz del Sur, Camaguey, met at the home of dissident Yoan David Gonzalez Milanes to carry out a candlelight vigil followed by a pots and pan protest in memory of the vicitms. On the following day, July 13th, this same group had plans to march out of the home up to a local river, where they would deposit flowers in honor of those assassinated. However, government mobs surrounded the home, shouted violent slogans, kicked down the door, and impeded the dissidents from stepping out. Regardless, on the morning of Saturday July 14th, the dissidents once again tried to step out of the house, and this time they did, although they were arrested by forces of the political police.
Another successful pots and pan protest took place on July 12th in the city of Placetas, in Santa Clara, where dissidents like Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez”,Marta Díaz Rondonand Leticia Ramos Herrería participated. They were carrying out a meeting there, debating a new opposition campaign dubbed “Towards the National Strike”.
July 13th began with the news that 6 activists from the Central Opposition Coalition in Santa Clara also carried out a peaceful march to a local river to also deposit flowers, but all of these members were violently arrested. Among them was Idania Yánez Contreras, Rolando Ferrer Espinosa, Alcides Rivera and Damaris Moya Portieles. However, Alcides Rivera managed to throw the flowers into the river right before being arrested. In the case of Yanez Contreras, she was shoved into a police vehicle and kept in there for nearly an hour before being taken into custody in a police unit, with the engine off, the windows up and under the scorching sun.
The Free Yorubas Association of Cuba, a religious organization independent from state control, carried out a religious ceremony a couple of days before the anniversary, in which they prayed for the victims and prayed for the freedom of Cuba.
In Havana, the home of Lady in White Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo had already been completely surrounded by the political police for 5 days, keeping her family and other dissidents from going out to the street. Fonseca explained that, although they could not make it out, she managed to hang a large sign on her porch with messages condemning the Castro regime for the tugboat massacre and honoring the victims, highlighting that there were minors among the murdered. The activist added that other members of the group which she presides over- the Pro Human Rights Party of Cuba– did manage to surpass police cordons and pay tribute to the victims publicly in the same province of Havana.
Meanwhile, also in Havana but in the neighborhood of Arroyo Naranjo, Eriberto Liranza Romero said that various activists from the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy shocked the police, despite having been under threats and vigilance for 2 weeks, managing to throw flowers into a local river. On the morning of Saturday the 14th, Liranza explained on Twitter that other activities were being carried out by other members of the same youth group.
In Banes, Holguin, a group of dissidents from the Eastern Democratic Alliance marched to a river as well, successfully throwing flowers. These same dissidents managed to surpass a police cordon which had been set up by State Security Major Roilan Cruz, one of the main culprits of Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s assassination in 2010.
Other similar activities were reported in other provinces and cities, although telephone interruptions made it difficult to confirm further details.
Meanwhile, various Cubans across the island sent out messages through Twitter, using the hashtag #Remolcador13M (#Tugboat13M). One of these Twitter users was former political prisoners Pedro Arguelles Moran who mentioned the anniversary and emphasized that the crime was executed under “orders of the Castro tyranny“.
The Pastor and blogger Mario Felix Barroso tweeted, “The assassins are still out on the street, but God will do justice“. Meanwhile, Yoani Sanchez recalled that she was 17 years old when the massacre occurred and mentioned that many people, including her friends, would also risk their lives at sea in search of freedom. She explained that she did not know of the crime until “a couple of months after“, but affirmed that “ignorance does not free us of responsibility“.
“Help us to not forget them“, continued another Tweet by Sanchez, “to denounce the injustice“. The blogger also published a link to a harrowing testimony by one of the survivors.
In Santa Clara, Villa Clara, on Saturday May 19th, Antonia Rodriguez, the grandmother of activist Idania Yanez Contreras died after suffering a stroke following a drastic rise in her blood pressure. According to several sources in the internal Resistance, her blood pressure spiked after several aggressive acts of repudiation occurred over a period of two days.
The violence erupted on Wednesday, May 16th, when about 30 human rights activists managed to reach Idania Yanez Contreras’s home in Santa Clara for a meeting about their opposition activities. Among those present was the opposition leader Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez,” who had to circumvent many police cordons to reach the house from the city of Placetas. Antunez was sending messages on Twitter (@ antunezcuba) as soon as the repudiation started, under the leadership of Lt. Col. Regino, among other agents.
During the act of repudiation, the mob began shouting insults at the dissidents present, as well as making obscene gestures, as was the case of Colonel Regino who was fondling his genitals while facing female activists who were inside the house. Antunez published photos of these actions through Twitter.
One of the most violent moments in the repudiation was when the mob started throwing stones at the house of Yanez Contreras. One of these stones penetrated the house and hit Aramilda Contreras, Yanez Contreras’s mother. Then, during the second day of repudiation, May 17th, the police beat several activists including Rolando Ferrer Espinosa, Maria Martinez and Barbara Portieles in the house of Damaris Moya Portieles, which is located directly across from the house of Yanez Contreras.
Yanez explains that her family actually made a decision to sneak her grandmother out and into the home of another relative who lives just a few houses down the block while the act of repudiation had still not escalated into such a violent event. On the 18th, when Antonia Rodriguez came back to the house, there were still mobs screaming obscenities at her family. Meanwhile, she had witnessed all of the other violence from the relative’s house she was staying in. Nervous for her loved ones, her blood pressure spiked. A few moments later, Antunez reported that she suffered a stroke and during the afternoon of Saturday May 19, activists reported that she had died (Twitter: @ alambradas, @ LibradoLinares, @ maritovoz).
It was also reported that Antunez, who been able to return to his home in Placetas, was being prevented from leaving to show support for the family of Yanez Contreras and to attend the funeral of her grandmother.
This has been another death in which the guilt lies with the Cuban dictatorship, which sends mobs to repudiate and beat the elderly, children and any Cuban who dares to think differently and in favor of freedom.
On April 10th in the city of Placetas, various members of the Central Opposition Coalition, a pro-demcoracy group headed by Idania Yanez Contreras, and members of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front called on all human rights activists to demand the freedom of various Cuban dissidents who are currently detained. Among the detainees are the two Ladies in White Sonia Garro Alfonso and Niurka Luque Alvarez (Havana), the dissident Jorge Vazquez Chaviano (Sagua la Grande), and former political prisoner of conscience Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia (Palmarito de Cauto).
In this case, 9 dissidents set out from the home of Yanez Contreras and began a civic demonstration where they carried the flag with the logo of the National Resistance Front and demanded freedom for all the previously mentioned political prisoners. In just instants, various members of the Cuban Political Police and from the Rapid Response Brigades intercepted the demonstrators, ripping their flag from them, physically assaulting them, and detaining them by force. Among the activists was former political prisoner Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Antunez, who is also the national coordinator of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo Front. Once again, we can see how agents of the Cuban regime use a bed sheet to try and cover the images of the violence which were being recorded by a camera. It is a tactic which they have used on various occasions, especially against the women of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights when they protest in Santa Clara. However, despite how much the regime tries to cover up the abuses against the Cuban people, they will not be able to. See the images here:
Also, the following video is of one of the dissidents detained on that protest of the 10th of April- Alberto Reyes– who was beaten and even had his pants ripped by State agents (Spanish):
In the municipality of Moa, in the province of Holguin, 3 Cuban regime henchmen carried out various physical blows against the Lady in White Annie Sarrion Romero to the point that they broke two of her front teeth this past Tuesday February 7th, according to her husband, the coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) in Moa, Juan Carlos Vazquez Osoria.
The brutal assault occurred when Sarrion was on her way to her job on Tuesday morning. She was confronted by the group of men, under the direction of political police chief in that area, Leandro Morgado, and they all began to threaten her for her dissident activities. Amid the provocations, Sarrion stood firm and non-violent. The agents, however, responded with violence. Two of the “men” who punched her to the point of losing two teeth were Víctor Laurencio Blanco y Neuris Basulto.
According to Vazquez Osoria, Blanco and Basulto are waiting to travel to Venezuela to carry out medical missions in that country. “In the case of Victor, I know that he has already traveled twice to Venezuela, and now they all have their papers ready to travel once more“, denounced the activist. He adds that “pay is so poor here in Cuba that they have to do these things” to be accepted and approved by the regime to travel.
It is precisely against this corruption and violence which Osoria and Romero peacefully protest against, and for this reason, they are beaten, arrested, and suffer other sorts of harassment. For example, this same week, on Monday February 6th (the day before Annie was beaten), Juan Carlos Vazquez explains that along with his wife and other dissidents of the UNPACU they began to put up anti-government signs outside their home. “In our signs we wrote slogans like ‘just salaries for all workers’, ‘milk for the kids’, ‘freedom for all political prisoners’, and ‘down with hunger and misery’, in addition to putting up the UNPACU flag‘”, says Osoria. Quickly, during the afternoon, a mob repudiation attack was organized by the regime outside the house.
It was at this moment that the communist mobs raided the house. “Someone who goes by the title of Lieutenant Colonel Andres broke down our door, began to hit us, and even broke my cellphone“, denounced the dissident. The mobs then began to drag all the dissidents outside out of the house- Annie Sarrion Romero, Maritza Cardosa Romero (both Ladies in White), Mario Antonio Borges, and Geraldo Sarrion (son-in-law of Osoria).
“My wife was dragged, as we all were, and they beat her. They hit me over the head with sticks. And then we were all detained and taken to the local National Revolutionary Police Unit”, said Osoria.
Meanwhile, the national coordinator of UNPACU- the former political prisoner Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia- denounced that on Tuesday, agents of the dictatorship also arrested 5 activists of that pro-democracy group. Those arrested were Ana Celia Rodríguez Torres, Yanisel Figueredo Valdés, Kenya Leguin (Ladies in White), Julio Cesar Vega Santisteban and Elieser Consuegra Velázquez. “The men were released during afternoon hours, but up to this moment (Wednesday) the women have not yet been released”, explained Ferrer, who also classified this violence against the Ladies in White and the Cuban Resistance in general as an emergency.
“These women- the Ladies in White- are victims of a merciless and constant harassment; not only are they constantly and arbitrarily detained, not only are they beaten, but they are also confined to filthy prison cells in police units and, once there, police agents sexually harass them”, denounced the former prisoner of conscience. During the first weeks of 2012 countless cases of sexual abuse against the Ladies in White and other female dissidents have been reported. “They have inappropriately and forcefully touched these women while they search their bodies for phones, cameras, and camera memory cards. Not only do they suffer these searches of the entire body, but they are also touched and immobilized”.
Ferrer cites a specific example, when recently “a political police official brought a lover of his and started to have sex next to the cell where Lady in White Karina Quintana was being held, and later another agent arrived and started to make perverted sexual gestures at the Lady in White“. Another case was when “during the weekend of February 3rd to the 5th, on Saturday night, 2 agents of the police in the 3rd Unit of Santiago de Cuba- known as “the motorized unit”- walked into the cell where Lady in White Liudmilla Cedeno Martinez (wife of Guillermo Cobas, coordinator of UNPACU in El Caney) was detained and started to also carry out perverted gestures as they stared at the dissident“.
In addition, Ferrer pointed out examples in other parts of Cuba, like in Placetas (central Cuba) where women from the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights were recently arrested with much violence, and also sexual harassment. Among the women were Yris Tamara Aguilera, Idania Yanez and Damaris Moya– whom all confirmed that some were grabbed in the breasts or touched in other places by regime agents. Another case, as Ferrer cites, was against (also Lady in White) Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo, in Havana. Fonseca is also victim of constant surveillance, physical aggression, and sexual harassment by communist henchmen. “It is not enough for the dictatorship to beat dissidents“, denounces Ferrer, “We know very well that tyrannies sustain themselves in power through very low and degrading acts, as the political police is doing here in Cuba. But it is very worrying and alarming, due to the magnitude of these actions against peaceful and brave women“.
Juan Carlos Vazquez Osoria echoed the same denouncement, adding that “these acts of vandalism and aggression of the Castro regime are being done in order to plant terror in everyday people, so that they will not join the struggle for freedom. But people are noticing, because there is far too much necessity- the streets are not clean, there are no good schools for our children, hundreds of kids can’t even go to school, and many of those who do go without shoes because the streets are so bad that their shoes are torn“.
“And we are fighting against all of this, and that is why they violently attack us“, declares the dissident.
Jose Daniel Ferrer and Juan Carlos Vazquez are just some of the voices informing the world about the alarming and incrementing level of violence against dissidents in Cuba. We must listen.
The women of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights once again stayed true to their promise of marching publicly throughout the streets of Santa Clara this February 1st. The march, however, was rapidly and violently interrupted by agents at the service of the Cuban dictatorship. This is the same arrest which was caught on audio and posted on Antunez’s blog a few days ago, as well.
This time, they also captured the arbitrary arrest on video, but they also captured something else of equal importance- the incredible fear which the Cuban regime is feeling. This fear is displayed on the video as we can see two Castro regime agents stupidly (there is no other word to describe it) using a bed sheet in an attempt to try and cover the violence against the women from being captured on film. We can see them moving left and right, trying to match their bed sheet with the camera, but we can also see them fail, and the dissident recording the event manages to capture some images. The women were sexually harassed, touched, and beaten- among them were Yris Tamara Aguilera, Idania Yánez Contreras and Damaris Moya.
And the truth is that the Cuban dictatorship feels a deep fear because of the public and peaceful activities which Resistance members are carrying out on the streets of the island, in addition to much fear because of the new technologies being used by dissidents, such as cameras, Twitter, and internet- because they know very well that not even their repressive machinery can deter reality, Resistance, and change.
Watch the fear of the dictatorship for yourselves: