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)

Letter from Ivonne Malleza, From ‘Manto Negro’ Prison

Via Martha Beatriz Roque and the Network of Cuban Community Communicators:

Ivonne Malleza (Lady in White) and her husband Ignacio Martinez (on hunger strike as of 01/12/12).

These are some paragraphs from a letter penned by Ivonne Malleza Galano from her jaill cell in the Western Prison for Women, better known  as ‘Manto Negro’ (which, literally translated, means ‘Black Cloak’).  The letter was written on January 10th, 2012:

“I do not know if this will serve as a denouncement.  Considering what I have seen in my cell, living conditions are disastrous.  Jailed women must shower with cold water (even during these winter days), and they are given no rights to heat it up.  The food is horrible and, most of the times, in horrible conditions.  Many times, we are not given our medications or they take up to two days to give them to us.  And they really punish you.  The guards do not give you a mattress until it’s 6 pm, and then they snatch it from you at 6 am, along with bedsheets and all.  Even if you are very cold or have pains they do not give it to you, emphasizing that it is a punishment cell.  They maintain everything like that for 10 days until they finally give it to you but the rest of the conditions are still precarious. 

Although I do not know much about denouncements, I must tell you that in the cell, one is only given 5 minutes to make a phone call, without the right to call again, even if its a family member.  There is no television.  You are locked in the cell at all times, amid the humidity and the freezing cold all over your body.  On the outside, you can see male prisoners working and they themselves have said that the treatment and punishment is harsher for women than for men. 

As for the penal area, I can’t say much.  But the bit that I did see was very similar, for the exception that you have a bit more ‘liberty’, but conditions are horrible as well, as prisoners who have been there for years have said.  I have tried to speak to some of these prisoners when they let us go outside to get sun and I’ve tried to take down their names to put a source to everything I say, but they do not dare to give their names, for they are very afraid that measures will be taken against their families. 

A woman cannot live amid these horrid life conditions in prison“.

– Ivonne Malleza, January 10th 2012

Malleza has been imprisoned since November 30th- for 6 weeks now- for the simple act of protesting publicly in a centric park of Havana, where a group of dissidents shouted that the Cuban people were hungry, tired, and desperate for freedom.  Malleza has been on and off carrying out hunger strikes while in captivity, though as of now she is not.  However, her husband Ignacio Martinez, also imprisoned since November 30th, just declared on Thursday, January 12th that he had initiated a hunger strike in demand for his liberation, as well as that of his wife and Isabel Haydee Alvarez, a Cuban citizen not affiliated to any opposition group who simply joined in the protest of the 30th.

FREEDOM NOW, for these 3 Cuban political prisoners and ALL Cuban political prisoners!

Letter from Ivonne Malleza, From ‘Manto Negro’ Prison

The Cuban Resistance Begins 2012 with Peaceful Protests, Dictatorship Begins with Repression

Via the Assembly of the Resistance:
Among the activities which were carried out by members of the Cuban Resistance on the first day of 2012, a significant march occurred in the streets of Santa Clara, under the direction of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights.  The Cuban regime rapidly responded with savage beatings and arrests, as well as obscene threats against dissidents, who were in their majority women.

(January 1st, 2012)

Dissidents from the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights announced during the last days of December 2011 that their organization would carry out public protests out on the streets of Cuba every 1st day of the month, and that is exactly what they did on the first day of 2012.  Idania Yanez Contreras, who besides being member of the Rosa Parks Movement is also president of the Central Opposition Coalition, explained that on Sunday, January 1st, the group led a march through the streets of Santa Clara “for the freedom of Cuba, against impunity, and in support and solidarity with Ivonne Malleza Galano” who is still behind bars since November 30th, along with her husband Ignacio Martinez and Isabel Aydee, a Cuban citizen who joined the protest which was headed by the dissident couple.  Meanwhile, officials of the Cuban dictatorship also kept their promise of violently repressing any dissenting activists, as well as any other person who joined the protest.

Yanez Contreras narrates that the march head out from the home of Damaris Moya Portieles, provincial delegate for the Rosa Parks Movement.  In the demonstration, numerous activists participated, including Damaris Moya, Maria del Carmen Martinez Lopez, Ana Iris Burune Rivera, Yanoisi Contreras Aguilar, Alcides Rivera Rodríguez, Frank Reyes López, Jorge Luis García Pérez ‘Antúnez’, Natividad Blanco Carrero, Aramilda Contreras Rodríguez and Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera.

The participants carried signs with the initials of the Rosa Parks Movement, as well as other messages demanding freedom for Ivonne Malleza and other Cuban political prisoners.  In just an instant, recounts Yanez, “we were victims of the cruel and brutal aggression of the political police, along with members of the Rapid Response Brigade and the Communist Party“.  The dictatorship’s paid oppressors took their own signs which consisted of vulgar offenses against the activists.  They also began to shout numerous violent slogans.  The demonstrators responded with their own slogans: “Food for the people”, “Freedom for Ivonne Malleza and her husband”, “Freedom for all political prisoners”, and “Down with the Castro dictatorship“.

 The activists then congregated in the front porch of Idania Yanez’s home, which is also the headquarters of the Central Opposition Coalition, and they continued their peaceful protest.  Contreras describes that “the agents broke into my front porch…they took most of us from there by force“.   In the case of Frank Reyes Lopez, who was filming all of these events from the roof of the house, members of the Special Brigade climbed up and “threw him off, under orders of State Security“.  The dissident suffered a fracture in his right arm.  Maria del Carmen Martinez also suffered a fracture in one of her arms, product of a beating, while Aramilda Contreras was victim of serious injuries.

In addition to being violently beaten, all the demonstrators were arrested.  They were taken in police vehicles to different detention units and thrown in jail cells, where most of them spent a day of arrest.  Robert Alcides Rivera Yanez, the son of Idania and a minor, was also “beaten and shoved by police officials“, according to Yanez, who painfully witnessed the brutality against her young son.  “He has bruises and injuries all over his small body“, she painfully expressed.  Various neighbors joined in solidarity and broke up the violence and managed to shelter the child from the police.

The first dissidents to be released from their arrest were Iris Burune Rivera, Natividad Blanco Carrero, Aramilda Contreras Rodríguez, Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera and Antúnez, who were all deported to Placetas.  When the news of the violence against the group began to spread, another concentration of 11 activists head out from the headquarters of the Central Opposition Coalition and carried out another march, protesting the brutality which had just occurred.

“The protest-march head out from the headquarters and dissidents were shouting anti-government slogans throughout the central road all the way to the Police Unit, where an official stepped out and, upon seeing the demonstration, put his hands on his head and started to shout for other officials to come”, recounts Yanez, adding that this group was also arrested.  After the detainment, the political police began to leave some of the dissidents in different municipalities, including Alexei Sotolongo, Alberto Reyes and  Yanoaisi Contreras, while others were kept arrested, like Rolando Ferrer Espinosa, Ramón Arbolaes Abreu, Victor Castillo Ortega, Maribel Rodríguez Prieto and Yanisbel Valido Pérez.

Idania Yánez Contreras described her time behind the bars as “horrible“.  According to the dissident, in her cell “the guards, under the orders of State Security, were screaming obscenities at us” and even threatened with raping the women.  Yanez denounced that one of the obscene threats she has not been able to forget was that “they began to tell me ‘I am going to sleep with Idania because she has the largest ass‘”.  She added that the guards were ‘raffling’ the women amongst themselves, choosing which one they would rape.

Meanwhile, Damaris Moya also suffered verbal and physical attacks.  “I was treated horrible under the orders of Captains Andro, Yuniel Monteagudo and another by the last name Gil“, denounced the co-president of the Central Opposition Coalition, adding that the initial violence occurred in front of her young son who is only 13 months old.  “He was desperately screaming in the arms of his grandmother while the agents were applying martial arts immobilization locks on me.  And that’s how they dragged me to the police vehicle and later to the detention center“.  In the case of her husband, Yanoisi, he was beaten and “choked and he now has his face swollen…they also punched him on the stomach and in the testicles“.

The same official- Yuniel Monteagudo- was also responsible for the brutality against Antunez, even while he was detained in the back seat of a police vehicle.  “That official told one of the Rapid Response agents: ‘punish him during the entire trip‘”, explained Antunez, “and then they started to punch me the entire way.  While he was hitting me he was saying ‘piece of shit nigger, scream ‘Fidel Lives'”.  The dissident responded with the contrary.  “I started to scream ‘Down with Fidel'”, amid even more blows, “and that’s how the entire trip was until we reached the police unit of Santa Clara“.  The blows against Garcia Antunez resulted in numerous swellings on his head, and he is currently suffering from dizziness and lack of vision in his left eye, where he was also hit.

However, the dissident affirmed that although 2012 began with lots of violence against the peaceful Resistance, something positive was that during one of the marches in demand for freedom of those who were detained on that morning, “neighbors of Santa Clara were also fed up with the violence and joined the protest…they would scream ‘abusers’, ‘hunger and misery’ and some of these citizens were even arrested“.  Antunez, like Idania Yanez and Damaris Moya also affirmed that they would not give in or give up in the face of the terror that the Cuban dictatorship tries to impose on its people.  “Despite the beatings“, assures Antunez, “I feel satisfied and convinced that now, more than ever, we are witnessing the final days of the tyranny“.  The dissident classified 2012 as a year of  “importance” for the Cuban Resistance.

Damaris Moya also sent out a direct message to dictator Raul Castro.  “If the supposed measures which Castro was enforcing are just to massacre us, well then we will be massacred because we are going to continue with our marches demanding food for the people, demanding justice and always out on the street“.  Idania Yanez echoed this same attitude:  “Here we are, and we are going to continue with our actions“.

The Cuban Resistance Begins 2012 with Peaceful Protests, Dictatorship Begins with Repression

Ivonne Malleza and Isabel Haydee Moved to Manto Negro Prison; Ignacio Martinez to Combinado del Este

The Lady in White Mayra Morejon Hernandez urgently informed this Monday December 26th that the dissident (and also Lady in White) Ivonne Malleza, whom has already been detained for 3 weeks and a half, was sent to an unknown prison.  Her audio, in Spanish:

Shortly after, the independent Hablemos Press news agency confirmed that Malleza, along with Isabel Haydee (a passerby who joined in on the protest carried out by Ivonne and others on November 30th), were sent to the Manto Negro female prison.  Meanwhile, Ignacio Martinez- husband of Malleza- was sent to Combinado del Este Prison.  The audio, in Spanish:

These measures make up the Cuban dictatorship’s strategy to try and crack down on all forms of Resistance, specifically the kind which involves citizens taking to the street and publicly protesting for freedom, food, and justice.  However, dissidents throughout the island and abroad have taken up numerous campaigns to demand the liberation of these three citizens who spoke the truth to the masses on November 30th.  We cannot look away.  Freedom for all of Cuba’s political prisoners!

Ivonne Malleza and Isabel Haydee Moved to Manto Negro Prison; Ignacio Martinez to Combinado del Este

Vigil for the Freedom of Ivonne Malleza and all Cuban Political Prisoners

This Wednesday, December 21st, members of the pro-democracy Cuban organization in exile ‘Plantados Hasta la Libertad de Cuba‘ have announced that they will incorporate the Lady in White Ivonne Malleza, her husband Ignacio Martinez, and Cuban bystander Isabel Haydee in their weekly vigil held every Wednesday.  Plantados, which is headed by the former political prisoner Angel de Fana, dedicates this vigil to all political prisoners which suffer behind the bars in Cuba.  The event of solidarity will take place outside Miami’s Versailles Restaurant, located at 3555 SouthWest 8th Street, and will begin at 8 pm.

Betsy Gonzalez, an exiled Cuban human rights activist, has created a Facebook page for the event which can be visited here.  According to Gonzalez, those organizing the vigil will also include Christmas music in honor of the holidays and to wish blessings and hope for Cubans during the new year.  It is suggested that attendees take posters with the images of Cuban political prisoners, such as Ivonne Malleza, as well as candles for the vigil.

Activists in and out of Cuba have also created a petition demanding the immediate and unconditional release of Ivonne Malleza, Ignacio Martinez, and Isabel Haydee, which can be signed here.  All three have been detained since November 30th after publicly declaring that the Cuban people are hungry.  This upcoming Wednesday- precisely the day of the vigil- it will be 3 weeks since their arrest.

Freedom for all Cuban political prisoners!

Vigil for the Freedom of Ivonne Malleza and all Cuban Political Prisoners