The absurd Law of Pre Social Dangerousness has taken another victim in Cuba. This time, it’s Jose Manuel Rodriguez, a member of the Eastern Democratic Alliance in Baracoa, Guantanamo, in the Eastern region of the country.
According to an audio published on ‘Radio Republica’ by Isael Poveda Silva, a dissident and member of ADO-Press, Rodriguez had been receiving a series of acts of repudiation and threats at the hands of police agents until they finally detained him. On Wednesday, October 30th, he was sentenced to 4 years behind bars for the “simple fact of defending human rights and refusing to collaborate with the State Security apparatus”.
Poveda adds that the trial was extremely brief and authorities did not allow the presence of relatives and barred lawyers to participate in his defense.
The Law of Pre Social Dangerousness gives power to the regime to jail any citizen under the pretext that they may commit some sort of crime in the future. It is widely used to punish those who protest against the system as well as the youth.
Jose Manuel Rodriguez is the father of three underage children and he is married. The Eastern Democratic Alliance is demanding his immediate and unconditional release.
This 17th of March was the first Sunday in which the Ladies in White marched throughout the streets of Cuba with their leader- Berta Soler– out of the country. The women also dedicated their weekly march in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Black Spring, when 75 dissidents (the majority independent journalists) were arrested and sentenced to years of prison after quick trials.
Ivan Hernandez Carillo, an ex political prisoner from this same group of the 75, informed on his Twitter account (@ivanlibre) that in Havana 51 Ladies in White marched and made it to Mass at the Santa Rita Church.
Hernandez also pointed out that in the province of Matanzas a total of 18 women marched. 4 did so in the city of Colon, 3 in Perico, 1 in the Espana Central and another 10 in Cardenas. In Ciego de Avila province 2 women reportedly made it to Mass.
In the Eastern region of the country, 60 Ladies in White assisted Mass in the National ‘El Cobre’ Shrine (Santiago de Cuba) and 8 made it in Guantanamo province.
Former political prisoner (also from the 75) and leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, denounced on his Twitter account (@jdanielferrer) that a group of Ladies in White in the province of Holguin were arrested by the political police, among them the representative of the group in that area, Berta Guerrero Segura.
“These dignified Cuban women suffer persecution, violence, arbitrary arrests, economic asphyxiation, hunger, etc.”, highlighted another tweet by Ferrer.
Isael Poveda Silva, from the Eastern Democratic Alliance, said on his Twitter account (@IsaelCuba) that Lady in White Mildred Noemi Sanchez Infante was “insulted, offended, and arrested by State Security agents” as she was stepping out of her home in Antilla, Holguin. The same thing happened to her last Sunday.
Meanwhile, Berta Soler, national representative of the group, has been denouncing the situation each of these women face on her first trip ever outside of Cuba, on international forums and interviews with diverse media outlets. With the slogan “Yes to Cuba, No to Castro“, Soler has declared that the Ladies in White and the opposition in general have grown stronger despite the regime’s violent tactics and that, in reality, there have been no actual reforms by the totalitarian system, instead “tiny moves” which try to give an image of change to the rest of the world.
The repressive wave known as the Black Spring of 2003 was what led to the creation of this female group, made up by mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and aunts which demanded freedom for their relatives.
This Sunday was also the third anniversary in which many of these women were beaten and violently arrested by police agents in Havana, just days after the death of political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo. These acts of violence are common each Sunday, but when this happened on that March of 2010, the images were captured by the cameras of the international media and went around the world, inspiring a high level of solidarity, including a march of more than 100,000 people in Miami just days later.
Cuban dissident Isael Poveda Silva, from Guantanamo province, informed on his Twitter account (@IsaelCuba) that, once again, the authorities have lashed out against a young university student that has reached out to the opposition- Juannier Rodriguez Matos. See the tweets here:
The messages explain that the young Juannier participated in the ninth anniversary celebration of the pro-freedom Eastern Democratic Alliance in the town of Antilla during the past month of February, giving a speech about leadership and values. His scholarship in the University of the East, in Santiago de Cuba, was suspended on Wednesday, March 13th, and he will have to go before a disciplinary commission. The same thing has happened with a number of other students who have joined the Alliance or other dissident groups, some of the most recent being Alejandro Hernandez Real and Raday Matos Matos.
Each day, there are more Cubans who, through the “internet without internet”, use Twitter to narrate the real Cuba and to shatter censorship. They are dissidents, bloggers, intellectuals, farmers…Cubans hailing from diverse corners of the country. It’s difficult for them to send out these messages, considering that it costs 1 dollar (an elevated amount for Cubans), and yet, they still do it.
The following are a couple of follow recommendations of new or recent Twitter users, straight from the island:
Maydelis González Almeida
Resident of Quemado de Guines, Villa Clara, member of the Cuban Reflection Movement. She and her family are constantly persecuted by the political police but they continue defying the dictatorship out in the streets.
Carlos Michael Morales
An independent journalist and alternative blogger (‘El Amante de la Libertad’), Carlos Michael is also a member of the Central Opposition Coalition. He has used his account to denounce cases of political repression, social issues and achievements by pro-freedom activists.
Isael Poveda Silva
Member of the Eastern Democratic Alliance and of their information agency ADO-Press, Isael Poveda tweets from Guantanamo, narrating the reality of that Eastern region: cholera outbreaks, signs which appear in public with anti-regime messages, public marches, evictions, and more.
Santa Gonzalez Pedroso
A very brave Cuban woman, member of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights, she carries out frequent public protests alongside other dissidents in Grua Nueva, Ciego de Avila. Santa Gonzalez does an excellent job on Twitter denouncing human rights violations in that area and documenting the growing level of opposition.
Tweeting from San German, Holguin, Eliecer just opened his account, promising important news from the Cuba ignored by the state media. Palma has been reporting important social issues, like a recent massive strike by carriage drivers in San German.
Yanisbel Valido Perez
One of the most active young dissidents in the city of Santa Clara, Villa Clara province. Valido Perez is the representative of the Cuban Rafters without Frontiers Movement and member of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights. She is frequently arrested by the political police but does not stop carrying out public activities in favor of freedom, nor does she stop informing about them on her account.
These were just some of the new Twitter users from Cuba. Everyday there are more. Give them a follow!
Category 2 Hurricane Sandy left behind a scene of destruction throughout all of Eastern Cuba, tearing down countless homes and costing the lives of at least 11 people during the morning hours of October 26th.
A few days later, the Cuban regime has responded with inefficiency in regards to the situation, as well as with the accustomed repression against human rights defenders. However, these same activists and the everyday people have been helping neighbors who have suffered hard hits, considering that the regime’s personnel have paid no attention to the suffering.
In Santiago de Cuba, one of the most affected provinces has “grave damages“, according to former political prisoner and leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia.
“Sandy has passed through a region that was already very poor, which was already damaged by so many years of the regime’s inefficiency, and it has left even more destruction of homes, farms, stores, churches and other establishments”, explained Ferrer, “it has left more hunger, there is no electricity and there are lots of necessities which Cubans already have to begin with. The entire region has nearly been left without any services. There is no drinkable water and there is destruction everywhere and people are trying to resolve with what they have”.
The dissident leader points out that during the storm, one activist on UNPACU in Palma Soriano sheltered about 30 people in his home. Meanwhile, the website of the pro-democracy Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID) reported that various activists from this group have been assisting affected families, helping them rebuild what they can.
“Civil Defense has done nothing to help the affected”, affirmed Ferrer García. This declaration is one seconded as well by Lady in White and member of the Eastern Democratic Alliance, Marta Diaz Rondon, from Banes, Holguin.
“Here, the people are criticizing the government because they have neither protected or helped them”, said Diaz, “the people have told us- dissidents- to please take pictures and make their situations public. The entire town was misinformed before the hurricane passed. The state media said that there were only going to be some rains and winds, but at no moment did they mention a hurricane passing through Banes, while no one was evacuated”.
Many citizens witnessed before their eyes as their homes crashed down while they rushed to take shelter wherever they could.
The home of Diaz Rondon was penetrated by water brought my intense rains, while parts of her roof (made of zinc) fell. Meanwhile, in the same municipality of Banes but in another neighborhood, Lady in White Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez suffered the total destruction of her home.
Ojeda Suarez recounts that “the storm ripped off my roof, it tore down my back wall and all of my children’s furniture were soaked. The little bit of things I had have been destroyed, but I was not the only one. Two houses next to mine also fell to the ground. My brother-in-law also lost his roof and a wall. The situation in Banes is disastrous”.
The activist explained that the majority of the food she had was destroyed and that the people “are hungry” and “desperate“. She adds that before and after the storm, functionaries of the Communist Party have walked by her neighborhood but at no point in time did they stop by her house to ask if she needed any sort of help.
“The situation in Banes, when it comes to food, is critical. People cannot find food. We are cooking with rocks, and with pieces of debris from our homes”, added Marta Diaz Rondon.
In his part, activist Walter Cañete Cruz said that in the Los Pinos neighborhood of Banes, his home and that of many other citizens were also reduced to rubble, and that “the authorities have not appeared to try and fix the problems“.
The effects of the hurricane were not only felt in the Eastern region of the country, but also in some central areas, especially in the Northern coastal town of Playa Larga, in Cardenas, Matanzas, where Lady in White Leticia Ramos Herreria recounted that “the sea level rose and lots of water penetrated countless homes, and no officials from Civil Defense showed up to help us“.
In the absence of functionaries, many citizens turned to Ramos Herreria and other activists so that they would help them.
“A number of us activists went to the local Communist Party headquarters…after hours that we had presented our complaints there, some firefighters showed up in Playa Larga to save some lives”, declared Ramos, “in fact, the fire truck could not even enter the area because there was so much water. You couldn’t tell the street apart from the ocean. Many people told those firefighters that they had left them there abandoned”.
The accustomed repression against other human rights activists during the weekend was not withheld. On the same day of the hurricane, three activists from the Eastern Democratic Alliance were arrested by the political police in Guantanamo when they were helping various people who evacuated themselves in a community known as El Caribe, according to Yanniel Cisneros. The detainees were Jesus Manuel Pena (father and son) and Isael Poveda Silva. In addition, a number of detentions of UNPACU members were also reported, while in Antilla, Lady in White Mildred Noemi Sanchez Infante said a group of dissidents had been persecuted and arrested, among them Amada Pileta, Miguel Santana and Ángel Batista Vega.
From Havana, Berta Soler said that the Ladies in White dedicated their Sunday march this 28th of October not only to all political prisoners of conscience but also to the victims of the hurricane. “Despite the weather conditions which ravaged the Eastern region, and despite the repression of the government, 51 of us Ladies in White were able to march down Havana’s 5th Avenue, demanding the Cuban government to release all political prisoners and to respect the human rights of all citizens, but also in solidarity with all our Eastern brothers and sisters who have suffered, and continue suffering, lack of water, food, and attention from the government“.
Soler highlighted that although the political police detained a number of women throughout the East on that same day, 8 of them were able to march to church in Guantanamo and 2 in Holguin. Meanwhile, in Matanzas 16 women were able to carry out their emblematic and peaceful march.
“The Cuban regime truly did not prepare the people for these conditions in the East, but the Ladies in White are keeping our minds positive and we are offering all our solidarity to the Eastern people. In any way we can help, we will do so”, assured Soler, who added that more than 15 Ladies in White suffered partial or total losses of their homes.
The promoters of the Citizen Demand for Another Cuba initiative have published various addresses on their blog where aid can be sent to directly assist the people affected by the hurricane.
For more information from Cuba:
Marta Diaz Rondon – Cell Phone: +5352-771-639 // Twitter: @MartaDiazRondon
Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia- Cell Phone: +5353-146-740// Twitter: @jdanielferrer
Cuban dissidents from the Eastern Democratic Alliance have launched a new audio-visual project dubbed “Palenque Vision”, which will publish documentaries and other similar projects. All the material published through “Palenque Vision” will be filmed, edited and produced from inside of Cuba by the activists themselves, as was the case of their first documentary- “Prisons of Cuba: Sequence of Terror”.
This documentary of nearly 17 minutes was made public this past Wednesday, June 6th in Miami, during a conference in which the coordinator of the Eastern Democratic Alliance- Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina– spoke directly from the island with members of the pro-democracy Assembly of the Resistance and a number of media outlets. The production includes the testimonies of 4 former Cuban political prisoners- José Daniel Ferrer García, Jorge Luis García ‘Antúnez’, Isael Poveda Silva and Rodolfo Barthelemy-who narrate the reality of Cuban political prisons: tortures, beatings, corruption amongst the guards, etc.
According to Lobaina, the documentary took about 6 months to finalize due to the fact the camera operators had to find clandestine ways to travel to the homes of the interviewees, considering that they are constantly under police surveillance. In addition, the producers of the film had to find diverse and creative methods to send the material out of Cuba, seeing as they could not do it through the internet due to state-imposed censorship.
Rodríguez Lobaina added that “Palenque Vision” has opened its own YouTube channel, under the same name, where it will publish all of its projects as they are completed. The channel is an extension of the blog of the Eastern Democratica Alliance, “Palenque Cubano”, where a number of activists publish essays, poems, reports and other literary works which narrate the Cuban reality.
See “Prisons of Cuba: Sequence of Terror” (English subtitles coming soon)
On Saturday, February 18th and Sunday the 19th, a number of repressive acts against peaceful dissidents occurred throughout Cuba, as it tends to happen during all weekends. The following testimonies are just 3 denouncements among many, and they highlight the beatings, arrests, and the vigilance which the Cuban dictatorship unleashes upon the Resistance.
The general coordinator of the Eastern Democratic Alliance, Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, was violently arrested on Saturday the 18th along with activist Isael Pooveda Silva as they were heading back to their home towns from a meeting in Antilla. “When we arrived at the police checkpoint, we were taken out of the car by force“, denounced Lobaina. It was then that police agents began to carry out a search of their bodies. “The check was very violent. They twisted my arm, despite the fact that it is injured“, added the dissident.
Lobaina noticed that various people were witnessing the arrest and so he began to shout phrases in favor of freedom and he explained that he and Isael were human rights activists. Despite this, the “police violently lashed out against me, and they handcuffed me. Minutes later, we were taken to the Operations Unit of Guantanamo” where both activists remained until the following day. “As usual“, signals Rodriguez Lobaina, “the political police showed its deep worry of the recent travels we carried out through different provinces of the Cuban East as they began to threaten us“. Lobaina refers to the meeting held in Antilla in commemoration of the 8 years of the Eastern Democratic Alliance’s activism in favor of freedom.
This past Sunday February 19th, Lady in White Marta Diaz Rondon was “under constant vigilance” as she walked to church along with Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez, also a Lady in White.
“We were able to make it to church in spite of the constant surveillance by State Security officials,” explained Rondon, “They would look at us and would try to provoke us, they were constantly behind us“. After mass, both Ladies in White had their homes surrounded for the rest of the day.
Although dissidents like Diaz Rondon and Ojeda Suares are always under surveillance by State Security agents, especially on Sundays, Rondon highlights that the repression has actually intensified against her since the communist authorities “want to prevent us from traveling to the city of Holguin to meet with other Ladies in White and attend mass at the Jesus Christ Redeemer of Men Church. Also, Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s second anniversary of his murder is coming up, which is another reason they are intensifying the repression“.
“Amid the threats, we, the dissidents in Banes, do not fear repression. We will go to where Zapata was buried because his body rested there for 6 months and we will continue going to leave flowers on his tomb. Zapata gave his life for Cuba’s freedom and we will continue his example. His death will never be in vain“.
Sara Marta Fonseca, Lady in White, was arrested by the political police on Sunday at 8:50 am when she left her home in Rio Verde to join the march of the Ladies in White. Before her arrest, she was able to send the message “I’m being detained” through Twitter.
Fonseca was violently pushed inside the police car and taken to the police unit of Calabazar in the municipality of Boyeros where she was left for 30 minutes before being taken to the National Revolutionary Police (NRP) unit in Cotorro. Sara Marta explained, “I was interrogated 3 times and was detained for a total of 12 hours. I was released at around 8:30pm“. This time, she was told to get off the car a few blocks away from her house, contrary to the usual treatment where she is left stranded in desolated, dark areas.
The Lady in White affirms that during her detention she was “witness of the increase of violence in Cuba. I witnessed attacks with aggressors using short weapons, and apparently this kept them from leaving alone since they were responsible for me because they had arbitrarily arrested me“.
Fonseca suffers from various disc hernias in her back and is currently under immense pain due to the arrests, beatings and aggressions.