This past 20th of May, Cuban Independence Day, numerous pro-freedom activities were carried out throughout the island. Now, a video has arrived from Santiago de Cuba which shows a march carried out by 16 dissidents, members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), throughout various blocks of the Sueño Neighborhood. The participants of the march described it as a “spontaneous” and “successful” demonstration.
The activists who marched were not repressed by the political police during the moment of the activity, and much less by everyday citizens. They demanded freedom for all political prisoners, mentioning specific names such as Bismark Mustelier, Jorge Cervantes Garcia and Dany Lopez de Moya. They also shouted “Zapata Lives“, “Harold Cepero Lives” and “Oswaldo Paya lives“, among other messages in favor of freedom and true change.
Cuban political police agents, infuriated by the success of the march, organized a mob which carried out an act of repudiation against the dissidents when they returned to the home of Daniel Barriel Sanjurjo. The mob shouted offensive slogans as well as things like ‘Down with the worms’ and ‘Leave the country’. As a response, the activists expressed “Down with the political police” and “Long live the Cuban People“.
The dissidents did not back down at any moment. Some of them were detained and beat later on. See the video here:
The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba highlights the situation which a number of political prisoners of the mentioned group are facing, speaks about the repressive methods employed by the State against activists and affirms that activism and opposition out on the streets has only increased in the Eastern region of the country, attracting further solidarity from everyday people.
Protest marches, debates and the handing out of flyers with pro-freedom messages are occurring with much more frequency in different areas of Eastern Cuba. Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, former political prisoner and current executive secretary of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), points out that in the month of May these actions have increased as part of the Boitel and Zapata Live Campaign, where dissidents throughout the country pay tribute to martyrs Pedro Luis Boitel and Orlando Zapata Tamayo, both deceased after lengthy hunger strikes in prison.
On May 20th, Cuba’s Independence Day, two marches were carried out in Santiago de Cuba. One of them was led by 11 activists and finished in the Antonio Maceo Plaza, where police officials beat the demonstrators with helmets, sticks and other objects, all of this while everyday citizens were watching.
A second march was carried out by 16 dissidents who managed to walk down various blocks of the El Sueno neighborhood, shouting pro-freedom messages. The result was police persecution. “State Security and Rapid Response Brigade agents came and began to throw rocks and beat activists“, recounted Ferrer Garcia. The repressors also threw tar and tried to raid the home of Daniel Barriel, secretary of the “Zapata Lives” sector of UNPACU in that neighborhood, where the activists congregated after the march. But the police was not able to achieve their objective, considering that the civic protests of the dissidents only intensified, forcing the aggressors to leave.
“Our activists came out and did not allow the attack. Also, they took up a clever posture. When the regime organized mobs shouted ‘long live the youth’, our dissidents would shout ‘live!’, but when the mobs shouted ‘long live Fidel’, the activists would say ‘down!’. The agents had to leave the house eventually“, explained Jose Daniel, “the police is losing space because they use so many people and use so much gasoline to repress us, but there is not enough gasoline for ambulances and other necessary services. In addition, everyday people are not cooperating with them“.
On the following day, May 21st, another group of UNPACU activists walked to the Palma-Santiago highway and took out a large sign with numerous anti-regime messages, such as “UNPACU in favor of fair salaries” and “democracy and justice“. This captured the attention of various passerby’s who actually would stop their cars to read the messages and show support with the dissidents.
Ferrer Garcia explains that UNPACU has “been following up the Boitel and Zapata Live Campaign as well as on the other commemorative dates like the death of Jose Marti and May 20th” with spontaneous marches and other demonstrations which have lasted more than 30 minutes, shouting slogans in favor of “freedom, democracy, the respect of human rights, the end of hunger, misery, low salaries and so many other ills which affect the population“.
The former political prisoner of conscience denounces that the repression on behalf of the regime has been increasing, but despite this, “the tyranny keeps losing in their confrontation against UNPACU, because even the people who in one way or another serve them are feeling very ashamed of the actions which State Security carries out against us“.
“The people are responding by criticizing the political police. On a daily basis they join the peaceful opposition movement in this area, where UNPACU has been carrying out a labor in favor of the society, working for the community, and this presents a serious problem for the tyranny, and it will just continue to create even more problems“, added Ferrer.
Currently, UNPACU has 40 of its members behind bars because of political motives. This past 21st of May Ferrer Garcia was able to establish communication with one of these prisoners who is being held in the Mar Verde Prision of Santiago.
“The activist told me about the situation which they find themselves in Mar Verde. He told me that Arcelio Noa had already been taken out of the punishment cell, but that he had intentionally hurt himself as a form of protest against the inhumane conditions he was being held in, and which the other 10 political prisoners we have in that prison have had to withstand“, said Ferrer, “lots of mistreatment, aggressions, and the guards are using common delinquents to harass them. These common prisoners are dangerous, many of them murderers, who lend themselves to such actions in exchange for food and other privileges. They are turned against the human rights defenders“.
Ferrer emphasized the situation of dissident rapper Angel Yunier Remon Arzuaga, known as “El Critico”, who is also the secretary of UNPACU for the city of Bayamo. The musician has been behind bars for more than 2 months in the Bayamo prison known as Las Mangas, still without a trial. He was violently arrested after the political police raided his home in March, attacking him and other relatives with tear gas.
“I was able to briefly speak with Angel Yunier on May 20th. In Las Mangas prison there is a very critical situation“, said the dissident leader, “Angel told me about the horrible medical attention offered to sick prisoners. He also told me that numerous prisoners have so many problems and they turn to self-infliction to call attention on so many abuses, the severe hunger, the lack of medical care and other cruel treatments“.
The young dissident continues to be in a judicial limbo while the authorities have not given his family any details as to what his fate will be.
The situation of activist Jorge Cervantes Garcia, from Contramaestre, is also critical. Ferrer says that “he is still recuperating from the lengthy hunger strike carried out to demand the freedom of Luis Enrique Lozada. Cervantes is still in Las Tunas prison, also amid a very hostile atmosphere. He was physically assaulted last week by a common prisoner who is addicted to mood-altering pills”.
Ferrer Garcia expressed that although the number of political prisoners is increasing, so too is the number of activists, mainly young ones, who are willing to go out to the streets to work towards a new Cuba.
Take a listen to the following audio (in Spanish) of Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia:
For more information from inside Cuba, contact: Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia – Cell Phone: +53 – 146-740 / Twitter: @jdanielferrer
Between the days of January 19th and 22nd, state sponsored violence against the Cuban opposition aggressively increased in different parts of the country. Some of the aggressions started on Saturday 19th, the year anniversary of the death of Wilman Villar Mendoza, a dissident who spent more than 50 days on hunger strike demanding his release from an unjust prison sentence, and continued through the morning hours of Tuesday the 22nd, when Rapid Response Brigades used unknown toxic substances to try and interrupt an encounter among dissidents in the central region of the country:
After brutality in Mafo, Contramaestre, vigilance and repudiation continues
As numerous activists and blogs reported on Saturday, January 19th, the home of Luis Enrique Lozada in Mafo, Contramaestre was raided by mobs made up by Rapid Response Brigades, State Security and political police agents of the regime. The home was destroyed and all those present were beat with cables, sticks, knives, and a sort of whip, as well as other sharp weapons. Images of the results- broken heads, wounded bodies, etc. – went around the world (see here) and, on the following day, the harassment continued.
José Daniel Ferrer García, general coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) denounced that during the dawn hours of Sunday, “another attack took place, this time against the home of Ovidio Martin Castellanos, a coordinator of UNPACU in the province of Santiago de Cuba“. (Video)
Meanwhile, the home of political prisoner Jorge Cervantes, also located in Contramaestre, was attacked in a similar fashion, reducing it to ruble, leaving the wife of Cervantes, Lady in White Kenia Leguen, and her two underage children without a roof.
In an act of solidarity, Luis Enrique Lozada offered his home to the Lady in White and her two children.
“So many stones were thrown at Kenia’s home that the roof was considerably damaged“, explained Ferrer Garcia, “This is not the first time this happens to this family- the young Kenia told me, with much pain in her voice, that she was condemned to live without a roof“.
In other news, on Saturday afternoon, dissident Jesus Diaz Morales was arrested in Velasco, Holguin, for having convoked a peaceful march in honor of Wilman Villar. On Monday, the 21st, mobs once again surrounded the home of Luis Enrique Lozada, watching and intimidating all those who were inside. In this case, the mobs left a few hours later, according to a tweet published by Anyer Anotnio Blanco (@anyerantoniobla).
“These aggressive actions will continue, and they will correspond with the level of non-violent activism carried out by UNPACU, in favor of freedom and democracy in Cuba, as we keep growing in number of activism and actions“, declared Ferrer, “Without a doubt, our activism in a phenomenon that is very worrying for the tyranny but very hopeful for the people“.
Mobs try to impede encounter of the Ladies in White
On Monday, January 21st, when the world celebrated Martin Luther King day, the Ladies in White held an encounter at their headquarters on Neptune Street in Havana to pay tribute to the civil rights leader and, at the same time, to Wilman Villar Mendoza, as well as to demand the freedom of all political prisoners. The presence of State Security was not absent.
According to Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo, one of the Ladies in White who managed to make it to the encounter, “during the 116th meeting of the group, various women who tried to make it were arrested, while the headquarter was surrounded by paramilitary mobs, the political police, and State Security. They also blocked off traffic on Neptune Street, a main street in Havana. No car could pass by…all of this to keep women from arriving“. However, the dissident points out that 42 members managed to surpass cordons of vigilance and make it to the house.
But the mobs increased their violent actions, shouting slogans such as “Use a machete, theirs only a few of them“, and other offensive phrases. (Video here)
10 women were reported detained upon trying to arrive.
Despite the offensive slogans, the Ladies in White responded by maintaining their civility, shouting “Freedom“, “Long live human rights“, “Long live Laura Pollan“, and “Freedom for all political prisoners“.
“Once again, it has been demonstrated that the regime highly fears unity within the opposition, as well as the Ladies in White, out on the streets of Cuba“, expressed Fonseca Quevedo, “This implants terror in them, to think that peaceful women march through the streets of Havana to demand freedom. I want everyone to know that we, the Ladies in White, will keep walking for freedom in Cuba“.
On the previous day, Sunday January 20th, ‘Hablemos Press’ reported that 116 Ladies in White managed to march and arrive to Mass throughout the country, but a total of 36 were arbitrarily arrested, deported, and threatened.
Toxic gases and substances against dissidents in Sagua la Grande
In Sagua la Grande, Villa Clara, paramilitary mobs and police agents lasted the entire day of January 21st carrying out an act of repudiation and keeping vigilance over a group of activists from the Central Opposition Coalition and the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front who were meeting in the home of former political prisoner Jorge Vázquez Chaviano, to pay tribute to Martin Luther King Jr, Wilman Villar Mendoza and to discuss important subjects of the opposition.
Jorge Luis García Pérez ‘Antúnez’, leader of the Front and one of the dissidents present, explained that during the acts of repudiation, the agents “shouted offensive phrases” at the group of more than 20 dissidents in the house. He added that there were “underage children and an elderly woman inside as well“.
In the afternoon, two activists of the Cuban Reflection Movement- Nosbel Jomolca and Juan Carlos Fernandez- were arrested as they tried entering the house.
Regardless, Antunez feels that the encounter was “a success“, considering that none of the neighbors of Vazquez Chaviano participated in the repudiation.
“The mobs of the dictatorship have not been able to receive support of the neighbors. Far from helping them, they maintained their solidarity with us“, said Antunez, “The soldiers became very aggressive, inciting us to come out of the house to beat us with stick, but we congratulate and appreciate the support of the people of Sagua la Grande. Right in front of the repressive mobs, they refused to participate“.
Clearly bothered, during the dawn hours of Tuesday, January 22nd, political police officials launched toxic gases and liquids at the home full of dissidents. The attack caused cough, skin eruptions, tachycardia, and breathing problems on its victims, including the underage ones.
Antunez sent out an alert to the world of what could happen to all those who suffered the attacks, seeing as they have already begun to show some symptoms.
Despite all of this, the dissident leader said that they will continue resisting and that “regardless of all the tactics of the tyranny, the Cuban Resistance, beyond any organization, is united…united in action“.
The repression against Cuban dissidents, organized by the dictatorship and carried out by agents of State Security, the political police, the Ministry of the Interior and members of the Rapid Response Brigade, has not stopped, but it has clearly increased during the first weeks of 2013. This past weekend it escalated to a level of immeasurable violence, where the lives of all those who have decided to fight for freedom are in danger.
Former political prisoner and general coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, was kept in a dungeon for more than 72 hours during his most recent detention and was threatened by State Security agents that he could be sent back to prison if he continues participating in and organizing dissident activities throughout the Eastern region of the country. This time, his jailers filmed him on numerous occasions, such as when they read him an official warning letter which informed him that he’d be sent back to prison for continuing to cause what they termed as “public disorders”.
“They had that camera during the entire time, but they only filmed the parts they found necessary”, explained Ferrer Garcia, “for example, when they put me in a cell with a terrible amount of heat, without food, without communication, and without my medicines for my health conditions- they didn’t film any of that”. The response of the dissident leader when they read him the warning was “that until in Cuba human rights are not respected, until there is no freedom, as long as Cubans can’t decide for themselves and be protagonists of their own destinies, I am going to continue doing the same thing we have been doing, and many other things- in a peaceful manner- in favor of freedom and democracy”.
This most recent arrest of Ferrer Garcia took place on Friday, August 24th, when UNPACU was celebrating its 1 year anniversary of having been created. For days prior to the date, combined forces of the political police, the Rapid Response Brigades, and State Security unleashed a wave of arrests and house raids against members of the mentioned organization throughout Eastern Cuba.
One of the first cases was that of Jorge Cervantes García on August 23rd, when a number of armed officials raided his home in Contramaestre, occupied many materials, threatened all those inside, and jailed Cervantes Garcia and his two underage children. He still remains detained.
In the case of Ferrer, his home had been surrounded by police agents for various days until they finally raided the house on the morning of the 24th. “They ransacked the house”, said the dissident, “they robbed everything they felt like, and what they did not steal they destroyed. I am talking about even toys and belongings of my children…they have robbed them or destroyed them”.
In addition, in the home of Ferrer Garcia, as well as those of other UNPACU activists, the police took printers, cameras, laptops, pamphlets and other materials, none of which have been returned, as tends to happen.
Marta Beatriz Ferrer Cantillo, 14 year old Lady in White and daughter of Jose Daniel, explained in an audio uploaded onto UNPACU’s YouTube account that police agents beat all those inside the house in the moment of the arrest, including herself, her cousin, her mother (Belkis Cantillo) and an aunt. Her elderly grandmother was also inside the house and suffered a sharp increase in her blood pressure.
Other detainees on that day were Anyer Antonio Blanco, Rafael Miguel Cabrera Montoya, Franklin Peregrino del Toro and Berta Guerrero Segura. The latter, who is the representative of the Ladies in White in Holguin, was arrested and mistreated along with her underage daughter, who she was carrying at the time of her arrest and forceful entry into a police vehicle.
Other reports denounced that another 6 homes were raided that day and more than 60 arrests occurred.
Meanwhile, activist Luis Miguel Gomez Hernandez reported that a group of UNPACU members were arrested in the municipality of Gibara on that same Friday, among them Ladies in White like Yoandra Garrido Silva and Maydaly Garrido Silva, as they too celebrated the anniversary. Gomez Hernandez was one of the detainees that afternoon and explained that they were all subjected to “interrogations and threats that we could not leave Gibara and that we would not be allowed to carry out any dissident activity, and that not even the Ladies in White could to Mass on Sundays“. This group was released but many other activists remain imprisoned, and some are on hunger strike (Ferrer Garcia put the number at more than 20).
“Despite all that they have done to us, our activists celebrated the anniversary of UNPACU with marches, signs, pamphlets, slogans and other diverse ways, not only in the East but also in the West”, said Ferrer Garcia, referencing the case of Hugo Damian Prieto Blanco, in Havana, who was arrested after carrying out commemorative events.
Other activists of diverse pro-democracy groups also paid tribute to UNPACU and demanded freedom for their detained members, as was the case of Lady in White and member of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights and the Pro-Human Rights Party of Cuba, Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo, who carried out a public protest in Havana to commemorate the Day of the Resistance and in solidarity with the mentioned dissidents. In Placetas, Villa Clara, dissident leader Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez” also included messages of freedom for Jose Daniel Ferrer and congratulating UNPACU as he also carried out a public protest along with other activists.
Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia was released during the morning hours of Sunday, August 26th and was quick to reiterate his compromise with the pro-freedom movement in Cuba.
“The tyranny is very afraid”, affirmed the dissident, “and like a wounded beast, it will retaliate and cause lots of damage to peaceful people who want freedom for all Cubans, but we are willing to give it all. As Jose Marti said: ‘Freedom has a high price, and it is necessary to either give up and live without her, or decide to obtain it at its price’“.
For more information from Cuba:
Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia – Phone: +5353-146-740 // Twitter: @jdanielferrer
For more than four days, the Cuban political police has ordered paramilitary mobs and common criminals to throw stones, fecal matter, dead animals, mud and toxic materials at the home of Jorge Cervantes Garcia, a dissident from the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), in Contramaestre, Santiago de Cuba.
A report made earlier by “Diario de Cuba” offered details about these events, while Cervantes also offered his testimony which was published in a press release by the Cuban Democratic Directorate. In the mentioned press release, Cervantes not only denounces the assault against his family (where he even suffered a blow by various stones, producing him serious wounds), but also the arrest of a dissident doctor who visited his home to evaluate the wreckage and his injuries.
Now, UNPACU has published various videos on their YouTube channel with the results of the State-sponsored violence against Cervantes Garcia.
Dr. Roberto Serrano Delis traveled from Songo La Maya to visit Jorge Cervantes Garcia and to evaluate his wounds, especially the ones on his left leg, product of the stoning by the Castro mobs. In this video, one can see the deep wounds which the doctor classifies as “serious” and “with signs of an infection”.
Various dissidents from UNPACU help Jorge Cervantes Garcia to pick up the left overs of the constant attacks against his home.
Dr. Delis offers another testimony about the assault on Cervantes’ home. In this video one can see the outside of the house, stained with tar, mud, and feces.
The Cuban political police, together with State Security, has been violently attacking the home of Patriotic Union of Cuba member Jorge Cervantes Garcia in Contramaestre since last 6th of July, throwing excrement, dead animals, and even tearing down walls, putting the lives of those inside (among them small children) in danger.
“Diario de Cuba” has the report (my translation into English):
Home of Dissident Jorge Cervantes Attacked with Excrement and Dead Animals
The home of activist Jorge Cervantes, in the Eastern town of Contramaestre, has been under attack by forces of the police and State Security for three days now. The agents have been using common criminals to tear down the walls of the house and attack it with excrement and dead animals.
“We have been suffering this wave of terror for three days now. They are throwing asphalt against my house, as well as rocks, excrement, and dead animals, in the middle of this situation we have in this country with cholera”, denounces Cervantes himself during a communication with Diario de Cuba.
Inside the home there are seven people. Four of them are children less than 4 years old which “cannot stop crying”.
“Here everything is stained with excrement. They tore down the walls of one of the rooms, they have torn down window blinds, and even part of the roof of one of my neighbors”, added the activist from the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).
Supposedly, the authorities are asking citizens to cut down on hygienic measures due to the difficult epidemiological situation which the country is going through right now.
After ten days of arbitrary detention for participating in the re-initiation of the the National Boitel and Zapata Live On March, former political prisoner of conscience Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia narrated his experience during his violent arrest and during his forced stay in inhumane prison cells.
The arrest occurred on December 2nd in Palma Soriano, during the second stage of the National March in that region. The previous day the March had taken place in Guantanamo and there were 35 dissidents arrested. In Palma Soriano, according to Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, “dissidents were able to get 49 activists together. The others were detained outside the house we were all in as they tried to come inside“.
Despite the arrests, Ferrer points out that the activists were able to surpass the local police operation against them because for two days activists were going into the house, one by one, hailing from Contramaestre, Santiago de Cuba, San Luis, Palmarito de Cauto, and other regions. Angel Moya Acosta, also an ex prisoner of conscience, was also present representing the Matanzas Unity group. “When the officials became aware of this,” narrates Ferrer, “they unleashed a huge operation with hundreds of uniformed agents, dozens of political police officers, including chiefs and collaborators, and they closed down the streets and surrounded the house“.
Quickly, the Cuban regime officials parked two buses near the house. Ferrer, the president of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), highlighted the irony and hypocrisy of utilizing such buses, for they were the buses that were “introduced in the country by the religious group known as ‘Pastors for Peace’, supposedly to be used for noble social causes“. Instead, the oppressors utilized the buses to crack down on the people who stepped out of their homes to carry out their march. “They used the buses to block the roads and forcefully shoved us inside of them“. The group of activists were divided between both buses and were also beaten against and inside of the buses.
“Compared to Angel Moya, I received less physical blows,” tells Ferrer, “they did punch me, slap me, and even shoved a finger inside my mouth to prevent me from shouting for freedom“.
From there, the dissidents were distributed throughout police units of the region, all the while suffering beatings. “In fact, the blood of three of the worst wounded was spread over the windows of one of the buses, right before the eyes of hundreds of neighbors from Palma Soriano who had took to the street to witness the brutality with which the police attacked a group of peaceful dissenters”
As a result of the public violence, the activist confirmed a very important development: on the streets of Palma Soriano “one can hear many comments of everyday people favoring the opposition and many comments against the repressive agents of the tyranny“.
Inside the cells
The cell of the “La Maya” Unit where Ferrer was forced to stay was nothing new for a former political prisoner who spent 7 and a half years in the communist Cuban gulags- poor food, poor hygiene, filth, insects, and in sum, inhumane conditions. “In addition to such horrible conditions, the cell was infested with mosquitoes and I now have bites all over my body“. Also present were the common threats. “They threatened us with taking us to prison and in the case of Angel Moya, Jorge Cervantes, and myself (the last three to be freed) they presented us with a cautionary measure- a document which accused us of the crime of public disorder“. The three members of the Resistance refused to accept the document and did not sign it at any moment, despite the pressure.
Jose Daniel adds that among the threats against him, they also threatened Jorge Cervantes, Angel Moya, and all the others who were participating in acts of civil disobedience against the dictatorship. “The political police officials told me that their strategy is to jail 20, 30, or 40 activists or to jail the leaders which keep this dissident activism growing“, to which the opposition activist replied, “neither with my imprisonment or the imprisonment of 20 or 30 others will they be successful in paralyzing and destroying the struggle for freedom and human rights in Cuba, because the struggle is growing and will continue onward because it has a clearly defined goal: the absolute freedom of Cuba“.
Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia was released in the afternoon hours of Monday, December 12th, along with Jorge Cervantes who remained in hunger strike during the entire length of the 10 days. Ferrer declared that various police officials had told him that Angel Moya Acosta would be transferred and released to Havana because he was not wanted in the East.
“If as of tomorrow, December 14th, we confirm that Moya is not released, then a group of Ladies in White and other dissidents will protest outside the Micro-9 Police Unit where Moya was detained in the first place. We will demand his immediate release“, declared Ferrer. As of the afternoon of the 14th, Moya had not been released and not much other information has been able to be confirmed for the moment.
Ferrer Garcia showed no signs of stopping or slowing down his constant activism in favor of a completely free Cuba.