Rosa Parks Movement: Marching for the Fallen in Cuba

Each Thursday in the central region of Cuba women dressed in black march to their nearest church, in a sign of honor and respect to compatriots who have lost their lives in the struggle for establishing a country free from dictatorships.  Many times the women are beat, arrested or deported, but each week they walk.  They are the members of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights, named so in honor of the American civil rights hero.

The women of the Movement are mainly active in the provinces of Villa Clara, Ciego de Avila and Camaguey.  They dress in black “as a sign of mourning“, according to the group’s president, Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, originally from Sancti Spiritus and who has been known as one of the female leaders of the Cuban opposition for some years now after she begun her activities demanding the release of her husband, former political prisoner Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’, who spent 17 years in the communist gulags for demanding change and freedom in the 90’s.

But why do these women mourn?

Because we are honoring the many victims of the Castro tyranny“, explained Perez Aguilera, who explains that she is referring to the martyrs of all generations since 1959, “like Pedro Luis Boitel, Mario Chanes de Arma, Mario Manuel de la Pena, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Laura Pollan Toledo, Harold Cepero, Oswaldo Paya“… but she assures that “the list continues“.

Among the mentioned names are members of the pro-freedom Resistance from different stages in history, like Pedro Luis Boitel from the 70’s, Mario Manuel de la Pena (a young Cuban-American member of Brothers to the Rescue) from the 90’s, as well as more recent cases such as Zapata Tamayo, Pollan and Paya. On occasions, the marches have paid tribute to freedom fighters who died in combat or were executed in the Escambray mountains in the 60’s.  They have also remembered rafters who have fled the island in search of freedom and have perished.

We do this to not forget those heroes who fought for the freedom and democracy of Cuba“, says Yris.

Meanwhile, the political police and other repressive factions of the dictatorship lash out against these female activists each Thursday through different methods.  At one point in time, each of the women would be arrested but now Perez explains that the agents have employed a new method, “arresting some” and “others not” in an attempt to try and create divisions among the group, an approach which has not yielded positive results for the regime.

Some of us always manage to make it to church where we participate in Mass in honor of the martyrs, and also, every time one of our activists are left abandoned in some desolate field, they always return and continue the activity“, assures the dissident, a resident of Placetas, Villa Clara.  Other cities where weekly marches are reported are Santa Clara, Grua Nueva and Camaguey.

The Rosa Parks Movement also carries out other civil disobedience demonstrations, such as sit-ins, public debates and protest marches.  The goal of these activities is to demand the liberation of all political prisoners as well as to demand better social and living conditions for the everyday population.

And it is precisely because of all these Cubans who suffer under the reprisals of the communist regime or who have lost their lives that this female organization “will continue” with their actions, affirms Perez Aguilera.

Here are some declarations about the group made by Yris to this blog (in Spanish):

This past 28th of August, in honor of Martin Luther King’s legacy in the field of civil rights, exiled journalist, blogger and activist Luis Felipe Rojas interviewed Yris Tamara Perez, Damaris Moya and Yaite Cruz Sosa, all members of the Movement, in his program “Contacto Cuba”, transmited to the island through Radio Marti.  Take a listen to the show here.

Rosa Parks Movement: Marching for the Fallen in Cuba

Condition of hunger striker Ivan Fernandez Depestre worsens, dissidents fear for the worst

Several Cuban opposition activists are calling on the international community as well as their fellow compatriots to denounce the situation of political prisoner Ivan Fernandez Depestre, who has been on hunger strike for more than 27 days and whose health has drastically worsened, placing him in a state very “near death”, according to a press release by the Cuban Democratic Directorate.

Fernandez Depestre was abruptly and violently jailed on July 30th after he participated in a peaceful demonstration in honor of Frank Pais, a Cuban martyr who stood up against totalitarianism on the island many years ago.  Two days later, on August 2nd, Fernandez was sentenced to 3 years of prison under the Law of Social Pre-Dangerousness which orders time behind bars for citizens who look “dangerous” of committing “crimes” in the future.  The activist has been on hunger strike since.

Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’, leader of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance Front, a coalition which Ivan is part of, has been frequently denouncing the situation and taking to his Twitter account to let the world know what is going on.  In an audio published on his YouTube channel, Antunez expressed that Ivan is “agonizing in a protest that has lasted longer than 20 days” and that his health is “very critical”.

Antunez, who is currently in the city of Miami as part of an international tour to denounce the Cuban reality, has been in contact with dissidents on the island who have carried out several protests demanding the release of Fernandez and called on the international community and all human rights organizations to end their silence in regards to this case.

On August 26th, it was confirmed that Ivan was in the hospital of the penitentiary known as Guamajal, but on morning hours of the 27th, he was transferred back to El Pre Prison, in the city of Santa Clara, Villa Clara.  Activists have expressed worry that his life may end there due to the fact that he has been submitted to constant aggressions and very poor medical assistance.

On Friday, August 23rd, Damaris Moya, president of the Central Opposition Coalition, called on dissidents across the island to carry out protests in favor of Ivan’s freedom.  A number of activities were documented, but so too was a brutal and repressive response on behalf of Cuba’s political police.  Dissidents were beat, arrested, and deported, while many homes were raided and surrounded with police officials.

Antunez tweeted (@antunezcuba) this Tuesday that opposition members have not rested in their demands, saying that protests have taken place in municipalities and cities such as “Placetas, Santa Clara, Sagua la Grande, Holguin, Havana, etc”.

Ivan Fernandez Depestre is on hunger strike to demand his immediate release.

Condition of hunger striker Ivan Fernandez Depestre worsens, dissidents fear for the worst

Press conference with Antunez in Miami: “We are just one Resistance”

Photo: @pedazosdelaisla

On Thursday,  August 8th, a press conference took place at the Institute of Cuban and Cuban-American Studies “Casa Bacardi” at the University of Miami with the renown Cuban dissidents Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’ and Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, both recently arrived to the city in a visit with the purpose to tell the world what really happens in Cuba.

Diverse local, national and international media outlets assisted the event, as did figures of the exiled Cuban community, many of them former political prisoners.

Antunez responded questions in regards to activism on the island, assuring that the pro-freedom movement is growing, making reference to the organization he leads – the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front – as well as the opposition in general, mentioning movements such as the Ladies in White.

Garcia Perez said that State violence has increased and that the recent deaths of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero are proof of what can happen to any citizen who decides to fight for true change.  He highlighted the situation of political prisoners, making emphasis on people like Armando Sosa Fortuny and Ivan Fernandez Depestre.

He denied that on the island there have been real reforms and explained to the public about a new campaign in and out of the country under the title “I do Want”, created by the Assembly of the Resistance, a coalition of pro-democracy organizations in and out of the island.

Yris Tamara Perez, president of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights, briefly spoke to the press, detailing all the violence she and all the women of her group confront when they peacefully take to the streets and carry out marches in honor of pro-democracy martyrs and to demand freedom for the political prisoners.  But she also sent out a message of hope for all Cubans, assuring that “our time of freedom is near”.

Antunez also responded to questions about racism in Cuba (which, according to him, the dictatorship practices with frequency) and the importance of technology and information, free from censorship.

Another subject touched by the dissident was the necessity to work towards a National Strike on the island, and thus creating a wave of actions of civil disobedience and non-cooperation to paralyze the structures of the tyranny.

During an emotional moment, journalist Vanessa Ruiz of ‘Marti News’ asked the dissident leader what have his impressions been of the Cuban exile in Miami.  Antunez, with tears in his eyes, responded by saying that he feels pride every time he sees so many people which have never forgotten Cuba and continue helping those inside.

The same dictatorship which assassinated Pedro Luis Boitel is the same dictatorship which assassinated Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero“, expressed Antunez, “and we are not from here or over there, the resistance to the dictatorship which began in 1959 is the same which continues now.  We are only one“.

Press conference with Antunez in Miami: “We are just one Resistance”

Antunez and Yris Tamara Perez arrive to Miami “to denounce the Cuban reality” (Images)

Antunez and Yris Perez reunite with relatives in Miami. Photo: @pedazosdelaisla

In an emotional re-encounter with relatives and brothers in struggle, Jorge Luis Garcia ‘Antunez’ and Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera arrived to Miami, the capital of the Cuban exile, on the night of Sunday, August 4th 2013 as part of a tour to “denounce the Cuban reality”.

Antunez spoke those words to the different media outlets that were present in the Airport of Miami.  From the moment he walked through the door of Cuba arrivals, the renown dissident and former political prisoner began to speak about the situation of Cuba, highlighting the cases of political prisoners such as Ivan Fernandez Depestre and Armando Sosa Fortuny, denouncing the wave of arrests which occurred before his departure from the island and assured that his visit has only one purpose, to let the world know that in Cuba there have not been real reforms and that human rights violations continue against the people.

Antunez, leader of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front, also assured that pro-freedom demonstrations on the streets of Cuba are increasing.

On her part, Yris Perez, who heads the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights, said she was very emotional and stood by the declarations made by her husband.  Yris has been victim of constant beatings, actions which have caused her serious health complications.  Regardless, she continues carrying out public opposition to the dictatorship.

Before offering their final remarks to the media, Antunez and Perez Aguilera reiterated that “they will not shut up or [permanently] leave Cuba“.

Yris Perez (center) reunites with sisters in struggle, Bertha Antunez and Idania Yanez. Photo: @pedazosdelaisla
Antunez speaks to journalist Juan Manuel Cao & other media outlets in Miami. Photo: @pedazosdelaisla

More images to come.

Antunez and Yris Tamara Perez arrive to Miami “to denounce the Cuban reality” (Images)

New political prisoner in Cuba: Ivan Fernandez Depestre

Meet one of the newest political prisoners in Cuba, Ivan Fernandez Depestre (pictured above).

Ivan, who is approximately 40 years of age, recently joined the public opposition on the island, specifically the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance Front and the group Awakened Youth.  He was arrested by the political police on July 30th when he participated in a protest march in the city of Placetas, Villa Clara in honor of a fallen patriot, Frank Pais, along with other dissidents.  The authorities kept him detained and quickly sentenced him on August 2nd to a 2 year prison term in the Municipal Tribunal of Placetas.

During the ‘trial’, Fernandez Depestre was accused under the ‘Pre-Social Dangerousness Law’, which could dictate time behind bars for any citizen just because the authorities think that person would be a danger in the future.  The law has  been used to send thousands of Cubans to prison without having had committed crimes, and it is specifically used against dissidents, especially young ones.

Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’, former political prisoner and leader of the OZT Front, has been reporting about this case and has asked for more solidarity with the jailed activist.

Ivan Fernandez Depestre committed the horrible crime of daring to go out with other pro-freedom activists this past 30th of July in a peaceful march, dressed with their clothes backwards, paying tribute to Frank Pais on the anniversary of his death“, declared Antunez in an audio published on his YouTube account.

The dissident leader added that the only detainee that day was Fernandez Depestre, explaining that the activist does not have family support and that his sentence was a method used by State Security to try and make him give up on his recently begun struggle.

Fernandez Depestre has been participating in numerous pro-freedom demonstrations in the city of Placetas during the months of June and July.  He has been detained and beat by the political police on various occasions.

I am calling on the international community to join in solidarity with this activist“, expressed Antunez.  He also added that in light of Ivan’s sentence, there would be a campaign in and out of Cuba with the aim to demand his freedom through civic actions out on the streets.

Listen to the audios by Antunez in regards to this situation: Click here and here.  

Meanwhile, Antunez and his wife Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, leader of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights, will carry out a trip abroad this August 4th to tell the world about Cuba’s reality and the political police has unleashed an operation of arrests and beatings against dissidents who have tried to say goodbye to the dissident couple.

More details on the Twitter account of Antunez: @Antunezcuba 

 

 

 

New political prisoner in Cuba: Ivan Fernandez Depestre

Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero honored on the streets of Cuba (Video)

Jorge Luis García Pérez ‘Antúnez’, former political prisoner and general secretary of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front, has published a video on his YouTube account of a march carried out by members of the mentioned pro-freedom on Monday, July 22nd, in the city of Placetas, Villa Clara, on the first anniversary of the mysterious and unclear deaths of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero.

In the video, Antunez publicly demands the dictatorship to say the truth about the deaths, supporting the call of Paya’s family who have not given up on their objective to carry out an independent investigation of the events which occurred that day in the city of Bayamo.

The dissidents also denounce “fraudulent-change”, a term coined by Paya in reference to the cosmetic measures carried out by the regime to make it seem as if their were real changes on the island in the eyes of the international media.

Meanwhile, ‘Hablemos Press’ published a video of the tribute which took place the same day in the Colon Cemetery of Havana, where the remains of Oswaldo lay.  Various people took part in the heartfelt event, and a note penned by the Christian Liberation Movement was read aloud.

A number of activities in honor of the fallen activists were reported in diverse regions of the island, from East to West.  They included but were not limited to marches, vigils, debates, fasts and Masses, and although many of them were violently repressed by the State, it was once again confirmed that the legacy of Paya and Cepero lives on.

Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero honored on the streets of Cuba (Video)

“I do want real change”: Protest in Placetas (Video)

Members of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance and Civil Disobedience Front went out to the streets of Placetas, Villa Clara in the morning hours of June 2nd to carry out a public protest where they announced the “I do Want” campaign and called for solidarity with hunger striker Luis Enrique Santos Caballero.

The “I do Want” campaign was launched by the Assembly of the Resistance in a joint effort by pro-democracy groups in and out of the island as a follow up to the “I do not cooperate” campaign, where numerous stickers calling on Cubans to not participate in repressive actions organized by the dictatorship such as acts of repudiation and snitching.  Now, the second phase of the initiative exhorts the people to cooperate with the internal opposition and demand their rights publicly.

Former political prisoner Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’, and general secretary of the OZT Front, participated in the demonstration alongside activists from Havana, Villa Clara and Sancti Spiritus.

“We are also demanding solidarity with our brother Luis Enrique Santos Caballero, who is currently between life and death”, exclaims Antunez during the activity.  Santos Caballero has been on hunger strike since May 24th, demanding a house after having been evicted by the police.

Afterward, the demonstrators shouted slogans in favor of democratic change and human rights.  They were not repudiated by any neighbors.

The video:

“I do want real change”: Protest in Placetas (Video)