Maydelis González Almeida, member of the dissident Cuban Reflection Movement and resident of Quemado de Guines, in Cuba’s central Villa Clara province, sent this brief video straight from the island today, Thursday February 28th, where various dissidents take to the street of that town to demand “human rights for all Cubans“. The march coincided with the fifth anniversary in which the Cuban dictatorship signed the social, political, economic and cultural human rights covenants, of which none have been ratified or upheld. In the activity, other activists such as Nosbel Jomolca and former political prisoner Jorge Vazquez Chaviano (Central Opposition Coalition) participated.
For more information from Cuba, contact Maydelis Gonzalez- Cell Phone: +58-217-833 / Twitter: @maydeliscuba1
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.
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.
The Assembly of the Cuban Resistance, a coalition of more than 50 pro-freedom organizations in and out of Cuba, has invited the public to assist a vigil, in Miami, in solidarity with the more than 25 hunger strikers throughout the island who are demanding freedom for political prisoner Jorge Vazquez Chaviano and an end to the repression against the internal opposition. The vigil will take place on Monday, September 17th at 6 PM in the “Ponce Circle Park” of Coral Gables, located at 2810 Ponce de Leon Blvd. According to the Assembly’s invitation, the event will last until 8 PM.
Freedom for Jorge Vazquez Chaviano and all Cuban political prisoners!
This march took place in Altamira, Santiago de Cuba, and was in solidarity with the more then 25 hunger strikers in all of Cuba who are risking their lives to demand freedom for political prisoner Jorge Vazquez Chaviano and calling on an end to repression against the internal opposition. Among the strikers are renown dissidents Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, as well as members of the Ladies in White, independent journalists, and other human rights activists. In addition, the demonstrators denounce the state abuse against people who try to thrive in self-employment in that area. Often, these people are robbed of their merchandise by the State and are fined, arrested and even beaten.
In the video, after singing Cuba’s national anthem, the activists shout slogans such as “long live human rights”, “Down with Fidel and Raul”, “Down with hunger”, “Fair pay”, and “Freedom”.
**Update on Hunger Strikers (09/16/12): Antúnez continues to be suffering faints, tachycardia, and mental lapses, according to reports by his wife Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera on her Twitter account (@YrisCuba). Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello is still in critical condition, for she is diabetic and of a more elderly age. She is very weak and cannot lift herself from the bed without help. Jorge Vazquez Chaviano, who is also on hunger strike, was transferred from Manacas to Guamajal prison, where he continues his strike, though little information is known on his condition. His family continues to suffer from persecution and physical abuse at the hands of the political police.
When Jorge Vazquez Chaviano stepped out of his house in Sagua la Grande, Villa Clara on the morning of March 27th, 2012, on his way to the city of Havana to assist the Mass offered by Pope Benedict XVI, he knew he was running serious risks. A few days prior to that date, he had suffered various acts of repudiation and his house was vandalized under the orders of the authorities, which left broken windows, paint on the walls, stonings, etc. Serious threats of beatings, arrests and even death constantly hunger over him. They were days of a massive wave of arrests and aggression against activists all over the island in order to keep them from assisting Mass which was to be offered by Benedict XVI in the Eastern and Western region of the country.
This video is living proof of what happened on that afternoon of March. “Long live peace” and “long live freedom” were the slogans shouted by Vazquez Chaviano when he was being arrested and physically assaulted by political police officers and State Security agents. He was shoved into a Jeep and taken towards an undisclosed location. His family presumed that he would be detained for various days and later returned to his home, as occurred with the majority of dissidents during those days.
The dissident, member of a the Human Rights Party of Cuba, the Central Opposition Coalition and the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front, was taken to the police unit of Sagua la Grande, later to the UPOC of Santa Clara and then to the prison known as ‘La Pendiente’. In April, he was transferred to the prison of maximum severity known as Guamajar, where he was sentenced to 6 months behind bars under false accusations of “illegal economic activities”, a charge against him which he was first accused of (falsely) in 2011 simply for using his own welding machine to fix furniture in his house. Just a few weeks ago in August of 2012, he was beaten and taken to the Manacas Prison, one of the most violent and notorious penitentiaries in Cuba, according to the thousands of political prisoners who have passed by those dungeons. On the morning of September 15th, it was confirmed that he was once again taken to the Guamajar prison.
His wife, Maria del Carmen Hernandez Martinez, has not stopped demanding his freedom since that March. She has had to pass through countless obstacles, like being refused her right to visit her husband in jail and she and the rest of her relatives have been subjected to constant vigilance and threats on behalf of the military forces of the country. Hernandez Martinez has been very attentive as September 9th arrived, the date in which Chaviano’s sentence was to be extinguished and when he’d be released. However, the 9th arrived and the 9th left, and Jorge still remains in a dungeon, and even received a brutal beating that same day and was taken into a punishment cell.
The political prisoner’s response was clear: he declared himself on hunger strike in Manacas prison on the morning of September 10th, according to his wife Maria del Carmen. But he was not the only one. From the city of Placetas, the renknown dissident and fromer political prisoner Jorge Luis Gacia Perez ‘Antunez’ decided to launch his own hunger strike on Friday, September 7th, and called upon Cuba’s internal opposition to carry out activities demanding the release of Vazquez Chaviano. Three days later, the activist (and also former political prisoner) Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello carried out a press conference at her home in Havana, where she announced that she was also declaring herself on hunger strike, a protest in which a number of activists- men, women, young, and old- have started to join throughout the country.
“There are many brothers and sisters who have joined this protest to demand freedom for Jorge Vazquez Chaviano“, said Maria del Carmen, sepcifying that up to the moment (September 13th) there are 26 participants in the strike, all of who are from different provinces like Havana, Villa Clara and Holguin. In fact, there are Ladies in White (as the case of Rosa Maria Naranjo Nieves) and political prisoners from their cells (like Orlando Almenares Reyes from Canaletas Prison in Ciego de Avila).
Maria del Carmen has also carried out her own protests. “A group of us dissidents, among them Jorge’s mother- Maria Elena Chaviano Hernandez- were arrested when we took to the streets of Sagua la Grande to demand his freedom“, she explained on September 10th. She was arrested once more during afternoon hours of that same day. Her response was to sit outside her house with signs with messages demanding her husband’s freedom.
“On Tuesday, 4 of us went to the streets again in Sagua la Grande at around 1 PM to demand his freedom“, she said, “they hit me on the mouth, they scratched my face, so I would not continue shouting for the freedom of my husband and we were detained in the police unit until the next day“.
Jorge Adrian Vazquez Hernandez, 21 year old son of Jorge and Maria del Carmen, witnessed these arrests on the 11th and detailed that one of the officials, whom he identified of having the last name Batista, “broke” his mother’s lips. The young Cuban explains that there were also “uniformed women and a lieutenant colonel” participating in the violence. Those arrested and beaten, in addition to his mother, were his grandmother Maria Elena Chaviano and dissidents Luis Enrique Monzon Rivero, Abelardo Sosa Perez, and Jesus Reinaldo Rodriguez. The son of Vazquez remained in his house along with his 15 year old brother, Miguel, all night, surrounded by police agents who were threatening to fine him for hanging a sign outside his house demanding freedom for his parents.
Meanwhile, activists throughout the island have carried out their own protests and made their personal declarations in solidarity with the hunger strikers and demanding the freedom of Jorge Vazquez. Such is the case of Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo who carried out a vigil and a protest from her home in Boyeros, Havana on September 12th. On the 13th, members of Bayamo Youth, under the direction of activist Yoandri Montoya Aviles, demonstrated their unconditional support with the strikers, explaining that they will carry out a series of protests. A number of activists in Buenavenutra, Holguin declared themselves in a collective fast and that they were joining the demand for the release of Chaviano, said Delmides Fidalgo Lopez. In Santa Clara, a number of dissidents marched down to the local park shouting pro-freedom slogans, and they were all arrested. On the 12th, in Banes, Holguin, the Ladies in White Marta Diaz Rondon and Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez held a vigil and later a pots-and-pans demonstration demanding freedom, while in Ciego de Avila, Sancti Spritus and Camaguey, human rights activists affirmed that they were joing the call to a national protest.
Many other dissidents have sent out messages on Twitter, seeking support for the hunger strikers and highlighting that they run serious risks with their lives. Among the Tweets of solidairty were some by Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, Librado Linares Garcia, Yoani Sanchez and Guillermo Farinas.
On the night of Wednesday September 12th, Martha Beatriz Roque, who suffers from diabetes and who suffered a heart attack when she was in prison during the Black Spring in 2003, lost consciousness and pulse after a hypoglycemic attack but was brought back to conscience, luckily. However, she remained “very cold and with a very low blood pressure level“, according to Idania Yanez. On the morning of July 13th, Antunez suffered similar symptoms when he also lost consciousness and started to suffer from an elevated fever. The dissident regained his consciousness but still has strong pains, making it difficult to move and he is suffering from tachycardia. His wife, Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, has been offering declarations to various media outlets and has been publishing Twitter messages asking for international solidarity so that the strikers do not lose their lives in their attempt to achieve their objective, considering that they are very frail of health. On September 14th, Perez Aguilera made an urgent call to the world, detailing that her husband was once again semi-unconscious.
Meanwhile, in Palma Soriano, Misahel Valdes Diaz was arrested on the morning of the 13th, according to Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia who published a Tweet. Initially, Antunez had started his strike on September 7th also in condemnation of the constant attacks against Misahel, like the recent house raid and beating of his wife, Lady in White Vivian Hernandez Pena, and himself. His 2 year old daughter and 19 year old step-daughter,were also beaten. Misahel was threatened with death by State Security officials while detained for 3 days. Upon being released, Valdes decided to declare himself on hunger strike, demanding freedom for Vazquez Chaviano.
It has been demonstrated in these cases that, all these Cubans are willing to give their lives for the freedom of a brother in cause, and at the same time, for the freedom of all Cubans. Hunger strikes have been used, at least in Cuba, to bring international and national attention over the human rights abuses on the island and to create pressure over the regime so that they are forced to give in to their demands. This time, their demands are freedom for a humble man, a father of two, who was only taken to a dungeon because he does not fear the tyranny, for voicing his thoughts and for trying to assist a religious event. And it is precisely this solidarity which has surged that has kept the struggle for freedom in Cuba active, despite the oppression which the dictatorship practices.
“I do not have the words to express my appreciation to all those dissident brothers and sisters for what they are doing to demand Jorge Vazquez Chaviano’s freedom“, said a clearly emotional Maria del Carmen Hernandez, “God bless them all. We will continue in this struggle for freedom, I will keep on fighting from here, I will go out to the street again to demand freedom for my husband“.
**Nota- According to María del Carmen Hernández Martínez, the 26 strikers are: Jorge Vázquez Chaviano (from prison in Santa Clara), Jorge Luis García Pérez ‘Antúnez’ (Placetas), Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello (Havana), Yosmel Martínez Colcho (Santa Clara), Alberto Reyes Morales (Santa Clara), Luis Enrique Santos Caballero (Santa Clara), Arturo Conde Zamora (Placetas), Yerandy Martínez Rodríguez (El Pre Prison of Santa Clara), Orlando Almenares Reyes (Canaletas Prison, Ciego de Ávila) , Luis Enrique Ponce Sánchez (Canaletas), Roberley Villalobo Torres (Canaletas), Irael Isaac (Canaletas), Yuniel Álvarez García (Canaletas), Omar Pedroso Suarez (Canaletas), Arcelio López Rojas (El Pre Prison in Santa Clara), Yadira Rodríguez Bombino (Havana), Ibis María Rodríguez González (Havana), Felmir Vázquez (Havana), Yasmany Habas (Havana), Rosa Maria Naranjo Nieves (from Holguín, but on hunger strike in Havana), Leonardo Calcio Santana Ponce (Holguín), Pedro Fernández Vega Cortes (Holguín), Ramón Esteban Enamorado Santos (Manzanillo), Ángel Caballero Obduardo (Manzanillo), Jorge Luis Recio Arias (Holguín) y Misahel Valdés Díaz (Palma Soriano).
For more information from Cuba:
María del Carmen Hernández Martínez – Cell Phone: +5353-804-651
Jorge Vázquez Chaviano, an activist who is member of the Central Opposition Coalition, was arrested this past 27th of March when he stepped out of his home in Sagua la Grande, Villa Clara and attempted to direct himself to the city of Havana to assist the Mass which was to be offered by Pope Benedict XVI that same afternoon. Chaviano has not returned to his house since that moment, for he has been confined to a punishment cell for trying to freely travel throughout his own country.
Recently, the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front published the video of the moment of Chaviano’s arrest. The video is divided in three parts. The first part shows Chaviano explaining that he is surrounded, focusing the camera on the oppressors which keep a tight vigilance over his home. This occurred just days before his arrest. The second half shows the aftermath of a mob repudiation attack against Chaviano’s home. In this segment, the dissident’s young son denounces the situation as well. The final part of the video is the rapid and violent arrest of Chaviano at the hands of State police agents. Watch it here: