Lack of Water in Secondary School Sparks Student Protest in Holguin, Cuba

On Friday, May 18th, a number of students from the secondary Antonio Maceo Grajales School, located in the province of Holguin, carried out a protest because there has been no water in that educational center for various weeks, according to reports by independent journalists Caridad Caballero Batista and José Luis Cedeño Hernández.  More than 400 students are enrolled in this school and the majority of them participated in the protest, where they banged on desks with their hands and shouted “water, water“, according to the sources.

José Luis Cedeño, an activist from the Eastern Democratic Alliance and neighbor of the school, said that the protest occurred during afternoon hours of that Friday and took place in the directors office.  After more than two weeks without water in the center, “one student fainted“, said Cedeño, explaining that this was one of the main factors which led to the protest.

On her part, Caridad Caballero reported that the majority of the students who participated in the protest were ninth graders who began demanding water in the classrooms and then took their demands to the principal’s office.  “The lack of water has caused much indignation among students.   They are thirsty nearly all the time while they are in school“, said Caballero.

The journalist added that the first response of the principals was to “tell the students to go back to their classrooms“.

After the incident,the students remained without water for the rest of the day and they then communicated the news to their parents, and according to both sources, the majority of the parents supported their children’s initiative.  The principals of the school then called on a meeting with the parents, where the latter declared that their children could not continue studying in those conditions, and many said that their children would not assist class until the situation was resolved.

The solution of the principals was to ask every student in the center (more than 400) for 5 Cuban pesos so that the school could buy a new tank of water.  Nearly every student paid the 5 pesos.  However, one week later, the water has not appeared and the student population is still upset.

“Up to the moment, nothing has been cleared up”, said Cedeño Hernández, “the conditions in the Antonio Maceo Grajales school are still critical”.

For more information from Cuba:

Caridad Caballero Batista – Cell Phone: +53-629-740 // Twitter: @caricaballero

Lack of Water in Secondary School Sparks Student Protest in Holguin, Cuba

Caridad Caballero, Esteban Sander: “We are Not Going to Allow Them Convert Our Home into a Prison”

Caridad Caballero Batista, Esteban Sander Suarez, Jose Luis Cedeno, and Juan Carlos Mendoza were all victims of an arrest which lasted 30 hours in total.  The Cuban police authorities arrested the 4 dissidents as they were stepping out of the home of Batista and Suarez this past Sunday, September 11th at around 9:15 am.  The activists were only trying to assist mass that Sunday, but were impeded from doing so by the police operation.  They were only able to walk about a block when they were stopped, by force.

Since last Wednesday, the home of Caridad Caballero had been surrounded by State Security agents, but the dissidents did not let this cause fear in them.  “There were around 50 agents with their police vehicles, and they immediately told us that we could not leave.  They told us we had two options- either either go back home or go to prison“, explains Caballero.  The dissident adds that, “we had already been surrounded in our home for a week, and we are not going to allow them to convert our home into a prison“.

The agents quickly forced the activists into their police cars.  Caridad Caballero and Esteban Sander were put onto the same vehicle.  When Sander tried to shout anti-government slogans, an official covered his mouth, using so much force that his lip was actually broken.  They were all then taken to the Instructions Unit of Pedernales where they were kept for many hours in completely sealed off cells, suffering many verbal abuses in the process.

Esteban Sander and Jose Luis Cedeno were handcuffed various times, and muscular tall soldiers were used so that they threaten them with beatings and/or death.  “In the case of Jose Luis, who is a young dissident“, explains Caridad, “they told him they were going to execute him and all of his family.  They would then take him in and out of his cell various times, handcuffing him and interrogating him“.

The 4 human rights activists were released during afternoon hours of Monday, September 12th.  Upon returning home (where their young son- Eric- had stayed alone), both Caridad Caballero and Esteban Sander assured that they will enter and exit their home as they please, even if the government tries to impede them.

Caridad Caballero, Esteban Sander: “We are Not Going to Allow Them Convert Our Home into a Prison”

Cuba- Notes of Repression From This Weekend (September 8th – September 11th)

Former political prisoners of conscience, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia (top) and Angel Moya (bottom).

Since the 8th of September, the day of the Virgin of Charity (a sacred day for Cubans), the Cuban regime has unleashed another repressive crackdown against human rights activists throughout the island.  As product of the  ‘Zapata and Boitel Live’ National March for Cuba’s Freedom- a demonstration which has planned a series of activities from one side of the island to the other- the dictatorship’s political police forces have once again attacked the opposition, causing more injuries and arrests.  Among those detained are ex political prisoners of conscience Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia and Angel Moya.  Moments before his arrest, Ferrer Garcia published a Tweet about the situation in his region: “New repressive crackdown from the Cuban regime in the Eastern area of the country.  The city of Palma Soriano is completely taken by G2 and National Revolutionary Police agents“, read the message.

In addition to these situations, other acts of violence were carried out against dissidents that were only practicing their inalienable rights.  Here are some testimonies:

Marta Díaz Rondon

On Friday, September 9th at around 6:50 AM, I head out to the home of Caridad Caballero Batista.  We had plans to go to Palma Soriano to join the Ladies in White in solidarity and assist mass with them.  I was detained shortly after stepping out of my house by agents who were in a police vehicle.  In the car, there were two police officers and two State Security agents.  Among them was Agent Agredo and Major Cruz Rodriguez.  I was then brutally shoved into the car.  When I began to scream anti-governmental slogans they put a towel over my mouth and they took me to the State Security Unit of Banes.  When they took me out of the car, another official (whose name I do not know) used force on me and threatened me, telling me that he would ‘kick my buttocks’ but with another more vulgar word.  He then hit me on my thighs, and I have bruises as product of all the blows.  They told me many other vulgar words and they took me to another detainment unit known as ‘Rafael Trenes’, where I remained detained for 27 hours.  I remained in protest the entire time, refusing water and a mattress.  That night I slept on the concrete floor.  When I was released, an official by the name of Freddy told me that I was still detained, that I was jailed in my own house and that I was not allowed to leave my town of Banes, not even to see my family.  If I did any of this, I would once again be jailed.  I have been under strict vigilance for days now, but I am going to continue going out to the streets”.

Diaz Rondon added a few words about the destruction of Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s symbolic tomb in Banes by government-sponsored mobs: “Early on the 8th of September, the day of our Virgin of Charity, I went to the tomb of Orlando Zapata Tamayo with white Mariposa flowers (the national flower, popularized by the Mambises- independendce fighters).  When I arrived at the tomb, it was totally destroyed, there was only dirt.  Regardless, I deposited my flowers, prayed, and screamed ‘Zapata Lives’.  On the next day, I was informed that my flowers were no longer there.  But we are going to continue visiting Zapata’s tomb, he was a martyr and an example for us”.

Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina

“I was detained in the late night hours of September 8th in Guantanamo by special troops.  In total, my arrest lasted 12 hours.  The purpose of the arrest was because I convoked the National ‘Zapata and Boitel Live’ March for Cuban Freedom, which has diverse activities planned throughout the island.  Days before, the regime had established various militarized security check points throughout the Eastern region of the country.  They checked each passing vehicle for dissidents and also interrupted many means of communication”.

“Yesterday, on September 10th, two activists were detained in the bus station of Guantanamo- Yuselin Ferrera Espinosa and Samuel Leblanc, both members of the Eastern Democratic Alliance.  They shouted anti-governmental slogans and up to this moment we do not know where they are being kept, although it is assumed they are in a police operations unit of Guantanamo.  Recently, there have been many persecutions against the peaceful opposition of the country, especially in the Eastern region”.

Eric Sander

Eric Sander is the son of Caridad Caballero Batista and Esteban Sander Suarez, both detained on the morning hours of September 11th.  Eric witnessed the arrests of his parents and he is alone at home, waiting to hear news about them: “My mother (Caridad Caballero) was detained this morning at around 9:45.  I saw how everything happened.  She left the house with my father, Esteban Sander Suarez and two other brothers in struggle- Juan Carlos Mendoza Martinez and Jose Luis Cedeno Hernandez.  From the early morning hours, our house was completely surrounded, there were police vehicles in every corner, as well as motorcycles and many State Security agents.  When my parents arrived at the corner of the house, the agents asked them where they were going.  They responded that they were going to church, and right then and there they used force on them and violently shoved them in police vehicles”.

Meanwhile, dissident blogger Luis Felipe Rojas reported that 7 activists were protesting outside the “El Anillo” detainment unit of Holguin where Caridad Caballero, her husband, and the other two activists are being held, demanding that they be freed.  Among the protesters is Franklin Peregrino del Toro, with who it was impossible to establish communication seeing as his phone line was blocked by government tactics.  Rojas warned that at any moment it was possible that the dictatorship’s forces could attack the protestors.  (For more information, I recommend to follow the Twitter account of Luis Felipe Rojas- @alambradasen).

Caridad Caballero had denounced that since Wednesday, September 7th, her house had been completely surrounded by State Security (G2) agents.  In conversation with this blog, on that same Wednesday Caballero declared that although she was aware of the vigilance, she would not let that deter her.  “I am not going to be jailed in my own house“, she affirmed.  “Besides, my son is sick with the fever, and I have to solve those issues, which may include me having to go out“,  she added.  Now, that same son, Eric Sander, will have to remain alone in the house, awaiting news of his parents who have  not committed a single crime, yet reside in jail cells.

Update (September 12th, 2011)- In their Twitter account, Marti News has reported that Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia and Angel Moya, along with Tania Montoya, have been released in the morning hours of Monday, September 12th.

Cuba- Notes of Repression From This Weekend (September 8th – September 11th)