On the morning of November 20th, Idania Yanez Contreras received a peculiar phone call from Yulema Benitez Sigler. Yanez, along with various other dissidents, had been helping Benitez Sigler as she was going through a forced eviction at the hands of the Cuban regime. In the phone call, Sigler told Idania (and the rest of the dissidents) to not show up in her house as they had planned to do so on that Monday, the day in which the authorities had declared they would demolish the house, saying that the regime had already given her a free plot of land and had already constructed her a new home. But dissident Yanez Contreras noticed that Yulema was crying and something was wrong. This led her to call another opposition member who lives nearer to Yulema and she asked him to please investigate what was really happening. As it turns out, according to Benitez herself, a State Security official by the last name of Gil along with a political police official, had threatened her with prison time and with taking away her three children if she did not make that phone call. It was a plan to keep activists away and to impede any sort of public protest.
Upon hearing this, Idania Yanez decided to go on with the original plans and she and a group of dissidents head out towards the humble and improvised home of Yulema, located by the Sagua Highway, Kilometer 1 1/2 in Santa Clara. With very little help, “Yulema constructed that house on a dump site“, explains Yanez, “along with her small children- the eldest who is 11, and the younger two who are 7 and 8- they cleaned out the site and managed to get rid of some animals living there. She had to sell the only television set she had in order to purchase the wood to make the house“. The family had no running electricity and the only light they had emanated from candles.
The first group of dissidents arrived to the house at around 6 AM on that Monday- they were three activists from the United Anti-Totalitarian Council: Yasmin Riveron, Yusmany Rafael Alvarez, and Jose Luis Lopez. They were also the first to be removed from the premises by force and then aggressively detained by State Security and political police agents. Just a few minutes after, another group of three (Damaris Moya Portieles, Enrique Martinez Marin, and Idania Yanez) was approaching the area. However, Yanez explains, they were also all violently arrested, detained, and sent off to different police units.
“Damaris was taken to the Encrucijadas Unit, Enrique deported back to the municipality of Manicaragua, and I was kept in a Police Unit of Santa Clara“, narrates Yanez, “Yasmin, Yusmany, and Jose were also detained in a police unit of that region“.
It was at that moment that the forces of the regime began to demolish Yulema’s house. When this news reached other members of the Resistance, some began to protest publicly. Yanez tells that “the fellow dissidents Guillermo del Sol Pérez, Alcides Rivera Rodríguez, Víctor Castillo Ortega, Ana Rosa Alfonso, Jose Luis Lopez, María del Carmen López, Ramón Abreu, Mayra García, Rolando Ferrer Espinosa and Omar Núñez Espinosa all showed up and began to protest outside the Police Unit where some of us were being kept“. All these activists who joined in solidarity were also arrested and taken into detention cells of the same Unit.
Other dissidents- Alberto Reyes Morales, Michel Oliva Lopez, Yanisbel Valido Perez, and Rodolfo Perez Benitez- decided to also protest outside that Unit. Though these were not detained, they remained there the entire day until 8:30 PM when the last of the activists was released.
“As of now, we do not know the whereabouts or situation of Yulema Benitez Sigler and her young children“, declared Idania Yanez to this blog during the afternoon hours of Tuesday, November 22nd. “What we do know is that her smallest son- 7 year old Reiko- fainted” during the violent arrests and the demolishing of the house.
Idania Yanez was savagely beaten and arrested a mere two weeks ago and suffered serious health complications along with her husband Alcides Rivera Rodriguez and dissident Rolando Ferrer Espinosa who were both on hunger strike at the time. Despite the fact that they were still recuperating they decided to try and assist a victim of the abuses of the Cuban dictatorship, someone who has not committed a single crime.