Teen Son of Activists Detained Under False Charges, Could be Sentenced to 1 Year in Prison

Gerardo Sarrion

Eighteen year old Gerardo Sarrion is imprisoned in the Yayal Prison of Holguin province, known better amongst Cubans as “Cuba Si”, under false charges of attempt and could be sentenced to 1 year behind bars, according to his relatives, who are human rights activists.

Gerardo is the son of Lady in White Anni Sarrion Romero and step-son of Juan Carlos Vazquez Osoria, a pro-freedom activist of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).  According to Vazquez Osoria, the teen has been threatened, beaten and detained on numerous occasions in the past but the most recent act of violence against him on behalf of the forces of the communist regime have landed him in jail.

Gerardo was detained by the political police on July 15th 2012 in the municipality of Moa when he was on his way back home from Havana”,  reported Osoria.  “At that moment he was sent to the National Revolutionary Police Unit of Moa. When I was informed of this, I rushed over to that unit with my two daughters and began to protest”.

As he was demanding his step-son’s freedom outside the Unit, Vazquez Osoria explained that Gerardo was rushed out by the back section of the center and taken to another penitentiary in the town of Mayari. “On that day, the authorities did not give Gerardo any food, and on the next day he was transferred again from Mayari to the Yayal prison in Holguin.  That day, they didn’t give him lunch.  He has been in that same prison since then”.

Political police and State Security officials have alleged that the adolescent is being tried under charges of attempt against a local delegate of Moa- accusations which his mother and step-father have assured are completely false.  They recently were able to obtain a visit with Gerardo this past Tuesday, July 31st in the Yayal (‘Cuba Si’) Prison.  They described a youth who is under constant harassment but “very strong in spirit“.

During that visit, a State Security official by the name of Duglas (a well known oppressor of Ladies in White and other activists in that area) told the family that Sarrion’s case could lead him to prison for 1 year.

Vázquez Osoria explained that “State Security has been doing this against Gerardo for some time now because his mother and I think differently and we do not agree with this system. Previous to this, on May 24th 2012  he was detained and beaten by a delegate in Moa, under the orders of State Security officials Leandro Alba.  He was also beaten by the political police on May 19th of 2011 and on February 6th 2011 he was one of the victims of a violent repudiation attack at the headquarters of UNPACU in Moa, where he also suffered beatings.  He has been threatened so much to the point of being put in prison now”.

In the ‘Cuba Si’ prison, the youth has been forced to share a jail cell with an inmate with suicidal tendencies.  His step-father alleges that the authorities have done this on purpose in an attempt to “terrorize him“.  Gerardo’s cellmate has told him that he will cut himself with a knife.  According to Osoria, on a constant basis “Gerardo also receives threats from his jailers“.

Anni Sarrion Romero has been fired from her workplace because of her involvement in the Cuban civic resistance movement and because she is a well known and active Lady in White.  In 2011, she was victim of a very violent beating at her same workplace, an action which shattered some of her teeth and caused her other injuries.  Meanwhile, Juan Carlos Vazquez Osoria has also suffered reprisals due to his activism, including beatings and arrests at the hands of the political police.  Both demand immediate and unconditional freedom for Gerardo Sarrion.

For more information Cuba:

Anni Sarrion Romero – Cell Phone: +5353-783-667

Large Military Operations in Holguin Intend to Impede Dissidents from Leaving Homes Until After Visit of Pope. #PopeCuba

Caridad Caballero (Center, with blue shirt) and other dissidents in Eastern Cuba

On the morning of Wednesday, March 21st, the State Security agent Yordanys Martinez Leon told Lady in White Caridad Caballero Batista that she could not leave the municipality of Holguin as she was arriving to the local bus station of Holguin city with intentions of traveling to Havana to solve some personal chores.  “The official told me that we could not travel until after the 28th [the last day of the Pope’s stay in Cuba], and I responded by telling him that I would take to the streets regardless“, explains Caballero.  In the end, the activist was not able to travel to the Cuban capital.

Caballero adds that terminals are not the only locations under the control of the regime’s armed forces, but instead the entire city and province of Holguin remain under strict surveillance.  “All the homes of dissidents in Holguin are surrounded.  They are being impeded from leaving the municipality and even their own homes.  There is a tremendous police operation throughout all the streets of Holguin, there are national police officers, members of the Ministry of the Interior, and State Security agents everywhere“, informed the Lady in White, who pointed out the cases of violence against dissidents including Juan Carlos Vazquez Osoria who was “violently arrested on Tuesday night in Moa“.  In fact, when Osoria’s wife-  Lady in White Anni Sarrion Romero– called Caballero to communicate her denouncement, State Security forces barged into her workplace (where she was at the time) looking for her and the call dropped there.

Another case is that of Lady in White Milagros Leyva Ramirez who had been detained for various days and then released this past Friday, March 16th.  “Although she was released“, explains Caballero, “she is still under warnings that she cannot leave her house.  And that’s how all dissidents in Holguin are right now“.

Caridad Caballero Batista was mentioned once again in a report compiled by the Christian pro-human rights organization known as Christian Solidarity Worldwide this past Tuesday, March 20th.  The report denounces that so far in 2012, the peaceful dissident has not been allowed to assist mass because she is violently arrested every Sunday.  The most recent aggression against her occurred on Friday March 16th when she was arrested along with her son Eric and husband Esteban until the morning of Monday the 19th.  The Christian organization also asks for “prayers for Caridad Caballero Batista” and other activists who are being impeded from arriving to church.

Pope Benedict XVI will arrive to Cuba on Monday, March 26th and a few hours later he will hold his first mass in Santiago de Cuba, in the Cuban East.  Up to the moment, the cases of violence against dissidents in the East and throughout the entire island have increased dramatically.  Ex prisoner of conscience and prominent human rights activist in the Eastern town of Palma Soriano, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, for example, has been reporting countless cases of phone interceptions by the political police and arbitrary arrests and threats of dissidents throughout the region.  Due to the vigilance and censorship against him, his Twitter account- @jdanielferrer– is being updated part by him and part by his exiled brother Luis Enrique Ferrer.

For more information from Cuba:

Caridad Caballero Batista – Cell Phone: +5352-629-749 / Twitter: @caricaballero

Jose Daniel Ferrer: Partial Summary of Arrests, More Anti-Government Signs, and False Accusations

All the way from Palma Soriano, the former political prisoner of conscience Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia is informing that more and more anti-government signs keep propping up throughout that municipality and many other areas of Eastern Cuba.  In the case of Palma Soriano, Ferrer explains that one of the spots where the most signs have surged has been in “the neighborhood known as Nueva Palma, and because of this the political police feels the need to blame someone“.  In this specific occasion, the police has chosen to blame Daniel Quezada, a young dissident who has been detained (for this reason) in a dungeon of the Castro regime for one week now.  In fact, Quezada has chosen to carry out a hunger strike in demand of his liberation.

Although Quezada is being accused of authoring the signs and putting them up, Ferrer Garcia points out that while he has been in jail “the signs keep popping up“.  Quezada is being held in the National Revolutionary Police Unit of Palma Soriano and, according to various testimonies of dissidents who have recently been released from that punishment center, he has suffered a number of brutal beatings due to his pro-democratic posture.

Meanwhile, Ferrer Garcia has informed that three members of the Resistance and Democracy Movement (affiliated to the Patriotic Union of Cuba) have also been arrested.  They are Rogelio Tavio, Niorvis Rivera, and Elmes Figuera who were all arrested by the political police this past Friday, March 2nd, while they were at the home of Tavio.

The arrest took place after these three did not allow the Cuban G2 (State Security) to use their children for acts of repudiation against non-violent dissidents.  According to Twitter messages published by Jose Daniel Ferrer, the whereabouts of Elmes Figuera are unknown but it has been confirmed that Rogelio Tavio has been taken to the provincial prison while Niorvis Rivera is being held in the Imias Unit.

According to the political police, two of these activists will be processed“, said Ferrer.  Those two are Tavio and Rivera, both under the accusations of ‘public disorder and for attempting against child development’

Meanwhile, a dissident from the UNPACU- Juan Carlos Vazquez Osoria– was violently arrested this past March 6th  as he was traveling from Moa to Palmarito de Cauto.  Osoria was detained until March 8th.  Within the past few months, Osoria and has wife Anni Sarrion Romero have suffered countless acts of aggression at the hands of Cuban state police.  In fact, Sarrion has been beat, threatened, and suspended from her job just for publicly demanding freedom for Cuba.

For more information from Cuba:

José Daniel Ferrer García – Cell Phone011- 5353-631-267; Twitter: @jdanielferrer


Another Sunday, Another Day of Repression (Weekend of February 10th- 12th)

This past weekend- from Friday February 10th to Sunday the 12th- was marked by the accustomed brutality of the communist Cuban dictatorship against the non-violent Resistance movement, especially on Sunday against Ladies in White and other dissidents who were simply trying to go to their respective churches.  It is yet another case which Pope Benedict XVI should jot down on his agenda before visiting the island in March.

In the city of Holguin, Lady in White Caridad Caballero Batista and her husband (and also activist) Esteban Sandez Suarez were arrested at 8 in the morning.  Like every Sunday, the husband and wife were trying to assist mass in the local Jesus Christ Redeemer of Man Church when they were violently interrupted “by a group of soldiers, uniformed Interior Ministry officials, political police officers, and State Security agents” who detained them under the orders of agent Douglas Torres, according to Caballero.

The arrest occurred a few blocks from the home of Batista and Suarez, and directly in front of ‘Hilda Torres’ Primary School, where a conglomeration of everyday citizens were standing about.  These people saw everything.  “We let all of these people know why we were being detained, who we are, and where we would be taken to“, explains Caballero, “none of these citizens reacted against us“.  As they tend to do each weekend, the officials took the Lady in White and her husband to the Instructional Unit of Pedernales, where they are always confined to sealed off dark and damp cells which consist of concrete ‘beds’.

While in Pedernales, Caballero and Esteban were kept in separate cells.  “While we were detained, the officials screamed very offensive and grotesque words at us“, denounces Batista, adding that among the many perversions the regime guards carry out, they also “told Esteban to take off his pants and enter the cell like that, which Esteban absolutely refused to do“.  It was under that harassment and violence which both dissidents were kept detained until 12:30 in the afternoon of that Sunday.

Caridad and Esteban walked back home down the same route which led them to the detention center, and Caballero explained that the same people who had witnessed the attacks in front of the primary school “started to come up and talk to us as a sign of support“.

Meanwhile, in the town of Cacocum (Holguin province), the Lady in White Berta Guerrero Segura and her husband s were arrested in a similar fashion as they tried to go to the city of Holguin to join Caridad Caballero and Esteban Sandez in church.

Berta Guerrero and her husband Franklin Peregrino, when Peregrino was on hunger strike in 2010

Peregrino denounced that their home had been under total vigilance for days, “surrounded by State Security agents and Rapid Response Brigade members who were threatening us with sticks and cables“, but despite this, the activists decided to leave their homes and head towards church.

During the arrest, they punched me on the mouth, and the agents started to push my wife and I into a police vehicle“, adds Franklin.  From there, they were taken to the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) Unit, where they were kept until 11:30 AM.  “Upon being released, our home remained under vigilance until 3 in the afternoon.  This harassment occurs Sunday after Sunday, as well as on Wednesdays when we try to go to the home of Caridad Caballero to participate in a weekly vigil held there in solidarity with Cuban political prisoners.  Once again, we denounce this torture to the world, this torture which State Security carries out against the peaceful opposition“, said the activist.

Dissidents Anni Sarrion Romero (Lady in White) and her husband Juan Carlos Vazquez Osoria- residents of Moa- were kept in dungeons from Friday until Sunday, after being arrested at 11 pm on Friday.  Sarrion Romero explained that “we left our home in Moa on Friday in order to make it to the Cobre Sanctuary by Sunday, and we even had to take many shortcuts and go through fields“.  Upon arriving to the town of Mayari, however, a police vehicle was already awaiting them.  They were rapidly arrested by force and shoved into the vehicle to be taken to the police unit of Mayari.

In this specific unit, they were constantly harassed each day.  “They have a rule in the police units which says that every prisoner has to be lined up at 7 in the morning as the guards are changing shifts, and that is when 7 or 8 police chiefs arrive to carry out an inspection, or inventory“, explains Sarrion Romero.  “On the first morning, they signaled out my husband, telling him that he had to take off his clothes for the inspection, which is a form of humiliation.  And Juan Carlos refused.  They told him that his attitude was disobedience (a crime for the dictatorship) and that they would beat him“.  Osoria did not cooperate.

On the following day- on Sunday morning- the guards of the punishment cells tried doing the same with Anni.  “They tried to pull me and throw me from my cement ‘bed’.  I told them ‘you could accuse me of countless cases of disobedience but I was not going to step down, I will not lower myself before you all‘”.  The Lady in White says that the guards responded by telling her “remember that they knocked your teeth out in Moa“, referencing a beating on Tuesday February 7th where two henchmen of the dictatorship punched Sarrion Romero, breaking two of her front teeth. In fact, an official named Leandro Mordago cynically told Anni during her arrest that she “looks very good with her teeth like that“.  “I told them that they will have to kill me because I am not going to stop, and perhaps I will always be detained because I am going to continue traveling…and they really do not want us to travel to Santiago to assist mass in the Cobre Sanctuary“.

At 3 in the afternoon, both dissidents were released, although separately.  “They took me under custody to my home in Moa, aboard a cop car.  My husband was released and abandoned without money or anything else.  He was able to make it all the way to the home of Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia in Palma Soriano“.  The home of Romero and Osoria is constantly under attack by the forces of the Cuban dictatorship, as are their family members.  In fact, their children are victims of beatings along with their parents and are not even allowed to work or travel within their own country.

Ex prisoner of conscience Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia informed through ‘Hablalo sin Miedo‘ that on Sunday the 12th, Ruben Torres, Julio Cesar Salazar and Yuselin Ferrer Espinosa (activists from the Patriotic Union of Cuba) were arrested in Palmarito de Cauto as they were waiting to protest in case Ladies in White from that area were arrested.  But despite the stifling repression, Ferrer pointed out that 42 Ladies in White made it to the Sanctuary of El Cobre in Santigo de Cuba while 9 Ladies made it to mass in Guantanamo, surpassing the chords of vigilance and violence of the Castro dictatorship.

Alarming and Rising Violence Against Cuban Resistance: Punches, Sticks, Raids, and Sexual Harassment

In the municipality of Moa, in the province of Holguin, 3 Cuban regime henchmen carried out various physical blows against the Lady in White Annie Sarrion Romero to the point that they broke two of her front teeth this past Tuesday February 7th, according to her husband, the coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) in Moa, Juan Carlos Vazquez Osoria.

The brutal assault occurred when Sarrion was on her way to her job on Tuesday morning.  She was confronted by the group of men, under the direction of political police chief in that area, Leandro Morgado, and they all began to threaten her for her dissident activities.  Amid the provocations, Sarrion stood firm and non-violent. The agents, however, responded with violence.  Two of the “men” who punched her to the point of losing two teeth were Víctor Laurencio Blanco y Neuris Basulto.

According to Vazquez Osoria, Blanco and Basulto are waiting to travel to Venezuela to carry out medical missions in that country.  “In the case of Victor, I know that he has already traveled twice to Venezuela, and now they all have their papers ready to travel once more“, denounced the activist.  He adds that “pay is so poor here in Cuba that they have to do these things” to be accepted and approved by the regime to travel.

It is precisely against this corruption and violence which Osoria and Romero  peacefully protest against, and for this reason, they are beaten, arrested, and suffer other sorts of harassment.  For example, this same week, on Monday February 6th (the day before Annie was beaten), Juan Carlos Vazquez explains that along with his wife and other dissidents of the UNPACU they began to put up anti-government signs outside their home.  “In our signs we wrote slogans like ‘just salaries for all workers’, ‘milk for the kids’, ‘freedom for all political prisoners’, and ‘down with hunger and misery’, in addition to putting up the UNPACU flag‘”, says Osoria.  Quickly, during the afternoon, a mob repudiation attack was organized by the regime outside the house.

It was at this moment that the communist mobs raided the house.  “Someone who goes by the title of Lieutenant Colonel Andres broke down our door, began to hit us, and even broke my cellphone“, denounced the dissident.  The mobs then began to drag all the dissidents outside out of the house-  Annie Sarrion Romero, Maritza Cardosa Romero (both Ladies in White), Mario Antonio Borges, and Geraldo Sarrion (son-in-law of Osoria).

My wife was dragged, as we all were, and they beat her.  They hit me over the head with sticks.  And then we were all detained and taken to the local National Revolutionary Police Unit”, said Osoria.

Meanwhile, the national coordinator of UNPACU- the former political prisoner Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia- denounced that on Tuesday, agents of the dictatorship also arrested 5 activists of that pro-democracy group.  Those arrested were Ana Celia Rodríguez Torres, Yanisel Figueredo Valdés,  Kenya Leguin (Ladies in White), Julio Cesar Vega Santisteban and Elieser Consuegra Velázquez.  “The men were released during afternoon hours, but up to this moment (Wednesday) the women have not yet been released”, explained Ferrer, who also classified this violence against the Ladies in White and the Cuban Resistance in general as an emergency

“These women- the Ladies in White- are victims of a merciless and constant harassment; not only are they constantly and arbitrarily detained, not only are they beaten, but they are also confined to filthy prison cells in police units and, once there, police agents sexually harass them”, denounced the former prisoner of conscience.  During the first weeks of 2012 countless cases of sexual abuse against the Ladies in White and other female dissidents have been reported.  “They have inappropriately and forcefully touched these women while they search their bodies for phones, cameras, and camera memory cards.  Not only do they suffer these searches of the entire body, but they are also touched and immobilized”. 

Ferrer cites a specific example, when recently “a political police official brought a lover of his and started to have sex next to the cell where Lady in White Karina Quintana was being held, and later another agent arrived and started to make perverted sexual gestures at the Lady in White“.  Another case was when “during the weekend of February 3rd to the 5th, on Saturday night, 2 agents of the police in the 3rd Unit of Santiago de Cuba- known as “the motorized unit”- walked into the cell where Lady in White Liudmilla Cedeno Martinez (wife of Guillermo Cobas, coordinator of UNPACU in El Caney) was detained and started to also carry out perverted gestures as they stared at the dissident“.

In addition, Ferrer pointed out examples in other parts of Cuba, like in Placetas (central Cuba) where women from the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights were recently arrested with much violence, and also sexual harassment.  Among the women were Yris Tamara Aguilera, Idania Yanez and Damaris Moya– whom all confirmed that some were grabbed in the breasts or touched in other places by regime agents.  Another case, as Ferrer cites, was against (also Lady in White) Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo, in Havana.  Fonseca is also victim of constant surveillance, physical aggression, and sexual harassment by communist henchmen.  “It is not enough for the dictatorship to beat dissidents“, denounces Ferrer, “We know very well that tyrannies sustain themselves in power through very low and degrading acts, as the political police is doing here in Cuba.  But it is very worrying and alarming, due to the magnitude of these actions against peaceful and brave women“.

Juan Carlos Vazquez Osoria echoed the same denouncement, adding that “these acts of vandalism and aggression of the Castro regime are being done in order to plant terror in everyday people, so that they will not join the struggle for freedom.  But people are noticing, because there is far too much necessity- the streets are not clean, there are no good schools for our children, hundreds of kids can’t even go to school, and many of those who do go without shoes because the streets are so bad that their shoes are torn“.

And we are fighting against all of this, and that is why they violently attack us“, declares the dissident.

Jose Daniel Ferrer and Juan Carlos Vazquez are just some of the voices informing the world about the alarming and incrementing level of violence against dissidents in Cuba.  We must listen.