Arrested and beaten more than four times during just the first month of 2012 and constantly threatened and surrounded, Caridad Caballero Batista has once again been victim of repressive acts at the hands of the Cuban dictatorship this past Sunday, January 29th, when she was violently detained as she was trying to make it to the Jesus Redeemer of Men Church in the city of Holguin, to pray for the immediate freedom of Cuba. But Caballero Batista is not the only one in her family to suffer the repression- her young son Eric and her husband Esteban Sande Suarez are also harassed because of the family’s dissident posture. The latter- Esteban- was also arrested this past Sunday, and so were other Ladies in White and activists, all for the same reason.
Caballero narrates that the arrests occurred at 8 in the morning. The first Ladies in White- besides her- to be arrested were Zuleidys Pérez Velázquez , Adis Nidia Cruz Hebreo, Ana María Aguilera Paneque, Berta Guerrero Seguro and Isabel Peña Torres. All the gladiolus flowers they were carrying were snatched from their hands by State Security agents and destroyed.
After being violently pushed into police vehicles, the women were taken, as is custom, to the Instructional Unit known as Pedernales, located in the outskirts of Holguin. In the case of Adis Nidia Cruz, from Pedernales she was taken to the police unit of Buenaventura, Berta Guerrero was taken to a cell in the police unit of the Rafael Freire municipality, while Ana Maria Paneque was confined to a cell in the Frontiers Unit of Gibara. It was also reported that Lady in White Maritza Cardoza Romero was arrested in Moa.
As soon as the arrests took place, a group of dissident men who belong to diverse opposition organizations like the Liberal Party of Cuba, the Pedro Luis Boitel Movement and the Eastern Democratic Alliance marched all the way to the Pedernales Unit to demand the freedom of the Ladies in White. “These men were also arrested“, explains Caballero Batista. Their names are Juan Carlos Verdecía Domínguez, Luis Jaime Merino, Félix Tomas Zapata, Esteban Sande Suarez, and Marco Antonio Lima. “In the case of Esteban (my husband) he was put in a torture cell of Pedernales, where the beds are really just concrete slabs and located about 6 feet ontop. Jaime Merido was handcuffed inside the cop vehicle and the agents shoved a dirty rag into his mouse so he would not talk”, denounced Caballero.
The Lady in White adds that on the following day, Monday the 30th, the guards of Pedernales announced their morning inspection, where prisoners must recognize their presence. “Esteban refused to participate because he had not committed a single crime and, besides, he is not a soldier to be paying tribute to those same people who oppress us“, she explains, “for that reason, they threw him down from his bed and onto the floor. The same happened with Juan Carlos Verdecia, for the same reason“. Both men still have bruises and sharp pains due to the aggression.
Once again, citizen solidarity reigns
All of the women who had been arrested were released on Monday at around 3 in the afternoon. Berta Guerrero, Lady in White and wife of dissident Franklin Peregrino del Toro, was abandoned in a remote area of the Rafael Freire municipality, even though her house is located in the town of Cacocum, miles away. Without any money or a purse, Guerrero tried using her cellphone to communicate with her husband, but she did not have enough credit. It was then that, according to Caballero Batista, “local Cubans- the real Cubans- noticed this. One man approached her and offered to take her back home“. Adis Nidia, who was similarly abandoned in another area, counted with the solidarity of a man who paid her bus ticket so she could return home.
In the case of Caridad Caballero and Esteban Sande, they were left outside Pedernales and had to walk and find their own ways to get back home.
Though these dissidents were kept in sealed-off cells and under constant threats, Caballero highlights that 4 other Ladies in White did successfully make it to church. “These women were Romelia Piña González, Gisely González, Nelia Molina Leyva and Gloria Piña González. They were able to participate in mass and prayed for the freedom of all political prisoners and for the freedom of all those detained, as well as all Cubans”.
Son of dissident couple who suffers from medical issues is also victim of Castro-sponsored violence
Caridad and Esteban denounced that Eric Sande, their 19 year old son, is also victim of the tyranny’s repression, despite his young age and the fact that he suffers from a medical condition which affects his brain. “It is a condition where, sometimes, he does not receive enough oxygen in his brain“, explains his mother, “when this happens to him, his blood pressure drops and he often even loses consciousness“. Not even taking this into consideration, the regime’s authorities arrested Eric during the week of January 20th and he was victim of numerous physical abuses. His blood pressure dropped very low during this time as he was being held in inhumane conditions.
“When we were arrested this Sunday 29th, my house was surrounded by State Security, despite the fact that Esteban and I were not even there. An official from the Confrontation Unit, whose last name is Martinez Leon, came here“, denounced Caridad, “and aggressively threatened my son, telling him that he would have to pay for his parents activism“.
In addition, Batista points out that Eric- who frequently attends Sunday mass- is preparing himself for his confirmation. Some local authorities have even gone as far as to harass him in church and trying to impede that he take the necessary classes required for this religious service.
“We are holding State Security responsible for what could happen to our son“, declares Batista.
The Cuban dictatorship never attacks dissidents only. Instead, they also go after their families, whether they be young or old, men or women. Accepting these consequences and holding tight to their compromise with freedom for Cuba, Caridad Caballero Batsita and Esteban Sande Suarez have affirmed that they will continue with their acts of Resistance. In fact, when they were released from their dungeons this past weekend, Caballero says that she looked her oppressors in the eyes and assured them that “it looks like we will see each other again next Sunday because we are not going to stop going to church, we will not stop being Ladies in White, and we will continue with our activities“.