Peaceful Activities Interrupted by Regime’s Violence (January 18th)

The repressive tactics of the Cuban dictatorship include forcefully impeding peaceful activities from taking place, even when they are to be held in the homes of dissidents. On Wednesday, January 18th, numerous arrests occurred throughout the island with the intent of preventing vigils and reunions. Here are three of the testimonies:

…In Holguin:

Every Wednesday activist and Lady in White Caridad Caballero Bastista unites dissidents from nearby areas in her home in the city of Holguin to pray and inform each other of the most recent happenings in Cuba. The Cuban Political Police, although aware that these are completely peaceful meetings, tend to use violence against them or extreme vigilance. This Wednesday, January 18th, they utilized both repressive tactics.

It was 5 am when two dissidents- Juan Sacaría Verdecía Torres and Edilberto Sartorio– were violently detained by the political police while traveling to Batista’s home, who also added that “Later on, around 8:30 am Juan Carlos Mendoza was detained” when he was on his way to her house to make presence at the vigil.

They didn’t let me leave my house,” explained Mendoza, “and I told them that my house was not a jail cell. And I started shouting ‘Down with the Castro’ and ‘Down with Communism’, when out of nowhere three policemen detained me.” During the minutes that followed, Batista’s home, as well as that of other dissidents, was surrounded by uniformed regime officials.

At 4pm, Caridad Caballero, Franklin Peregrino del Toro, Isabel Peña Torres and Juan Carlos Mendoza’s wife were walking towards the police unit where it was suspected that the three activists were being held, when they were forcibly stopped by a mob organized by the dictatorship.

We were at the San Jose Park when they attacked us,” narrates Caballero, describing the group as a “mob of female members of the Ministry of the Interior and State Security“. From there, the activists were pushed inside the police cars.

Caballero Batista explains that the agents applied “a martial arts immobilization headlock on me all the way to the Instructional Unit of Pedernales” where the harassment continued. “They were two very tall policemen that applied the headlock on me, and they both twisted my hands…I felt incredible pain, I thought they were breaking my hands.”

The Lady in White explains that in addition to the beating, a group of guards wanted to undress her. “I told them that the only way they could take off my close was ripping it because I wasn’t going to let them…I held on to my clothes and they were not able to take it off from me.”

It was around 9 pm when Caridad Caballero was released along with Isabel Peña, and later Juan Carlos Mendoza. The three dissidents were left in a deserted and obscure zone nearby the Pedernales Unit. “It was extremely cold, since we had been detained in sealed-off cells, and now we were exposed to the air,” narrated Caballero. The dissidents had to find transportation to return to their homes, but it was very difficult since they had been left at a remote area.

…In Havana

At Sara Marta Fonseca‘s home in Rio Verde, Havana, a weekly vigil is also held under the slogan “Total freedom without exile for all political prisoners,” where prayers were said for Wilman Villar Mendoza (deceased on the 19th), Ivonne Malleza, Ignacion Martinez and Isabel Alvarez (the three were released on the 20th).

As expected, Fonseca narrates that “the political police organized an oppressive operation nearby my house to prevent activists from arriving to the vigil“. Amid the vigilance, the participants carried on with the vigil. Around 1 pm, Sara Marta left her house, since she was going to attend the Ladies in White’s literary tea (weekly meeting) in Calle Neptuno (at the house of the fallen Laura Pollan). “I left my house because it is not a prison, and when we have to participate in an activity we are going to do so no matter what,” reaffirmed Fonseca.

Amid the threats, Fonseca continued to her destination but was quickly surrounded by the political police only 4 blocks away from her house. Aware that she was going to be detained, Fonseca had prepared a Twitter message denouncing the events. The dissident tells of how a state agent showed extreme worry and demanded she give him her cellphone when he noticed she had sent a Twitter message. The message went through telling the world in real time: “Castro police is arresting me. LONG LIVE FREE CUBA, FREEDOM, JUSTICE, AND DEMOCRACY! DOWN WITH THE DICTATORSHIP!“.

Agents of the political police and two members of the Revolutionary National Police (PNR) forcibly took her, pushing her inside a police vehicle and taking her to the Police Unit in Santiago de las Vegas.

Even though Sara Marta Fonseca is a woman who suffers from 2 disk hernias on her back, the oppressive political police agents, still treated her aggressively. At the Police Unit she was detained in a sealed-off and extremely humid  cell which had a concrete slab which was supposed to be a bed. Fonseca hurt a finger on her right hand while she tried climbing “the bed- or piece of concrete- since it was located in a high place“. At the same time, these conditions worsened her back pains.

The Lady in White was kept that way until 10 pm when she was released and left in a dark, remote area far away from her home. She had to walk home by herself.

…In Placetas

On that same January 18th, Yris Tamara Aguilera was arrested in Placetas, Santa Clara when she was on her way to Idania Yanez Contreras’s house, where she was going to meet with various activists members of the Rosa Parks Civil Rights Movement- a pro-freedom organization which she heads. In addition to meeting, they were planning a vigil as well.

Yris Aguilera is still suffering from a physical blow to the back of her head which she received at the hands of State Security a few months ago. Her husband, Jorge Luis Garcia Antunez, explains that the arrest was very violent and she was pushed inside of a police car and detained for many hours. Xiomara Jimenez and Giseira Espinosa were also detained when both women  went to “show solidarity with Yris“.

During the arrest, Antunez denounces, “Yris was threatened by an officer called Yuniesky, who threatened with raping her in the cell. Aside from this being a danger, we consider this an offense against these brave women who have chosen to take to the streets to demand freedom in Cuba“. The identification number on the tag of agent Yuniesky is 43348.

All the dissidents whose testimonies are recorded here coincided that they will not stop carrying out their activities regardless of the consequences until there is a free Cuba.

Peaceful Activities Interrupted by Regime’s Violence (January 18th)

Notes on Beatings, Arrests, and Vigilance (Nov. 1 & 2, 2011)

Caridad Caballero Batista denounces that the day of November 2nd began with arrests, beatings, and a strong vigilance throughout Eastern Cuba.  Luis Felipe Rojas narrates his arrest alongside Librado Linares on November 1st.

As of the very early morning hours here in Holguin, various homes of dissidents have been completely taken and surrounded by the political police“, explains the dissident Caridad Caballero Batista.  She adds, “At around 7 am, Denis Pino Basulto was arrested right outside his home. It was a violent arrest, according to what his wife told me.  They applied a headlock on him and they took him away in a police vehicle“.  Just a few weeks ago, Denis Pino suffered a similar arrest, also when he was stepping outside of his house.  The young dissident was recently fired from his job for his anti-dictatorship stance.

In Gibara, the son of Leonides Trinidad Rodriguez- Josue- told me that his mother was also detained.  In her case it occurred in the bus terminal and it was also very violent.  She was kicked a lot and was shoved into the a Operational Guard vehicle in that same manner.  She was taken to the Frontier Unit“, adds Batista.

In the same vein, homes across the region also awoke to a heavy police presence.  The agents surrounded homes and impeded dozens of activists from mobilizing.  In towns like Buenaventura the political police has maintained strict vigilance over democracy activists, as well.  Also, there are various homes surrounded in Cacocum, Holguin, as confirmed by Berta Guerrero and in San German, according to Luis Felipe Rojas.  Rojas himself was victim of an arrest on November 1st after assisting a non-violent struggle lecture taught by former political prisoner of conscience Librado Linares.

Librado Linares

I was on my way from Baracoa to Holguin to the home of Caridad Caballero, but upon nearly arriving the political police quickly intercepted me and Librado Linares“, tells Rojas, explaining that the operation consisted of various officials and a police vehicle.  “Once detained, they took us to the Pedernales Detention Center.  They took all of Librado Linares’ belongings, which were materials he used for his class, including pamphlets he had given out to his students and which he had planned to continue giving“.  Those pamphlets explained the importance of the non-violent struggle, which according to Rojas is a very efficient method of struggle.  “Those in power know that non-violence can knock down totalitarian regimes, that is why they are so fearful“.

Librado Linares was deported to his home in Camaguey, while Luis Felipe was deported to his town of San German.  Although this time they did not confiscate any of his belongings, the accustomed threats were not left out.  “They told me I could not leave my house… the same old story“.

Every Wednesday Caridad Caballero offers her home in Holguin city and hosts a vigil, a prayer group, or a simple meeting to pray for the political prisoners, demand their release, and show moral support to them and their families, as well as to other people suffering political persecution or similar issues.  For this reason, Rojas and Linares were on their way to her home, though this time it was not possible.  Caballero adds that “Juan Sacaria Verdecia Torres and Gilberto Leyva were also on their way to my home this morning when they were arbitrarily detained.  Now, we do not know their whereabouts.  Also, we do not know what is happening with our other brothers and sisters who were supposed to come because we have not been able to establish communication…it seems they are also detained.  We do not know what will happen to them“.  Another possibility, besides being detained,  is that their telephone lines have been blocked and intercepted by the political police, a frequently employed tactic which attempts to cut communication among dissidents.

Nevertheless, a group of 8 dissidents (3 from Velazco in the city of Gibara and the rest from Holguin) were able to surpass the repressive chain of political police and State Security agents and arrive at the home of Caballero Batista, where they will go on and carry out the planned activities.


For more information on the non-violence course taught by Librado Linares, Luis Felipe Rojas has published an entry on his blog in which he describes his experience in the class.  It can be read here: “The obsession for freedom”.

Notes on Beatings, Arrests, and Vigilance (Nov. 1 & 2, 2011)