This 8th of May, 2013, marked the second anniversary of the death of dissident Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia after a beating by the political police in the city of Santa Clara, Villa Clara province.
As had been reported from inside the island through social networks, a number of activists in Santa Clara set out to pay tribute to the fallen dissident when they were impeded by police forces from arriving to the cemetery to deposit flowers.
Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, a baptist pastor and an independent blogger, had more details on his Twitter account (@maritovoz).
“Friends of Juan Wilfredo Soto paid tribute to him through march from park to cemetery and was strongly repressed by State Security upon their arrival”, said one message.
The activist identified some of the repressive agents who were in charge of the operation.
Pablo Echemendia, chief of Confrontation for the province, was one of the main ones. “He played a crucial role 2 years ago when they killed Juan Wilfredo Soto”.
Other agents which were present, according to Lleonart Barroso, were Captain Conde, First Lieutenant Misael, Major Adolby Gil, Lieutenant Colonel Ivan Yanez and Captain Yuniel Monteagudo. All of these are well known oppressors in that central province.
“I had held State Security responsible for Soto’s life 2 years ago, and now because of my denouncements, in the name of God I hold State Security responsible for my own life”, expressed Lleonart in another tweet.
For more information from Cuba, contact: Mario Félix Lleonart Barroso- Cell Phone: +53-382-508 / Twitter: @maritovoz
This Wednesday, May 8th 2013, marks 2 years since human rights activist Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia died after a beating at the hands of the political police in the city of Santa Clara, Villa Clara province, in Cuba.
Soto was beat by agents on May 5th 2011 in the mentioned city for the simple fact that he was out on the street carrying out a completely peaceful demonstration against the regime. He was urgently rushed to a hospital where he died three days later, on Mother’s Day.
He was 46 years old and was a proud father.
Members of Cuba’s internal opposition have considered Soto Garcia to be one of the many martyrs in the fight for freedom in the country, and have even used his name to create new pro-democracy groups.
“My friend Juan Wilfredo Soto (#JWS) was assassinated 2 years ago in Cuba for thinking differently”, wrote blogger and Baptist Pastor Mario Felix Lleonart on his Twitter account (@maritovoz), “God will do justice very soon for the assasination of Juan Wilfredo Soto, Oswaldo Paya, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Laura Pollan and many others”, signaled another message.
Meanwhile, dissident GuillermoFariñas wrote on his Twitter account (@chirusa32) that on the second anniversary of Soto’s death, 16 activists were impeded by political police forces to enter the cemetery where the remains of Soto Garcia lay in Santa Clara. Another 4 were arrested.
Friends of the dissident lovingly referred to Juan Wilfredo Soto as “The Student“.
18 years ago, forces of the Cuban regime assassinated 41 people who were trying to flee the country in search of freedom in the United States aboard an old tugboat (“13th of March”). The crime occurred on July 13th, 1994, when a couple of other state vessels persecuted the tugboat (which had 69 people on board), blocked its path, and used a cannon to fire water at the Cubans. 41 of those people died, drowned or from the impact, and among them were 11 minors.
In 2012, during the anniversary of this massacre, the repression of the regime (the same one which committed the crime) was not able to impede Cubans throughout the island from honoring the victims.
On the eve of the anniversary, about 18 activists in Santa Cruz del Sur, Camaguey, met at the home of dissident Yoan David Gonzalez Milanes to carry out a candlelight vigil followed by a pots and pan protest in memory of the vicitms. On the following day, July 13th, this same group had plans to march out of the home up to a local river, where they would deposit flowers in honor of those assassinated. However, government mobs surrounded the home, shouted violent slogans, kicked down the door, and impeded the dissidents from stepping out. Regardless, on the morning of Saturday July 14th, the dissidents once again tried to step out of the house, and this time they did, although they were arrested by forces of the political police.
Another successful pots and pan protest took place on July 12th in the city of Placetas, in Santa Clara, where dissidents like Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez”,Marta Díaz Rondonand Leticia Ramos Herrería participated. They were carrying out a meeting there, debating a new opposition campaign dubbed “Towards the National Strike”.
July 13th began with the news that 6 activists from the Central Opposition Coalition in Santa Clara also carried out a peaceful march to a local river to also deposit flowers, but all of these members were violently arrested. Among them was Idania Yánez Contreras, Rolando Ferrer Espinosa, Alcides Rivera and Damaris Moya Portieles. However, Alcides Rivera managed to throw the flowers into the river right before being arrested. In the case of Yanez Contreras, she was shoved into a police vehicle and kept in there for nearly an hour before being taken into custody in a police unit, with the engine off, the windows up and under the scorching sun.
The Free Yorubas Association of Cuba, a religious organization independent from state control, carried out a religious ceremony a couple of days before the anniversary, in which they prayed for the victims and prayed for the freedom of Cuba.
In Havana, the home of Lady in White Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo had already been completely surrounded by the political police for 5 days, keeping her family and other dissidents from going out to the street. Fonseca explained that, although they could not make it out, she managed to hang a large sign on her porch with messages condemning the Castro regime for the tugboat massacre and honoring the victims, highlighting that there were minors among the murdered. The activist added that other members of the group which she presides over- the Pro Human Rights Party of Cuba– did manage to surpass police cordons and pay tribute to the victims publicly in the same province of Havana.
Meanwhile, also in Havana but in the neighborhood of Arroyo Naranjo, Eriberto Liranza Romero said that various activists from the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy shocked the police, despite having been under threats and vigilance for 2 weeks, managing to throw flowers into a local river. On the morning of Saturday the 14th, Liranza explained on Twitter that other activities were being carried out by other members of the same youth group.
In Banes, Holguin, a group of dissidents from the Eastern Democratic Alliance marched to a river as well, successfully throwing flowers. These same dissidents managed to surpass a police cordon which had been set up by State Security Major Roilan Cruz, one of the main culprits of Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s assassination in 2010.
Other similar activities were reported in other provinces and cities, although telephone interruptions made it difficult to confirm further details.
Meanwhile, various Cubans across the island sent out messages through Twitter, using the hashtag #Remolcador13M (#Tugboat13M). One of these Twitter users was former political prisoners Pedro Arguelles Moran who mentioned the anniversary and emphasized that the crime was executed under “orders of the Castro tyranny“.
The Pastor and blogger Mario Felix Barroso tweeted, “The assassins are still out on the street, but God will do justice“. Meanwhile, Yoani Sanchez recalled that she was 17 years old when the massacre occurred and mentioned that many people, including her friends, would also risk their lives at sea in search of freedom. She explained that she did not know of the crime until “a couple of months after“, but affirmed that “ignorance does not free us of responsibility“.
“Help us to not forget them“, continued another Tweet by Sanchez, “to denounce the injustice“. The blogger also published a link to a harrowing testimony by one of the survivors.
I recommend the blog written by Pastor Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, “Confessing Cuban” to everyone. He writes this blog from his native village of Taguayabon and intends to denounce the reality not only of his town but of the day to day Cuba.
His blog has just been set up in English, and while more translations are yet to come, one of his most recent posts is a must-read. It’s titled “God Despises Lies” and in it he assures that some relatives of Juan Wilfredo Soto were lowly manipulated by the Cuban government so that they play along with the cynic and macabre game of the Castros as they use lies to try and cover up the death of the dissident.
The harrowing report also includes the stories of other Cubans who have “mysteriously” died, while the majority of day to day people continue believing the government has had something to do with these deaths.
This entry by Mario is also the response to Granma’s publication titled “Cuba Despises Lies”.
Here is his excellent account:
God Despises Lies (Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia)
The crime committed against Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia has taken an even more treacherous turn as the assassin, upon trying to dust off another death, has used methods so low like releasing a testimony from his sister Rosa who has suffered from psychiatric disorders since her adolescence. She (Rosa) is a person that is greatly susceptible to being manipulated as has occurred in this burdensome case. Her scarce faculties even prevented her from assisting her own brother’s burial, and she only visited the funeral for a few moments because of her severe nervous imbalance. The government also exercised obvious pressures on Madelin Soto, Juan Wilfredo’s niece, and on her husband Yasmil, using the fact that they economically depend on the State. Madelin is a civil worker for FAR and her husband is a law student and both of these positions are easy targets for pressures, which in this case were successful. But in the case of these two, they did attend both the funeral and the burial. They heard my clear words when I had the opportunity to direct my speech to all those who were present as minister for the service. I publicly stated my testimony about my last interaction with Wilfredo when, after 11 am on Thursday May 5th he informed me about the severe beating he had been subjected to on that same morning. That moment became etched in history after I sent out a Tweet narrating just how dismayed I felt.
To me, what proved his statements to me was his terrible death during the morning hours of that Sunday. Although I spoke clearly at the funeral, neither Madelin or Yasmil even tried to correct me on my “errors”. On the contrary, I greeted all the present relatives with the utmost respect, and they all thanked me for the words, including Madelin. These same relatives had even agreed on having Guillermo Farinas speaking the final words at the cemetery. He also passionately denounced the situation and no one argued against him, the same way that no one forced us to leave the cemetery as they made Rosa say in regards to Wilfredo’s son. But what happened after to Madelin and Yasmil? I can’t assure it, but I strongly believe that we find ourselves before an overly vile and quarrelsome government, and I can’t blame the relatives, although I am strongly disappointed by their highly contradictory behavior.