Critical situation for Cuban political prisoners on hunger strike

Three Cuban dissidents, members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and who are currently in prison for expressing themselves against the totalitarian government, have been carrying out lengthy hunger strikes, according to statements made to this blog by Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, leader of the pro-democracy group and a former political prisoner himself.

The strikers are Enrique Figuerola Miranda, Wilber Parada and Roberto Hernandez.  

Figuerola, being held in the Boniato Prison of Santiago de Cuba “has been on hunger strike for more than 30 days“, explained Ferrer Garcia.  The activist adds that doctors have put an IV on him a couple of times but after this treatment “they have returned him to the prison cells, leaving him up to his own fate in inhumane conditions.  He is very weak…his situation is very worrying for UNPACU and all of his family“.

Recently on the YouTube channel of UNPACU a video of an interview with Enrique’s wife, Mercedes Hechavarria Guevara, was published.  She tells how her husband’s health has worsened and explains that during one of the visits allowed by the guards he told her that he would rather die for a just cause than to live under the dictatorship.  Figuerola has been imprisoned for 9 months, without a trial.

In the cases of Wilber Parada and Roberto Hernandez, detained together in Havana, they are being kept in cells in the Valle Grande Prison, located in the capital, “all of this because of their activism out on the streets, in areas such as Central Havana and Old Havana“, assures Ferrer Garcia.

Parada and Hernandez continue on hunger strike and are also under constant harassment…they have been victims of mistreatment, as have their wives.  We are also very worried about them“.

Ferrer also made mention of the case of dissident rapper and UNPACU secretary for the city of Bayamo, Angel Yunier Remon Arzuaga “El Critico”,  imprisoned for more than 2 months, also without a trial, due to the music he makes criticizing the regime and because of his activism out on the streets.

Remon is in prison because the political police got scared of the growing sympathy he was receiving on behalf of his neighbors in Bayamo through the distinguished work this young man has been carrying out in favor of Cuba’s democratization“.

Yedisbel Roseyo Mojena, wife of Angel Yunier, took part in an interview with Ferrer.  During the conversation, she detailed the situation of her husband and highlighed the constant police repression against him, before and during his imprisonment.  (Check out the  video here)

UNPACU has 10 activists in the Mar Verde Prison (Santiago de Cuba), among them 3 brothers- Alexei, Dianco and Diango Varga Martin.  The last 2 are twins and just turned 18.

Miraida Martin Calderin, a member of the Ladies in White and mother of the brothers, was held in prison for approximately 2 months and was just recently released.  She confirmed to Jose Daniel Ferrer that her sons “are being held in very difficult conditions…they frequently suspend our family visits, the guards physically assault them, and they are commonly confined to punishment cells“.

One of these political prisoners- Arcelio Noa– has also been victim of constant repression in the Mar Verde Prison.  In fact, he has even inflicted injuries on himself in a moment of total desperation.

Arcelio did this to himself because he was blinded by desperation.  He is constantly harassed.  They put him together with very dangerous criminals which the political police puts there and uses to attack him and all the other young political prisoners we have there”, denounced Ferrer.

The dissident organization UNPACU has more than 40 of its members behind bars due to the frequent and spontaneous civc demonstrations they carry out in centric places such as long lines, parks, terminals, street corners and other public locations.

Many other opposition groups also have numerous political prisoners.  They are women, men, intellectuals, farmers, young, and old.

On another note, 5 activists of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance Front are still on hunger strike as well.  Among the demonstrators is Luis Enrique Santos Caballero, seriously affected in health terms, who demands to have a home after he was forcefully evicted in the province of Villa Clara.  Reports coming straight from the island have only confirmed that his health has kept deteriorating.

 

 

 

Stoning against the Ladies in White, neighbors come out in their defense

State organized mobs assault the Ladies in White

On the night of March 18th, the Cuban political police organized a mob of more than 200 people to attack a group of 50 Ladies in White in Palma Soriano who were holding their monthly meeting, dedicating it to the 10th anniversary of the Black Spring crackdown when 75 dissidents were arrested and sentenced to prison.  These actions resulted in the hospitalization of one of the Ladies in White and the violent arrests of various neighbors who came out in their defense.

Belkis Cantillo, the representative of the Ladies in White in the province of Santiago de Cuba, was present and explained to this blog that the meeting took place without any incidents, but “at around 4 PM, when we were going to leave the house, we noticed that there were mobs on each corner.  It was then that act of repudiation began“.

Cantillo estimated that there were about 200 people in the acts of repudiation, many of them drunkards, and all of them responding to the orders of the political police.  Some of the agents who were at the forefront of the mobs were Edgar, Norberto, Yunier, Ernesto, Rodolfo and Agustin (the latter a chief of the Confrontation Unit in Santiago de Cuba), although the activist points out that these are just code names, seeing as the agents never use their actual names.

In addition, there were underage students in the mob.  They were taken there by their teachers.

The teachers would tell the kids to scream insults at us like ‘worms‘”, said Cantillo, “but the majority of the parents showed up, angry, and punished their children and took them away from there.  They also confronted and protested against the teachers for taking them there without their authorization“.

The mobs remained outside of the home of Denia Hernandez and started to throw rocks against the walls, windows and roof.  There were also underage children inside- 3,8,12, and 15 years old.  The eldest being Martha Beatriz Ferrer, daughter of Belkis and leading dissident Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia.

These kids were terrorized.  All they could hear were the rocks crashing against the walls.  It felt like it was raining rocks, it wouldn’t come to an end“, recounts Belkis, “And the political police was just there, controlling those mobs, encouraging them“.

At one point, one of the rocks landed inside the house of a neighbor.  Clearly bothered, he came out to defend the women.  He wasn’t the only one.

This man came out to defend us.  He told the police officers to stop the violence“, said the Lady in White, “and many other people came out to defend us- both men and women.  In fact, there were 6 women (neighbors) who stood up for us.  They started to shout at the mobs, asking why they were throwing rocks at us because we were only defending our rights”.

The result of the displays of solidarity was the beating and arrest of the 6 women at the hands of the political police.  Each of them were taken away to an undisclosed location.  Two of them were identified on Jose Daniel Ferrer’s Twitter account (@jdanielferrer) as Jessica Hernández and Maricela Chea.

Meanwhile, the Lady in White Miraida Martin was physically assaulted by the mobs when she stepped out of the house.  The aggression was so intense that she had to be urgently rushed to the clinic of Palma Soriano, where they had to give her oxygen, according to another tweet by Ferrer Garcia, which also detailed that she was in “a very delicate state of health“.

The home of Denia Hernandez remained under police vigilance long after the mobs began to disperse at around 9 PM.  It remained that way all night long.

Belkis Cantillo said that despite the fact that they were very violent moments, the Ladies in White were not afraid, although they are “very worried about the women who defended us and were assaulted.  They are still detained and were very beat, being held in an undisclosed location“.

Her husband and leader of UNPACU, Jose Daniel Ferrer, added on Twitter that the 6 women demonstrated a high level of bravery and expressed that “when everyone who desires a better future does the same as Jessica, Maricela, and the rest of the neighbors, the abuses, the hunger, and the misery will come to an end”.

For more information from Cuba, contact:

Belkis Cantillo- Cell Phone: +58-323-612