Massive hunger strike by UNPACU ends with the release of Luis Enrique Lozada

Luis Enrique Lozada (far right) and his family

A young Cuban can finally hug his father- unjustly imprisoned for nearly one month- and a massive hunger strike by more than 60 citizens has come to an end, yielding positive results.

The protest was initiated by members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) in demand for the release of activist Luis Enrique Lozada Igarza.  He was arrested by the political police on April 9th after they raided his home in Maffo, Contramaestre.  His crime?  Offering his house each Tuesday to impart courses on peaceful resistance and civil disobedience.  At the moment of his arrest, Lozada started a hunger strike.  Members of his family followed his protest, starting their own strikes.  Among them his 17-year old son Enrique Lozada, his wife Darmis Aguedo, his brother Arnoldo Lozada, and others.  In just a few days about a dozen other activists, under the lead of former political prisoner and leader of UNPACU Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, also started strikes.  Eventually, more than 60 dissidents in different regions such as Palma Soriano, Holguin, San Luis and Gibara were on hunger strike.

After what seemed like countless acts of repudiation, arrests, and threats by the political police, as well as serious health complications product of more than 4 weeks on strike, the activists achieved their objective on the night of May 7th: The authorities handed a document to Enrique Lozada, explaining that his father would be released, promising that he would be back home in Contramaestre on the following morning.

Upon confirming the news, the young activist finally stopped his strike, drinking juice.  Enrique moved the world after he published a video assuring that he was willing to die for his father.  His health was seriously affected.

“I am giving thanks in the name of the family and in the name of the hunger strikers, thanks to the hundreds of UNPACU activists that were carrying out different actions throughout the country, thanks to activists of other organizations who joined us in solidarity, thanks to our brothers in exile who have always backed us with solidarity”, expressed Jose Daniel Ferrer in one of  the first audios  published on the YouTube account of UNPACU.

The release of Lozada Igarza did not come easy.  The same day in which the news was made public- May 7th- the regime unleashed a brutal wave of repression against various strikers and other activists showing solidarity.  On that same afternoon, the political police assauled the Juan Bruno Zayas Hospital of Santiago de Cuba, where some of the strikers had been taken, forcefully removing them.  Some were beat and abandoned in different parts of the province.  In the case of Lady in White Ana Celia Rodriguez, police agents ripped off her IV, which caused her much bleeding, according to a report by her son, the young activist Anyer Antonio Blanco Rodriguez.  The same occurred with Ernique Lozada, who even passed out after strong aggressions.

Another activist who was forcefully removed from the hospital was 60-year old Dionisio Blanco Rodriguez, while activists displaying solidarity in front of the hospital were also beat and detained, as was the case of Ovidio Martin Castellanos, among others.

In Holguin, the hunger strikers Franklin Peregrino del Toro and Pedro Leiva Gongora were denied medical assistance on various occasions, but the protests by a number of dissidents forced the local hospital to assist him. The State-sponsored violence could not impede activists from joining the strikers in support.  In Pinar del Rio, more than 50 dissidents held fasts, backing the call for Lozada Igarza’s freedom.  Members of other pro-freedom movements like the Ladies in White, the Republican Party of Cuba and the OZT National Resistance Front carried out marches, protests, encounters and other activities in solidarity.

A campaign started by everyday citizens was created outside of Cuba, where activists used social networks to denounce the situation plaguing the strikers and in search of support.  Various petitions were created with the purpose of taking the details to international human rights organizations, while in Twitter the hashtag #HuelgadeHambreUNPACU (“HungerStrikeCuba”) was created.  This pressure led various politicians and other public figures to make public statements in favor of Luis Enrique Lozada’s release.

Luis Enrique Ferrer Garcia, representative of UNPACU in exile, started a fast alongside other activists in a display of support for those risking their lives on the island.  They maintained the fast until the very moment in which Lozada’s liberation was announced.

This has been another series of actions that prove that Cubans can achieve positive things in their country and it is more proof that citizens do have power.  The internal opposition, through the civic protests of UNPACU and others, left the dictatorship with no other option but to release human rights activist Luis Enrique Lozada.

It is clear that the regime has sent a message of violence to the opposition with their wave of aggressions during the strike, specially on the last day, just minutes before releasing the activist.  But dissidents have also responded, sending their own message to the dictatorship:

“We will keep up the struggle…we have been able to get one man out of the dungeons of the tyranny, but other political prisoners are still behind bars in inhumane conditions”, said Jose Daniel Ferrer, mentioning more than 40 UNPACU activists who are imprisoned for having different ideas, “but we will continue fighting for their freedom, and for the freedom of Cuba, with much more strength, with much more dedication, and much more desire than ever”.

*Congratulations to all those who risked their lives for the release of an innocent man. – (Pedazos de la Isla)

Amid repression and activism, Wilman Villar Mendoza Lives!

It was the night of January 19th 2012- exactly a year ago- when the death of Wilman Villar Mendoza was confirmed.  He was a young Cuban, a father of two small girls, a member of the opposition, who was unjustly jailed for participating in a public pro-freedom demonstration in November of 2011 and who carried out a hunger strike for more than 50 days demanding his freedom. His jailers ignored his claims and kept him in inhumane conditions, which eventually led him to contract pneumonia.  His death was tragic but his example was full of bravery.

Now, in 2013, to commemorate the date and pay homage to him, a number of activists belonging to the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) carried out tributes to Villar Mendoza, but the response of the uniformed officials of the dictatorship was to utilize immeasurable levels of violence.

Since the morning of the 19th, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia published on his Twitter account (@jdanielferrer) that the brutality began in Mafo, Contramaestre, at the home of Luis Enrique Lozada, a coordinator of UNPACU in that area, where the home was raided and activists were beaten with sharp objects:


The home of Luis Enrique Losada, coordinator of UNPACU in Contramaestre was raided and activists inside were beat.

Up to now, about a dozen activists from UNPACU have been injured with sharp objects and other weapons

Ricardo Guzman and Ramon Escalona have been severely beaten. Ramon ended up covered in his own blood

Roberto Gonzalez and Alexei Encina are full of bruises and wounds, Roberto has a wound on his head

Arnold Hernandez was beat with cables, whips, and hurt with a knife

Capture 4 Capture 3

Capture 2 Capture1

To hear the testimony of Lozada and his wife click here (in Spanish).  More photos of the violence and the victims can be seen by clicking this link. These have been posted onto the YouTube channel of UNPACU.

Ferrer Garcia later added that in Vistar Hermosa, Santiago de Cuba, there also occurred acts of repudiation, beatings, and arrests in the home of dissident Ovidio Martin.  In fact, another tweet by Ferrer detailed that Vladimir Martin was “beat and left unconscious”.

During afternoon hours, there had already been 20 confirmed arrests of UNPACU activists.  All these detentions were reportedly violent.

Despite the crackdown, Jose Daniel highlighted that in different Eastern towns, activists were able to successfully carry out their tributes to Wilman Villar Mendoza, as was the case in Palma Soriano, where a group of dissidents carried out a peaceful march on the streets after a brief encounter.

“In Mella, Palmarito de Cauto, Santiago de Cuba and other parts of Palma Soriano similar marches took place without any arrests”, added the dissident.

Ferrer and other activists called on public and international opinion to pay attention to what was occurring in Cuba, as the lives of all detainees and of all those under the vigilance of the political police run serious dangers.  If they have already beat, stabbed and raided, the logic is that the repressive forces will only increase their violent actions.

“The assassins of the political police in Santiago de Cuba have been saying since December that their orders to beat and kill if necessary, all come from ‘the top’”, said another tweet by Jose Daniel Ferrer, “What is happening right now and what may happen soon is the direct responsibility of Raul Castro and his thugs”, he concluded.

Meanwhile, young activist Anyer Antonio Blanco used his own Twitter account (@anyerantoniobla) to reiterate that: “This is the first anniversary of the death of Wilman Villar Mendoza- he has not only been a martyr of UNPACU but also of the entire civic opposition.  Wilman Lives!”

The Reasons Why Ovidio Martin, from UNPACU, is on Hunger Strike (Chronology)

Ovidio Martin Castellanos.

Chronology of the events which have taken place in Vista Hermosa, Santiago de Cuba which led dissident Ovidio Martin Castellanos to declare himself on hunger strike on October 8th.

April 2nd- The home of Antonio Gonzalez Bordonado, located on 5th Street, #106 interior, between C & E, Vista Hermosa, Santiago de   Cuba. The political police was in charge of the attack. Various belongings of the residents are stolen, among them a computer CPU and monitor, keyboard and mouse which belonged to Carlos Gonzalez Martin, two cell phones and patriotic materials belonging to Antonio Gonzalez Bordonado. The residents of that house are:

Antonio González Bordonado.

Aurora Martín Calderín (wife of González Bordonado, niece of Ovidio)

Carlos González Martín (son of González Bordonado).

Yarisbel Martínez Fernández (wife of González Martín).

Lorena Beatriz González Martínez, 3 years old (daughter of Carlos and Yarisbel).

Milena González Martín (daughter of González Bordonado).

Yanara Pérez González, 10 months old (daughter of Milena).

During the assault, the minor Yanara Pérez González suffered injuries during an aggression against her mother Milena González Martín at the hands of the police agents who were trying to detain her.

While they searched and destroyed the home of Antonio Gonzalez Bordonado, the police agents directed themselves to the nearby house (#106th) of Ovidio Martin Castellanos and his family. Matilde Maria Mejias Roque opens the door and demands to see a legal document (search warrant) when they try to penetrate the home. The political police agent at the head of the operation responds with two options: they either allow them to search the house or they will search by force. The two minors who were in the house, Amanda María Mejías Robert (4) and Amalia Esther Mejías Robert (2) began to cry and were very afraid. The agents forced Mejias Roque to allow them to pass. They went in all the way to the living room, where the two girls were and continued to search. The residents of that house are:

Ovidio Martín Castellanos.

Matilde María Mejías Roque; wife of Ovidio Martín Castellanos.

Lázaro Curbelo Mejías; son of Mejías Roque

Lisandra Robert Salazar; wife of Curbelo Mejías

Amanda María Curbelo Robert; 5 year old daughter of Lázaro and  Lisandra.

Amalia Esther Curbelo Robert; 3 year old daughter of Lázaro and Lisandra.

Ovidio Martín Luna; son of Ovidio Martín Castellanos

May 2nd– Antonio González Bordonado and  Aurora Martín Calderín turn in a letter to the political police unit known as “Confrontation”, demanding that their belongings, stolen on April 2nd, be returned.  The letter is signed by 22 people who support the demand.  During a period of 4 months and on 4 different instances, the activists fruitlessly visit the “Confrontation” Unit to ask about the status of the denouncement.

June 23rd- The political police organizes a public disorder, controlling all access points of the streets leading to the homes of the activists from Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).  They bring in the “Squadrons of Terror” as well as national police agents.  The Squadrons form a scandal in front of the homes and two of them break into the home of Antonio Gonzalez Bordonado, armed with wooden sticks and other sharp objects.  The chief of “Confrontation”, the main organizer of the repressive actions, breaks in to the home of Antonio Gonzalez Bordonado and detains two people with the help of two male police agents.  Carlos and Milena Gonzalez Martin show up to the 2nd PNR Unit of Santiago de Cuba and turn in a formal denouncement because their property was violated.  There is no information on the status of the denouncement, or of the investigation.

September 15th- All access to the homes are blocked, the street corners are blocked. The squadrons of terror appear again and their members vandalize the homes with oil. One of the houses attacked is that of Vladimir Martín Castellanos (#106), as well as that of Ovidio Martin Castellanos and Antonio Gonzalez Bordonado, all of which are nearby each other. Vladimir Martin Castellanos does not belong to any dissident group. The detainees that day are: Alexei Pécora Ravel, a dissident who was on his way to his house which is located where the police operations were underway and Heriberto García Tamame, another dissident who was going to visit the Martin family.

September 19th- The access to he homes are blocked again. Toxic products are used to vandalize the homes of Antonio Gonzalez Bordonado and his family, Ovidio Martin Castellanos and his family and that of Vladimir Martin Castellanos and his family. Members of the squadrons of terror throw rocks at the homes, one of which hits Ovidio Martin Luna (son of Ovidio Martin Castellanos) on his forehead, another which hits Carlos Gonzalez Martin (son of Antonio Gonzalez Bordonado and Aurora Martin Calderin) and another hitting Lazaro Curbelo Mejias (son of Ovidio’s wife) in various parts of his body. Lazaro Curbelo Mejias and Vladimir Martin Castellanos are violently detained in front of their homes.

October 3rd- Between 4 or 5 AM condoms with toxic products are thrown at the homes and parts of it land inside the homes. The 4 minors begin to cry of fear. In the morning, the political police blocks all access points to that neighborhood.

The homes are vandalized using toxic products and they are further applied on the walls with brooms. Vladimir and Alexei are arrested. During the night, they throw chicken eggs inside the house.

October 8th- At dawn, the walls of the home are vandalized with toxic products and feces. Part of these things land inside the house. The small girls begin to cry again. The National Police is summoned and they arrive with car # 602. Vladimir is transferred to the 2nd PNR Unit. Three agents dressed in civilian clothing violently arrest Ovidio Martin Castellanos, he is dragged on the floor and beaten in the police vehicle #548, which was summoned by one of the civilian clothes agents. They continue to beat Ovidio in the car. He is taken to the 3rd PNR Unit, where a detainee (imprisoned because of a common crime) starts to threaten him. However, the threats don’t work on him and members of the political police start to beat him, all the while Martin Castellanos is under police custody. The officials of the National Police simply stand by and observe the beating.

The families turn in denouncements to the Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology because of the toxic products which were hurled at them. They re-introduce the denouncement to the Department before the current functionary Vilma Giron Enamorado. She refuses to proceed with the process of the denouncements turned in on the 4th and 8th of October.

As a consequence of the toxic products, the minors Lorena Beatriz Lorena Beatriz González Martínez, 3 year old daughter of Carlos and Yarisbel; and Amalia Esther Curbelo Robert, 3 year old daughter of Lázaro and Lisandra, have all suffered the decline of their health because they suffer from allergies. They now require medical attention and close care.

Ovidio Martín Castellanos, in September, was victim of threats against his life and a frustrated attempt of assault. Martin Castellanos carried out the formal denouncements with information about the people who participated in both acts (members of the Squadrons of Terror). As of now, there has been no news on the status of the investigations or its results.

UNPACU has also published a video of a march in solidarity with Ovidio Martin Castellanos, who has been on hunger strike for more than 11 days. The march took place on Enramadas Street, in Santiago de Cuba: