From Boyeros, Havana, dissident leader Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo spoke about activities carried out in different parts of the island on September 24th, the Day of the Virgin of Mercedes, patron saint of prisoners. She explains that members of groups such as the Orlando Zapata National Resistance Front, the Pro Human Rights Party and others set out to their respective local churches to pray for the liberation of all political prisoners. In Havana, more than 70 Ladies in White participated in Mass and, together with a large number of everyday people, created a moment of freedom inside the temple, despite the presence of the political police outside. Fonseca also explains that the regime fears when diverse opposition groups work closely with the everyday population:
“This 24th of September, it was once again proven that the Castro-communist dictatorship fears the unity of the opposition with the people. In that unity lies the beginning of the end of so many years of suffering. Very soon, God-willingly, Cuba will be free. There will be no more political prisoners, men and women jailed because of their ideas”.
To listen to the complete declaration by Sara Marta (in Spanish) click this link from ‘Radio Republica’.
A vehicle nearly ran over dissident leader Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo and her son Ignacio Leon Fonseca twice in a matter of minutes in Boyeros, Habana, on the 31st of August.
It took place near 11 AM on the corner of 273rd and 160th street when Fonseca was taking care of some personal chores.
“The car, a modern model and blue in color, sped up towards us“, described the dissident, who also alerted about what had occurred through a Twitter message that morning (@SaraMartaCuba). Fonseca told this blog that she and her son quickly jumped back when they saw the car speeding towards them.
“When we jumped out of the way, the car stopped. Then, we tried to cross the street again but this time about 2 kilometers behind the car, but once again when we tried to cross the car charged against us but this time backing up. We were able to get out of the way on time again“.
Sara Marta managed to look inside the car but could not identify anyone, although she confirmed that there were 4 men and that one of them was carrying a Walkie-Talkie. This equipment is widely used by police agents on the island.
The attempt against Fonseca’s life took place in front of some neighbors who, according to the opposition member, began to publicly complain.
“One of the neighbors approached the car and yelled at the driver, ‘Do you not know how to drive?‘
Once seeing that the discontent amongst locals was increasing, the blue car sped up and drove away. But the mysterious and dangerous actions did not end there.
“We finished our personal chores that morning but when we were on 273rd Street and 2nd, I was talking to a neighbor precisely about what had happened when a motorcycle arrived. Interestingly enough, the bike was also blue, and it began to surround us. It went around about 3 times. The driver would break and stare at the person I was talking to, as if trying to identify him. After those 3 turns, the motorcycle drove away“.
Fonseca Quevedo does not in any way doubt that the State has to do with what happened to her and her son that morning. In fact, she is pretty sure it was sent by the authorities, considering that police violence has been on the rise during the last few months. Recently, when dissidents are detained, explains Sara, State Security agents threaten to assassinate them while they are being interrogated.
Fonseca, a renown activist and member of the Cuban Pro Human Rights Party, the Ladies in White and the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front (all pro-freedom groups on the island), is no exception to the rule and has been threatened and arrested several times in the last month.
The increase of violence in Cuba also includes savage beatings at the hands of police officials, deportations and kidnappings which end in abandoning the dissidents in desolate fields far from their homes.
Sara Marta, who is known amongst the opposition for carrying out frequent vigils and public activities of civil disobedience in favor of freedom, points out that it is not only her life and her son’s life that are in danger, but also the lives of all dissidents in the country. However, she assures that the dramatic rise in violence is also proof of the fear that the dictatorship is feeling.
For more information from Cuba:
Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo – Cell Phone: +53-379-011 / Twitter: @SaraMartaCuba
Several Cuban opposition activists are calling on the international community as well as their fellow compatriots to denounce the situation of political prisoner Ivan Fernandez Depestre, who has been on hunger strike for more than 27 days and whose health has drastically worsened, placing him in a state very “near death”, according to a press release by the Cuban Democratic Directorate.
Fernandez Depestre was abruptly and violently jailed on July 30th after he participated in a peaceful demonstration in honor of Frank Pais, a Cuban martyr who stood up against totalitarianism on the island many years ago. Two days later, on August 2nd, Fernandez was sentenced to 3 years of prison under the Law of Social Pre-Dangerousness which orders time behind bars for citizens who look “dangerous” of committing “crimes” in the future. The activist has been on hunger strike since.
Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’, leader of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance Front, a coalition which Ivan is part of, has been frequently denouncing the situation and taking to his Twitter account to let the world know what is going on. In an audio published on his YouTube channel, Antunez expressed that Ivan is “agonizing in a protest that has lasted longer than 20 days” and that his health is “very critical”.
Antunez, who is currently in the city of Miami as part of an international tour to denounce the Cuban reality, has been in contact with dissidents on the island who have carried out several protests demanding the release of Fernandez and called on the international community and all human rights organizations to end their silence in regards to this case.
On August 26th, it was confirmed that Ivan was in the hospital of the penitentiary known as Guamajal, but on morning hours of the 27th, he was transferred back to El Pre Prison, in the city of Santa Clara, Villa Clara. Activists have expressed worry that his life may end there due to the fact that he has been submitted to constant aggressions and very poor medical assistance.
On Friday, August 23rd, Damaris Moya, president of the Central Opposition Coalition, called on dissidents across the island to carry out protests in favor of Ivan’s freedom. A number of activities were documented, but so too was a brutal and repressive response on behalf of Cuba’s political police. Dissidents were beat, arrested, and deported, while many homes were raided and surrounded with police officials.
Antunez tweeted (@antunezcuba) this Tuesday that opposition members have not rested in their demands, saying that protests have taken place in municipalities and cities such as “Placetas, Santa Clara, Sagua la Grande, Holguin, Havana, etc”.
Ivan Fernandez Depestre is on hunger strike to demand his immediate release.
This past August 5th, 2013 a violent act of repudiation took place in the city of Holguin, in the province by the same name, in Eastern Cuba. The repudiation took place in the home of dissident Ramon Zamora, a member of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front, where they had plans to carry out a conference and debate about The Path of the People, a pro-freedom project created by the late Oswaldo Paya. In addition to the repudiation against the home, a total of 43 dissidents in different areas of the city were arrested as they tried to arrive to their destination. Among the detainees were members of diverse pro-freedom groups, such as the Patriotic Union of Cuba, the Ladies in White, CID, the Republican Party of Cuba and the Christian Liberation Movement.
Now, images of the beginning of the act of repudiation at the home of Ramon Zamora (where there were women, children and elderly people) have arrived. In the following video, sent by independent journalist Alexei Jimenez Almarales, we can see mobs organized by State Security insulting and provoking the dissidents inside the house. We can also observe the presence of vehicles used by the political police (white Ladas):
Caridad Caballero Batista, renown dissident from Holguin who had to take exile in the United States recently, spoke with this blog and identified two State Security agents at the beginning of the video (second 0:48). There are two individuals near the Lada car. Caballero identified the one with the red shirt as “El Polaco” and the one with the baseball cap as Michael. These agents are responsible for carrying out and ordering arrests, vigilance and repudiation against human rights activists in Holguin.
A second video also sent by Alexei Jimenez shows the testimonies of two underage children and one elderly man, recounting the moment of the act of repudiation. The children express that they felt lots of fear while the mobs arrested and beat their family members and tried to raid the house. Meanwhile, the 63 year old man details how he was beat and later left abandoned in a desolate field far from his home. There are also pictures of the injuries he sustained after the assault. Check it out here:
On Thursday, August 8th, a press conference took place at the Institute of Cuban and Cuban-American Studies “Casa Bacardi” at the University of Miami with the renown Cuban dissidents Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’ and Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, both recently arrived to the city in a visit with the purpose to tell the world what really happens in Cuba.
Diverse local, national and international media outlets assisted the event, as did figures of the exiled Cuban community, many of them former political prisoners.
Antunez responded questions in regards to activism on the island, assuring that the pro-freedom movement is growing, making reference to the organization he leads – the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front – as well as the opposition in general, mentioning movements such as the Ladies in White.
Garcia Perez said that State violence has increased and that the recent deaths of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero are proof of what can happen to any citizen who decides to fight for true change. He highlighted the situation of political prisoners, making emphasis on people like Armando Sosa Fortuny and Ivan Fernandez Depestre.
He denied that on the island there have been real reforms and explained to the public about a new campaign in and out of the country under the title “I do Want”, created by the Assembly of the Resistance, a coalition of pro-democracy organizations in and out of the island.
Yris Tamara Perez, president of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights, briefly spoke to the press, detailing all the violence she and all the women of her group confront when they peacefully take to the streets and carry out marches in honor of pro-democracy martyrs and to demand freedom for the political prisoners. But she also sent out a message of hope for all Cubans, assuring that “our time of freedom is near”.
Antunez also responded to questions about racism in Cuba (which, according to him, the dictatorship practices with frequency) and the importance of technology and information, free from censorship.
Another subject touched by the dissident was the necessity to work towards a National Strike on the island, and thus creating a wave of actions of civil disobedience and non-cooperation to paralyze the structures of the tyranny.
During an emotional moment, journalist Vanessa Ruiz of ‘Marti News’ asked the dissident leader what have his impressions been of the Cuban exile in Miami. Antunez, with tears in his eyes, responded by saying that he feels pride every time he sees so many people which have never forgotten Cuba and continue helping those inside.
“The same dictatorship which assassinated Pedro Luis Boitel is the same dictatorship which assassinated Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero“, expressed Antunez, “and we are not from here or over there, the resistance to the dictatorship which began in 1959 is the same which continues now. We are only one“.
Independent journalist Alexei Jimenez Almarales, from Holguin, has sent the following note in regards to 43 arrests of local dissidents on the afternoon of August 5th, the anniversary of El Maleconazo (when numerous Cubans took to the streets in Havana demanding freedom in 1994). The activists had plans to divulge and debate The Path of the People, a pro-freedom project started by Oswaldo Paya.
“State Security detained 43 dissidents in the city of Holguin last Monday, on the 19th anniversary of ‘El Maleconazo’
Activists from various organizations decided to meet and debate about Oswaldo Paya’s project known as ‘The Path of the People’. The political police came out and directed themselves towards the home of dissident Ramon Zamora Rodriguez, where meeting was to take place.
The detentions and beatings started in the place where The Path of People was to be debated and they extended to various points of the city, culminating in a total of 43 detainees all in the same day, a historical record of violation of human rights on behalf of State Security in Holguin”.
Jimenez Almarales provided a list with the names of the 43 detainees (including himself):
Julio Cesar Ramos Curbelo
Alexander Marrero De La Rosa
Suleidy lisbet Pérez Velázquez
Carmen Oropesa Ramírez
Alexei Jiménez Almarales
Jorge Luis Recio Arias
Emir José Bermúdez Pérez
Julio Cesar Albares Marrero
Rosa María Naranjo Nieves
Danai Mendiola Duquesne
Luis Jaime Meriño
Mauricio Martínez Días
Yolanda Pérez Días
Marisol Pupo Rodríguez
José Luis Ricardo Soberats
Yuri Miguel Carralero Vázquez
Bernardo Cintero Gonzales
Gilberto Solí Gonzales
Ramón Zamora Rodríguez
Maylin Ricardo Góngora
Pedro Leiva Góngora
Juan Sacaría Verdecía
Maidolis Leiva Portelles
Damaris García Martínez
Rafael Leyva Leyva
José Isidoro Urbino Zaldívar
Mairin Poso De La Torre
Fuera de la casa de ramón Zamora
Yosbanis Pupo Pérez
Fidel García Roldan
Berta Guerrero Segura
Magdelivia Pelegrino Guerrero
Franklin Pelegrino Del Toro
Rubier Cruz Campo
Liliana Campos Bruzón
Yolangel Pupo Pérez
Ricardo Rodríguez Feria
Amauri Güero Mora
Roberto González Hernández
Eladio Pupo Nieves
Arlenis Rodríguez Ávila
José Luis Mir Cruz
Amilkar Pérez Riverón
Livia Hernández Pérez
The detainees included members of diverse organizations, among them the Christian Liberation Movement, the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front, the Patriotic Union of Cuba, the Republican Party of Cuba, the Eastern Democratic Alliance, Ladies in White and FLAMUR.
Audios recorded during the very moment of the violence, specifically of the act of repudiation by paramilitary agents towards the home of Ramon Zamora, were published on various media outlets in the internet. In this audio by Radio Republica andthis onepublished by UNPACU, more details are provided. Agents broke doors and windows to detained activists, and also violently harassed women and underage children.
Meanwhile, Alexei Jimenez reported that this past Saturday, August 3rd, State Security agents attacked dissident Julio Alberto Arias, a member of the Republican Party, in the same city of Holguin. “Julio Alberto was detained by 4 State Security agents who twisted his arm out on the street and took him to the PNR Unit known as La Primera“, detailed Jimenez.
The journalist provided this photo of the attacked dissident:
Human rights activists have been denouncing an increase in police violence on the island, and all of this because activism in favor of freedom has been increasing as well.
In an emotional re-encounter with relatives and brothers in struggle, Jorge Luis Garcia ‘Antunez’ and Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera arrived to Miami, the capital of the Cuban exile, on the night of Sunday, August 4th 2013 as part of a tour to “denounce the Cuban reality”.
Antunez spoke those words to the different media outlets that were present in the Airport of Miami. From the moment he walked through the door of Cuba arrivals, the renown dissident and former political prisoner began to speak about the situation of Cuba, highlighting the cases of political prisoners such as Ivan Fernandez Depestre and Armando Sosa Fortuny, denouncing the wave of arrests which occurred before his departure from the island and assured that his visit has only one purpose, to let the world know that in Cuba there have not been real reforms and that human rights violations continue against the people.
Antunez, leader of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front, also assured that pro-freedom demonstrations on the streets of Cuba are increasing.
On her part, Yris Perez, who heads the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights, said she was very emotional and stood by the declarations made by her husband. Yris has been victim of constant beatings, actions which have caused her serious health complications. Regardless, she continues carrying out public opposition to the dictatorship.
Before offering their final remarks to the media, Antunez and Perez Aguilera reiterated that “they will not shut up or [permanently] leave Cuba“.
Meet one of the newest political prisoners in Cuba, Ivan Fernandez Depestre (pictured above).
Ivan, who is approximately 40 years of age, recently joined the public opposition on the island, specifically the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance Front and the group Awakened Youth. He was arrested by the political police on July 30th when he participated in a protest march in the city of Placetas, Villa Clara in honor of a fallen patriot, Frank Pais, along with other dissidents. The authorities kept him detained and quickly sentenced him on August 2nd to a 2 year prison term in the Municipal Tribunal of Placetas.
During the ‘trial’, Fernandez Depestre was accused under the ‘Pre-Social Dangerousness Law’, which could dictate time behind bars for any citizen just because the authorities think that person would be a danger in the future. The law has been used to send thousands of Cubans to prison without having had committed crimes, and it is specifically used against dissidents, especially young ones.
Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’, former political prisoner and leader of the OZT Front, has been reporting about this case and has asked for more solidarity with the jailed activist.
“Ivan Fernandez Depestre committed the horrible crime of daring to go out with other pro-freedom activists this past 30th of July in a peaceful march, dressed with their clothes backwards, paying tribute to Frank Pais on the anniversary of his death“, declared Antunez in an audio published on his YouTube account.
The dissident leader added that the only detainee that day was Fernandez Depestre, explaining that the activist does not have family support and that his sentence was a method used by State Security to try and make him give up on his recently begun struggle.
Fernandez Depestre has been participating in numerous pro-freedom demonstrations in the city of Placetas during the months of June and July. He has been detained and beat by the political police on various occasions.
“I am calling on the international community to join in solidarity with this activist“, expressed Antunez. He also added that in light of Ivan’s sentence, there would be a campaign in and out of Cuba with the aim to demand his freedom through civic actions out on the streets.
Listen to the audios by Antunez in regards to this situation: Click here and here.
Meanwhile, Antunez and his wife Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, leader of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights, will carry out a trip abroad this August 4th to tell the world about Cuba’s reality and the political police has unleashed an operation of arrests and beatings against dissidents who have tried to say goodbye to the dissident couple.
More details on the Twitter account of Antunez: @Antunezcuba
Jorge Luis García Pérez ‘Antúnez’, former political prisoner and general secretary of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front, has published a video on his YouTube account of a march carried out by members of the mentioned pro-freedom on Monday, July 22nd, in the city of Placetas, Villa Clara, on the first anniversary of the mysterious and unclear deaths of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero.
In the video, Antunez publicly demands the dictatorship to say the truth about the deaths, supporting the call of Paya’s family who have not given up on their objective to carry out an independent investigation of the events which occurred that day in the city of Bayamo.
The dissidents also denounce “fraudulent-change”, a term coined by Paya in reference to the cosmetic measures carried out by the regime to make it seem as if their were real changes on the island in the eyes of the international media.
Meanwhile, ‘Hablemos Press’ published a video of the tribute which took place the same day in the Colon Cemetery of Havana, where the remains of Oswaldo lay. Various people took part in the heartfelt event, and a note penned by the Christian Liberation Movement was read aloud.
A number of activities in honor of the fallen activists were reported in diverse regions of the island, from East to West. They included but were not limited to marches, vigils, debates, fasts and Masses, and although many of them were violently repressed by the State, it was once again confirmed that the legacy of Paya and Cepero lives on.
Members of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance and Civil Disobedience Front went out to the streets of Placetas, Villa Clara in the morning hours of June 2nd to carry out a public protest where they announced the “I do Want” campaign and called for solidarity with hunger striker Luis Enrique Santos Caballero.
The “I do Want” campaign was launched by the Assembly of the Resistance in a joint effort by pro-democracy groups in and out of the island as a follow up to the “I do not cooperate” campaign, where numerous stickers calling on Cubans to not participate in repressive actions organized by the dictatorship such as acts of repudiation and snitching. Now, the second phase of the initiative exhorts the people to cooperate with the internal opposition and demand their rights publicly.
Former political prisoner Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’, and general secretary of the OZT Front, participated in the demonstration alongside activists from Havana, Villa Clara and Sancti Spiritus.
“We are also demanding solidarity with our brother Luis Enrique Santos Caballero, who is currently between life and death”, exclaims Antunez during the activity. Santos Caballero has been on hunger strike since May 24th, demanding a house after having been evicted by the police.
Afterward, the demonstrators shouted slogans in favor of democratic change and human rights. They were not repudiated by any neighbors.