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)

Update: Tense situation for Cuban hunger strikers who demand release of jailed activist (Videos)

Dissident leader Jose Daniel Ferrer weakened during 19th day of hunger strike

Youngest hunger striker, Enrique Lozada (17) during hunger strike

More activists keep joining the massive hunger strike encompassing more than 60 people throughout Eastern Cuba, demanding the release of detained dissident Luis Enrique Lozada Igarza, while the other strikers who have already been refusing to eat for more than 3 weeks maintain their protest, which has led to the deterioration of their health.  The Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) has been publishing a series of videos and audios in their  YouTube channel with updates on the situation.In this video (above), the youngest of the strikers, 17-year old Enrique Lozada, who is the son of Luis Enrique Lozada, defends his protest before various doctors sent by the government to try and make him give up on his demands in the Juan Bruno Zayas hospital of Santiago de Cuba.

“With the level of stress I have  right now, knowing that my mother is also on hunger strike, as well as my uncle, seeing as how my family is being torn apart, do you really think I feel like living?”, the young Cuban tells the team of doctors, “Why am I going to live knowing that my father is dying in a prison cell because of a crime he never committed?  Knowing that my family is falling to pieces”.

The video concludes with the protest of various hunger strikers that are present in that room.  They point out that the regime has ignored their demands and has not even acknowledged the situation of Luis Enrique Lozada and the other strikers.

In this audio (above), Darmis Aguedo, wife of Luis Enrique Lozada, mother of Enrique, and also on hunger strike, explains that she was able to see her husband recently in the Provincial Hospital of Santiago.  She said he was being held in an “isolated” room and under the “permanent” custody of two armed police guards.  They were able to speak for a few minutes.  She said he was still strong in spirit but his health proved otherwise, as he has lots of weight due to the hunger strike.

Meanwhile, independent journalist Alexei Jimenez informed on his Twitter account (@jugandomelavida) that the hunger strikers in Holguin- Franklin Peregrino del Toro and Pedro Leiva Gongora– were taken to a hospital for a few hours on the night of May 5th.  Berta Guerrero, a member of the Ladies in White and wife of Franklin Peregrino, offered more details.  She said both strikers had been denied medical assistance various times.

On the afternoon of Sunday May 5th, various activists directed themselves to the nearest medical center, asking for an ambulance for Pergrino and Leiva but the medical employees ignored them.  A few hours later, a doctor finally showed up at the house, taking both dissidents to the Lenin Hospital to be hydrated.  Guerrero explains that the health of the Holguin hunger strikers- whom have already been in their protest for 15 days- has drastically weakened but that they will maintain their protest “until Lozada Igarza is freed”.  In Gibara (Holguin), another 4 activists have joined the strike.  The response of the political police has been to organize acts of repudiation against them.

Solidarity with the hunger strikers on behalf of the internal opposition has been national, however.  In Palma Soriano, various UNPACU members recently carried out a public march, demanding Luis Enrique’s liberation, as can be observed in the following video:

Former political prisoners of conscience Ángel Moya Acosta and Félix Navarro Rodríguez were able to travel to Santiago de Cuba to show solidarity with Enrique Lozada, Ana Celia Rodriguez, Jose Daniel Ferrer and other strikers this Sunday, May 5th, while the Ladies in White dedicated their Sunday march to Luis Enrique Lozada.

On the morning of May 6th, former political prisoner Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’, leader of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front, published a declaration in the name of the mentioned pro-freedom coalition in solidarity with the hunger striking activists.

As for the international scene, several activists have created a petition directed to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other organizations so that there be an increase in solidarity with the case of Luis Enrique Lozada, his family, and all the strikers who have put their lives at risk for freedom.  The petition can be signed by clicking here.

The cell phones of more than 40 dissidents in Cuba, the majority members of UNPACU, have been blocked in the past couple of days in order to prevent them from publishing information about the strike.  Regardless, activists have been reporting the details any possible way they can.  The lives of all those who are taking part in this strike are in danger, but they have all said they will continue onward, pressuring the dictatorship to free a Cuban who has not committed a crime and is being held behind bars.

“Urgent Solidarity” with Lady in White Ana Celia Rodriguez, one of the hunger strikers. Artwork by Rolando Pulido

Hunger strikers in Cuba: Minor, Lady in White and elderly man rushed to hospital

Enrique Lozada, 17 years old

After more than 2 weeks on hunger strike, three activists of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) have been urgently rushed to the JuanBrunoZayasHospital in Santiago   de Cuba due to serious health complications.

The strikers are Lady in White Ana Celia Rodriguez (suffering from diabetes), the elderly activist Dionisio Blanco Rodriguez, and 17-year-old Enrique Lozada. The latter is the son of Luis Enrique Lozada Igarza who was arbitrarily arrested on April 9th. His arrest was what led to the massive strike by UNPACU activists. Now, the health of all the strikers is getting worse.

Anyer Antonio Blanco Rodriguez, a youth activist from UNPACU, published various messages on Twitter (@anyerantoniobla) detailing the situation.

“The general health of the hunger strikers is critical”, read one message written by Blanco Rodriguez.

In an audio published by “Radio Republica” Anyer points out that the three hunger strikers have been taken to the same hospital where Wilman Villar Mendoza was, while Luis Enrique Lozada has been confined to the same exact cell in the Aguadores Prison of Santiago where Villar was tortured and taken to his death. Wilman Villar was a political prisoner who died after a lengthy hunger strike in early 2012.

Recently, other strikers have also been taken to hospitals, as was the case of Lady in White Adriana Nunez Pascual and the activists from Holguin, Franklin Peregrino del Toro and Pedro Leiva Gongora.

There is much worry about the health of the strikers, especially the young Enrique Lozada. In a recent video published by UNPACU he said that he is willing to take his protest, for the liberation of his father, “to the final consequences”.

“We need the solidarity of all Cuban, inside and outside of the island”, expressed Blanco Rodriguez.

Health of hunger strikers in Holguin worsens

Independent journalist Alexei Jiménez Almarales, from Holguin, has sent the following note with an update on the worsening health of some of the hunger strikers in the mentioned province which have joined the protest of more than 50 activists of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), demanding the release of activist Luis Enrique Lozada, detained and on hunger strike after a brutal arrest last April 9th.

The hunger strikers in Holguin are Franklin Peregrino del Toro and Pedro Leiva Gongora. Here is their situation:

Health of Holguin activists on hunger strike is worsening

Pedro Leiva

Franklin Peregrino

Strong headaches and weakness are plaguing hunger strikers Pedro Leiva Gongora and Franklin Peregrino del Toro.

These two dissidents form part of a group of various dozens of hunger strikers demanding the release of Luis Enrique Lozada.

Although more peaceful dissidents have been joining the strike, the Cuban government has not pronounced itself in the national media, and the everyday people remain uninformed about what is happening in the nation.

“We cannot allow them to die… we will take to the streets it necessary. The dictatorship has gone way too far”, expressed Rosa Maria Naranjo Nieves, a member of the Ladies in White.

For more information from Cuba, contact:

ALEXEI JIMENEZ ALMARALES
Phone Number: 52552925