On Saturday June 22nd, the majority of residents of the neighborhood known as El Batey, in Grua Nueva, Ciego de Avila, publicly protested the horrible conditions of a heavily transited main road.
According to dissident Santa Gonzalez Pedroso, vice-president of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights, the motive for the protest was that the main street was in very bad conditions, it was dirty and produced lots of dust, which directly affected locals.
“Here in Grua Nueva, Ciego de Avila, there are many children with a cold, there are many elderly neighbors in wheelchairs and other bedridden sick people, and this dust was asphyxiating all of us”, said Gonzalez Pedroso.
Neighbors have been complaining for a couple of days but their desperation finally tipped over on Saturday and “they took to the streets to demand a local delegate of Grua Nueva to fix the problem“, explained the activist. She said she was arriving to her house at that very moment when she saw the crowd of protestors.
The citizens remained out on the street demanding repairs to the street, which is transited by all neighbors and by all cars and trucks trying to get to other towns. The persistence of the demonstrators was so much that the delegate actually had to travel to the scene. His response, however, was that he would not fix anything because that was “a troublesome” neighborhood.
The response of the protestors was to block the entrance point of the road.
“All of the neighbors, including dissidents and everyday citizens, used lots of rocks and sticks to block off the entrance of the road“, recounts Gonzalez, explaining that this impeded cars from passing through. It was a form of civil disobedience.
The result of the protest was that a number of government workers were sent to the scene with a pipe to water down the dirt road and some of the dust was eliminated and cars could finally pass by.
Santa Gonzalez classifies the events as a victory, but an incomplete victory nonetheless, considering that the discontent level is still high amongst the locals of El Batey, Grua Nueva and the road is not completely fixed.
“Something big is going to happen here because the delegate says he is not going to fix this road, but they are going to have to fix it because it’s not just us, the dissident, who are demanding this. It’s the people of Grua Nueva“, expresses Gonzalez, “Of course, the delegate fixed his own road, but the people here are publicly saying that that’s not fair“.
For more information from Cuba, contact: Santa González Pedroso – Cell Phone: +58-163-728 / Twitter: @Santacuba1
This blog recently had a chance to catch up with Julito, independent and dissident rapper from the duo El Primario y Julito, who spoke to us about the group’s new record, an opposition rap agency, the difficulties independent artists face in Cuba and more.
The dissident hip-hop group El Primario y Julito, based in Havana, recently launched their new album titled “My Crime” [‘Mi Delito’], a production which contains 14 songs, among them the first single “Lambon”, which has been accompanied by a music video.
Julio Leon Fonseca, better known as Julito, explains that “My Crime” is one of his favorite projects to date. It consists of a number of “protest songs” and others which are more “commercial and reaggaeton-based“.
Among the protest anthems are “Esteaño si se Cae” [‘This year the dictatorship falls‘], a collaboration with the punk-rockers Porno Para Ricardo, while other invited artists on the disc are Rapper Issac and Los Hijos Que Nadie Quiso [‘The Unwanted Children’]. The latter also form part of a new rap agency, along with Primario y Julito, dedicated to making protest music.
“This agency consists of 5 rappers who are not allied with any government organization and we work completely independent because we are members of the opposition“, says Julito, “The agency is made up by us – Primario y Julito – and also Rapper Issac, from Santiago de Cuba, and The Unwanted Children, from Bayamo“.
The young musician highlighted the situation of Angel Yunier Remon Arzuaga “El Critico”, a member of The Unwanted Children, who has been arbitrarily detained for more than 2 months, being held in Las Mangas Prison of Bayamo, for making protest music and carrying out civic activities as a human rights defender.
“Some artists affiliate themselves with certain musical or cultural groups belonging to the government, but we don’t buy that“, expresses Julito, “we make protest music and we have absolutely nothing to do with government agencies. If we are going to protest, we will do so with our means, not with theirs“.
He adds, “in reality, this is not a government… it’s a family dynasty which took over the country and has not wanted to let go. This country, this government, has to change…or better said, this government has to cease existence“.
Some of the other 14 new songs are “Gobierno Tirano” [‘Tyrannical Government’], “Triste” [‘Sad’], “Malo” [‘Bad’], and “My Crime“, which is the title track and recounts how the regime classifies these musicians as being dangerous because they write lyrics critical of the system and publicly manifest their opinions without censorship.
This free attitude has cost independent artists on the island quite some reprisals. Julito says that in the case of his group, “we have been beat, we have been arrested and we’ve been completely censured“. In fact, Primario y Julito also go by the name “Los Censurados”, (‘The Censored Ones’).
“When we started making music as a duo and we launched our first disc, we were summoned various times by the political police. While in the police units, agents told us we would not have access to any stage and that we would not be allowed to perform live“, recounts the Havana-based musician, “In fact, I still haven’t been able to perform live because of this. And it’s something I have always wanted to do as an artist, to see how the crowd reacts to my music. But these things happen under dictatorships“.
Despite the censorship and the prohibition of not being able to present themselves publicly, Primario y Julito still have lots of followers.
“There are many people who listen to us, who know who we are out on the street, especially young people“, assures Julito, who also explains that in order to spread their art, they have to do so through their own means, “burning CDs and handing them out to the population“, while “opposition groups also help us spread our work throughout the country“. In addition, they have to do record in “home studios” which other musician friends lend them.
He points out that an efficient way to assist artists like them in Cuba is to facilitate their access to blank CDs and USBs.
“Our discs are not on sale in Cuba“, says Julito, son of well known dissident and Lady in White Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo. However, anyone can buy the new album on their website, www.elprimarioyjulito.com.
Roberto de Jesús Guerra, director of the Havana-based independent news agency ‘Hablemos Press’, recently published a video-clip of one of the new singles of the rap group, “Este año si se Cae” [‘This year the dictatorship falls’].
“Here we are“, expressed Julito, “My message to other young musicians like us in Cuba is that they join us to keep taking the sentiment of freedom to the people. Here I am…and we have to keep fighting without fear and taking this protest music against the dictatorship“.
To contact directly with Julito:
Cell Phone: +53-246-070
It’s not rare for Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera to suffer a beating by uniformed agents in Cuba. Both she and her husband, the renown dissident and former political prisoner Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’, live under constant police vigilance, which does not allow them- the majority of times- to freely move throughout their own city of residence, Placetas, or throughout the country, for that matter. And when they manage to surpass vigilant cordons and arrive to other destinations, they are eventually intercepted and deported. This was proven once again on Thursday, March 7th 2013, when the activist was brutally beaten by State Security agents and left lying unconscious on a street in the city of Santa Clara.
Perez Aguilera, president of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights, was with other women of the group participating in the weekly march they carry out every Thursday to pay homage to Cubans who have died while trying to achieve freedom in the country, when the violence took place. It was around 9 AM when the others were detained: Damaris Moya, Yanisbel Valido, Natividad Blanco, Ramona García and Yris Tamara Aguilera herself.
The women were taken directly to cells in different police units throughout the region, but agent Eric Francis Aquino Yera and one known as Misael kept Yris in a separate police vehicle, by herself, from which she was taken out, or better said- dragged out– by her hair and thrown against the pavement various times to the point that she was left unconscious after suffering blows to the head, according to declarations made by Antunez in an audio published on the YouTube account “PlacetasCuba100” (belonging to Yris Perez).
Minutes later, some neighbors showed up to the home of Damaris Moya in Santa Clara and told her husband, Yanoisy Contreras, that there was a person abandoned out in the road, passed out. “We first thought it would be a drunkard”, said Antunez in the audio, “but when Yanoisy went to the corner of the block and saw that heart-wrenching scene, where Yris was just thrown there, bleeding and passed out… we urgently took her to the 20th Anniversary Hospital of Santa Clara”.
Yris’ condition was grave, which is why she was rushed to the Armando Milian Castro Hospital, located in the same city, where she was submitted to various exams. However, the hospital authorities, in collaboration with State Security, expelled Yris Tamara from the hospital as soon as she gained her conscious back.
Upon arriving to Moya’s home, other dissidents who displayed solidarity with Yris were detained, among them Michel Oliva Lopez and Alberto Reyes Morales. Others in Sagua la Grande, Villa Clara and Velasco, Holguin also were surrounded and arrested for protesting against the events.
“We are highlighting the seriousness of this situation”, said Antunez about his wife, “we hold the dictatorship accountable for the life of Yris”.
At around 7:30 PM it was reported, via Twitter, that when Antunez was taking Yris back towards Placetas, she suffered another loss of consciousness, as detailed in this other audio.
Due to the countless beatings she has received- product solely of political persecution- Perez Aguilera has developed a cyst in the lower back part of her neck. She frequently suffers migraines, dizziness spells and other sharp pains due to this wound which she has not been able to tend to medically.
Eric Francis Aquino Yera, one of the agents who attempted against the life of Yris this Thursday, is the same official who, in 2012, threatened to rape the 5 year old daughter of Damaris Moya- Lazara Contreras.
The attack against the president of the Rosa Parks Movement comes the day prior to International Women’s Day, celebrated around the world.
These beatings have not managed to force Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera to give up her fight in the past, which gives rise to an important question- what is the real news here? Is it the fact that the dissident was repressed? Or, rather, that she keeps going out to the streets demanding rights for all Cubans, despite whatever kind of consequence?
For more information form Cuba, contact:
Jorge Luis García Pérez ‘Antúnez’ – Cell Phone: +52-731-656 / Twitter: @antunezcuba
Maydelis González Almeida, member of the dissident Cuban Reflection Movement and resident of Quemado de Guines, in Cuba’s central Villa Clara province, sent this brief video straight from the island today, Thursday February 28th, where various dissidents take to the street of that town to demand “human rights for all Cubans“. The march coincided with the fifth anniversary in which the Cuban dictatorship signed the social, political, economic and cultural human rights covenants, of which none have been ratified or upheld. In the activity, other activists such as Nosbel Jomolca and former political prisoner Jorge Vazquez Chaviano (Central Opposition Coalition) participated.
For more information from Cuba, contact Maydelis Gonzalez- Cell Phone: +58-217-833 / Twitter: @maydeliscuba1
Arrested for pots and pan protest in Havana’s Central Park, beaten, and confined in a dungeon for 3 days. She was fined for more than one thousand pesos and has a trial pending, which means she could soon go to prison for saying, out loud, what so many Cubans think.
After the pots and pans protest in Havana this past 14th of February which went around the world (see the video here),the Ladies in White Rosario Morales la Rosa- Charito– and Melkis Faure Echeverria were arrested by the political police, forcefully shoved into cop cars and taken to the Dragones Police Unit. But not before the everyday people defended them, affirmed Morales.
Charito, as she is best known amongst her friends and fellow dissidents, said she decided to carry out the protest (a kind of demonstration she is no stranger to) after having been detained three times in the same week. The arrests occurred on Wednesday when she was trying to visit the headquarters of the Ladies in White on Neptune Street, in Havana, to participate in the activities honoring the fallen leader of the group, Laura Pollan, on her birthday. Each time Charito would try to make it to the event she was arrested and abandoned in a desolate and distant location known as Campo Florido, as occurred with many other women that day.
It was precisely during one of these detentions that a police agent, which Charito could not identify by name but instead by badge number- 01448– pointed a pistol at her head and threatened her with death. Before cracking at such a serious threat, the Cuban mother decided to publicly protest against the totalitarian system in Havana’s Central Park on the following day.
“The pots and pans protest started to awaken people’s consciousness, both Cubans and tourists. First, they gathered around, staring, but then the police agents arrived“, recounts Charito, who was shouting social slogans alongside Melkis like ‘fair pay’ and ‘return economic assistance to the elderly’, “The police shut down traffic, they called for more police vehicles, and began to carry out arrests. But the people started making signs of solidarity to us; they were applauding us and repeated our messages“.
The dissident says that the police started to push all the people standing around, especially those who were filming with their cell phones and cameras. “Then they came up the steps and brutally arrested Mekis and I…many people followed us and were shouting ‘let them go, they are speaking the truth’“.
Charito was shoved into a police car, hurting her arm and foot during the process. One officer even “pulled me by my hair“, she said.
But amid the police aggressions, Charito explains that what she focused on was the fact that there was “human solidarity” on behalf of everyday Cubans and foreigners congregated around the vehicle where she was being held.
“An Argentinean man (a tourist) followed me to the end. When they put me inside the car, a police agent pushed the Argentinean, and he threw his camera on the floor with violence. The tourist was very tall and he resisted, but the police finally twisted his arm and shoved him inside the vehicle, taking him to the Dragones Police Unit along with me“, she detailed.
Melkis Faure was also taken to the same Unit, but when both women saw each other, they had to be taken to the backyard of the center, because there was a large group of people conglomerated outside the building, protesting against the arrest and others finding out what had happened.
“We could hear the police sirens. They were arresting more people. The Argentinean that was in the Unit told me that he was going to accuse the police for the physical blows he had received“, said Charito, who added that minutes later she was transferred to the Aguilera Polica Unit, while Melkis was kept in Dragones to be later released that night.
In the Aguilera Unit, Morales was confined to cell # 4, where she rapidly began her protest, refusing to eat any food and only drinking water from Thursday the 14th to Sunday the 17th, when she was released at around 5 PM.
“I did not accept food, nor interviews with any of their agents“, declared Charito, “and then they accused me of altering the order. An official from Villa Marista (State Security) entered my cell on Saturday the 16th and told me that I had altered the public order and nearly started a massive uprising, that the people were really heated up with my protest, that we caused a commotion, and for this I had to go preventive prison“.
The response of the Lady in White was to accept the threat. “I told them that if they were going to take me to prison, well then I would carry out a protest and would rip all the uniforms they would give me“.
20 minutes after, the same agent returned to her cell and told her that she was being fined for 1,500 pesos (which she has not paid) and that she had to be confined to her house until they announce a trial date. “If I must go to trial, I will do it“, she said.
Upon leaving the dungeon on Sunday, Charito expressed her appreciation to all the people in and out of the country who echoed her case. In addition, she highlighted that the everyday citizens at the Park in Havana were very willing to carry out a large scale protest during the arrests. The activist cited another person, a mid-aged Cuban man, who she was not able to identify, who was also taken into custody at the Aguilera Unit at around 8 PM on Thursday night. This man told Charito that he had been detained for being at the park and criticizing the police violence.
“That man told me that at least 30 tourists were detained and that the police was confiscating all cameras and cell phones of those present. He told me that agents desperately started to call out for reinforcements, for more police vehicles at the scene“.
“I did not have enough time to even ask him his name“, says Charito, “because when the guards saw that we were talking, they took him away“.
Six Ladies in White staged a protest outside the Aguilera Police Unit after assisting Sunday Mass at Santa Rita Church along with Charito’s son, Reiner Biscet, to demand her liberation. The activist expressed that it was this pressure and solidarity that achieved her release, and that it was precisely also that same solidarity that made the regime tremble on that afternoon of February 14th.
In fact, this Wednesday 20th of February, former political prisoner Ivan Hernandez Carrillo tweeted (@ivanlibre) that the political police has set up a cordon around Havana’s Central Park since after Charito and Melkis’ protest, impeding anyone from getting close to the area where the demonstration took place.
(Below is the audio-testimony of Charito after being released on Sunday. In Spanish):
To contact Rosario Morales personally, call: +5353-857-319
“Down with police corruption”, “Long Live the Ladies in White”, “Long Live Human Rights”, and “Fair wages” were just some of the slogans shouted by two brave women who carried out a pots-and-pans protest in Havana’s Central Park this Thursday, February 14th (St. Valentine’s Day).
The women were Rosario Morales la Rosa, best known among her friends as “Charito“, and Melkis Faure Echevarría, both Ladies in White. Charito has carried out similar protests in the past, including two famous pots-and-pans protests alongside Ivonne Malleza Galano, also a Lady in White. In both of those previous cases, a crowd of everyday citizens surrounded the women to observe the protest and even to show their support. In the case of this 14th of February, Rosario and Melkis were not repudiated by any citizen, while a significant number of people also crowded around to observe the demonstration.
The protest lasted about 15 minutes, when the women were arbitrarily arrested by the political police. It was confirmed that Melkis was released during the night hours of that same Thursday, but when this video was published- on Friday the 15th- Rosario Morales “Charito” was still detained, her whereabouts unknown.
This week has been particularly violent for the Ladies in White. More than 60 women were aggressively arrested as they paid tribute to Laura Pollan, their fallen leader, on the 13th of February. In the case of Charito, she had already been detained this week and even threatened with death by one police official who pointed a gun to her head. But this did not keep her from carrying out her protest this Thursday.
“Hablemos Press“, an independent news agency stationed in Havana but with reporters throughout the island, published the video on their YouTube channel. According to the agency’s director, Roberto de Jesus Guerra, the images were caught by an everyday citizen who later donated them to “Hablemos Press”. See them for yourselves below: