Ladies in White march in solidarity with victims of violence

Dozens of members of the Ladies in White assisted Mass this Sunday, April 21st, despite numerous cordons set up by the political police.  The women prayed for the freedom of all political prisoners as they habitually do, and also in solidarity with victims of violence in Cuba, like the 40 hunger strikers of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), as well as the victims of a terrorist attack this past week in the US city of Boston.

Former political prisoner of conscience Angel Moya Acosta offered more details on his Twitter account (@jangelmoya).  “50 Ladies in White marched down 5th Avenue and dedicated their march to the hunger strikers in Santiago de Cuba, as well as the victims of the terrorist attack in Boston”.

More than 170 people were injured while 3 died in the Boston bombings.  Meanwhile, in Eastern Cuba, the repressive actions of the government have dramatically increased against the 40 hunger strikers, among them Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, as they demand the release of detained dissident Luis Enrique Lozada (also on hunger strike) and calling for an end to the brutality against human rights activists in the country.

The strikers, as well as numerous other dissidents who have joined them in demonstrations of solidarity, have been victims of acts of repudiation, death threats, house raids and arrests this week.

A total of 20 Ladies in White in the province of Matanzas managed to march with flowers in their hands, according to Sayli Navarro (@SayliNavarro), a young member of the group.

Navarro added that in Guantanamo 8 women marched and made it to Mass.  When the religious service came to an end, the Ladies carried out their monthly meeting in the headquarters of the group in that area.

Anyer Antonio Blanco, an activist of UNPACU, reported that 34 Ladies in White participated in Mass at Palma Soriano, where Father Palma (the local priest) dedicated the sermon to the women and prayed for their protection, as well as for the hunger strikers.

Blanco said that 16 women carried out their civic march in Santiago de Cuba, and as far as he confirmed, only 1 woman was arbitrarily arrested.

During night hours of that same Sunday, the renown Ladies in White Laura Pabrada, daughter of the fallen leader of the group Laura Pollan, and Belkis Cantillo, representative of the group in Santiago de Cuba and wife of Jose Daniel Ferrer, traveled to Brussels to meet up with Berta Soler, representative of the movement, to finally receive the Sajarov Award, given to them in 2005.  The Cuban dictatorship had denied Laura Pollan and other members of the group to travel outside of the country to pick up the award, but now the 3 mentioned women have been able to travel.

Soler has expressed that, in reality, these things don’t represent reforms, but instead attempts to distract international attention over the escalating level of repression against the internal opposition.  However, she has been internationally denouncing the constant human rights violations in Cuba during her time outside the country, emphasizing cases such as that of Sonia Garro, Lady in White imprisoned in Havana for more than 1 year along with her husband Ramon Alejandro Munoz.


Ladies in White march in solidarity with victims of violence

Ivan Garcia: “As occurs with all dissidents who are black or mulattoes, the State Security agents always shove this sentence in their faces- ‘I can’t believe that you are black and a counter-revolutionary.’

A few days ago, this video came out of the island.  In it, one can see the desperation of a man who has to live under constant vigilance and knowing that his wife is constantly detained and beaten just for being dissident (and even worse: a black dissident).  The video also demonstrates his courage.

The dissident is called Ramon Alejandro Munoz and his wife is Sonia Garro Alfonso.  The blogger and independent journalist Ivan Garcia wrote this excellent chronicle about the repression and violence the couple constantly faces on his blog, “Ivan’s File Cabinet“.  Here it is:

“We are Frustrated by the Stress of the Constant Repression”, declared the dissident Sonia Garro

Photo: Laritza Diversent. Sonia Garro and her husband on January 2010

From a public pay phone and despite the fact that she was being watched by police agents in civilian clothes, the woman for which one man decided to climb up on his roof and yell anti-governmental slogans (as can be seen in this video,), Sonia Garro Alfonso told El Mundo that she and her husband, Ramon Alejandro Munoz Gonzalez, feel overwhelmed by the “stress of the constant repression” which the Cuban regime has maintained over them for quite some time.

She did not know that they would have recorded the video and uploaded it onto YouTube. The final straw which led Munoz Gonzalez to protest in that way was the desperation he felt when, on May 9th, his wife Sonia, and three other women (Niurka Luque, Niola Camila Araujo, and Leydis Coca- all of which are Ladies of Support to the Ladies in White) were violently suppressed and beaten by fifty agents of the “rapid response brigades” (the name given to paramilitaries used to oppress dissidents in Cuba) at 51st Avenue and 100 Street.

Her crime? Having taken to the streets with a white blanket on which she had written in black letters “No more police repression” and “Sentence the murders of Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia”, the dissident who died in Santa Clara on May 8th as a consequence of a beating.

After they were beaten, the four were arrested and taken to different police units in accordance with where they live. When Munoz found out about what happened, and after he investigated in his corresponding unit, Sonia’s husband headed to Section 21 of the Department of State Security where they did not tell him where she was being held.

It was the final straw. He decided to do what he did, and continues doing: protesting on his own. He says that as long as the violent repression continues against them or the dissidence on the island, then he is even willing to chain himself to a tree in the middle of a central avenue of Marianao. Munoz Gonzalez goes out to the street with the chains he has thrown on himself, and not with his machete, which he only wields when he is on the roof of his house.

Sonia has not only been beaten and detained on various occasions, but she has also had to withstand scornful and humiliating treatment for being black. In this last arrest they told her: “Nigger, we are going to send you straight to Manto Negro (the female prison) because you have us tired out already.” In the case of Sonia, as occurs with all dissidents who are black or mulattoes, the State Security agents always shove this sentence in their faces: “I can’t believe that you are black and a counter-revolutionary.”

Sonia Garro Alfonso has spent years suffering because of her skin color. Because of her very dark skin color, on the day she graduated as a Clinical Laboratory Technician, functionaries from the Public Health Ministry chose a white student to go up and receive her diploma from the hands of the minister. This was a humiliation she has never been able to forget. In 2006, when she refused to give up her activities in favor of afro-descendants or her independent cultural project which she runs with children of poor neighborhoods, she was expelled from her work place.

Nor has life been easy for her husband, Ramon Alejandro Munoz Gonzalez. He is a mulatto professor of folkloric dance who was also expelled from his work due to his social activism. That was the pretext which the police found in order to apply the “social dangerousness” law to him and send him to prison for a year.

The scene of the unusual protest is a blue house located on 47th Avenue, No. 11638, between 116th and 118th in Marianao. It’s just a few steps away from Los Zamora, Los Pocitos, and Palo Cagao, three of the most marginal and conflicting neighborhoods in Havana, filled with prostitutes, pimps, and delinquents. But also filled with professionals and dissidents like Sonia Garro and Ramon Munoz. Even if today they are on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

I also recommend this other well-written post about the harrowing case of Sonia Garro, written by Laritza Diversent and Ivan Garcia: “Sonia Garro, or the cruelty of a Regime“.

Ivan Garcia: “As occurs with all dissidents who are black or mulattoes, the State Security agents always shove this sentence in their faces- ‘I can’t believe that you are black and a counter-revolutionary.’