177 Ladies in White march on Father’s Day

Ladies in White march in Havana. Photo by Angel Moya Acosta (@jangelmoya)

A total of 177 Ladies in White marched in different provinces of Cuba this past Sunday, June 16th, dedicating the walk to Father’s Day, according to a tweet publish by former political prisoner of conscience Ivan Hernandez Carrillo (@ivanlibre).

In Havana, 58 women made it to Mass in the Santa Rita Church and afterward marched down 5th Avenue, demanding freedom for all political prisoners.  The Ladies celebrated Father’s Day together with various male dissidents which accompanied them.

Leticia Ramos, representative of the female group in the province of Matanzas, told Sayli Navarro that a total of 22 women marched there.  Navarro published the information on her Twitter account (@SayliNavarro).

2 women were able to march and participate in Mass in Ciego de Avila.

Ivan Hernandez also tweeted that a total of 62 Ladies in White marched in Santiago de Cuba and made it to Mass in the National Cobre Shrine.

In other Eastern provinces various women marched and made it to Mass.  In Guantanamo 12 managed to do so and in Holguin another 15 did.  However, in Holguin, specifically in the municipality of Banes, Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez was arrested when she tried to leave her house to march to church.  Ojeda denounced that the same thing happens to her every Sunday and that they are “completely arbitrary detentions“.  Other arrests were reported in Eastern Cuba, while other women marched in that same area.

This Father’s Day, the situation of the numerous political prisoners who are unjustly behind bars in Cuba was highlighted.  The majority of these prisoners happen to be fathers.  Among the cases are that of Ramon Munoz Gonzalez, husband of Sonia Garro (also a political prisoner) and president of the Independent Afro-Cuban Foundation, dissident rapper Angel Yunier Remon Arzuaga “El Critico” who is the father of a little girl who is just months old and Osvaldo Rodriguez Castillo who is in prison for creating a new dissident group and for protecting his son from participating in military service (his son Osvaldo Rodriguez Castillo is also in prison).  These are just three cases.  There are many more like them.  And it’s for these Cubans that the Ladies in White march.

Lady in White and political prisoner Sonia Garro suffering from further health problems

Sonia Garro, a member of the Ladies in White, and her husband Ramon Alejandro Munoz, president of the Independent Afro-Cuban Foundation, have been held in prison since March of 2012 after a violent arrest by the political police days before Pope Benedict’s visit to the island.  The dictatorships’ authorities have not carried out a trial for either of the dissidents and they have been subjected to various inhumane treatments.

Most recently, the digital newspaper “Diario de Cuba” published an update on Garro’s health condition, which has worsened due to the fact that she was confined to a punishment cell for 10 days.

Opposition groups, individuals and members of the Ladies in White continuously demand the release of Garro and Munoz, but they are also in need of international solidarity.

Here’s the report by ‘Diario de Cuba’, in English (My Translation):


Sonia Garro’s health worsens after spending 10 days in a punishment cell

The health of political prisoner Sonia Garro, who has been in prison without a trial for 1 year and 3 months, has worsened after the authorities of the Guatao Women’s Prison sent her to a punishment cell for 10 days, according to a denouncement made to “Diario de Cuba” by Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White.

According to Soler, two common female prisoners – used by the jailers as “provokers” to cause incidents- tried to involve Garro in a “riot” where several of the prisoners burned mattresses and left 18 injured in another Detachment.

Seeing that this did not yield the desired results, they tried to involve Garro, who was watching television at the time, trying to make her become angry by offending her.  They demanded that she change the channel and that she sign a paper with slogans against the government.

Soler said that Garro, a member of the Ladies in White, asked one of the jailers to intervene, but this person simply responded “solve the problem on your own”.

The dissident tried to disconnect the television from its plug but the cable broke, explained Soler.  She said that was the reason the prison authorities used to sent Garro to a punishment cell.

Among other health ailments, the activist suffers a skin infection.  Doctors have ordered that she have a frequent change of hygiene and clothes, said Soler.  She cited several relatives of the political prisoner, adding that Garro passed the entirety of the 10 days in the punishment cell “without being able to shower”, with the same blanket, and in “inhumane conditions” which has led to the worsening of her skin condition.

The family of Garro, the Lady in White who has spent the most time in prison and who, to the date, has not had a trial, has denounced on previous occasions that the authorities have refused her access to medical attention.  She has also denounced manipulations at the hands of her jailers as well as provocations against her in prison.

Garro was detained on March 2012 along with her husband, Ramon Alejandro Munoz, during a violent operation in which the regime used specialized forces and rubber bullets.

During her arrest, the activist was injured in one of her legs and she is still suffering complications.  The authorities are accusing her and her husband of “public disorder” and “assassination attempt”.

Last April, Munoz, who is being held in the Combinado del Este prison, carried out a hunger strike, was also held in a punishment cell and received a strong beating because he demanded a solution to his case, as well as that of his wife’s.

To read the original article in Spanish, click here.

Brutality on behalf of the regime, bravery on behalf of the Ladies in White

A number of Ladies in White were violently attacked and arrested by agents of the Cuban dictatorship this Sunday, April 28th, as they tried to assist Mass to pray for the freedom of Cuba.

One of the women who suffered the worst beatings was Belkis Cantillo Ramírez, representative of the group for the province of Santiago de Cuba who recently returned to Cuba after traveling to Brussels to receive the Sajarov Award alongside Laura Labrada Pollan and Berta Soler.

Cantillo’s arrest took place when a group of these women were on their way to the Rosario Church of Palma Soriano. The activist told ‘Diario de Cuba’ that various men, agents of the political police, were the ones who carried out the beating against her, even punching and attacking the women with umbrellas. “They punched me in one of my breasts, they kicked my ribs”, Belkis told the digital newspaper.

Other detainees were Taimi Vega Biscet, Yaima Naranjo, Mariela Rodríguez, Niurka Carmona, Denia Fernández, Madelaine Santos, Yasnay Ferrer and Yanela Ferrer, according to ex prisoner and dissident José Daniel Ferrer García who published the information on his Twitter account (@jdanielferrer).

Another 30 women managed to make it inside the church, but the political police organized an act of repudiation which consisted in shouts of death threats, racial slurs and other offensive phrases, according to Aime Garces, one of the Ladies inside. She explained to this blog that despite the repression “the Ladies in White will continue firm and without fear”.

Jose Daniel Ferrer recounted that Father Palma displayed solidarity with the persecuted women. On the YouTube channel of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) videos of what happened in Palma Soriano have been published:

In the same channel there are also videos of interviews with some of the detained Ladies in White, here and here.

In other parts of the island, Ladies in White marched and assisted Mass, as was the case in the province of Matanzas and in Havana. Dissident leader and former political prisoner of conscience Angel Moya Acosta published various photos of these women marching in Havana on his Twitter account (@jangelmoya).

Moya recounts that 44 Ladies marched in the capital, demanding the release of Sonia Garro Alfonso (one of their members, jailed for more than a year) and her husband Ramon Alejandro Munoz. They were accompanied by more than 40 men, human rights activists.

Published by @jangelmoya

Meanwhile in Miami, the representative of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, participated in an emotional and very symbolic Mass at the Ermita Shrine, along with exiled Ladies in White and former political prisoners, as well as many members of Miami’s exile community. The Mass, hosted by Father Rumin, was dedicated to the fallen Laura Pollan and all martyrs of the Cuban dictatorship. There was a moment of prayer for the Ladies who were violently arrested that morning in Cuba, simply for trying to do what so many people were doing on that afternoon in Miami.

Soler was handed a Cuban flag with the image of the Virgin of Chartiy, while she presented a Cuban flag at the altar.

A moving surprise came when Cuban musician Amaury Gutierrez showed up to sing “Laura“, a song written by Luis Piloto and dedicated to Laura Pollan. In Cuba, the Ladies in White sing this song each Sunday after carrying out their Sunday marches.

Soler has been received with much affection by the Cuban exile, while she has been seeking more international support for the internal opposition.

Through an excessive amount of violence, the dictatorship has sent a clear message to Berta Soler and other activists who have traveled outside the country to let the world know about the Cuban reality, as was the case of the repression against Belkis Cantillo, just days after having returned from her trip abroad. However, the Ladies in White are also sending out a clear message to that same dictatorship: they do not fear them, they will continue out on the streets and they will not rest until Cuba is free.

Mary O’Grady lets the international community know that “Sonia Garro is still in prison”

Mary O’Grady talks about Sonia Garro

Wall Street Journal editor Mary Anastasia O’Grady has once again spoken out on the human rights violations against peaceful dissidents in Cuba, taking the situation to the American and international audience.  This time, she has highlighted the case of Sonia Garro, Lady in White who has been arbitrarily imprisoned, alongside her husband Ramon Munoz, for more than a year.

In the WSJ’s Opinion Video titled “Easter in a Dungeon”, O’ Grady chats with James Freeman answering his question “is the communist regime of Cuba opening up?” with concrete examples proving that they are, in fact, far from it.

“Sonia Garro and her husband are still in jail, spending their second Easter in jail,” says O’Grady, “and have never been charged with a crime, [they are] in a complete judicial limbo”.

The journalist goes on to describe the conditions in a Cuban prison for human rights activists and highlights the importance of international solidarity with these everyday citizens who risk it all to achieve freedom.

The video can be seen in this link.

Sonia Garro and her husband Ramon Munoz

Sonia Garro and Ramon Munoz have been in prison, without a trial, for 1 year

Lady in White Sonia Garro Alfonso and her husband Ramon Alejandro Munoz have spent exactly one year in prison, without a trial, this Monday 18th of March, the same day of the 10th anniversary of the Black Spring, when 75 dissidents were imprisoned because of their pro-freedom posture.

Garro and Munoz, both members of the Independent Afro-Cuban Foundation, were arrested after being attacked with rubber bullets and suffering a beating by police forces in their Havana home. The prison authorities have not provided any clear information to their relatives as to why they are in prison or why they have not had a trial, although it is obvious that this has happened to them because of their activism. Yamilet Garro, Sonia’s sister, has taken on the task of visiting and taking care of Sonia and Ramon, although many times she has been denied her right to visits or to give them medicines or food, despite the fact that they both have health complications.

Sonia Garro and Ramon Munoz have an underage daughter together, which Yamilet has also been caring for.

In an audio recently published by former political prisoner Iván Hernández Carrillo, Yamilet Garro asked for more solidarity to free her loved ones. Meanwhile, an online petition was created to collect signatures to demand the same, while the hashtag #FreeSoniaGarro has gained much popularity on Twitter and Facebook.

Ladies in White as well as other dissidents throughout the island have dedicated their marches, protests, vigils and other activities in solidarity with Garro, Munoz, and the rest of the political prisoners in the country.

One year later: Sonia Garro imprisoned without trial and with several health issues, her sister asks for solidarity

Sonia Garro (Lady in White) & her husband Ramon Munoz

“They [the prison authorities] tell me that I have to wait, that her file is at the hands of the fiscal authorities and that her case is being analyzed”, said Yamilet Garro this past Sunday, March 10th, in reference to her sister, the Lady in White Sonia Garro Alfonso, and her brother-in-law Ramon Alejandro Munoz, just days before the 1 year anniversary in which they were both arrested by the political police. The declarations were made to former political prisoner Ivan Hernandez Carrillo and published on his YouTube channel.

Sonia Garro and her husband Ramon Munoz, both members of the Independent Afro-Cuban Foundation, were arrested by the State Police in Havana on March 18th, 2012, after a violent operation which consisted in being shot by rubber bullets and being beat. It was part of a wave of detentions against dissidents during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the island. They were accused of “public disorder” and “assassination attempt” (with no proof) and both have suffered threats and mistreatments during their time behind bars.

Yamilet Garro also highlighted that her sister is suffering the deterioration of her health, considering that she has a cyst on her liver and has not received the adequate medical attention in the women’s prison known as “Manto Negro” (literally translated meaning ‘Black Cloak’).

Meanwhile, Ramon Munoz is being held in a cell alongside common prisoners, although the motives of his jailing were due to his posture against the Cuban regime. Munoz also has health problems, adds Yamilet in her declarations, as he suffers from a gastric ulcer.

In the past months, it has been denounced that State Security has used common female prisoners, convicted of crimes, to threaten Sonia Garro with death and/or beatings.

“I ask the world for solidarity with the situation of my sister”, said a desperate Yamilet Garro Alfonso, concerned for the fate of her relatives.

Her declarations can be heard, in Spanish, in the following audio:

Sister of Political Prisoner Sonia Garro Alfonso Updates on her Situation (AUDIO)

Sonia Garro and her husband Ramon Munoz, both imprisoned since March 2012

Yamilet Garro Alfonso, sister of Sonia Garro Alfonso, who has been unjustly imprisoned since March 18th 2012 simply for being a human rights activist and member of the Ladies in White in Cuba, said this Sunday August 5th 2012, through a communication made possible by independent journalist Ivan Hernandez Carrillo, that her sister was recently harassed, violently beaten and confined to a punishment cell for 11 days in the Manto Negro Prison (Havana) where she resides.

The violence occurred when the penal guards transferred Sonia to the Combinado del Este Prison, as they had allowed her a brief visit with one of her brothers who is imprisoned in that center.  According to Yamilet, at the moment when a guard from the Combinado Prison told Sonia that the visit time was up and that she had to be transferred back to Manto Negro, it began to rain and the activist explained that she could not be transferred at that moment because she could not get wet, due to the fact that she was sick and suffers from other medical conditions.  The guard simply repeated that she had to be taken back and said that he did not care “because all worms should be underground“.

Sonia Garro was finally taken back to Manto Negro despite the rain.  Once there, the authorities took ‘disciplinary measures’ against her.  “Sonia said that she had nothing else to say and sat on the floor in the form of protest“, explained Yamilet, “they told her she would be taken to a punishment cell… they carried her, they beat her, they ripped all her clothes off of her and she was kept for 11 days in the punishment cell, without any medical attention

However, Sonia Garro is not the only one under harassment by the forces of the Cuban regime.  Her sister, Yamilet, narrates that “they did not inform me that she was in a punishment cell, knowing that I am the one who goes to visit her.  I went twice to the prison during that period and they did not let me see her“, explaining that, for her, the process to make it to the prison is not easy, considering that she has to take care of her underage children.  “I spent 15 days without any information about her state of health.  Last Sunday [July 29th] was the day in which she was taken out of the punishment cell“.

In addition, Yamilet has suffered threats on behalf of the political police due to the activism of her sister.  “I am receiving threats from the military police, saying that I cannot assist gatherings of the Ladies in White.  They have prohibited my son from continuing his studies after graduating from the ninth grade.  They have threatened my neighbors and, in reality, I am afraid, not for me but for my children“.

Ramón Muñoz González, husband of Sonia Garro, is also imprisoned since the same date of March 18th 2012.  He is in the Combinado del Este Prison.  He was arrested as he defended his wife from the aggressions of the police agents.  In fact, both were shot with rubber bullets by the police.  Munoz Gonzalez also suffers tortures in prison.  His jailers have ripped all of his clothes and demand him to wear the common prisoners uniform, something which he has completely refused to do.  He is currently in a cell without a shirt.

Sonia Garro Alfonso y Ramón Muñoz González are two of the many who were detained during a repressive crackdown by the Cuban regime in March, just days prior to Pope Benedict’s visit to the island, though most other detainees were released eventually.  Also imprisoned from around that time are  Niurka Luque Álvarez (also a Lady in White), Jorge Vázquez Chaviano, Dany López de Moya, Bismark Mustelier Galán, among others.

Listen to the testimony of Yamilet Garro Alfonso, narrating the arbitrary actions against Sonia and Ramon (in Spanish):

Audio courtesy of former political prisoner and independent journalist Ivan Hernandez Carrillo and the activist @mspianoteacher.