UNPACU carries out protest, faces both repression and solidarity
A patriotic date for Cubans- the 10th of October, when independence fighter Carlos Cespedes granted freedom to black slaves and initiated the Ten Years’ War for independence, in an act known as ‘the Cry of Yara’- was celebrated 143 years later by dissidents on the island carrying out non-violent protests, and also with repression on behalf governmental forces.
According to former political prisoner of conscience Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), an organization headed by him and other dissidents, carried out a peaceful protest through the streets of Palmarito de Cauto in correlation with the historic date and in demand for the respect of the inalienable rights of all Cubans. “A number of activists took to the street with signs which read ‘Down with Fidel’, ‘Fix our streets’, ‘Milk for our children’, and ‘Internet for all’, and shouted these same slogans along with others and also sang the national anthem“, explained the distinguished dissident. The protesters were able to see that the majority of the neighbors stared from their windows or doors in a sign of support, while the only ones who tried to stop them were 7 members of the government’s Rapid Response Brigade and a lady who is an active Popular Power delegate and Communist Party member, who hurled rocks at the dissidents from her house.
Upon noticing the absence of excessive violence towards the demonstrators on behalf of the locals, officials from the Political Police, Revolutionary Police, and State Security began to arrive to the city. “Those agents began to surround the entire town, and one could clearly hear how they felt rage upon not seeing a massive display of aggression against the activists. The officials were asking themselves and everyone around how this had been possible“, while the superiors scolded the local militants, declaring that such behavior was “not acceptable“.
According to Ferrer Garcia, this position assumed by everyday citizens is becoming more and more common every time, with less or no neighbors participating in acts of mob repudiation or other forms of violence. “It is true that many people still feel fear and therefore do not protest publicly, but we are also witnessing that more and more show sympathy to us and even tell us we are doing a very brave thing“. A recent example of this occurred minutes after the march, when “various youths began to shout the same slogans which they had heard dissidents shout during the peaceful march, and these people are not even openly opposition members, yet they confronted the Rapid Response Brigade. This has been frequently happening, despite the fact that the authorities try to make it seem otherwise, using the tactic of blackmailing and utilizing workers of certain sectors such as commerce or food, telling them to pretend to be upset and to shout offensive slogans at us. If they fail to do so, they lose their jobs“, denounces Ferrer.
Although initially there was no excessive violence, just a few moments after the officials showed up armed with sticks and rods. Various agents used these weapons of repression against two female dissidents who had participated in the march- Oria Casanova and Tania Banderas, both who are mute. Casanova and Banderas were victims of a severe beat down.
In order to try and impede such reports to be brought quickly to light, Cuban authorities blocked the phone lines of Jose Daniel and his wife, Belkis Cantillo since the prior day, Sunday October 9th, when other brutal acts had occurred against dissidents on the island. In one case, 13 Ladies in White were beaten while they attempted to assist mass at church. The uniformed government soldiers persecuted those activists which were reporting the events and capturing the aggressions on film. They were trying to confiscate their cameras. One of the victims of the physical violence was also Belkis Cantillo, who suffered various kicks to the stomach.
Other acts of repression in the island
In the Eastern city of Las Tunas there was also repression while activists attempted to celebrate the historic date. From her Twitter account, the exiled daughter of activist Ramon Velazquez Toranzo, Rufina Velazquez, denounced that her father had been arrested along with other opposition members. He was detained when he tried to step out of his house. Political police officials stopped him and shoved him in a police vehicle, keeping him there for a few hours. Other dissidents belonging to the Christian Liberation Movement suffered the same fate.
In Placetas, Jorge Luis Garcia ‘Antunez’, recounted that he was on his way home after visiting recently released activist Sara Marta Fonseca when he noticed that countless government officials were following him. Antunez lives knowing that these watchdogs are keeping a close vigilance on him, as they have set up a circle around his neighborhood, taking note of his activities as well as those of his wife and other dissident friends. The 10th of October was no exception. “The uniformed officials were keeping a close vigilance in their attempt to impede anyone from going in our out of my house“, denounced the dissident.
Meanwhile, in Santa Clara Guillermo Farinas and the independent journalist Carlos Baluerdy Oregon were detained while they tried to get to the local Leoncio Vidal Park to carry out an act of solidarity with activists of the Central Opposition Coalition who have maintained a hunger strike in demand for the immediate end to violence against resistance members. Both were released during afternoon hours. In the province of Matanzas, State Security carried out a brutal beating against members of the Independent Alternative Option Movement , according to a note published on Babalu Blog which was written by former political prisoner Miguel Sigler Amaya, now exiled in Miami. The activists were planning to march all the way to the local cemetery, paying tribute to deceased martyrs on that patriotic day.