Caridad Caballero Does Not Give In Under Threats, Beatings, and Arrest

There have been various reports about the beatings unleashed upon 5 women and a man in Gibara, Holguin, Cuba which occurred a week ago on August 1st.  This account is from the voice of one of the brave women who suffered the beating in person- Caridad Caballero Batista.

Caballero Batista recounts that together with four other women- Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, Yaimara Reyes Mesa, Donaida Perez, and Trinidad Rodriguez Fabril- along with a male friend and dissident, Reinaldo Rodriguez Vazquez, they carried out a peaceful march in Gibara, Holguin, in demand of their rights and the rights of all Cubans.  According to the testimony of Caballero, this area of Gibara is coastal, with beaches, boulevards, and is a popular vacation spot.

Immediately, upon carrying out this march, Caballero recounts that, “we were attacked and provoked by State Security and the Rapid Response Brigades“.  The response from the dissidents came right away, shouting slogans in favor of freedom: “The streets belong to the people”, “freedom for all Cubans”, “no more hunger”, “just salaries”, and “down with Fidel and Raul“.

When the dissidents made it outside the terminal, the entire area was “surrounded by Coast Guards, the Rapid Response Brigade, the police, and State Security“.  The activists realized that, as usual, they were about to get beaten.  They then decided to apply a method of civic resistance (popularly used during the civil rights era in the United States) and sat down on the floor, refusing to move.  Their protest was completely non-violent.  Despite this, the agents started to punch them, kick them, and they even dragged them on the floor until they were tossed into the police vehicles.

In the case of Donaida and Yaimara,” explains Caridad, “they were thrown into the trunk of the cop car“.  In their defense, Caballero says that she “rushed out of the car and helped the women open the trunk.  Immediately, however, the agents pushed me away and shoved them out, letting them fall on the floor“.

An indignant people

When Caridad Caballero was once again inside the cop car she was able to see a “lady wearing a red shirt who was demanding to the police officers that they explain why they were doing this, and they beat her too“.  Meanwhile, “many others screamed that what was being done was an abuse, that we were only saying what everyone was thinking and feeling.  The people were truly upset“, affirms Batista.

Antunez and Yris Tamara also told of a similar story in another interview in regards to that same event, where a random man interceded between the women being beat and the police officers, demanding an end to the violence.  The man, whose identity is not known, also received brutal blows.

Detainment and more beatings

They took us to the Cost Guard Unit located in El Guirito, a very desolated place which has a prison right next door“, explains Caballero.  “They got us out of the truck by pulling our hair.  At one point I felt like my scalp was going to be ripped off from my head.  They punched our heads, kicked our backs, it was terrible“.  Caridad adds that she, along with Trinidad, were separated and situated towards the back of the unit.  There they were able to see the prison next door.  It was then that they noticed various prisoners making signals to them, “letting us know that they had seen everything and that they had already contacted the human rights people, people outside that area, denouncing what had happened“.

Once again, the activists were beaten and then separated.  Meanwhile, “Reinaldo was tossed into a cell and beaten for the third time that day“.  As for the others, “Yris, Donaida, and Yaimara were taken to an unknown location.  The last I saw from them was when they tried to separate Yaimara from the group.  Donaida rushed out in defense but they hit her very hard and she fell on the floor.  Upon seeing this we became very worried, and we started shouting ‘assassins’, ‘terrorists’,  and ‘abusers’.  When Donaida was picked up she could not stand on her own two feet, for she had been knocked  un-conscience“.

They kept us until the next day.  They released me in the afternoon and they left me in a place called La Trocha, a very desolate area“, explains Caballero, adding that before the police agents kicked her out of the car they told her ‘long live the commander’ (referring to dictator Fidel Castro).  Caridad quickly replied with “down with the commander“.  Upon walking through that unknown area she realized that it was mostly all grassland.  She walked and walked until she found a local, whom she asked for directions back to her town.  “That person told me how to get back and I was finally able to make it back home after a while.  But during this whole time my house was completely surrounded by State Security and they were not letting anyone go in or step out.  The whole block was closed off to dissidents“.

Denouncing other beatings, arrests

Caballero Batista also denounced other acts of repression which occurred that same day throughout the island.  “6 activists from the Eastern Democratic Alliance- Esteban Romero, Milagro Leyva, Omar Wilson, Estevez, Lesli Fajardo Rivera, Omar Perez Torres, and Juan Carlos Vazquez Osorio- decided to carry out a non-violent march in Moa to mark the celebration of the Day of Resistance which was to occur on August 5th“.  The activists took to the street with a handmade sign which read ‘The Streets Belong to the People’ and “they walked all the way to Moa’s Central Park.  There, they were attacked by combined forces of State Security and the political police.  They were then shoved into jail cells for 72 hours- 3 days.  Some were deported, while others remained in Moa and we accused of public disorder“.

According to the dissident, in Banes there were also acts of violence.  “Aurelio Antonio Morales was detained and savagely beaten by political police and State Security agents.  He had bruises and wounds all over his body, and they even fractured his nasal septum.  There was no information as to where he was being held.  We only heard from him again 72 hours later when he was released“.

Caballero also condemned the recent detention of Luis Felipe Rojas as well as the brutal and bloody attack against Jose Daniel Ferrer, various other dissidents, and neighbors who had joined in solidarity, which occurred on Sunday August 7th in Palmarito de Cauto, also located in the Eastern region of Cuba.

Despite the violence and censorship, the opposition will continue onward

On the same day which the detainment and the beating in Gibara occurred, the repressive agents of the dictatorship confiscated the cell phones of all the dissidents involved.  “Mine was returned to me two days later“, tells Caridad Caballero Batista, explaining that her mobile device came back with damage and its services continue to have many failures.  “They practically broke it, now it blocks itself and drops calls“, explains Caballero.  That same phone was used for this interview and the signal would get interrupted every once in a while, and the call dropped a couple of times as well.  “Despite all the beatings they give us, despite all the torture inflicted upon us, we will continue defending human rights.  And each time, with more strength to continue onward“.

Caridad Caballero Does Not Give In Under Threats, Beatings, and Arrest

Violence Against Members of the Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights

– Antunez narrates beatings and arrests of various members of the Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights, among them his wife Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, Yaimara Reyes Mesa, Caridad Caballero Batista, and Donaida Perez (this last one suffered a serious fracture in her spinal cord)

– Dissident Reinaldo Rodriguez Vazquez accompanied the activists and was also brutally beaten.  His whereabouts are still unknown, though he is being accused and processed for ‘Crimes against State Security’. 

– Marta Diaz Rondon was also impeded from assisting mass in Holguin.

– Various residents form the city of Gibara, also in Holguin, interceded for the dissidents being beaten.

Some of the members of the Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights (Among them Yris Tamara Perez and Marta Diaz Rondon)

During these days, there has been much talk about the headlines on international news outlets in regards to Cuba.  Once again, the rulers of the Caribbean island have spent plenty of money in their distracting propaganda system.  There are still a number of international newspapers and television stations which focus their energies, when it comes to Cuba, on talking about, analyzing, and debating the ‘reforms’ which Raul Castro declared his dictatorship will be making- the flexibiliaztion of migratory restrictions in the country.  As is common, while these news outlets try to give a name to a system that cannot be described in any other way that is not ‘dictatorship’, numerous acts of violence and repression are unleashed against groups of dissidents who always protest for freedom and democratization non-violently.

The burial services of Father Pedro Meurice took place this past Sunday, July 31st in Santiago de Cuba.  According to various reports, thousands of Cubans participated in the services, bidding their farewells to the popular and dignified religious leader.  Meanwhile in Holguin- not too far from Santiago- various arrests and beatings occurred against dissidents, women in their majority.  Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez” explains that a number of members of the Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights were victims of a violent arrest after assisting mass in the city of Gibara, when the dissidents decided to carry out a peaceful march in demand for human rights for Cuba.  It was during the march that they were impeded by force from continuing.  “Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera, Yaimara Reyes Mesa, Donaida Pérez,  Trinidad Rodríguez Fabril, y Caridad Caballero Batista, as well as Reinaldo Rodriguez Vazquez,  were brutally beaten in Gibara while they carried out a peaceful march in tribute for Cuban Resistance Day which is on August 5th“, denounces Antunez.  The march consisted of a kilometer-long walk in which participants shouted slogans against the dictatorship.  Political police officials surrounded the protestors, quickly applying physical violence to detain them.  “The victims were kicked in the head“, explains Antunez, adding that the violence was not only physical but also verbal, “there was a strong presence of racism at the scene as they barked insults at the women, especially Yris Tamara and Donaida Perez who are both black“.

As product of the beatings, explains the dissident from Placetas, “the women now have many bruises in parts of their bodies, many of them on their backs, as well as broken lips“, and one of the most worrying cases, “the case of Donaida Perez Paseiro who, at this very moment, was diagnosed by the surgeon from the Placetas General Hospital with a fracture on her spinal cord“.  The husband of Donaida Perez, Lorenzo Hernandez Garcia, also shared some declarations for this interview.  “Right now Donaida is at the hospital“, says Hernandez Garcia with a notable tone of worry for his wife, “she had to lie to the doctors so that they give her a medical report.  She had to say that she had fallen from a latter while painting her house.  Otherwise, the doctors would not have given her the report (because of her dissident posture)“.  It is common in Cuba for doctors to side with the dictatorship, denying medical assistance or denying the right to access medical documents for dissidents who have suffered injuries at the hands of the political pilice for protesting non-violently .  “I also want to add that our 10 year old son has had to stay home alone“, adds Hernandez, explaining that his young son is very worried about the situation his mother is facing and has had to stay alone while his parents receive beatings  or are arrested just for protesting against the dictatorship.  “Donaida has strong pains on her head, all of which were caused by the blows given to her by the political police“, he adds, “Right now she lays in a bed, unable to move“.  Perez Paseiro, along with Yris Tamara Perez and other activists from the Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights recently suffered another attack just a few weeks back in Placetas.

Donaida Perez Paseiro

Also in the Eastern region of the country and in Holguin, the brave dissident Marta Diaz Rondon decided to assist mass in the Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) Church in the town of Pueblo Nuevo to pay tribute to Father Meurice, seeing as she could not join the other women due to transportation issues.  Although Diaz Rondon was not beaten on this occasion (she usually is), she explains that “in front of the church there was a State Security operation underway, as agents from this organization as well as from the so-called Revolutionary Police formed a circle along with police vehicles.  They feared that we would carry out a protest march“.  Despite the fact that this repressive operation did not consist of beatings, it nevertheless constitutes yet another serious violation for the rights of Cubans, as agents representative of the tyranny keep a close and vigilant watch over peaceful citizens  and keep them from freely exercising their inalienable rights to worship in whatever religious center they please and to travel to whatever city they wish.  “They do not even respect that, not even on a day of prayer, when we only wanted to pray for the soul of Father Meurice, a man who was very loved by Cubans of faith“, declares Rondon, who classified the operation as “massive“.  She reiterated, “They don’t even respect the house of God.  Like I said, there were police cars waiting for us as if we were delinquents“.  In Cuba, Cubans who dissent are classified as criminals, and the dungeons are reserved for those who aim to promote the respect of human rights, mixing these peaceful individuals with people who have actually committed crimes, who have killed or stolen.  But Diaz Rondon makes it very clear before international opinon, “We are just peaceful people, demanding freedom for political prisoners and for Cuba“.

Yris Tamara Pérez, Caridad Caballero Batista, Trinidad Rodríguez, and Yaimara Reyes Mesa were released on the afternoon of Tuesday, August 2nd.  But the whereabouts of Reinaldo Rodriguez Vazquez, who accompanied the women on their march, are still unknown.  “None of the fellow dissidents who were with him at the time of his arrest do not know where he was taken to“, points out Antunez, explaining that his friends and family worry for his future because he is “being accused and processed for ‘crimes against State Security‘”.  The released women returned to their homes with sharp pains.  “On their bodies, on their faces, one can see the scars of that cowardly act of aggression“, Antunez details.  Amid this repressive cycle, Antunez declares that even though the violence was intense some positive actions did occur.  “In the name of Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, Caridad Caballero Batista, Donaida Perez, Yaimara Reyes, and Trinidad Rodriguez, I want to express my admiration and gratitude to the city of Gibara“.  According to testimonies of the victims and witnesses, locals from that city “supported and protected the protestors“.  Antunez explains that “when the women were marching, people who were in the beach, just having fun and minding their own business, ran out to support the activists and screamed ‘Down with Fidel‘”.  As consequence of this, “chiefs of the political police in that province, full of rage, called on the masses to scream against the women but nobody participated“.  Antunez then makes an important emphasis on a specific citizen of that city: “One man from Gibara, God bless him always, had the courage to confront the police and he was also beaten“.

During the last few months various dissidents who have suffered or reported acts of mob repudiation, arrests, beatings, or detainments have pointed out that as time passes, there are less (or no) everyday Cubans who are willing to participate in cracking down on peaceful human rights protestors.  Instead, there have been many reports, like the one by Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia (a week ago) and by Caridad Caballero Batista (a few months ago when she was beaten up and arrested) which detail how the everyday people, despite having no links to any opposition groups, defend the dissidents in the face of injustice.  According to Antunez, “That is the response of the people, the everyday Cuban, it is an expression of resistance and solidarity.  It is the outcome of the No-Cooperation Campaign.  It is the respect which the opposition has achieved.  And it has not been done while sitting in a table and asking for dialogue or reconciliation.  It has been done in the streets, the real scene of struggle and resistance“.

It is very unfortunate that while more physical blows fall on women, and that while repression has become even more vicious, there are voices who ask for dialogue, for improved relations, and so that the tone be softened against the dictatorship“, Antunez emphasizes, “The Cuban moment is one of action, of resistance.  And it is only through these same actions and this resistance that we can end the dictatorship.  We must remember that when the communist regime of Poland had no option but to give way to dissidents, when Pinochet in Chile dared to accept that plebiscite, and when the racist regime of South Africa gave in it was not due to a petition made through documents or by dialogue.  It was possible because of the pressure exerted by the  internal resistance of those respective countries and because of international solidarity and support“.

Violence Against Members of the Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights