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