Cuba: SOS for 3 hunger strikers on the verge of death

The debate about whether dissidents working for a democratic Cuba should turn to hunger strikes or not always rises in and out of the island whenever these protests are undertaken.  Whichever the opinions may be, the reality is that, right now, in Cuba there are 3 human rights activists on hunger strike, all of them on the verge of losing their lives due to the serious deterioration of their health.  And while their lives extinguish slowly, the dictatorship ignores their demands.

They are:

Luis Enrique Santos Caballero

A member of the Central Opposition Coalition (CCO) and of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front, from the city of Santa Clara, Villa Clara.  Has been carrying out his hunger strike since May 24th, demanding a home after he was forcefully evicted alongside his wife Ramona Maday García, an activist of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights.  Santos Caballero spent more than 15 years behind bars and upon being released his father had passed away and he had nowhere to live.  He spent some time living at the homes of friends and fellow dissidents until he finally decided to occupy an abandoned establishment.  Police forces violently evicted Santos from this establishment.  He has been under constant persecution since then.

The dissident began to protest with his wife in the Vidal Park of Santa Clara for a number of days, demanding a home.  He was arrested, beaten and repudiated by government mobs on various occasions.  Santos decided to start a hunger strike, moving his protest to the city of Placetas, specifically in the home of dissident Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’.

Santos Caballero has only one kidney.  He lost the other organ after a brutal beating by his jailers while he was still in prison.  It is precisely because the lack of one kidney that his health has deteriorated so quickly and why his health is critical.  Authorities have ignored his demands but Santos has said that he will take his protest to the final consequences.  #SOS

For more information from Cuba:
Jorge Luis García Pérez ‘Antúnez’ – Cell Phone: +52-731-656 / Twitter: @antunezcuba

Osvaldo Rodríguez Acosta

Osvaldo after house raid and beating in September 2012

The home of dissident  Osvaldo Rodríguez Acosta and his family in the town of Bejucal was raided by police forces on September 2012 after he had announced the formation of a new pro-freedom group, the Patriotic Alliance, and that his oldest son, 24 year old Osvaldo Rodriguez Castillo, refused to participate in military service.  Father and son were beaten until the point that their heads were broken.  Juana Castillo, wife of Osvaldo Rodriguez, was also physically assaulted while her youngest son (12 years old at the time) witnessed everything.  The minor is severely traumatized.

The 3 activists were rapidly detained and sent to an arbitrary trial in 2013.  Osvaldo Rodriguez was sentenced to 9 years of prison, his son to 7 years and Juana was sentenced to 5 years of correctional labor.  Osvaldo (father) is jailed in the Combinado del Este Prison, where he began his hunger strike on May 10th, protesting all the abuses against his family and the authorities’ refusal to allow family visits.  His son is being held in Valle Grande Prison of Havana.  On June 8th, dissident and Lady in White Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo, from Boyeros, Havana, reported that Osvaldo Rodríguez Acosta had been transferred to the National Hospital’s penal ward, already with more than 30 days on hunger strike and in a “critical” state.

Fonseca has informed on her Twitter account that Rosa Acosta, mother of Osvaldo Rodriguez, suffered a pulmonary effusion and was interned in the National Hospital, where her son resides.  Authorities have not allowed them to see each other.  #SOS

For more information from Cuba:
Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo – Cell Phone: +53-379-01 1/ Twitter: @SaraMartaCuba

Wilbert Parada Milán

Wilbert Parada Milán is a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).  He was violently detained along with Roberto Hernandez on March 30th in Habana Vieja.  He began his hunger strike on May 13th in the Valle Grande Prison, also in Havana.

In a recent interview with this blog,  José Daniel Ferrer García, leader of UNPACU, explained that Parada’s arrest was due to the constant activism he had been carrying out throughout the capital, carrying out civic protests and handing out pro-freedom literature.

In another recent interview to ABC,  Yudisnelis Rodríguez Reina, wife of the dissident, explained that the hunger striker is in “critical state” in a cell of the Cominbado del Este’s hospital.

Jailers have not allowed Wilbert to have family visits and he has reportedly lost consciousness on a number of occasions.  Relatives and fellow dissidents fear for the worst with this activist, who finds himself in a struggle between life and death.  #SOS

For more information from Cuba:
José Daniel Ferrer García – Cell Phone: +53-146-740 / Twitter: @jdanielferrer

Luis Enrique Santos Caballero, Osvaldo Rodríguez Acosta, Wilbert Parada Milán.  Three names we shouldn’t forget.  No more repression, no more dictatorship.

Critical situation for Cuban political prisoners on hunger strike

Three Cuban dissidents, members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and who are currently in prison for expressing themselves against the totalitarian government, have been carrying out lengthy hunger strikes, according to statements made to this blog by Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, leader of the pro-democracy group and a former political prisoner himself.

The strikers are Enrique Figuerola Miranda, Wilber Parada and Roberto Hernandez.  

Figuerola, being held in the Boniato Prison of Santiago de Cuba “has been on hunger strike for more than 30 days“, explained Ferrer Garcia.  The activist adds that doctors have put an IV on him a couple of times but after this treatment “they have returned him to the prison cells, leaving him up to his own fate in inhumane conditions.  He is very weak…his situation is very worrying for UNPACU and all of his family“.

Recently on the YouTube channel of UNPACU a video of an interview with Enrique’s wife, Mercedes Hechavarria Guevara, was published.  She tells how her husband’s health has worsened and explains that during one of the visits allowed by the guards he told her that he would rather die for a just cause than to live under the dictatorship.  Figuerola has been imprisoned for 9 months, without a trial.

In the cases of Wilber Parada and Roberto Hernandez, detained together in Havana, they are being kept in cells in the Valle Grande Prison, located in the capital, “all of this because of their activism out on the streets, in areas such as Central Havana and Old Havana“, assures Ferrer Garcia.

Parada and Hernandez continue on hunger strike and are also under constant harassment…they have been victims of mistreatment, as have their wives.  We are also very worried about them“.

Ferrer also made mention of the case of dissident rapper and UNPACU secretary for the city of Bayamo, Angel Yunier Remon Arzuaga “El Critico”,  imprisoned for more than 2 months, also without a trial, due to the music he makes criticizing the regime and because of his activism out on the streets.

Remon is in prison because the political police got scared of the growing sympathy he was receiving on behalf of his neighbors in Bayamo through the distinguished work this young man has been carrying out in favor of Cuba’s democratization“.

Yedisbel Roseyo Mojena, wife of Angel Yunier, took part in an interview with Ferrer.  During the conversation, she detailed the situation of her husband and highlighed the constant police repression against him, before and during his imprisonment.  (Check out the  video here)

UNPACU has 10 activists in the Mar Verde Prison (Santiago de Cuba), among them 3 brothers- Alexei, Dianco and Diango Varga Martin.  The last 2 are twins and just turned 18.

Miraida Martin Calderin, a member of the Ladies in White and mother of the brothers, was held in prison for approximately 2 months and was just recently released.  She confirmed to Jose Daniel Ferrer that her sons “are being held in very difficult conditions…they frequently suspend our family visits, the guards physically assault them, and they are commonly confined to punishment cells“.

One of these political prisoners- Arcelio Noa– has also been victim of constant repression in the Mar Verde Prison.  In fact, he has even inflicted injuries on himself in a moment of total desperation.

Arcelio did this to himself because he was blinded by desperation.  He is constantly harassed.  They put him together with very dangerous criminals which the political police puts there and uses to attack him and all the other young political prisoners we have there”, denounced Ferrer.

The dissident organization UNPACU has more than 40 of its members behind bars due to the frequent and spontaneous civc demonstrations they carry out in centric places such as long lines, parks, terminals, street corners and other public locations.

Many other opposition groups also have numerous political prisoners.  They are women, men, intellectuals, farmers, young, and old.

On another note, 5 activists of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance Front are still on hunger strike as well.  Among the demonstrators is Luis Enrique Santos Caballero, seriously affected in health terms, who demands to have a home after he was forcefully evicted in the province of Villa Clara.  Reports coming straight from the island have only confirmed that his health has kept deteriorating.

 

 

 

Protests and hunger strikes by UNPACU to demand release of detainees

Jose Daniel Ferrer and other strikers infront of Cathedral of Santiago. Via: UNPACU

A group of 14 activists from the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) spent all day on April 15th and the 16th protesting outside the Third Police Unit of Santiago de Cuba, demanding the release of dissident Luis Enrique Losada, member of UNPACU, who has been detained and on hunger strike since this past April 9th. Losada’s son (Enrique Losada, 17 years old) and his brother (Arnoldo Losada) also declared themselves on hunger strike.

(Audio of Enrique Losada about his father’s situation, in Spanish):

Lady in White Ana Celia Rodriguez was also in the demonstration, and she explained that they were under the strict vigilance of numerous State Security, National Revolutionary Police agents, as well as other members of the regime’s security apparatus.

Rodriguez added that “we are here and will continue here, and we will remain peaceful, with the disciplines which characterizes us. We do not want confrontations; we just want freedom for our brother, Luis Enrique Losada“. She pointed out that the demonstration was also in protest of many other UNPACU members that had been arrested by the political police recently.

During afternoon hours of Tuesday, April 16th, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, executive secretary of UNPACU, publicly declared himself on hunger strike to demand the liberation of all the recent detainees, moving the protest over to Cespedes Park of Santiago de Cuba, in front of the Cathedral of Santiago. Another 24 activists joined this strike, while another 10 accompanied them to protest (but not on strike), making it a total of 34 people. Ferrer sat in front of the Cathedral, carrying a sign demanding the end of political violence, persecution and incarceration.

(Audio of José Daniel Ferrer, update about the strike, April 16th, 5:00 PM):

Our demand is that they release all the recent activists of our group that have been detained in the past days“, said Ferrer. Among other detainees are Wilber Parada and Roberto Hernandez, in Havana, as well as another 8 activists arrested along Luis Enrique Losada in Santiago de Cuba. Numerous Ladies in White from Santiago have also suffered violent arrests in Sundays past to impede them from arriving at El Cobre National Shrine.

Ferrer Garcia explained that he demands that “all the recent detainees, arrested violently, be released immediately, and at the same time we want to shed light on all the activists of UNPACU we have in prison, in other words political prisoners, which already are more than 40… we also call attention on the excessive violence against other UNPACU activists and other peaceful dissidents throughout the country, but especially in the Eastern region, where attacks are carried out at night, attacking people with sticks and stones. The police has been raiding homes, robbing and intimidating people, hurting them, threatening them and even attempting against their lives- the lives of innocent people, like the elderly, children, women and even pregnant women“.

Jose Daniel Ferrer, on strike, with signs calling an end to violence. Via: UNPACU

The dissident leader blamed the Ministry of the Interior, State Security and all police organisms of the Cuban regime of carrying out these acts of terror against peaceful activists.

Numerous UNPACU activists and other pro-freedom groups have denounced the continuous death threats by State Security in places like Velasco, Holguin, during this month of April, while new dissidents have been taken to dungeons and will probably be sentenced to years behind bars, such as rapper Angel Yunier Remon Arzuaga, along with relatives and neighbors, in the city of Bayamo.

The rise of incarcerations because of political motives is alarming“, expressed Ferrer.

The 34 demonstrators in Santiago   de Cuba are under harassment by the political police. Agents have been throwing rocks at them and shouting insults at the dissidents, and at least 6 have been violently arrested as they have tried to join the protest.

We spoke with the Bishop of Santiago de Cuba“, said Ferrer, “and we gave him our word that we would not respond to the insults and rocks they are throwing our way. We are sitting in front of the Cathedral, waiting to see what the response of this tyrannical regime will be. We want our activists to be freed, immediately. Our activists have been beaten, detained and confined in inhumane conditions in filthy dungeons of police units“.

Mobs have been organized by the State Police to provoke the strikers, even playing loud pro-government music, while the majority of the telephone lines of the dissidents have been blocked during night hours. Activists fear that the demonstrators will be arrested and beaten, but they have said that they will maintain their protest, while UNPACU, as an organization, said that all its members will take to the streets if these activists are victims of further violence.

Important pro-freedom groups march together in Havana

Members of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance and Civil Disobedience Front, the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), the Pro Human Rights Party of Cuba Affiliated to the Andrei Sajarov Foundation, and the Miguel Valdes Tamayo Popular Movement for Human Rights marched together in Boyeros, Havana, this past Thursday 21st of February, demanding a free Cuba and paying tribute to Orlando Zapata Tamayo, political prisoner who died after a hunger strike and torture in prison 3 years ago this 23rd of February, and also in honor of the victims of the Brothers to the Rescue, Cuban-Americans who were shot down by the dictatorship over international waters for flying small planes trying to help rafters out at sea.

Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo, Lady in White and member of the Pro Human Rights Party and the National Resistance Front, who is also a resident of Boyeros, could not participate in the demonstration but explained that the dissidents “marched peacefully down the centric Boyeros avenue, walking at least 300 meters while shouting anti-government slogans and slogans in honor of Orlando Zapata for the third anniversary of his death, a death which only has one culprit: the Cuban government“.

Zapata’s jailers beat him on various occasions during his hunger strike and refused him water. His strike, as well as his death, awoke a wave of solidarity amongst Cubans in and out of the island as well as non-Cubans around the world, eventually creating pressure against the Cuban dictatorship, managing the release of the rest of the political prisoners jailed during the Black Spring of 2003.

The march on Thursday culminated, without any arrests or acts of repudiation from the everyday people, at the home of Rene Ramon Gonzalez Bonelly, which is also the sub-headquarters of the Pro Human Rights Party, located in the Baluarte neighborhood of Boyeros.

However, minutes after, Sara Marta denounced that mobs organized by the regime had surrounded the house, starting an act of repudiation.  Her own home was also under strict police vigilance.

Rene Ramon Gonzalez, member of the Pro Human Rights Party and of UNPACU, told this blog that mobs, made up by some airport employees and other figures of governmental organisms, surrounded his home and shouted verbal offenses at the 7 dissidents congregated there.

There are 5 Suzuki motorcycles (of State Security), various police vehicles, and lots of police agents and State Security agents“, said Gonzalez at the moment of the repudiation.  The dissident also denounced that “State Security is using underage children to participate in this act of repudiation.  They told these kids to shout offenses at us.  The mobs are even banging on our windows“.

The activist could not give an exact number of how many communist functionaries were in the mob attack, but said that there was around 100 or more.  Actions like these are organized by the regime to try and make it seem as if it is the ‘everyday people’ who are attacking the dissidents, when in reality the victims of the repudiation affirm that the majority of times no neighbor participates in these acts of violence, only people who form part of the repressive units of the dictatorship.

González Bonelly later denounced that one police official, who he was not able to identify by name, “stood in front of one of the windows and made a gesture as if he was going to pull out his gun“, to threaten the dissidents inside.

The names of the other dissidents inside were Roberto Hernández, Mario Rafael Cala, Idania García Martínez, Bartolo Márquez Alcevo, Humberto Parada Miran and Henry González.

UNPACU’s YouTube channel posted an audio in the voice of Rene Ramon Gonzalez with further details of the happenings, which could be heard here.

On the following day, February 22nd, Sara Marta Fonseca denounced that the repressive operations continued around the entire Baluarte neighborhood.  Among the surrounded homes were hers and also that of Gonzalez Bonelly. “Agent Camilo, of State Security, is leading this operation“, added Fonseca.

Once again, the regime responds with fear and violence upon witnessing civic actions out on the street, carried out by diverse dissident groups.

For more information:

Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo-  Cell Phone: +5353-379-011 // Twitter: @SaraMartaCuba

Rene Ramón González Bonelly- Cell Phone: +5352-379-813