After two consecutive weekends of violence carried out by the political police against the Ladies in White and other dissidents in the province of Matanzas (especially in the cities of Cardenas and Colon), more photos of the scars left by the agents have emerged.
Sayli Navarro, a young member of the Ladies in White from Perico, Matanzas, has published various photos of the injuries suffered by her mother, Sonia Alvarez Campillo, and Leticia Ramos Herreria, representative of the group in the mentioned province.
Leticia was one of the activists who were injected with 3 needles containing unknown substances on Sunday, July 14th. In addition, she has been frequently threatened with death by members of State Security and the National Revolutionary Police.
On Tuesday, July 23rd, dissidents Francisco Rangel and Ivan Hernandez Carrillo were harassed by police officials. In the case of Rangel, he was arrested while walking down Central Street, in the Market Plaza of Colon, Matanzas. Meanwhile, former political prisoner Ivan Hernandez was attacked with rocks.
“While in the Market Plaza, they attacked me with rocks”, wrote Hernandez on his Twitter account (@ivanlibre).
“This attack and arrest were carefully planed, because it was confirmed that three State Security officials, dressed in civilian clothing, we waiting for us in the Market Plaza”, added the dissident leader.
He also denounced that on Monday, July 22nd, there was an act of “harassment, intimidation, invasion of privacy and public disorder” carried out by regime-organized mobs “against the Ladies in White” in Colon, where members of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, the Communist Party and police agents took part.
State Security and other police sectors of the Cuban regime repeated their violent actions against a number of Ladies in White and male dissidents in the province of Matanzas this Sunday, July 21st, mainly in the cities of Colon and Cardenas. The news arrived just one week after similar violence on July 14th and after State Security agents had visited a number of work centers in the mentioned cities, convoking ‘corpulent’ people to participate in beatings against the dissidents.
However, the people who were convoked did not participate in the aggressions, according to independent unionist and former political prisoner Ivan Hernandez Carrillo on his Twitter account (@ivanlibre). For this reason, the police was clearly bothered and once again unleashed a wave of arrests and beatings. Ivan was one of the victims of repression that morning.
The dissident leader was arrested and beat by political police agents when he stepped out of his home in Colon to show solidarity with the Ladies in White of that area who were being harassed by paramilitary mobs.
Some of the other arrested activists between Colon and Cardenas were Juan Francisco Rangel, Reinier Penates Calzadilla, Francisco Brias Tamayo, Ibrahim Navarro, Emanuel Valles Rodríguez, Jorge Serrano Alfonso, Jesús González Lemus, Rudel Montes de Oca, Javier Erbello, Eduardo Hernández, Marisol Fernández, Batista Rodríguez Rivas, Niurka Rivero, José Hernández Carrillo, Irania Borrego, Nelson Ruiz Alonso, William Acevedo Roque, Yudaimis Hernández, José Hernández López, Elizabeth Pacheco, Juan Carlos Pazos, Eduardo Pacheco, former political prisoners Ángel Moya Acosta and Félix Navarro, as well as the daughter of the latter, Sayli Navarro.
In the majority, if not all, of these cases, after being threatened and beat, the dissidents were abandoned in desolate fields situated miles away from their homes or cities of residence.
Leticia Ramos Herreria, representative of the Ladies in White for Matanzas province and one of the most beat during this police operation, had much to tell about this. She explains that in Cardenas the violence began after a group of women began their march after Mass at La Parroquia Church.
“Since morning hours, there was a large cordon set up by the political police and the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) in front of the church. There were also many women dressed in civilian clothes but they were really officials“, detailed Ramos. “We walked about a block or so when these people rushed up against us…they began to beat and started to shove us inside police vehicles“.
The detainees were taken individually to the Offices of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT), which Leticia describes as “a place being used lately as a torture center against dissidents, because it is located far away from the city and there no one can see how they beat us“.
In that center, police agents continued to beat the men and women while the guards simply joked around and laughed. “The guards were laughing as the agents were beating us and together they began to verbally offend us, calling us ‘lesbians’ and threatening to ‘put a finger in our anus’, while the men were called ‘homosexuals’“, denounced Leticia.
One of the officials who beat the Lady in White the most was one known as “Chuly”, a member of the PNR. She told Ramos that she was going to kill her, specifically by “putting a bullet right through my forehead if I kept assisting Mass and walking on Sundays“. The same agent who injected Leticia with an unknown substance last Sunday also participated in the aggressions against her once again.
“There is also the case of Lady in White Odalys Hernandez who has a burn on her neck because they tried to strangle her. She has bruises on her ribs, her abdomen and in her interior from the kicks she received. Yamila Senda Ruiz was beat by the same officials who were beating me, while activists Francisco Villa, Manuel Barrio, Nelson Curbelo and others were detained and abandoned in desolate places“, recounts the dissident.
Leticia was abandoned in a place known as Sequeira, more than 20 kilometers from the road which leads to the town of Limonar. The activist was able to return to her home in Cardenas thanks to the solidarity of an anonymous citizen who drove her back. Something similar happened to Ivan Hernandez, who wrote on Twitter that a farmer gave him water and drove him back after the activist told him what had happened. It is precisely this citizen solidarity which gravely worries the dictatorship.
“Today has been a victorious day for us, and a defeat for the tyrant”, wrote Hernandez, “they had to arrest us because they were not able to unify and convoke Cubans to repress us…as much as State Security tried to intimidate and recruit men in Colon for quite some days now, the people did not come to attack us”.
On her part, Leticia once against accused the government for what happened and assured that the official leading the operation was State Security Lieutenant Coronel Joaquin, the same person who masterminded the aggressions last weekend.
“All the blows are the fault of the regime and of Lieutenant Joaquin, who is in charge of this bloody hunt of Ladies in White and peaceful dissidents since last week in the province of Matanzas“, expressed Ramos Herreria, “but if they want to kill us, they are going to have to do it on the streets because the streets belong to the people of Cuba. And I am Cuban and I am firm in my convictions. We are all firm. We will continue going to church and marching“.
Despite the violent atmosphere in Matanzas, it was reported that many Ladies in White in other provinces were able to surpass police cordons and march to and from their respective churches, from East to West of all Cuba.
Despite a propaganda-based campaign by the Cuban dictatorship against the Ladies in White in recent days, this 30th of June – the last day of the month – these women managed to march and assist Mass in different areas of the country, demanding freedom for all those Cubans who reside behind bars for thinking differently.
A total of 70 Ladies in White marched in Havana and participated in Mass at Santa Rita Catholic Church, according to a message published by former political prisoner Angel Moya Acosta on his Twitter account (@jangelmoya). The women were accompanied by 43 male dissidents.
In Matanzas province, 25 Ladies in White carried out their activities on the streets of different cities, reported Sayli Navarro (@SayliNavarro), a young member of the group.
Ivan Hernandez Carrillo, an independent unionist and former political prisoner, confirmed via Twitter (@ivanlibre) that in the central province of Villa Clara 6 Ladies in White marched to and from church without any problems.
Amid police vigilance, 1 Lady in White marched in the province of Ciego de Avila.
Hernandez Carrillo added in the Eastern province of Holguin, despite some arrests, 5 women were able to march. Among these was Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez, from the municipality of Banes, who managed to march for the first time in 2013.
“I’ve been arrested as soon as I step out of my house each Sunday of 2013“, explained Ojeda Suarez to this blog, “and this Sunday I was finally able to march to the Catholic Church of Banes…with strong police vigilance, but I was able to go inside and there were 2 other Ladies in White from the municipality waiting for me“.
As soon as Mass concluded, the 3 women marched, dressed in white and carrying flowers.
“This has been a huge blow for State Security and we are very happy with this in Banes“, expressed Gertrudis, “despite the constant harassment, we carried out our march…and we will continue going out, even if they arrest us“.
In Guantanamo another 11 members of the female group marched and in Granma 5 managed to do so.
Ivan Hernandez added that 44 Ladies in White participated in Mass in El Cobre National Shrine in Santiago de Cuba and later carried out their symbolic march in solidarity with the political prisoners on the island. State Security had blocked service on Belkis Cantillo’s cell phone for the entire day. Cantillo is the representative of the group in that province.
The Ladies in White have made it more than clear that they will continue firm, marching out on the streets of Cuba, despite police persecution, while their membership increases.
As occurs each Sunday, dozens of Ladies in White took to the streets of their respective cities this June 9th to participate in Mass and pray for the freedom of all political prisoners and later carry out civic marches carrying flowers and photos of some prisoners.
In the Cuban capital- Havana- 76 Ladies in White participated in Mass in the Santa Rita Church, according to a message published by dissident and former political prisoner Ivan Hernandez Carrillo on his Twitter account (@ivanlibre). Moments later, Angel Moya Acosta, also a former political prisoner of conscience, tweeted (@jangelmoya) that 62 women carried out the habitual march down 5th Avenue accompanied by another 40 male activists.
In the central province of Villa Clara, 6 Ladies in White marched and assisted Mass, while in Sancti Spiritus 2 women managed to do the same.
Ivan Hernandez added that a total of 21 women marched and made it to Mass in the province of Matanzas. 7 of them made it to the city of Colon, 12 in Cardenas and another 2 in Perico.
In the Eastern province of Santiago de Cuba 40 women marched to El Cobre National Shrine. At least 3 arrests were confirmed, however, according to Hernandez Carrillo. The detainees were Moraima Díaz Pérez, Edelmis León and Graciela Domínguez.
Sayli Navarro, a young member of the Ladies in White, informed on her Twitter account (@SayliNavarro) that a total of 12 women marched and made it to Santa Catalina de Ricci Parish in the province of Guantanamo, despite the strong vigilance on behalf of State Security agents.
In Holguin province, various arrests occurred, among them of Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez in the municipality of Banes. She told this blog that “just like every other Sunday, I was detained by State Security and forcefully taken to the local police unit, amid verbal threats“. Last weekend, the same agents threatened to handcuff and beat Ojeda.
The dissident has been victim of constant vigilance and police persecution. In fact, the government agents have raided her home and carried out numerous acts of repudiation on various occasions. These actions have mainly affected her underage children.
“All of this is proof that repression against Ladies in White and the opposition continues in Cuba. That is why I am denouncing, for all the world to hear, all these arrests I am being victim of, as well as my other sisters in struggle, all of them carried out by the dictatorship of the Castro brothers“, declared Gertrudis.
A number of other women were able to march in the municipality of Holguin. Meanwhile, in the municipality of San German activist Eliecer Palma used his Twitter account (@eliecerpalma1) to confirm that 6 Ladies in White “managed to march and participated in the Church of San German, along with other dissidents”.
It’s important to point out that each one of these cases where Ladies in White march there has also been a strong presence by the political police which sets up cordons days before to arrest the women or to keep watch over them. Many times, the Ladies in White have to leave their homes on Friday or during dawn hours of Saturday and passing through fields or desolate places to arrive to their respective churches and surpass these cordons.
Regardless, these women continue out on the streets so that the everyday people can listen to their demands and to show them that it is possible to obtain a public space on the island, despite the dictatorship’s repression.
Wearing flags with the image of the Virgin of Charity which were donated during her visit to the Ermita de la Caridad in Miami, Berta Soler led the march of the Ladies in White in Cuba’s capital, Havana, this past Sunday June 2nd. The women marched throughout the country, despite the presence of the political police.
A total of 68 women participated in Mass at the Santa Rita Church of Havana and marched down 5th Avenue afterward, according to a report by dissident leader Angel Moya Acosta. It was the first march in which Soler participated after returning to the island last week after an international trip denouncing the reality of Cuba.
More than 10 women participated in Mass and carried out marches in the province of Matanzas.
In the Eastern province of Guantanamo, 12 Ladies in White marched and made it to Mass, according to a message published by Sayli Navarro on her Twitter account (@SayliNavarro).
67 Ladies in White marched through the streets of Santiago de Cuba province and made it to Mass in the National Cobre Shrine, an emblematic temple within Cuban culture.
The website “Ya Cuba Twittea” reported that at least 3 Ladies in White from Santiago were taken down from a bus by force by the political police. The agents impeded them from arriving to Mass.
In the province of Holguin, various women were arrested.
Among the detainees were Rosa Maria Naranjo (Holguin), Danay Mendiola (Holguin), Mildred Noemi Sanchez Infante (Antilla) and Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez (Banes). The latter- Ojeda Suarez- explained to this blog that the repression against her is constant. In fact, she recounts that when she was detained, a political police agent tried to handcuff her and physically harassed her.
Eleiny Villamonte, a young member of the female group in Holguin, confirmed that despite repression 5 women “were able to march and make it to Mass in the municipality of Cacocum and in the municipality of Holguin“.
Berta Soler also told “Marti Noticias” that she has plans of expanding the Ladies in White movement, creating delegations in all the provinces of the country.
After her first trip ever outside of Cuba to denounce the reality faced by those who defend freedom in the country, Berta Soler, the representative of the Ladies in White, has returned to the island this Monday, 27th of May.
Soler was received by her two children and her husband, dissident leader and former political prisoner of conscience Angel Moya Acosta, who used his Twitter account (@jangelmoya) to inform that, since early morning hours of Monday, State Security had set up various operations throughout the capital to arrest a number of Ladies in White who had plans to welcome Soler in the Jose Marti Airport.
Among the detainees were Leidis Coca and her husband, according to a message published by Moya, while other activists were surrounded in their homes by the State police, as was the case of Ladies in White Lourdes Esquivel and Sara Marta Fonseca, and dissident Andres Perez Suarez.
At around 10 PM, Moya confirmed that Berta Soler arrived and was “alongside her family and the Ladies in White”.
Meanwhile, the young Lady in White Sayli Navarro, from Matanzas, tweeted (@SayliNavarro), “Berta Soler embraces her family and the Ladies in White who waited for her. Welcome to your Cuba, the Cuba of all Cubans. Congratulations”.
It was precisely these numerous Ladies in White who stayed in Cuba who never stopped marching, Sunday after Sunday.
This past Sunday, May 26th, many of these women managed to surpass police cordons and arrive to their respective temples throughout the country to pray for the freedom of all political prisoners.
During morning hours the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and also former political prisoner, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, wrote in his Twitter (@jdanielferrer) that a total of 73 Ladies in White marched and assisted Mass in the province of Santiago de Cuba, despite obvious police operations set up in different regions.
10 Ladies in White marched and assisted Mass in the province of Guantanamo, confirmed Sayli Navarro.
Arrests were reported in the province of Holguin but have not yet been confirmed. In Holguin, each Sunday various women are impeded from arriving to church, seeing as the political police surrounds their homes since dawn hours and, in some cases, since the day before.
Navarro tweeted that a total of 21 Ladies participated in Mass in different cities of Matanzas province, according to Leticia Ramos Herreria.
Angel Moya confirmed that another 50 women marched down Havana’s 5th Avenue after participating in Mass at the Santa Rita Church. He added that “47 male human rights activists accompanied them”.
Berta Soler told the digital newspaper “Diario de Cuba” that she had returned “strengthened” to Cuba, considering that she found moral, spiritual and material support, especially on behalf of the Cuban exile.
Soler traveled to Cuba from Miami, where she had been in two occasions. (See video of her first visit to Miami here).Soler pointed out on various occasions during her trip that she did not consider the fact that she, and other dissidents, were allowed to travel outside of Cuba meant there were reforms in the country. Instead, she said it was the result of constant pressure on behalf of the opposition and that it was just an action taken to distract attention from the constant violence against activists, as well as the dire situation of numerous political prisoners.
The leader of the Ladies in White promised to take Cuba’s reality to the world, and she did. Now, she has returned to continue out on the streets, together with so many other mothers, daughters, sisters, and in sum, Cuban women and men who demand a free country.
Dozens of members of the Ladies in White assisted Mass this Sunday, April 21st, despite numerous cordons set up by the political police. The women prayed for the freedom of all political prisoners as they habitually do, and also in solidarity with victims of violence in Cuba, like the 40 hunger strikers of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), as well as the victims of a terrorist attack this past week in the US city of Boston.
Former political prisoner of conscience Angel Moya Acosta offered more details on his Twitter account (@jangelmoya). “50 Ladies in White marched down 5th Avenue and dedicated their march to the hunger strikers in Santiago de Cuba, as well as the victims of the terrorist attack in Boston”.
More than 170 people were injured while 3 died in the Boston bombings. Meanwhile, in Eastern Cuba, the repressive actions of the government have dramatically increased against the 40 hunger strikers, among them Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, as they demand the release of detained dissident Luis Enrique Lozada (also on hunger strike) and calling for an end to the brutality against human rights activists in the country.
The strikers, as well as numerous other dissidents who have joined them in demonstrations of solidarity, have been victims of acts of repudiation, death threats, house raids and arrests this week.
A total of 20 Ladies in White in the province of Matanzas managed to march with flowers in their hands, according to Sayli Navarro (@SayliNavarro), a young member of the group.
Navarro added that in Guantanamo 8 women marched and made it to Mass. When the religious service came to an end, the Ladies carried out their monthly meeting in the headquarters of the group in that area.
Anyer Antonio Blanco, an activist of UNPACU, reported that 34 Ladies in White participated in Mass at Palma Soriano, where Father Palma (the local priest) dedicated the sermon to the women and prayed for their protection, as well as for the hunger strikers.
Blanco said that 16 women carried out their civic march in Santiago de Cuba, and as far as he confirmed, only 1 woman was arbitrarily arrested.
During night hours of that same Sunday, the renown Ladies in White Laura Pabrada, daughter of the fallen leader of the group Laura Pollan, and Belkis Cantillo, representative of the group in Santiago de Cuba and wife of Jose Daniel Ferrer, traveled to Brussels to meet up with Berta Soler, representative of the movement, to finally receive the Sajarov Award, given to them in 2005. The Cuban dictatorship had denied Laura Pollan and other members of the group to travel outside of the country to pick up the award, but now the 3 mentioned women have been able to travel.
Soler has expressed that, in reality, these things don’t represent reforms, but instead attempts to distract international attention over the escalating level of repression against the internal opposition. However, she has been internationally denouncing the constant human rights violations in Cuba during her time outside the country, emphasizing cases such as that of Sonia Garro, Lady in White imprisoned in Havana for more than 1 year along with her husband Ramon Alejandro Munoz.