Faith and Perseverance of Ladies in White, other Activists, Defy Operations of Arrests and Vigilance

Approximately 37 Ladies in White and another 25 dissidents made it to the National Shrine of El Cobre in Santiago de Cuba to pay tribute to Cuba’s Patron Saint, the Virgin of Charity, on the 400th anniversary of her appearance in Nipe Bay (Eastern Cuba), according to human rights activist from the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Yuniesky Dominguez Gonzalez.

We made it to the shrine after evading many obstacles put in place by Sate Security“, said Yuniesky, one of the participants of the Mass who risked his free movement in order to profess his faith on the morning of September 8th. The activist is the husband of Lady in White Taimi Vega Biscet, who suffered a miscarriage in early 2012 when she was harassed by political police and State Security forces. Vega Biscet was also present at the Mass, which she described as “very beautiful and full of peace“.

However, the presence of State Police was not absent. Motorcycles, police vehicles and uniformed agents formed a cordon around the emblematic Shrine to impede any other activists from arriving to the religious event. Vega Biscet said that as she was giving these declarations, “a State Security agent” was watching her and “making signals at me” as if to provoke her.

Alexei Juanchoy, also a dissent belonging to UNPACU, said that he and many other activists had to leave their homes two days prior to the Mass and cross though “all sorts of fields and scrublands” in order to arrive to the Shrine to pray to the Virgin of Charity, known amongst locals as ‘Cachita’. Meanwhile, Prudencio Villalongo described an ambience of “much happiness as we celebrate the day of our Patron Saint… everyday citizens have come up to us to ask how we are doing. They are asking the Ladies in White many questions, they are demonstrating concern for them…we are very proud“.

Víctor Campas Almanares said that in the Mass there was a presence of diverse dissident groups, all united.

Marta Diaz Rondon, another member of the Ladies in White present, who made it to the Shrine from the town of Banes, said that there were also women from other areas like Granma, Palma Soriano, Santiago de Cuba, Moa and Mella. “We prayed for the political prisoners and for unity amongst all Cubans“, said Rondon, “there are many people here right now“. After Mass, the women marched towards the steps of the Shrine where they witnessed the increased presence of military forces. “The entire area is surrounded by State Security,” said the activist. The agents seemed to be waiting for anyone to walk down the steps to arrest them.

In the municipality of Antilla- also situated in the Eastern region of the island- youth activist Cristian Toranzo Fundichely used his Twitter account (@CTholguinero) to denounce that State Security agents persecuted and arrested three dissidents- Roylam Ramirez, David Hibbert, and Eusebio Martinez– in order to keep them from assisting religious festivities in that town.

In Havana, former political prisoner Ivan Hernandez Carrillo tweeted (@ivanlibre) various messages with details and audios of the moment in which the image of the Virgin arrived to the capital at around 6:20 PM. Carrillo wrote that the participation of the people in the procession was “massive and spontaneous“. The procession culminated at the Church of Charity of Central Havana, located in the neighborhood of San Leopoldo, between Manrique and Salud.

This procession is not like the demonstrations organized by the Castro regime where all media outlets are present. This is a demonstration of the people“, added the dissident, “the people here are present because of their own will and their own heart, for the love of the Virgin of Charity“.

Hernandez Carrillo also said that at least two activists were detained at that moment to keep them from taking part in the procession. They are Mayelin Lazara Caraballo and Santiago Aldama. He added that “there is a very large-scale operation in motion here at the church by political police agents dressed in civilian clothing“.

Roberto de Jesús Guerra, director of the independent news agency ‘Hablemos Press’, reported that according to Berta Soler about 30 Ladies in White participated in the procession of the Virgin in Havana, although “many women and also men were arrested“.

Guerra also informed that in the province of Matanzas, Leticia Ramos Herreria– representative of the Ladies in White in that province- walked alongside another 7 women in the local procession, although “surrounded by political police and State Security agents. Others were impeded from coming“.

Meanwhile, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia shared a message with ‘Háblalo sin Miedo’ where he provided a list of some of the detainees who were trying to get to the Shrine.

Despite extensive operations and cordons put in place to watch, impede and harm activists on the Day of Cuba’s Patron Saint, it has been clearly emphasized this Saturday, 8th of September 2012, that the faith and devotion to the Virgin of Charity has only increased in Cuba and that Ladies in White and other dissidents alike continue to defy the repressive tactics of the Cuban regime, and express their beliefs and exercise their innate rights.

Faith and Perseverance of Ladies in White, other Activists, Defy Operations of Arrests and Vigilance

On the Day of the Virgin of Charity…

On this 400th anniversary of the apparition of the Virgin of Charity- known as ‘Cachita’- in Cuba…

We must not forget the political prisoners who are in captivity only because they think different than the official discourse and have been sentenced to weeks, months and years in filthy dungeons for having carried out civic demonstrations against the military dictatorship. Some of these are: Niurka Luque Alvarez, Sonia Garro Alfonso, Ramon Munoz, Jorge Vazquez Chaviano, Dany Lopez de Moya, Bismark Mustelier Galan, Ariel Arzuaga, Gerardo Sarrion, Roelvis Cuba Sendo, Rogelio Tabio, Jorge Cervantes Garcia, Enrique Figuerola, Andry Frometa Cuenca. The list continues and the majority of these men and women are fathers and mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, and represent the suffering which Cubans are subjected to for dissenting from totalitarianism and for desiring a nation ‘for all’. But more than pain, they represent bravery and Resistance. They have not given up, not even in the dungeons they are confined to. They are our guides.

We must not forget all the Cubans who, despite the threats they receive on a daily basis, continue going out to the streets to demand rights and freedom for all citizens. The Ladies in White, the independent journalists who report the truth, the bloggers who defy censorship, the central coalitions which carry out peaceful opposition actions, all the members of movements and groups which only grow by the day and which tirelessly work to accelerate the process of liberation.

We also cannot forget those everyday citizens who- perhaps they do not belong to dissident groups- but they too struggle in their own way in order to sustain their families. They suffer hunger and strife to be able to put some food on the table and clothes on their children’s backs. Yet, they keep moving forward.

We must not forget the countless families who have been separated by exile and operations of hate, vigilance and mistrust. Those who live outside of their homeland and are not allowed to return to their island to see their relatives and friends under a selfish decree imposed by the same dictatorship. Those who are inside and cannot visit the outside world, if they have plans to return back home.

We must not forget the many who have given their lives for a future which, although long overdue, is very near…

The thousands upon thousands who were killed in the Escambray mountains- mostly peasants- as they defended the country against the dictatorship, the countless citizens who were taken before firing walls and executed, those who died on hunger strike and those who were beaten to death in prisons full of noble men and women who should have never been there in the first place. The many who have tossed their fate into the ocean aboard flimsy rafts and other materials in search of a future without tyranny. Those who have continued to give their lives… Pedro Luis Boitel, the Brothers to the Rescue, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia, Laura Pollan Toledo, Wilman Villar Mendoza, Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, Harold Cepero Escalante

For all of them, I dedicate this post, as a prayer, to ‘Cachita’.

And, while on the subject, this blog also turns 2 years old today. ‘Pedazos de la Isla’ has only been possible thanks to those inside the island who have allowed us to record and share their testimonies. They know that this space is theirs. It does not belong to any group or another, and much less does it respond to the interests of any political party of any country. This blog has also been made possible by friends- Cuban and non Cuban alike- who have helped spread and provide news. Thank you!

On the Day of the Virgin of Charity…

Video Depicts the Devotion of Cubans for the Virgin of Charity (via UNPACU)

Members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) have filmed and edited a video in Cuba about the devotion Cubans of diverse backgrounds feel for the Virgin of Charity, Cuba’s Patron Saint.  The short documentary- divided into two parts- is full of images of the National Shrine of the Virgin in Santiago de Cuba, as well as photos and videos of Ladies in White carrying out their peaceful marches in this temple, as well as testimonies of everyday citizens expressing their faith towards the Virgin.

Video Depicts the Devotion of Cubans for the Virgin of Charity (via UNPACU)

From the Sanctuary of El Cobre, a Message of Hope and Faith from a Lady in White

We trust in the Virgin of Charity, and it is thanks to Her, and to all the prayers we sent her way that a number of us Ladies in White are here right now“, said Lady in White Marta Diaz Rondon from the Sanctuary of El Cobre in Santiago de Cuba on the afternoon of Friday, September 7th.

Rondon explained that since Thursday, during morning hours, she was receiving threats in her home in Banes, Holguin, by State Security official ‘Roylan’. “When I arrived to my house in Banes after Mass, at around 9 AM, Roylan showed up at my door and threatened me. He told me that if I tried to go to the Cobre Sanctuary in Santiago he was going to arrest me, and that he already had planned out how many hours I was going to be behind bars. The same official later threatened Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez (also a Lady in White) in her house”.

Regardless, Diaz Rondon and Ojeda Suarez both managed to surpass police cordons which had been installed throughout the municipality of Banes and successfully arrived to the National Sanctuary of El Cobre during the morning hours of Friday, where they confirmed that there were also other Ladies in White from diverse Eastern regions such as Santiago de Cuba, Palma Soriano, Mella and Moa.

Diaz Rondon expressed that she is a devotee of the Virgin of Charity, like so many other Cubans, and said she felt very proud that the image of Cuba’s Patron Saint would be carried throughout a wide range of towns all around Cuba.

The Lady in White also sent out a message to her compatriots in and out of the island. “I pray to the Virgin that she brings us Cubans many good things, and especially that she brings us freedom“.

The women, who are spending the night in the Sanctuary, will participate in the Mass to be offered there on Saturday, September 8th, and they will carry out their peaceful march after the service. Various members of this group have already been arrested by the State police as they have attempted to arrive to the temple.

We are going to pray for the freedom of all political prisoners, the freedom of all Cubans, and so that repression comes to an end. I pray that the Virgin shelter us under her cloak, just as she protected our Lord Jesus Christ“, said Marta Diaz Rondon.

For more information from Cuba:

Marta Díaz Rondon – Cell Phone: +5352-771-639 // Twitter: @MartaDiazRondon

From the Sanctuary of El Cobre, a Message of Hope and Faith from a Lady in White

Repression Against Ladies in White and Other Dissidents Increases on Eve of Patron Saint’s Day

Armed only with their white clothes, gladiolus flowers and their faith, Cuba’s Ladies in White have been defying all sorts of government persecution just days before the day of the Virgin of Charity (the Patron Saint of Cuba) this September 8th, when Cubans will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Virgin’s appearance. Many of these brave women have been arrested in order to impede them from assisting Mass this Saturday, but they have assured that they will keep marching, keep resisting, and will participate in the religious activities planned for that day, a date celebrated by all Cubans around the world.

In the province of Santiago de Cuba, this week began with the arrests of various Ladies in White to keep them from traveling to the El Cobre Sanctuary to assist Saturday’s special Mass. Among the detainees are Ana Celia Rodriguez Torres, Omaglys Gonzalez Leyva and Adriana Nunez Pascual. According to Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, general coordinator of the dissident group UNPACU, “the children of Ana Celia and Omaglys were left abandoned in their respective schools until relatives found out what was happening“.

Meanwhile, activist Andrys Verdecia Osorio was arrested on Tuesday, September 4th when he was on his way to the home of Belkis Cantillo Ramirez, wife of Jose Daniel Ferrer and representative of the Ladies in White in the Eastern region, to give her some white clothes. Osorio remains detained in the police unit of Mella.

According to another activist of UNPACU- Yuniesky Dominguez Gonzalez– this Thursday, September 6th, it was confirmed that the total of detained women went up to 9. Other reports, like that of dissident Victor Campa Almanares, detail that in the town of El Cobre, where the Sanctuary is located, is completely surrounded by military forces which have set up police cordons which consist of a tight vigilance to detain and deport any Lady in White which comes close to the temple. Almanares said that the province of Santiago is practically “under a curfew“.

In Holguin, the Lady in White Zuleidis Perez Velazquez detailed that a number of members of the women’s group in that province have received threats by the political police and State Security that if they even try to travel to Havana or Santiago de Cuba, or even take to the street to go to their local churches this Saturday, all of them will be arrested for more than 90 hours. In that same province, Barbara Bauza was detained on the morning of September 5th.

Palma Soriano was the scene of a violent house raid and arrest in the home of Lady in White Vivian Hernandez Pena and her husband, dissident from the OZT National Resistance Front Misael Valdez Diaz, on the morning of this Thursday 6th of September. Police agents beat Vivian and her duaghters- ages 2 and 19- and detained them for various hours. Afterward, Misael Valdez was beaten and detained in the same manner and still has not been released. According to Hernandez Pena, her house was destroyed and “only the roof was spared“.

In Havana, a number of churches, like the Church of the Virgin of Regla, are also under police cordons, according to a denouncement by former political prisoner Ivan Hernandez Carrillo through his Twitter account (@ivanlibre). “In Regla, police vehicles and political police agents dressed in civilian clothing are keeping watch over the Sanctuaries where various processions will occur tomorrow“, said the activist.

Ladies in White in Havana, Pinar del Rio and Matanzas have also received threats that they will not be allowed to assist Mass. In the Western province of Pinar del Rio, authorities have told a number of women that they cannot wear white clothes and that they will only be allowed to go to church if they walk in groups of 2. Meanwhile, the leader of the Pinar del Rio Democratic Alliance, Raul Luis Risco Perez, was arrested on the morning of Friday, September 7th and told that he could not carry out dissident activities during the religious processions to take place.

It is not the first time that the Ladies in White and other activists face so many obstacles for trying to participate in religious activities such as these. However, they have all reiterated that they will march on Saturday, despite the consequences.

The Catholic Church has called on all Cubans to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the appearance and presence of the Virgin of Charity in Cuba. However, a couple of Cubans who consider Cuba to be their private farm- the Castros- have decided that other Cubans who truly love and want a Cuba with all and for the good of all cannot even come close the Sanctuary as the date draws nearer“, declared Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia.

Repression Against Ladies in White and Other Dissidents Increases on Eve of Patron Saint’s Day