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.