This new graphic design by digital artist Rolando Pulido says a lot in just one picture after the UN voted – once again – the Cuban dictatorship to form part of the Human Rights Council of this organization which defines itself as a promoter of rights and freedoms for all people. It shows dictator Raul Castro surrounded by the images of just some of his victims – Laura Pollan, Wilman Villar Mendoza, Juan Wilfredo Soto, Oswaldo Paya, Harold Cepero and Orlando Zapata Tamayo. Pictured on the upper left is also an image of Raul Castro preparing an assassination of a young Cuban in the early 60’s.
After more than 2 weeks on hunger strike, three activists of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) have been urgently rushed to the JuanBrunoZayasHospital in Santiago de Cuba due to serious health complications.
The strikers are Lady in White Ana Celia Rodriguez (suffering from diabetes), the elderly activist Dionisio Blanco Rodriguez, and 17-year-old Enrique Lozada. The latter is the son of Luis Enrique Lozada Igarza who was arbitrarily arrested on April 9th. His arrest was what led to the massive strike by UNPACU activists. Now, the health of all the strikers is getting worse.
Anyer Antonio Blanco Rodriguez, a youth activist from UNPACU, published various messages on Twitter (@anyerantoniobla) detailing the situation.
“The general health of the hunger strikers is critical”, read one message written by Blanco Rodriguez.
In an audio published by “Radio Republica” Anyer points out that the three hunger strikers have been taken to the same hospital where Wilman Villar Mendoza was, while Luis Enrique Lozada has been confined to the same exact cell in the Aguadores Prison of Santiago where Villar was tortured and taken to his death. Wilman Villar was a political prisoner who died after a lengthy hunger strike in early 2012.
Recently, other strikers have also been taken to hospitals, as was the case of Lady in White Adriana Nunez Pascual and the activists from Holguin, Franklin Peregrino del Toro and Pedro Leiva Gongora.
There is much worry about the health of the strikers, especially the young Enrique Lozada. In a recent video published by UNPACU he said that he is willing to take his protest, for the liberation of his father, “to the final consequences”.
“We need the solidarity of all Cuban, inside and outside of the island”, expressed Blanco Rodriguez.
Between the days of January 19th and 22nd, state sponsored violence against the Cuban opposition aggressively increased in different parts of the country. Some of the aggressions started on Saturday 19th, the year anniversary of the death of Wilman Villar Mendoza, a dissident who spent more than 50 days on hunger strike demanding his release from an unjust prison sentence, and continued through the morning hours of Tuesday the 22nd, when Rapid Response Brigades used unknown toxic substances to try and interrupt an encounter among dissidents in the central region of the country:
After brutality in Mafo, Contramaestre, vigilance and repudiation continues
As numerous activists and blogs reported on Saturday, January 19th, the home of Luis Enrique Lozada in Mafo, Contramaestre was raided by mobs made up by Rapid Response Brigades, State Security and political police agents of the regime. The home was destroyed and all those present were beat with cables, sticks, knives, and a sort of whip, as well as other sharp weapons. Images of the results- broken heads, wounded bodies, etc. – went around the world (see here) and, on the following day, the harassment continued.
José Daniel Ferrer García, general coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) denounced that during the dawn hours of Sunday, “another attack took place, this time against the home of Ovidio Martin Castellanos, a coordinator of UNPACU in the province of Santiago de Cuba“. (Video)
Meanwhile, the home of political prisoner Jorge Cervantes, also located in Contramaestre, was attacked in a similar fashion, reducing it to ruble, leaving the wife of Cervantes, Lady in White Kenia Leguen, and her two underage children without a roof.
In an act of solidarity, Luis Enrique Lozada offered his home to the Lady in White and her two children.
“So many stones were thrown at Kenia’s home that the roof was considerably damaged“, explained Ferrer Garcia, “This is not the first time this happens to this family- the young Kenia told me, with much pain in her voice, that she was condemned to live without a roof“.
In other news, on Saturday afternoon, dissident Jesus Diaz Morales was arrested in Velasco, Holguin, for having convoked a peaceful march in honor of Wilman Villar. On Monday, the 21st, mobs once again surrounded the home of Luis Enrique Lozada, watching and intimidating all those who were inside. In this case, the mobs left a few hours later, according to a tweet published by Anyer Anotnio Blanco (@anyerantoniobla).
“These aggressive actions will continue, and they will correspond with the level of non-violent activism carried out by UNPACU, in favor of freedom and democracy in Cuba, as we keep growing in number of activism and actions“, declared Ferrer, “Without a doubt, our activism in a phenomenon that is very worrying for the tyranny but very hopeful for the people“.
Mobs try to impede encounter of the Ladies in White
On Monday, January 21st, when the world celebrated Martin Luther King day, the Ladies in White held an encounter at their headquarters on Neptune Street in Havana to pay tribute to the civil rights leader and, at the same time, to Wilman Villar Mendoza, as well as to demand the freedom of all political prisoners. The presence of State Security was not absent.
According to Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo, one of the Ladies in White who managed to make it to the encounter, “during the 116th meeting of the group, various women who tried to make it were arrested, while the headquarter was surrounded by paramilitary mobs, the political police, and State Security. They also blocked off traffic on Neptune Street, a main street in Havana. No car could pass by…all of this to keep women from arriving“. However, the dissident points out that 42 members managed to surpass cordons of vigilance and make it to the house.
But the mobs increased their violent actions, shouting slogans such as “Use a machete, theirs only a few of them“, and other offensive phrases. (Video here)
10 women were reported detained upon trying to arrive.
Despite the offensive slogans, the Ladies in White responded by maintaining their civility, shouting “Freedom“, “Long live human rights“, “Long live Laura Pollan“, and “Freedom for all political prisoners“.
“Once again, it has been demonstrated that the regime highly fears unity within the opposition, as well as the Ladies in White, out on the streets of Cuba“, expressed Fonseca Quevedo, “This implants terror in them, to think that peaceful women march through the streets of Havana to demand freedom. I want everyone to know that we, the Ladies in White, will keep walking for freedom in Cuba“.
On the previous day, Sunday January 20th, ‘Hablemos Press’ reported that 116 Ladies in White managed to march and arrive to Mass throughout the country, but a total of 36 were arbitrarily arrested, deported, and threatened.
Toxic gases and substances against dissidents in Sagua la Grande
In Sagua la Grande, Villa Clara, paramilitary mobs and police agents lasted the entire day of January 21st carrying out an act of repudiation and keeping vigilance over a group of activists from the Central Opposition Coalition and the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front who were meeting in the home of former political prisoner Jorge Vázquez Chaviano, to pay tribute to Martin Luther King Jr, Wilman Villar Mendoza and to discuss important subjects of the opposition.
Jorge Luis García Pérez ‘Antúnez’, leader of the Front and one of the dissidents present, explained that during the acts of repudiation, the agents “shouted offensive phrases” at the group of more than 20 dissidents in the house. He added that there were “underage children and an elderly woman inside as well“.
In the afternoon, two activists of the Cuban Reflection Movement- Nosbel Jomolca and Juan Carlos Fernandez- were arrested as they tried entering the house.
Regardless, Antunez feels that the encounter was “a success“, considering that none of the neighbors of Vazquez Chaviano participated in the repudiation.
“The mobs of the dictatorship have not been able to receive support of the neighbors. Far from helping them, they maintained their solidarity with us“, said Antunez, “The soldiers became very aggressive, inciting us to come out of the house to beat us with stick, but we congratulate and appreciate the support of the people of Sagua la Grande. Right in front of the repressive mobs, they refused to participate“.
Clearly bothered, during the dawn hours of Tuesday, January 22nd, political police officials launched toxic gases and liquids at the home full of dissidents. The attack caused cough, skin eruptions, tachycardia, and breathing problems on its victims, including the underage ones.
Antunez sent out an alert to the world of what could happen to all those who suffered the attacks, seeing as they have already begun to show some symptoms.
Despite all of this, the dissident leader said that they will continue resisting and that “regardless of all the tactics of the tyranny, the Cuban Resistance, beyond any organization, is united…united in action“.
The repression against Cuban dissidents, organized by the dictatorship and carried out by agents of State Security, the political police, the Ministry of the Interior and members of the Rapid Response Brigade, has not stopped, but it has clearly increased during the first weeks of 2013. This past weekend it escalated to a level of immeasurable violence, where the lives of all those who have decided to fight for freedom are in danger.
It was the night of January 19th 2012- exactly a year ago- when the death of Wilman Villar Mendoza was confirmed. He was a young Cuban, a father of two small girls, a member of the opposition, who was unjustly jailed for participating in a public pro-freedom demonstration in November of 2011 and who carried out a hunger strike for more than 50 days demanding his freedom. His jailers ignored his claims and kept him in inhumane conditions, which eventually led him to contract pneumonia. His death was tragic but his example was full of bravery.
Now, in 2013, to commemorate the date and pay homage to him, a number of activists belonging to the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) carried out tributes to Villar Mendoza, but the response of the uniformed officials of the dictatorship was to utilize immeasurable levels of violence.
Since the morning of the 19th, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia published on his Twitter account (@jdanielferrer) that the brutality began in Mafo, Contramaestre, at the home of Luis Enrique Lozada, a coordinator of UNPACU in that area, where the home was raided and activists were beaten with sharp objects:
The home of Luis Enrique Losada, coordinator of UNPACU in Contramaestre was raided and activists inside were beat.
Up to now, about a dozen activists from UNPACU have been injured with sharp objects and other weapons
Ricardo Guzman and Ramon Escalona have been severely beaten. Ramon ended up covered in his own blood
Roberto Gonzalez and Alexei Encina are full of bruises and wounds, Roberto has a wound on his head
Arnold Hernandez was beat with cables, whips, and hurt with a knife
To hear the testimony of Lozada and his wife click here (in Spanish). More photos of the violence and the victims can be seen by clicking this link. These have been posted onto the YouTube channel of UNPACU.
Ferrer Garcia later added that in Vistar Hermosa, Santiago de Cuba, there also occurred acts of repudiation, beatings, and arrests in the home of dissident Ovidio Martin. In fact, another tweet by Ferrer detailed that Vladimir Martin was “beat and left unconscious”.
During afternoon hours, there had already been 20 confirmed arrests of UNPACU activists. All these detentions were reportedly violent.
Despite the crackdown, Jose Daniel highlighted that in different Eastern towns, activists were able to successfully carry out their tributes to Wilman Villar Mendoza, as was the case in Palma Soriano, where a group of dissidents carried out a peaceful march on the streets after a brief encounter.
“In Mella, Palmarito de Cauto, Santiago de Cuba and other parts of Palma Soriano similar marches took place without any arrests”, added the dissident.
Ferrer and other activists called on public and international opinion to pay attention to what was occurring in Cuba, as the lives of all detainees and of all those under the vigilance of the political police run serious dangers. If they have already beat, stabbed and raided, the logic is that the repressive forces will only increase their violent actions.
“The assassins of the political police in Santiago de Cuba have been saying since December that their orders to beat and kill if necessary, all come from ‘the top’”, said another tweet by Jose Daniel Ferrer, “What is happening right now and what may happen soon is the direct responsibility of Raul Castro and his thugs”, he concluded.
Meanwhile, young activist Anyer Antonio Blanco used his own Twitter account (@anyerantoniobla) to reiterate that: “This is the first anniversary of the death of Wilman Villar Mendoza- he has not only been a martyr of UNPACU but also of the entire civic opposition. Wilman Lives!”
The dissident leader suffered strong chest and head pains during his arrest but was denied medical assistance in police unit and local Placetas Hospital. Meanwhile, activist Atruro Conde Zamora was threatened by police agents that they would fabricate him a crime in order to disappear him.
At around 9 AM on the morning of Friday, August 17th, the renown dissident Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez” was arrested by the political police along with Arturo Conde Zamora, also an activist, when they were both on their way to carry out a civic demonstration in front of a Jose Marti monument in the city of Placetas, Villa Clara. According to Antunez, the activity was going to be in condemnation of the deaths of Oswaldo Paya Sardinas and Harold Cepero Escalante, as well as other dissidents like Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Wilman Villar Mendoza, Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia, and Laura Pollan.
He also explained that other members of the Resistance had plans to join the protest. “Blas Fortun Martinez, Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, Xiomara Martinez Jimenez, Donaida Perez Paceiros and Yaite Cruz Sosa all had plans to meet up with us to join the activity“, said Antunez, but it was not possible at that moment.
Antunez explained that the arrest was violent and both men were taken to the Placetas Police Unit where they were confined to pestilent cells for 24 hours. During the detention, Antunez started to suffer “strong pains in the chest, head, and on the right eye“. The activist acquired many health issues during the 17 year prison term he was sentenced to in the 90’s for carrying out a peaceful demonstration against the Cuban regime. When his brother- Loreto Hernandez Garcia- went to the police unit at around 11 PM and tried to give him medicines for the pains he was suffering, the authorities flat out told him that this was not allowed. The activist did not receive medical attention during his time in the cell.
While the activists- both who are members of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front- remained detained, the group of dissidents which was going to initially join the protest that morning decided to carry out their own demonstration outside the home of Antunez. His wife Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, also a leading dissident and president of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights, explained to various news sources like “Radio Republica” and “Radio Marti” that the group took to the streets and started to shout slogans like “Water, food, the people are dying”, “Freedom for Antunez and Conde Zamora”, and “Towards the National Strike”. These activities were closely watched by State Security agents but no arrests were reported.
Antunez also denounced that Arturo Conde Zamora received threats and insults during his time detained. “One of the officials told him: ‘Nigger, if you do not get out of the opposition we are going to fabricate a common crime for you and take you out of circulation’“. These tactics are common in Cuba, where countless dissidents have been taken to prison or have been fined for heavy sums for crimes they have never committed.
At around 9 AM of Saturday, Agusut 18th, Arturo Conde and Antunez were released. In the case of the latter, he was still suffering strong chest pains, so he tried to get checked at the Placetas Hospital, but once he arrived there he was told that they could not tend to him under the excuse that there were not enough doctors present.
Once Antunez returned to his home in Placetas he noticed that the cordons of police agents were still there, watching over all of his actions. Although he still feels some chest pains, Antunez- the secretary general of the Orlando Zapata National Resistance Front- affirmed that he feels “more firm and decided than ever” of his position: that he will “not shut up, and not leave Cuba“.
For more information from Cuba:
Jorge Luis García Pérez ‘Antúnez’- Cell Phone: +5352-731-656 // Twitter: @antunezcuba
Vía the Resistance and Democracy Movement in Guantanamo, Cuba:
Dissidents protest against the Cuban regime’s murder of political prisoner Wilman Villar Mendoza in a neighborhood of Guantanamo. In addition to paying tribute to the fallen Villar Mendoza, once can also hear screams of “Laura Pollan Lives!” (fallen leader of the Ladies in White) at the moment when politcal police vehicles arrive on the scene to arrest them.
Starting on Thursday January 19th, when Wilman Villar Mendoza‘s murder by the Castro dictatorship was announced, there have been several brutal waves of repression on the island, even against Wilman’s own widow, friends, and brothers of the resistance.
Cuban freedom fighters, in and out of Cuba, have described the pain heard in the voice of Maritza Pelegrino, wife of Wilman, minutes after announcing the unjust death of the political prisoner, as they communicate via telephone with her. The widow could not formulate words to speak over the phone. Only tears and prayers to God could be heard.
The young widow, mother of two little girls who must now grow up without their father, chose to stand firm against the manipulations of the Cuban regime. She remained outside the Juan Bruno Zayas Hospital where her husband lost his life. Pelegrino has endured multiple beatings, arrests and threats outside of the hospital during the last days only for trying to see her husband. Each time, however, she was accompanied by dissidents.
The pain was equally shared by Jorge Cervantes, rother-in-struggle of Wilman, who had also led a hunger strike during the beginning of 2011 where he almost lost his life. Cervantes, resident of Contramaestre like Wilman, announced a vigil at his home the moment the news came out of Wilman’s death. Soon after he announced the vigil, uniformed political police officials, as well as members of the Rapid Response Brigade, quickly surrounded his house watching his every move and constantly threatening him. Between pain and hope, Cervantes denounced the threats, Wilman’s death and declared that “now is when Wilman lives…his example is a flag which will guide us”.
In Palmarito de Cauto, José Daniel Ferrer García, ex-political prisoner of conscience and national coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU)- a pro-freedom organization which Wilman Villar was a member of- immediately declared that the dissident’s death was “another murder by the Castro regime”. Soon after, Ferrer’s phone line was tapped and blocked- something that happened to many other dissidents, product of the oppressive Cuban dictatorship in attempts to prevent him, and many others, from communicating with the foreign media as well as with dissidents inside of the island.
Dozens of dissidents were arrested, among them Ladies in White Aime Garcés Leyva and Yelena Garcés Nápoles, who were both violently beat when they tried to show solidarity with Maritza Pelegrino outside of the Juan Bruno Zayas Hospital. At the same time, in Palma Soriano, according to José Batista Falcón, a group of dissidents carried out a protest march around 9 pm. All of the men who participated in the march were arrested, and in the case of activist Rafael Cabrera Montoya, he was savagely beaten. In response to the violence, 23 members of UNPACU and of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front peacefully protested in front of the PNR unit of Palma Soriano.
The dictatorship continued its repression throughout Thursday night and all of Friday. In the city of Holguin, Lady in White Caridad Caballero Batista denounced massive political police operations since Friday. “All of the roads that lead to Contramaestre have been militarized. The political police is checking all the cars that drive by, and at the same time the homes of various dissidents have been surrounded- in Banes, Holguin, Antilla, Cacocum, among other areas”, explained Caballero, emphasizing that in Banes the activists Rafael Meneses Pupo, Ariel Cruz Meneses, Alexander González Guerrero and Dervin Martínez were violently arrested when they tried to assist to the funeral services of Wilman Mendoza in Contramaestre. With the same brutality, Eusebio Fundicheli and Juan Pedro Fundicheli were detained in the municipality of Antilla.
Caballero Batista held a symbolic funeral service for Wilman Villar Mendoza at her house, where she also had a condolences book open throughout Saturday.Various activists were arrested when they tried getting there to pay their respects. In Banes, Lady in White Marta Díaz Rondón also held a symbolic funeral at her home, which was also under tight surveillance. Meanwhile, the home of dissident blogger Luis Felipe Rojas in San German, as well as that of Franklin Peregrino del Toro in Cacocum were surrounded by the political police.
That same Friday afternoon in Holguin, all the Ladies in White from that area were “visited” by “5 female soldiers dressed in civilian’s clothes”, declared Caballero, “these functionaries alleged they were members of the Provincial Cuban Women’s Federation and came to warn us that we could leave our homes that afternoon or the upcoming Sunday to celebrate weekly mass”.
“They (Castro regime) killed Orlando Zapata Tamayo, they killed Wilfredo Soto, they have killed so many other political prisoners and now they have killed Wilman Villar Mendoza. The Castro dictatorship continues to arrest and beat dissidents. The repression has not stopped but we are going to continue protesting” declared Caballero.
In Placetas, the political police surrounded the house of Jorge Luis García Antúnez and Yris Tamara Aguilera. Antunez, who is also the national director of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Front, announced that there will be a “pots and pan” protest against the assassination of Wilman Mendoza on January 24th, which is the national day of the Resistance, at 8 pm. In Havana, the Ladies in White opened a condolences book at the group’s headquarters, located in the home of the fallen Laura Pollan in Neptuno Street. All of Friday and Saturday numerous Ladies were kept from arriving to the house, according to the independent journalist from ‘Hablemos Press’, Roberto de Jesús Guerra. “Also on Saturday, independent journalist Héctor Julio Cedeño Negrin was arrested” added Guerra, who also had his phone line cut for many hours- product of nationwide censorship tactics enforced by the regime, impeding dissidents from communicating with one another. In the case of Guerra, for many hours he could not provide news for his independent dissident news agency, due to the fact that he could not confirm names of those arrested or even find out about arrests in the first place.
As a result of the massive censorship, very little information is available about Wilman’s funeral service in Contramaestre. Caridad Caballero, who also was without phone service for many hours, was able to communicate with one of the Ladies in White who assisted the funeral. “According to the information”, reports Caridad, “few Ladies in White made it to the cemetery since many were arrested” Caridad, herself, was arrested along with her husband Esteban Sande, and activists Marco Delmao, Ángel Treyes and Nismidia Cruz on Sunday, when they were heading to mass in Holguin to pray for Wilman Mendoza and all political prisoners that Sunday. Similarly, in Banes, Marta Díaz Rondón and Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez were arrested on their way to Holguin to join other activists in mass.
35 Ladies in White, however, made it to mass at El Cobre in Santiago de Cuba that same Sunday, according to Jose Daniel Ferrer. There, Father Jorge Palma dedicated mass to Wilman Villar and denounced the repressive tactics utilized by the Cuban regime against the family of the deceased freedom fighter. In other declarations, Palma classified the Cuban dictatorship as “murderous” because of Wilman’s death. In addition, “12 Ladies were able to reach Contramaestre, and accompanied Wilman’s widow for a couple of hours”, narrates Ferrer, adding that one of the Ladies in White that was on her way to El Cobre was arrested-Yumila Cedin Martínez. In Moa, 3 Ladies were arrested- Maritza Cardosa Romero, Milagro Leyva Ramírez and Osmeidy Domínguez, along with one of the coordinators of UNPACU Juan Carlos Vázquez Osoria.
Ferrer also added that in Holguin a violent mob attack, organized by the regime’s police, took place nearby the local church. Such was the harassment, declares Ferrer, that the church’s “Monsignor Emilio Arangur had to intervene”.
International Solidarity with Wilman Villar Mendoza
Solidarity with Maritza Pelegrino was shown all over Cuba, as it is always was, among dissidents. The Castro dictatorship attempted to discredit Wilman Villar Mendoza by airing false information on TV and on written media. The regime’s journalists formulated a report describing Wilman as a common prisoner jailed for beating his wife, a defamation tactic that was also used on Orlando Zapata, Juan Wilfredo Soto and so many other Cuban political prisoners and activists. The tightly controlled state media also claimed that he had never declared himself on hunger strike and was in jail for beating his wife.
These false accusations display the regime’s desperation, as they try to diffuse this information in the face of the international solidarity with Wilman Villar Mendoza. In the United States, for example, political figures denounced the murder. President Obama affirmed that Wilman’s death had been a crime perpetrated by the Castro regime, while other public figures- both Democrat and Republican- released similar statements (Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R), Bob Menéndez (D), Marco Rubio (R), David Rivera (R) and Mario Díaz Balart (R), among them). The governments of Spain, Chile, and Mexico also denounced his death, while Cuban exiles in Miami and Madrid protested in the streets. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch directly accused the Cuban regime of the assassination.
“With this last crime against Wilman, the Cuban dictatorship is very scared because it is witnessing that neither the beatings nor any other repressive tactics can paralyze the civic resistance”, affirmed Jose Daniel Ferrer.
In what seems to be a foreshadowing of his tragic yet heroic fate, in the picture at the beginning of the post, the recently murdered dissident Wilman Villar Mendoza is raising his fist as a symbol of the resistance and is standing next to a poster which reads ‘ideas cannot be killed…murderers’. The dictatorship killed this young activist by arresting him, denying him his rights and concealing him to a jail cell under inhumane conditions because he chose to go on a hunger strike- a peaceful form of protest. But, just like it reads on the poster, the ideas for which Wilman gave his life did not perish with his body. On the contrary, they have inspired the Resistance all over the island with hope. Brothers and sisters of the Resistance, amid beatings, threats and arrests continue to demonstrate on the streets in solidarity with Martiza Pelegrino and the memory of Cuba’s newest martyr.