Repression against Ladies in White increases, but they keep marching

Ladies in White in Havana, 4/7/13. Photo by @jangelmoya

Each Sunday various arrests of Ladies in White in different parts of Cuba are reported, but this 7th of April, the first Sunday of the month, a group of 60 women were detained by the political police in the province of Santiago de Cuba, simply for trying to make it to Mass. Regardless, members of the group managed to march in other provinces, defying police operations organized by the regime.

Under the direction of Laura Labrado Pollan (daughter of Laura Pollan) and Belkis Cantillo (visiting from Santiago), 54 Ladies in White marched down Havana’s 5th Avenue after participating in Mass at Santa Rita Church, where they prayed for the freedom of all political prisoners, emphasizing the case of Sonia Garro, who has just recently been transferred to a hospital due to a skin infection obtained in prison, according to her sister Yamilet Garro.

These activists from Havana were accompanied by more than 30 men, all of them public dissidents.

In Matanzas province a total of 17 women marched and participated in Mass. 3 made it in Ciego de Avila and 10 in Guantanamo.

Pro-freedom activists Iván Hernández Carrillo (@ivanlibre), Sayli Navarro (@SayliNavarro), Ángel Moya Acosta (@jangelmoya) and Anyer Antonio Blanco (@anyerantoniobla) reported and confirmed these numbers in their respective Twitter accounts.

Despite 60 arrests in Santiago   de Cuba, 4 women surpassed police cordons and made it to El Cobre National Shrine. In Holguin province, various Ladies were reportedly arrested.

It is common for these women from Santiago (many who hail from other Eastern regions) to leave their homes since Friday or Saturday to surpass police operations and arrive to mass at El Cobre Shrine. Many times they have to sleep at bus stations, cross and hide in fields or walk miles under rain and intense heat to escape police persecution. Some times, once near the temple they are refused vacancy by priests at the service of State Security.

On his Twitter account, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia (@jdanielferrer) explained this Sunday that “the Ladies in White of Santiago de Cuba, cross fields, hills, rivers and creeks to try and stay a night in the small hotel of El Cobre”.

The Ladies in White continue marching because they have already conquered a public space, all due to their 10 years of relentless perseverance. They will not allow any government soldier and/or official to take this space from them. The arrests may increase, but so too will the public demonstrations by these brave women.

Ladies in White in Havana, 4/7/13. Photo by @jangelmoya
Ladies in White in Havana, 4/7/13. Photo by: @jangelmoya
Ladies in White in Cardenas, Matanzas, 4/7/13. Photo by @SayliNavarro

One year later: Sonia Garro imprisoned without trial and with several health issues, her sister asks for solidarity

Sonia Garro (Lady in White) & her husband Ramon Munoz

“They [the prison authorities] tell me that I have to wait, that her file is at the hands of the fiscal authorities and that her case is being analyzed”, said Yamilet Garro this past Sunday, March 10th, in reference to her sister, the Lady in White Sonia Garro Alfonso, and her brother-in-law Ramon Alejandro Munoz, just days before the 1 year anniversary in which they were both arrested by the political police. The declarations were made to former political prisoner Ivan Hernandez Carrillo and published on his YouTube channel.

Sonia Garro and her husband Ramon Munoz, both members of the Independent Afro-Cuban Foundation, were arrested by the State Police in Havana on March 18th, 2012, after a violent operation which consisted in being shot by rubber bullets and being beat. It was part of a wave of detentions against dissidents during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the island. They were accused of “public disorder” and “assassination attempt” (with no proof) and both have suffered threats and mistreatments during their time behind bars.

Yamilet Garro also highlighted that her sister is suffering the deterioration of her health, considering that she has a cyst on her liver and has not received the adequate medical attention in the women’s prison known as “Manto Negro” (literally translated meaning ‘Black Cloak’).

Meanwhile, Ramon Munoz is being held in a cell alongside common prisoners, although the motives of his jailing were due to his posture against the Cuban regime. Munoz also has health problems, adds Yamilet in her declarations, as he suffers from a gastric ulcer.

In the past months, it has been denounced that State Security has used common female prisoners, convicted of crimes, to threaten Sonia Garro with death and/or beatings.

“I ask the world for solidarity with the situation of my sister”, said a desperate Yamilet Garro Alfonso, concerned for the fate of her relatives.

Her declarations can be heard, in Spanish, in the following audio:

Sister of Political Prisoner Sonia Garro Alfonso Updates on her Situation (AUDIO)

Sonia Garro and her husband Ramon Munoz, both imprisoned since March 2012

Yamilet Garro Alfonso, sister of Sonia Garro Alfonso, who has been unjustly imprisoned since March 18th 2012 simply for being a human rights activist and member of the Ladies in White in Cuba, said this Sunday August 5th 2012, through a communication made possible by independent journalist Ivan Hernandez Carrillo, that her sister was recently harassed, violently beaten and confined to a punishment cell for 11 days in the Manto Negro Prison (Havana) where she resides.

The violence occurred when the penal guards transferred Sonia to the Combinado del Este Prison, as they had allowed her a brief visit with one of her brothers who is imprisoned in that center.  According to Yamilet, at the moment when a guard from the Combinado Prison told Sonia that the visit time was up and that she had to be transferred back to Manto Negro, it began to rain and the activist explained that she could not be transferred at that moment because she could not get wet, due to the fact that she was sick and suffers from other medical conditions.  The guard simply repeated that she had to be taken back and said that he did not care “because all worms should be underground“.

Sonia Garro was finally taken back to Manto Negro despite the rain.  Once there, the authorities took ‘disciplinary measures’ against her.  “Sonia said that she had nothing else to say and sat on the floor in the form of protest“, explained Yamilet, “they told her she would be taken to a punishment cell… they carried her, they beat her, they ripped all her clothes off of her and she was kept for 11 days in the punishment cell, without any medical attention

However, Sonia Garro is not the only one under harassment by the forces of the Cuban regime.  Her sister, Yamilet, narrates that “they did not inform me that she was in a punishment cell, knowing that I am the one who goes to visit her.  I went twice to the prison during that period and they did not let me see her“, explaining that, for her, the process to make it to the prison is not easy, considering that she has to take care of her underage children.  “I spent 15 days without any information about her state of health.  Last Sunday [July 29th] was the day in which she was taken out of the punishment cell“.

In addition, Yamilet has suffered threats on behalf of the political police due to the activism of her sister.  “I am receiving threats from the military police, saying that I cannot assist gatherings of the Ladies in White.  They have prohibited my son from continuing his studies after graduating from the ninth grade.  They have threatened my neighbors and, in reality, I am afraid, not for me but for my children“.

Ramón Muñoz González, husband of Sonia Garro, is also imprisoned since the same date of March 18th 2012.  He is in the Combinado del Este Prison.  He was arrested as he defended his wife from the aggressions of the police agents.  In fact, both were shot with rubber bullets by the police.  Munoz Gonzalez also suffers tortures in prison.  His jailers have ripped all of his clothes and demand him to wear the common prisoners uniform, something which he has completely refused to do.  He is currently in a cell without a shirt.

Sonia Garro Alfonso y Ramón Muñoz González are two of the many who were detained during a repressive crackdown by the Cuban regime in March, just days prior to Pope Benedict’s visit to the island, though most other detainees were released eventually.  Also imprisoned from around that time are  Niurka Luque Álvarez (also a Lady in White), Jorge Vázquez Chaviano, Dany López de Moya, Bismark Mustelier Galán, among others.

Listen to the testimony of Yamilet Garro Alfonso, narrating the arbitrary actions against Sonia and Ramon (in Spanish):

Audio courtesy of former political prisoner and independent journalist Ivan Hernandez Carrillo and the activist @mspianoteacher.