Waves of arrests can’t impede Ladies in White from celebrating life of Laura Pollan

Laura Pollan Toledo

Closed streets, diverted traffic, countless police vehicles, agents dressed in civilian clothing, and a wave of arrests.  That was how the operation of the Cuban regime against the Ladies in White looked like this Wednesday, February 13th, when women from throughout all the provinces of the country set out towards their national headquarters in Havana to pay tribute to Laura Pollan– deceased leader of the group-who would have turned 65.

Despite the repressive measures, the Ladies continued onward with their plans to celebrate the date.

Since the morning hours, former political prisoner Angel Moya Acosta published a series of Twitter messages detailing what was happening with these women.

“Repressive forces are stationed on the streets leading to the headquarters of the Ladies in White on Neptune Street”, read Moya’s first tweet.  The activist continued to describe the presence of numerous “police and private vehicles” ready to arrest any of the women who would try to arrive to the encounter.

At around 9 AM, there had already been 5 confirmed arrests of Ladies in White.  Just minutes later, the number rose to 27.  Throughout the day, many more arrests were confirmed.

Two of the detained women were Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo and Yanelys Cabrera who set out from Boyeros (Havana) towards Neptune Street.  The arrests were violent.

“I received physical blows on my head, back and arms.  I am dizzy”, tweeted Fonseca Quevedo upon being released minutes later.  “Police vehicle # 570 left me in a desolate area in the municipality of Lisa”, added another message, but Sara Marta assured that she would head out again towards the meeting to “carry out her her right to freedom of peaceful association and assembly”.

In that second attempt, Sara Marta and Yanelys were once again detained.

Despite all the police cordons which kept dozens of other women from arriving to the event, more than 50 Ladies in White were able to participate in the encounter in honor of Laura Pollan in their headquarters.

Once the event came to an end, the repressive measures only increased.

Ladies in White waiting for transportation at “La Coubre” bus terminal

When a group of 29 women from the Eastern provinces set out to the bus terminal known as “La Coubre” that night to board a bus to head back home, the transportation never showed up.  Hours passed and the situation remained the same, until Berta Soler and Angel Moya head out from their homes and showed up at the terminal in solidarity with the women.  Also present was Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) activist Osmany Cespedes Napoles.

The total of 30 women- 13 from Santiago de Cuba, 11 from Holguin, 3 from Guantanamo and 2 from Villa Clara (as well as Berta Soler from Havana)- decided to carry out a peaceful protest at around 2 AM in front of the terminal, shouting slogans such as “We want transportation”.

(Ángel Moya published this video of the protest):

The result of the protest was the brutal arrest of the 30 women, as well as of the other activists present, Angel Moya and Osmany Cespedes.  Radio/TV Marti published a detailed video-report of what happened with the activists.(In this video published by ‘Hablemos Press’, Ladies in White express their discontent regarding the lack of transportation).
The young activist Anyer Antonio Blanco, from UNPACU, informed that his mother, Lady in White Ana Celia Rodríguez, managed to establish communication with him during the moment of the arrests.  Ana denounced that all the women, including herself, were being violently beat and Anyer heard screams of “Long Live Laura Pollan”.
At around 2 AM, the Ladies in White and other activists were detained and transferred to undisclosed locations and it was during night hours on Thursday and morning hours of Friday that they started to be released and/or deported. All these arbitrary actions against the Ladies in White between the 13th and 14th of February occurred because these women were paying tribute to Laura Pollan when she would have turned 65.  The same regime which lead Pollan to her death can’t tolerate that her legacy be celebrated.  Regardless, as Angel Moya tweeted:”Do not doubt it, the repressive operations set out through Neptune St in Havana prove the moral strength of the Ladies in White in Cuba”.

Laura Pollan Lives!

Sara Marta Fonseca: Arrested on Mother’s Day in Cuba

“Once again, our country has suffered under the tyranny which oppresses all those citizens who raise their voices to defend the rights of the entire nation“, said Lady in White Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo, referring to this past weekend when Mother’s Day was being celebrated around the world.  The activist- mother of two- was one of the women detained by state police for trying to assist a reunion being held at the headquarters of the group, in the former home of Laura Pollan, located on Neptuno Street in Havana.

The mentioned reunion began on Saturday, May 12th and despite an extensive and aggressive act of repudiation (orchestrated by regime agents), a number of Ladies in White were able to make it and spend that moment together, exchanging gits and praying for the release of political prisoners.  However, Fonseca Quevedo explained that on that same day, the activists Yanerys Cabrera and Silvia Barbara Diaz Vazquez were also arrested during morning hours when they tried to reach the reunion.  Meanwhile, the home of Fonseca was surrounded by regime agents starting during late night hours of Friday, May 11th.

“At around 11 PM on Friday, there was a police operation around my house here in Rio Verde”, said Fonseca, “On Saturday, the 12th, we awoke and saw that we were totally surrounded by repressive agents of State Security, along with their informants, which we Cubans refer to as ‘snitches’ at the service of the dictatorship”. 

Fonseca and her family spent all of Saturday in that same manner, surrounded.

On Sunday- Mother’s Day- Sara Marta decided to step out of her home and walk to the headquarters of the Ladies in White to meet up with the rest of the women.  She had intentions of marching along with them to assist Sunday mass.  However, the forces of the Cuban regime had other plans for her.  “I was arrested and taken to the Santiago de las Vegas police unit, where I was kept for various hours“, said the human rights activist, adding that “the political police did not even have the courage to confront any of us Ladies in White they had arrested in such an arbitrary manner.  They did not give us a single explanation in regards to the measures taken against us“.

When Fonseca arrived to the police unit, handcuffed and in custody of various police officers, she began to shout “Long Live Laura Pollan”, “Long Live the Ladies in White”, and “Freedom for Cuba“.

During her time in the jail cell, Fonseca explained that she was able to see the political detainee Calixto Ramon Martinez Areas, an independent journalist and member of the Pro-Human Rights Party of Cuba who was arrested on Thursday, May 10th, under accusations of “being illegal” in the Cuban Capital.  Various activists throughout the island, especially the independent journalists of ‘Hablemos Press’, have denounced the case of Areas and have demanded his unconditional and immediate release.  According to the Lady in White, Calixto Ramon had already “been on hunger strike for 4 days” when she saw him.

The independent journalist was arrested near the Jose Marti Airport, located in the municipality of Boyeros, in Havana.  The authorities want to deport him to his province of origin- Camaguey.  In regards to this, Fonseca Quevedo said “(the regime) continues violating the rights of all Cubans.  They deport us in our own country, as if we were foreigners“.

Despite the repression, Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo said that she felt “very content” with the news that 68 Ladies in White surpassed police cordons and were able to march down Havana’s 5th Avenue and attend mass in the Santa Rita Church on Mother’s Day. “For me, this news was the best gift“, said the activist, despite the fact that she was jailed.

For more information from  Cuba:

Sara Marta Fonseca – Cell Phone:  +5353-379-011     // Twitter: @SaraMartaCuba