Cubans Throughout the Island Pay Tribute to Victims of the “13th of March” Tugboat Massacre

Some of the victims of the Tugboat Massacre

18 years ago, forces of the Cuban regime assassinated 41 people who were trying to flee the country in search of freedom in the United States aboard an old tugboat (“13th of March”).  The crime occurred on July 13th, 1994, when a couple of other state vessels persecuted the tugboat (which had 69 people on board), blocked its path, and used a cannon to fire water at the Cubans.  41 of those people died, drowned or from the impact, and among them were 11 minors.

In 2012, during the anniversary of this massacre, the repression of the regime (the same one which committed the crime) was not able to impede Cubans throughout the island from honoring the victims.

On the eve of the anniversary, about 18 activists in Santa Cruz del Sur, Camaguey, met at the home of dissident Yoan David Gonzalez Milanes to carry out a candlelight vigil followed by a pots and pan protest in memory of the vicitms.  On the following day, July 13th, this same group had plans to march out of the home up to a local river, where they would deposit flowers in honor of those assassinated.  However, government mobs surrounded the home, shouted violent slogans, kicked down the door, and impeded the dissidents from stepping out.  Regardless, on the morning of Saturday July 14th, the dissidents once again tried to step out of the house, and this time they did, although they were arrested by forces of the political police.

Another successful pots and pan protest took place on July 12th in the city of Placetas, in Santa Clara, where dissidents like Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez”, Marta Díaz Rondon and Leticia Ramos Herrería participated.  They were carrying out a meeting there, debating a new opposition campaign dubbed “Towards the National Strike”.

July 13th began with the news that 6 activists from the Central Opposition Coalition in Santa Clara also carried out a peaceful march to a local river to also deposit flowers, but all of these members were violently arrested.  Among them was Idania Yánez Contreras, Rolando Ferrer Espinosa, Alcides Rivera and Damaris Moya Portieles. However, Alcides Rivera managed to throw the flowers into the river right before being arrested.  In the case of Yanez Contreras, she was shoved into a police vehicle and kept in there for nearly an hour before being taken into custody in a police unit, with the engine off, the windows up and under the scorching sun.

The Free Yorubas Association of Cuba, a religious organization independent from state control, carried out a religious ceremony a couple of days before the anniversary, in which they prayed for the victims and prayed for the freedom of Cuba.

In Havana, the home of Lady in White Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo had already been completely surrounded by the political police for 5 days, keeping her family and other dissidents from going out to the street.  Fonseca explained that, although they could not make it out, she managed to hang a large sign on her porch with messages condemning the Castro regime for the tugboat massacre and honoring the victims, highlighting that there were minors among the murdered.  The activist added that other members of the group which she presides over- the Pro Human Rights Party of Cuba– did manage to surpass police cordons and pay tribute to the victims publicly in the same province of Havana.

Meanwhile, also in Havana but in the neighborhood of Arroyo Naranjo, Eriberto Liranza Romero said that various activists from the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy shocked the police, despite having been under threats and vigilance for 2 weeks, managing to throw flowers into a local river.  On the morning of Saturday the 14th, Liranza explained on Twitter that other activities were being carried out by other members of the same youth group.

In Banes, Holguin, a group of dissidents from the Eastern Democratic Alliance marched to a river as well, successfully throwing flowers.  These same dissidents managed to surpass a police cordon which had been set up by State Security Major Roilan Cruz, one of the main culprits of Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s assassination in 2010.

Other similar activities were reported in other provinces and cities, although telephone interruptions made it difficult to confirm further details.

Meanwhile, various Cubans across the island sent out messages through Twitter, using the hashtag #Remolcador13M (#Tugboat13M).  One of these Twitter users was former political prisoners Pedro Arguelles Moran who mentioned the anniversary and emphasized that the crime was executed under “orders of the Castro tyranny“.

The Pastor and blogger Mario Felix Barroso tweeted, “The assassins are still out on the street, but God will do justice“.  Meanwhile, Yoani Sanchez recalled that she was 17 years old when the massacre occurred and mentioned that many people, including her friends, would also risk their lives at sea in search of freedom.  She explained that she did not know of the crime until “a couple of months after“, but affirmed that “ignorance does not free us of responsibility“.

Help us to not forget them“, continued another Tweet by Sanchez, “to denounce the injustice“.  The blogger also published a link to a harrowing testimony by one of the survivors.

The youngest victims
Cubans Throughout the Island Pay Tribute to Victims of the “13th of March” Tugboat Massacre

Crackdown Attempts to Impede the “Day of the Resistance” in Placetas

On Monday Novemebr 21st, 5 dissidents who were on their way to the home of Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez” in Placetas were victims of violent arrests.  Those arrested were Yoan David González Milanes, Maury Emilio Redonde, Guillermo Rodríguez Rodríguez, Juan Luis Pérez García and Berlay Bejerano Estrada, all of which were coming from the town of Santa Cruz and who are all members of the November 30th Democratic Frank Pais Movement and the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front.

Antunez explains that the dissidents had planned on meeting in his home to kick off the activities which would lead to the 24th of the month, the “Day of the Resistance“.

Yoan David Gonzalez

The dissident from Placetas emphasized the case of one the arrested Resistance members- Yoan David Gonzalez Milanes- who is “a physically handicapped person, who is missing one of his legs and despite this was still dragged and brutally beaten” by the regime’s forces during the arrest.  The stepson of Gonzalez Milanes, Dayan Mayor Betancourt of 20 years of age had to “pretend to be a secondary school student” and that was the only way he was able to make it past the police operation and into the house.  Both Dayan and Antunez denounced all the aggressions committed against Yoan and the rest of the activists.

I also want to denounce  the case of the young dissident Berlay Bejerano Estrado.  She suffers from high blood pressure and she was brutally beaten before they took her away“, declared Antunez, adding that the 5 continued to be detained as of the afternoon of November 22nd.

What is occurring here is nothing new, my house continues to be surrounded“, adds Antunez.  “Regardless, what is happening here is that the Castro tyranny is demonstrating its fear, its rage, and its inability to stop the Day of the Resistance and all the activism which has surged from its convocation“.

I am sending out a warning to the world about the repression which will occur on the 24th of November“.

Crackdown Attempts to Impede the “Day of the Resistance” in Placetas

New Censorship Tactic Applied Against Antunez, But he Does Not Remain Silent

When the authors of this blog called Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez” this past Tuesday, August 30th, to record some declarations about the savage beating carried out against a dissident- Yoan David Gonzalez Milanes- the voice emanating from the other line was not what was expected.  As it turns out, the Cuban political police, bent on silencing and humiliating any person who opposes them, has applied another form of censorship- manipulating voices coming out of cell phones.  Antunez condemned that, this time, the repressive apparatus of the Cuban tyranny, in all its desperation, worked together with the Cuban phone company ETECSA  to distort his voice, making it difficult to understand, attempting to make recorded declarations less credible and to make fun of him.

We had to call the cell phone of Yris Tamara, wife of Antunez, in order to better communicate and record his message.  We were able to record his normal voice, from his wife’s phone, and his distorted phone on his cell phone.  Here are the recordings.  The first half is his regular voice, the second is the work of the Cuban political police:

On that same Tuesday, various reports were detailing that the telephone lines of many dissidents had been blocked by the Cuban regime.  Many have suggested that this increased censorship is because dissidents have been constantly reporting all the atrocities being committed against them and everyday citizens on the island, specifically the savage beatings of the Ladies in White and other activists.  Recently, dissident blogger Luis Felipe Rojas reported that he too was facing harsh censorship as he traveled miles in an attempt to access the internet, which as it turns out was restricted.  Antunez classifies all these restrictions and all the beatings against dissidents as “brutal and cowardly acts of repression employed by the Castro-communist tyranny throughout the entire island, especially in Eastern Cuba“.

This violence seen all over the country proves the desperation and rage of the regime“, stated Antunez, “they do not want to accept all the success being achieved by the Cuban resistance, which despite beatings and prison threats is still taking to the streets“.

The dissident from Placetas also declared that the manipulation of his voice, just like all other forms of censorship practiced against dissidents, is attributed to the fact that members of the resistance have been using their phones and Twitter messages to report and record many public protests which have been occurring throughout the island, like the recent street protests in Havana (members of the Rosa Parks movement in the Havana Capitol building, public protest in the Cuatro Caminos Market, family of imprisoned dissident protests in a Havana street August 30th).  According to Antunez, those who take to the street are the ones that “fight in the most difficult and important scenario“.

Dissident Yoan David Gonzalez Milanes Beaten by Political Police

Antunez also expressed concern for the health of the young dissident Yoan David Gonzalez Milanes who is handicapped, as he is missing a leg.  “Just a few hours ago“, Antunez explained, “he denounced that he had just been beaten by an instigator of the political.  Crutches and all, he was beaten and injured“.  Antunez considers Yoan David to be a dignified representative of the Cuban resistance and he is calling on the international community to intercede for him.  He also expressed worry for Raul Risco Perez, a dissident and member of the Orlando Zapata National Front from Pinar del Rio.  Just a few days ago, Risco suffered a severe beating and arrest at the hands of the political police while he carried out a peaceful street protest.  As of yet, he is still missing.

Despite the fact that the dictatorship’s forces seek to impede information from leaving Cuba, dissidents always find a way to express their opinions and to denounce all the crimes committed daily against those who do not agree with the government.  They may distort the voice of Antunez, but he will continue protesting and joining in solidarity with other brave dissidents in the island.  “Our utmost respect and admiration for Raul Risco, for the brave women of the Rosa Parks Movement, for the Ladies in White, for that giant of the Cuban resistance- Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia- who carries out an important role in the East of Cuba, fore the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Front, for Sara Marta Fonseca, and for all Cubans who fight for freedom in or out of the island“.  He also acknowledged and thanked the Assembly of the Resistance, an umbrella group which includes more than 60 dissident groups both in and out of the country.

“Our brothers everywhere must know that in Cuba there is a wave of dissidents formed by young members, blacks, whites, country people, and all sorts of Cubans, and they are at the forefront of the struggle and that should be followed closely.  My Cuban brothers, and all friends of Cuba, freedom is near“.

New Censorship Tactic Applied Against Antunez, But he Does Not Remain Silent