Velasco, Holguin: Lives of activists in danger at the hands of repressors

Yonart Rodriguez Avila

Death threats, nocturnal attacks, persecution and confrontations against human rights activists of different pro-freedom groups. Those are the scenes being reported from Velasco, Holguin. In all of these cases, government officials- retired and active- have been signaled as the culprits.

This April 1st, Yonart Rodriguez Avila, the representative of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy in the Eastern region of the country, denounced that while he was with his mother, Lady in White Mariblanca Avila Exposito, in their home, the retired Rapid Response Brigade official Miguel Leyva Leyva showed up to offend and threaten them.

Leyva Leyva said that he is the owner of this area and that he would destroy our home and anything we build“, said Yonart, explaining that the repressor had threatened to destroy a small fence they had been building around the house a few days before.

“I want to mention that this individual is very dangerous“, said the dissident, “He dedicates himself to provoke activists out on the street. If he walks near us on the street he bumps into us on purpose, he spits towards us, and he asks us what we are looking at“.

Leyva has participated in acts of repudiation and beatings against dissidents in Velacsco, as well as other regions of Holguin.

George Luis Leyva Ferras, of the Cuban Youth Movement and the Eastern Democratic Alliance, reported that on March 31st the dissident Julio Perez Zaldivar, of the Republican Party of Cuba, received a death threat by an active functionary of the Rapid Response Brigades named Mario Naranjo Sanchez.

Naranjo Sanchez told this activist that he was carrying a gun, which the political police gave him and authorized him to use as he wished, and that on his list to kill was Perez Zaldivar, my wife Daylin Guerrero and me [Leyva Ferras]“.

The agent also told Leyva Ferras that “all the karate experts in Velasco are at his disposition so that, when he decided, they attack us“.

Meanwhile, on April 1st Miguel Leyva, Mario Naranjo, Fernando Molina and Ruben Velazquez (whom all operate together) were seen walking through the streets of Velasco carrying knives, according to neighbors.

A neighbor who is my friend confirmed this to me“, explained Ferras, “and the same neighbor heard them say that they were going to stab me to death. The repressors are saying this everyday“.

The homes of Mariblanca Avila and Eirnice Cespedes, respectively, have also been stoned during the night recently.

Also, on the night of April 2nd, activist Raul Rodriguez Leyva, of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) was assaulted by an unidentified person who tried to stab him. Rodriguez managed to escape the attack, dodging the stabs, but the knife sliced the dissident’s shirt, according to Yonart Rodriguez. This happened on 18th Street in the Varona neighborhood of Velasco.

José Daniel Ferrer García, leader of UNPACU, denounced the same situation on his Twitter account (@jdanielferrer), explaining that those nocturnal attacks “are ordered by the regime’s political police”.

Rodriguez Avila described it as “an attempt on the activist’s life“.

Among the recently threatened and affected dissidents are Mariblanca Avila Expositio, Yonart Rodriguez Avila, Julio Perez Zaldivar Raul Rodriguez Leyva, Eirnice Cespedes Estrada, George Luis Leyva Ferras and Daylin Guerreron, as well as the two small children of the latter- Jason (3 years old) and Jessica (1). Within this group there were members of the Ladies in White, the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy, the Republican Party of Cuba, the Patriotic Union of Cuba and the Eastern Democratic Alliance.

Some of these activists have turned to state organisms to denounce their cases but the functionaries have ignored their claims.

We want to send an alert to the world about these situations, and not only what is happening to us, but what is happening with all activists in Cuba“, said Yonart Rodriguez Avila, “we say no to violence, no to death, no to abuses and we say no to beatings“.

Anything that happens to us is the fault of the regime and its repressors… they are capable of doing anything against us“.

For more information from Cuba, contact:

Yonart Rodríguez Ávila- Cell Phone: +53-602-782 / Twitter: @yonartcuba José Daniel Ferrer García- Cell Phone: +53-146-740 / Twitter: @jdanielferrer

Velasco, Holguin: Lives of activists in danger at the hands of repressors

Building collapse in Havana leaves one dead, various injured and…detainees?

During afternoon hours of February 26th, in Havana, a building located directly across the street from the Central Train Station collapsed, killing one 15 year old boy who was trapped in the rubble, and injuring another two, according to “Hablemos Press” . The scene turned even more chaotic when various political police agents who were present lashed out against various people who were trying to figure out the whereabouts of their loved ones. Also witnessing the events were dissidents Yonart Rodríguez Ávila and Denis Pino Basulto, both from the Eastern region of the country, who were arrested for displaying solidarity with the victims’ relatives.

Rodriguez Avila described his arrest in the “Foro Juvenil Cubano“, the blog of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy, explaining that police agents covered the mouth of one of the relatives of the deceased and applied martial arts locks on others, keeping them from getting close to the scene of the disaster. It was then that the activists started to shout out slogans against the regime and in solidarity with the victims, which led to their arbitrary arrests.

Denis Pino told this blog that “a police agent applied a headlock on me, pushed down on my neck and strangled me. They dragged me, and delivered physical blows on my ribs and my head. They asphyxiated me until the point that I passed out“. The dissident was later taken to a nearby hospital but, once he awoke, he refused to be treated there for fear that they would attempt on his life.

“I left the hospital, I just walked out through a hallway“, he said.

Upon knowing that Yonart Rodriguez was still detained in the Dragones Unit of Havana, Pino Basulto set out towards that unit, protesting outside along with Yonart’s mother, the Lady in White Mariblanca Avila Exposito, also from Velasco, Holguin.

We were protesting there, demanding the release of Yonart“, explained Denis, “but they kept him there until the following day, on February 27th, and I was detained again for a few hours“.

Mariblanca Avila added that February 26th was her son’s 32nd birthday, which he spent in a dungeon.

Denis Pino showing some scars left on his body after violent arrest on January of 2012. Photo by: Luis Felipe Rojas

On his part, Denis points out that he emerged from his arrest with “lots of pain in my throat, pain in my ribs and on my arms. It was a very violent arrest. We were treated like animals“.

I want the world to know what is happening in Cuba. After 50 years of dictatorship, the buildings are still collapsing“, expressed Pino Basulto, also highlighting the absurd fact that activists were arrested for displaying solidarity with a family at the time of their profound pain and desperation. “This regime has increased repression against human rights activists. We are demanding that this repression, which is constant, come to an end“.

Denis Pino Basulto has been victim of police violence on numerous occasions due to his pro-freedom activism within various groups such as the Pedro Luis Boitel Movement, the Eastern Democratic Alliance (ADO) and Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID). One of the most violent cases against this young dissident occurred on January 8th, 2012, when he was savagely beat by police officials in Holguin province, who covered his face with a plastic bag.

Various sources have indicated that politically-driven arrests have upped on the island so far during this year. The independent news agency based in Havana, “Hablemos Press“, for instance, documented 471 arrests of activists throughout Cuba only in the month of February, the shortest month of the year.

For more information from Cuba, contact:

Denis Pino Basulto – Cell Phone: +52-552-837

Yonart Rodriguez Avila – Cell Phone: +53-602-782 / Twitter: @Yonartcuba

Building collapse in Havana leaves one dead, various injured and…detainees?

Dictatorship tries to impede celebrations of a date which belongs to all Cubans

Drawing of Marti on cover of famous Cuban magazine. 1955.

With all and for the good of all” – one of the most famous phrases by Jose Marti is, perhaps, also one of the ideas which the totalitarian system in Cuba fears the most, proven- year after year- every 28th of January when countless uniformed agents are sent out throughout the island to try and impede civic demonstrations to commemorate the anniversary of his birth.  2013, the 160th anniversary, was no exception.

The police operations began on Sunday the 27th.  In Palma Soriano, Santiago de Cuba, the home of dissident Yuniesky Dominguez Gonzalez– member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU)– was attacked with feces, staining the door and windows.  Dominguez directly blamed the political police for this, since he and his wife, Lady in White Taimi Vega Biscet, had plans to carry out a tribute to Marti.

These are methods employed by the political police, I hold them responsible as well as the Communist Party and all other instruments of the regime“, said the activist.

Meanwhile, despite police vigilance and direct threats by State Security, in Havana 41 Ladies In White managed to carry out their traditional march to Santa Rita Church and later to Mahatma Gandhi Park (See video, courtesy of ‘Hablemos Press’). These women deposited flowers in a statue of Marti in that park and commenced to read various phrases by the poet.

In Cardenas, Matanzas, Leticia Ramos Herreria and other Ladies in White marched for 26 blocks until they arrived to a local park to also deposit flowers in another Jose Marti statue.  This achievement bothered the authorities to the point that State Security officials summoned Ramos to a police unit for the following day.  The activist recounts that she was threatened and offended during the interrogation but that she refused to sign any sort of document and let them know very clear that she would continue going out to the streets of Cuba.

On Monday, the 28th, the repression increased but so did the peaceful and public demonstrations.  In the same province of Matanzas, but in the city of Colon, Juan Francisco Rangel was also summoned to the police station and later surrounded in his own home by agents to try and impede a march.  However, he managed to take to the streets along with other activists from the Pedro Luis Boitel Party for Democracy, successfully carrying out the activity and depositing flowers for Marti, according to a Tweet published by Carlos Olivera (@COliveraCuba).

In Santa Clara, Villa Clara, a group of dissidents from the Central Opposition Coalition also took to the streets shouting slogans in favor of change and honoring Marti.  They were all violently arrested, according to a report by independent journalist and blogger Carlos Michael Morales Rodríguez.

Not too far from that city, in Placetas, members of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front carried out a protest against the regime, also screaming slogans such as “Jose Marti Lives“, as was captured in an audio published by ‘Radio Republica’ in the voice of dissident leader Jorge Luis García Pérez ‘Antúnez’.

A successful march with signs containing anti-regime messages and Jose Marti phrases took place on the streets of Quemado de Guines, Villa Clara, by various members of the Cuban Reflection Movement, among them Maydelis Gonzalez Almeida, who said the march “took place despite strong police vigilance“.

Activity in Quemado de Guines infront of Marti bust. January 28th, 2013

Despite acts of repudiation and some arrests, in Camaguey a public activity was carried out by activists of the Pro-Human Rights Party of Cuba, said Daniel Millet Jimenez.

In Grua Nueva, Ciego de Avila, dissidents of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights and from the Pedro Luis Boitel Resistance Movement congregated to honor Jose Marti.

Throughout the Eastern region of the country, members of the Eastern Democratic Alliance in Baracoa, according to Francisco Luis Manzanet Ortiz, and of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy (CYMD) in Velasco, according to  Yonart Rodríguez Avila, also carried out their own meetings, marches and demonstrations in honor of Marti.  Yoandri Montoya Aviles said that in Bayamo, members of the Youth Movement of Bayamo paid homage to the “Apostle of Cuba”.

CYMD also carried out other activities in the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, in Havana, publishing some photos of the events in their blog.  In the same province, Lady in White  Sara Marta Fonseca held a vigil and an encounter in her home located in Rio Verde, Boyeros.

UNPACU also published some testimonies on their YouTube channel detailing repressive actions against activists for trying to carry out their own tributes in Guantanamo.

Former political prisoner of conscience Ivan Hernandez Carrillo published a series of Twitter messages (@ivanlibre) denouncing that dissidents Pastor Alexis Huerta and Carlos Alberto Gómez, members of the Independent and Democratic Cuba Party (CID), were violently arrested in the central city of Sancti Spiritus also for trying to carry out similar tributes as those occurring throughout the country.  Cases of repression, police cordons, and beatings were also confirmed in Pinar del Rio against other CID members and the Pinar del Rio Democratic Alliance.

These were only a few of the events which took place on the island between the 27th and 28th of January, when Cubans paid tribute to one of the figures most representative of their culture- a culture which does not belong just to one political group or dictator.

 “A just cause, from the bottom of a cave, is more powerful than any army”

-Jose Marti

Dictatorship tries to impede celebrations of a date which belongs to all Cubans

State Police Lashes Out Against Ladies in White of Holguin

“They have told us that they are going to pour gasoline on us and are going to light fire to the house and burn us all alive, including the underage children”, said the representative of the Ladies in White in the province of Holguin, Berta Guerrero Segura, in reference to the mobs organized by State Security and the political police, which are made up by agents of the mentioned military groups and of other government entities.  These same mobs surrounded her home and carried out an act of repudiation during half of Thursday, October 4th and the majority of Friday, October 5th.

The Ladies in White in this Eastern province have been receiving threats and arrests not only on Sundays when they try to assist Catholic Mass, but daily, when they try to buy food or other products in the local market, when they try to carry out meetings to talk about personal issues or when they try to visit relatives or other activists, whether it be within the same province of Holguin or other regions.

The person usually leading and organizing these actions is State Security agent Rafael Chapman”, detailed Guerrero Segura, “and they have been cutting our phone lines… many of us are being arrested, while we can’t confirm the fate of others because our phones don’t work”.

The police operations against these women on Friday the 5th consisted in a mob made up by various uniformed soldiers surrounding Guerrero’s home, as well as two police vehicles stationed outside, keeping a tight vigilance and impeding any other woman or activist from coming close to the headquarters of the group in that province, located in the 26th of July neighborhood.

In regards to the threats that they would be burned alive, Berta Guerrero does not doubt for a second that the agents would actually turn to that, considering that they have been excessively violent in the past, like when they raided the home of Lady in White Glisedis Pina Gonzalez (also in Holguin) this past 18th of August 2012, where they beat all those inside, including some underage children who were also injured with incoming rocks being hurled at them by the government mobs.  The regime agents have also been frequently arresting the elderly aged Lady in White Rosaida Gonzalez Escalona, despite her frail health.  They have also mercilessly beaten other members of the group to the point of unconsciousness or heavy bruises.  Harassments are also common.

In one particular case, one of these Ladies in White, 22 year old Eleiny Villamonte Cardozo, recounts that she was arrested upon trying to arrive to the national headquarters of the group in Havana this past 23rd of September to celebrate the day of the Virgin of Mercy.  The young activist explained that she was confined, along with other women, to the Havana police unit known as “El Vivac” and they were then deported towards Holguin.

When they had us en route to Holguin, in a police unit of Ciego de Avila, they actually gave us food- and good food- something which never happens in the dungeons.  I was confused by this but then I noticed they were recording us.  Their tactic was to record us eating good, to say that we were never treated bad, that they take care of us”, said Villamonte.

She added that “when we finally arrived to Holguin on Tuesday the 25th, Douglas, the chief of Confrontation, gave orders to lock us up in cells.  They put me in a dungeon with a camera pointing right at me, and a Ministry of the Interior official told me that I was being accused of ‘attempting against the government’ and that I should mentally prepare myself because long days were coming up ahead, seeing as I would be sentenced, according to him”.

Eleiny was moved to another unit in the same province, where another unidentified official (also with a MININT uniform) told her that he was going to lock her up with a common prisoner “who had swallowed a barbed wire, to test if I really was not afraid”.  In fact, he told her that “I was his woman for that day”.

Another Lady in White which accompanied her- Danay Mendiola– was told by the same official that “he was going to tear off her pants and underwear to see if she really was tough and did not have fear”.

These threats of sexual violation are common against women who simply try to march throughout the streets of Cuba dressed in white, with the mission of assisting Mass in their respective churches to pray for the freedom of all political prisoners throughout the island.

Similarly, in the same province but in the municipality of Velasco, the Lady in White Mariblanca Avila Exposito denounces that she too lives under a constant “state of harassment”, as she is always being watched and kept from leaving her own home.

In addition, her son Yonart Rodriguez Avila– an activist from the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy- and his wife Yisela Lorenzo Matos are constantly persecuted as well by political police agents.  They are often detained without explanations, as occurred this past 1st of October when the three of them were waiting to board a bus in Velasco and were detained for a number of hours.

After that arrest, they told us that we could not move freely and that we also couldn’t leave our home or the municipality of Velasco”, said Yonart Rodriguez, who adds that in the park adjacent to his house, there are always soldiers stationed there, keeping a watch over each and every one of his movements.

For more information from Cuba:

Berta Guerrero Segura – Cell Phone: +5353-632-110 //  Zuleidis Perez Velázquez – Cell Phone: +5358-244-778 // Eleiny Villamonte Cardozo- Cell Phone: +5352-393

State Police Lashes Out Against Ladies in White of Holguin

Faces Which the Popes Did Not See: Mariblanca Avila Exposito

Lady in White was beaten along with her elderly father, accused of “public disorder” and confined to punishment cells 

In Velazco, Holguin the Lady in White Mariblanca Avila Exposito was arrested on Wednesday, March 21st- 5 days prior to the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI to the island.  Her arrest took place as she was on her way to a clinic to pick up some medications with her elderly father, whom also suffered the violence.  Her son, the dissident Yonart Rodriguez Avila had declared his mother as “disappeared”, considering that the communist functionaries refused to give him any information on her whereabouts or medical condition.

Mariblanca explained that her arrest occurred when “two police officials intercepted me and began to violently beat me.  I was scratched all over my arms and my father fell on the floor“.  The activist narrates that various neighbors joined in solidarity and began to shout against the henchmen who were beating the dissidents, screaming “assassins” and “abusers“.

Avila Exposito was forcefully introduced into a Operational Guard Jeep which took her to the police unit of Velazco.  Her father was left behind.  Once in the unit, the prison officials decided to transfer the dissident to the #6 Attention Unit.  Upon arriving at this Unit, the guards left Mariblanca under surveillance in the jeep under the scorching sun and with music blasting at full volume.  Once again, the functionaries decided to send Mariblanca to another unit, one known as “La Primera” [‘The First’].  There were over 40 police officials waiting for her.  “They pushed me off the vehicle and took me to an office where I was interrogated by an officer known as Juan Miguel“, narrated Avila.  This same official tried to blackmail and threaten the activist, even telling her that he was going to snatch the necklaces she was wearing.  In addition, agent Juan Miguel confiscated Exposito’s cell phone.

For various hours, Mariblanca was confined to a small cell which consisted of a “horrible urine smell“.  But the Lady in White was transferred yet again, this time to the Instructional Unit of Pedernales under charges of “public disorder”.  A police  guard told Mariblanca: “You are too old to be starting these kinds of situations.  We are going to sentence you to 30 years of prison“.  The activist replied: “I am prepared to defend my country“.  Due to her response, she was confined to another dungeon which had no light and no running water.  It was then that Exposito started suffering a hyperglycemia crisis after being kept in inhumane conditions and carrying out a hunger strike as a form of protest against her unjust incarceration.  She maintained that protest for 5 days.

Exposito narrated that on Friday, March 25th, she started to bleed from an ulcer which she suffers from due to her gastritis.  “I felt very bad…on Sunday I bled again.  But other dissidents who were also jailed there started to scream at the police guards to bring me medical assistance“, said the activist.  These jailed dissidents were from all over Eastern Cuba- Banes, Holguin, Santiago de Cuba, and Bayamo, and they were all victims of the same wave of repression due to the papal visit.  According to Mariblanca, a young man who she could not identify started to shout “Zapata Lives” and “Down with the dictatorship“.  A guard approached his cell and “punched him and then took him to a punishment dungeon“.

The Lady in White was released on the night of Tuesday, March 27th, when Pope Benedict was in Havana.  Before the guards left her near her house, they threatened her, affirming that she would be processed under “public disorder”, something which she paid no attention to.

Exposito said she felt physically exhausted and weak, “with dizziness and having had lost several pounds“.  However, the faith which this Cuban harbors has not been shattered.  “God has given me the strength to continue this struggle, which is a struggle for humanity.  We are going to continue out on the streets, going to church, and we will not stop doing what we do.  Even with the torture they subjected me to, I will not stay in my house.  I am going to recuperate myself and I will continue demanding human rights for all Cubans“, she affirmed.

For more information from Cuba:

Yonart Rodríguez Ávila – Cell+5353 – 602 – 782 / Twitter: @yonartcuba

Faces Which the Popes Did Not See: Mariblanca Avila Exposito

Young Activist Invites Pope to “See the Reality of Cuba”. #PopeCuba

Throughout this week this blog will publish declarations from numerous Cuban dissidents and activists in regards to the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the island which will take place this upcoming Monday, March 26th.  The question they are being asked is: Regardless if one is in favor or against the visit of the Pope, it is certain that the eyes of the world will be upon Cuba during those three days.  What message would you send to the world and to Pope Benedict XVI?

Response from Yonart Rodríguez Ávila , activist from the Eastern Democratic Alliance and Active Cuban Youth United (JACU)    

“I would tell him [Pope Benedict XVI] that he see the reality of Cuba, the precarious situations which everyday Cubans live through.  And that right now, the level of repression against civil society and the internal opposition is dramatically increasing.  There are police operations throughout countless neighborhoods.  If he really is God’s representative on earth, or if he is the maximum Catholic authority, I ask him to intercede for the Ladies in White, the dissidents, and all people who want a positive change for their families and their country so that repression against them comes to an end”.

Yonart Rodriguez Avila tends to be victim of police repression in Cuba due to her activism in favor of human rights throughout the streets of Velazco, Holguin, his area of residence.  Recently, his mother, the Lady in White Mariblanca Avila Exposito was violently arrested and disappeared by the forces of the Cuban regime.  The only “crime” which this family has committed is to demand immediate freedom for all Cubans.

Young Activist Invites Pope to “See the Reality of Cuba”. #PopeCuba

Lady in White “Missing” After Violent Arrest. #PopeCuba

Mariblanca Avila Exposito

The young Cuban dissident and human rights activist Yonart Rodriguez Avila denounced, this past Wednesday 21st of March, that his mother, Lady in White Mariblanca Avila Exposito, had been victim of a “very violent arrest” carried out by a number of Cuban political police agents in her hometown of Velazco, Holguin.

Yonart was not able to witness the arrest because he has been out of town for various days.  However, he explains that his mother managed to call him during the aggressions.  “They still hadn’t taken her cell phone“, says Rodriguez, “she told me that it was very violent, that they pushed and shoved her into the police vehicle.  She was then able to call me briefly from the police unit she was being held in“, but her conversation was not too clear because she had said that the agents were going to take her to another unit but that she wasn’t sure when or which one.

On Thursday, March 22nd there was still no word of the Lady in White, except that she was still detained and her whereabouts were unknown.  “We do not know where she is“, affirms Yonart, “when we are detained together we are usually taken to the frontier unit of Gibara, where they beat us violently” but up to this moment there has not been confirmation as to where the activist is being held and therefore is considered “missing“.

This case has occurred as numerous Cuban activists have detailed how a growing wave of repression is sweeping across the island during the past few days as Pope Benedict’s visit nears.  In the Cuban East, dissidents have denounced that they are being surrounded and threatened with prison or physical blows.  In certain cases, communist functionaries have told dissidents that they would not be allowed to travel to the mass which the Pope will offer on Monday, March 26th.

In the case of Mariblanca Avila Exposito, she has been victim of constant vigilance and serious threats of violence by State Security agents, political police officers and members of the Rapid Response Brigades for a series of months.  Her life, as much as her son’s, is under threat because of their civic political activism in favor of freedom for all Cubans.

For more information from Cuba:

Yonart Rodriguez Avila – Cell Phone: +5353 – 602 – 782 / Twitter: @YonartCuba

Lady in White “Missing” After Violent Arrest. #PopeCuba