Another Sunday, Another Day of Repression (Weekend of February 10th- 12th)

This past weekend- from Friday February 10th to Sunday the 12th- was marked by the accustomed brutality of the communist Cuban dictatorship against the non-violent Resistance movement, especially on Sunday against Ladies in White and other dissidents who were simply trying to go to their respective churches.  It is yet another case which Pope Benedict XVI should jot down on his agenda before visiting the island in March.

In the city of Holguin, Lady in White Caridad Caballero Batista and her husband (and also activist) Esteban Sandez Suarez were arrested at 8 in the morning.  Like every Sunday, the husband and wife were trying to assist mass in the local Jesus Christ Redeemer of Man Church when they were violently interrupted “by a group of soldiers, uniformed Interior Ministry officials, political police officers, and State Security agents” who detained them under the orders of agent Douglas Torres, according to Caballero.

The arrest occurred a few blocks from the home of Batista and Suarez, and directly in front of ‘Hilda Torres’ Primary School, where a conglomeration of everyday citizens were standing about.  These people saw everything.  “We let all of these people know why we were being detained, who we are, and where we would be taken to“, explains Caballero, “none of these citizens reacted against us“.  As they tend to do each weekend, the officials took the Lady in White and her husband to the Instructional Unit of Pedernales, where they are always confined to sealed off dark and damp cells which consist of concrete ‘beds’.

While in Pedernales, Caballero and Esteban were kept in separate cells.  “While we were detained, the officials screamed very offensive and grotesque words at us“, denounces Batista, adding that among the many perversions the regime guards carry out, they also “told Esteban to take off his pants and enter the cell like that, which Esteban absolutely refused to do“.  It was under that harassment and violence which both dissidents were kept detained until 12:30 in the afternoon of that Sunday.

Caridad and Esteban walked back home down the same route which led them to the detention center, and Caballero explained that the same people who had witnessed the attacks in front of the primary school “started to come up and talk to us as a sign of support“.

Meanwhile, in the town of Cacocum (Holguin province), the Lady in White Berta Guerrero Segura and her husband s were arrested in a similar fashion as they tried to go to the city of Holguin to join Caridad Caballero and Esteban Sandez in church.

Berta Guerrero and her husband Franklin Peregrino, when Peregrino was on hunger strike in 2010

Peregrino denounced that their home had been under total vigilance for days, “surrounded by State Security agents and Rapid Response Brigade members who were threatening us with sticks and cables“, but despite this, the activists decided to leave their homes and head towards church.

During the arrest, they punched me on the mouth, and the agents started to push my wife and I into a police vehicle“, adds Franklin.  From there, they were taken to the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) Unit, where they were kept until 11:30 AM.  “Upon being released, our home remained under vigilance until 3 in the afternoon.  This harassment occurs Sunday after Sunday, as well as on Wednesdays when we try to go to the home of Caridad Caballero to participate in a weekly vigil held there in solidarity with Cuban political prisoners.  Once again, we denounce this torture to the world, this torture which State Security carries out against the peaceful opposition“, said the activist.

Dissidents Anni Sarrion Romero (Lady in White) and her husband Juan Carlos Vazquez Osoria- residents of Moa- were kept in dungeons from Friday until Sunday, after being arrested at 11 pm on Friday.  Sarrion Romero explained that “we left our home in Moa on Friday in order to make it to the Cobre Sanctuary by Sunday, and we even had to take many shortcuts and go through fields“.  Upon arriving to the town of Mayari, however, a police vehicle was already awaiting them.  They were rapidly arrested by force and shoved into the vehicle to be taken to the police unit of Mayari.

In this specific unit, they were constantly harassed each day.  “They have a rule in the police units which says that every prisoner has to be lined up at 7 in the morning as the guards are changing shifts, and that is when 7 or 8 police chiefs arrive to carry out an inspection, or inventory“, explains Sarrion Romero.  “On the first morning, they signaled out my husband, telling him that he had to take off his clothes for the inspection, which is a form of humiliation.  And Juan Carlos refused.  They told him that his attitude was disobedience (a crime for the dictatorship) and that they would beat him“.  Osoria did not cooperate.

On the following day- on Sunday morning- the guards of the punishment cells tried doing the same with Anni.  “They tried to pull me and throw me from my cement ‘bed’.  I told them ‘you could accuse me of countless cases of disobedience but I was not going to step down, I will not lower myself before you all‘”.  The Lady in White says that the guards responded by telling her “remember that they knocked your teeth out in Moa“, referencing a beating on Tuesday February 7th where two henchmen of the dictatorship punched Sarrion Romero, breaking two of her front teeth. In fact, an official named Leandro Mordago cynically told Anni during her arrest that she “looks very good with her teeth like that“.  “I told them that they will have to kill me because I am not going to stop, and perhaps I will always be detained because I am going to continue traveling…and they really do not want us to travel to Santiago to assist mass in the Cobre Sanctuary“.

At 3 in the afternoon, both dissidents were released, although separately.  “They took me under custody to my home in Moa, aboard a cop car.  My husband was released and abandoned without money or anything else.  He was able to make it all the way to the home of Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia in Palma Soriano“.  The home of Romero and Osoria is constantly under attack by the forces of the Cuban dictatorship, as are their family members.  In fact, their children are victims of beatings along with their parents and are not even allowed to work or travel within their own country.

Ex prisoner of conscience Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia informed through ‘Hablalo sin Miedo‘ that on Sunday the 12th, Ruben Torres, Julio Cesar Salazar and Yuselin Ferrer Espinosa (activists from the Patriotic Union of Cuba) were arrested in Palmarito de Cauto as they were waiting to protest in case Ladies in White from that area were arrested.  But despite the stifling repression, Ferrer pointed out that 42 Ladies in White made it to the Sanctuary of El Cobre in Santigo de Cuba while 9 Ladies made it to mass in Guantanamo, surpassing the chords of vigilance and violence of the Castro dictatorship.

Another Sunday, Another Day of Repression (Weekend of February 10th- 12th)

Cuba- Notes of Repression From This Weekend (September 8th – September 11th)

Former political prisoners of conscience, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia (top) and Angel Moya (bottom).

Since the 8th of September, the day of the Virgin of Charity (a sacred day for Cubans), the Cuban regime has unleashed another repressive crackdown against human rights activists throughout the island.  As product of the  ‘Zapata and Boitel Live’ National March for Cuba’s Freedom- a demonstration which has planned a series of activities from one side of the island to the other- the dictatorship’s political police forces have once again attacked the opposition, causing more injuries and arrests.  Among those detained are ex political prisoners of conscience Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia and Angel Moya.  Moments before his arrest, Ferrer Garcia published a Tweet about the situation in his region: “New repressive crackdown from the Cuban regime in the Eastern area of the country.  The city of Palma Soriano is completely taken by G2 and National Revolutionary Police agents“, read the message.

In addition to these situations, other acts of violence were carried out against dissidents that were only practicing their inalienable rights.  Here are some testimonies:

Marta Díaz Rondon

On Friday, September 9th at around 6:50 AM, I head out to the home of Caridad Caballero Batista.  We had plans to go to Palma Soriano to join the Ladies in White in solidarity and assist mass with them.  I was detained shortly after stepping out of my house by agents who were in a police vehicle.  In the car, there were two police officers and two State Security agents.  Among them was Agent Agredo and Major Cruz Rodriguez.  I was then brutally shoved into the car.  When I began to scream anti-governmental slogans they put a towel over my mouth and they took me to the State Security Unit of Banes.  When they took me out of the car, another official (whose name I do not know) used force on me and threatened me, telling me that he would ‘kick my buttocks’ but with another more vulgar word.  He then hit me on my thighs, and I have bruises as product of all the blows.  They told me many other vulgar words and they took me to another detainment unit known as ‘Rafael Trenes’, where I remained detained for 27 hours.  I remained in protest the entire time, refusing water and a mattress.  That night I slept on the concrete floor.  When I was released, an official by the name of Freddy told me that I was still detained, that I was jailed in my own house and that I was not allowed to leave my town of Banes, not even to see my family.  If I did any of this, I would once again be jailed.  I have been under strict vigilance for days now, but I am going to continue going out to the streets”.

Diaz Rondon added a few words about the destruction of Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s symbolic tomb in Banes by government-sponsored mobs: “Early on the 8th of September, the day of our Virgin of Charity, I went to the tomb of Orlando Zapata Tamayo with white Mariposa flowers (the national flower, popularized by the Mambises- independendce fighters).  When I arrived at the tomb, it was totally destroyed, there was only dirt.  Regardless, I deposited my flowers, prayed, and screamed ‘Zapata Lives’.  On the next day, I was informed that my flowers were no longer there.  But we are going to continue visiting Zapata’s tomb, he was a martyr and an example for us”.

Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina

“I was detained in the late night hours of September 8th in Guantanamo by special troops.  In total, my arrest lasted 12 hours.  The purpose of the arrest was because I convoked the National ‘Zapata and Boitel Live’ March for Cuban Freedom, which has diverse activities planned throughout the island.  Days before, the regime had established various militarized security check points throughout the Eastern region of the country.  They checked each passing vehicle for dissidents and also interrupted many means of communication”.

“Yesterday, on September 10th, two activists were detained in the bus station of Guantanamo- Yuselin Ferrera Espinosa and Samuel Leblanc, both members of the Eastern Democratic Alliance.  They shouted anti-governmental slogans and up to this moment we do not know where they are being kept, although it is assumed they are in a police operations unit of Guantanamo.  Recently, there have been many persecutions against the peaceful opposition of the country, especially in the Eastern region”.

Eric Sander

Eric Sander is the son of Caridad Caballero Batista and Esteban Sander Suarez, both detained on the morning hours of September 11th.  Eric witnessed the arrests of his parents and he is alone at home, waiting to hear news about them: “My mother (Caridad Caballero) was detained this morning at around 9:45.  I saw how everything happened.  She left the house with my father, Esteban Sander Suarez and two other brothers in struggle- Juan Carlos Mendoza Martinez and Jose Luis Cedeno Hernandez.  From the early morning hours, our house was completely surrounded, there were police vehicles in every corner, as well as motorcycles and many State Security agents.  When my parents arrived at the corner of the house, the agents asked them where they were going.  They responded that they were going to church, and right then and there they used force on them and violently shoved them in police vehicles”.

Meanwhile, dissident blogger Luis Felipe Rojas reported that 7 activists were protesting outside the “El Anillo” detainment unit of Holguin where Caridad Caballero, her husband, and the other two activists are being held, demanding that they be freed.  Among the protesters is Franklin Peregrino del Toro, with who it was impossible to establish communication seeing as his phone line was blocked by government tactics.  Rojas warned that at any moment it was possible that the dictatorship’s forces could attack the protestors.  (For more information, I recommend to follow the Twitter account of Luis Felipe Rojas- @alambradasen).

Caridad Caballero had denounced that since Wednesday, September 7th, her house had been completely surrounded by State Security (G2) agents.  In conversation with this blog, on that same Wednesday Caballero declared that although she was aware of the vigilance, she would not let that deter her.  “I am not going to be jailed in my own house“, she affirmed.  “Besides, my son is sick with the fever, and I have to solve those issues, which may include me having to go out“,  she added.  Now, that same son, Eric Sander, will have to remain alone in the house, awaiting news of his parents who have  not committed a single crime, yet reside in jail cells.

Update (September 12th, 2011)- In their Twitter account, Marti News has reported that Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia and Angel Moya, along with Tania Montoya, have been released in the morning hours of Monday, September 12th.

Cuba- Notes of Repression From This Weekend (September 8th – September 11th)