It seems to everyone that the recent papal visit will be the Cuban event of the year. The first Sunday of April has passed amid offerings and arrests, and even more arrests, beatings, and violent acts against the Ladies in White and other non-violent human rights activists are being reported from a number of provinces. In Holguin, Caridad Caballero Batista and her husband Esteban Sande Suarez were arrested while on their way to the ‘Jesus Christ the Redeemer Church’ located in the Pueblo Nuevo neighborhood. According to the testimony of Caballero Batista, she knew that they were victims of an exaggerated search, as if they were suspected of carrying arms or explosives. They were led to a detention center and released around noon.
In the same city of Holguin, Isabel Peña Torres, Nelda Molina, Rosmelia Gonzalez Pina, and Ana Maria Aguilera Paneque managed to get to the abovementioned church, although according to Peña Torres, ever since Saturday they had all received threats of imprisonment from the leaders of the Department of Confrontation with the Enemy.
In the town of Banes, Marta Diaz Rondon and Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez, both Ladies in White, and Oriol Verdecia Evora (Rondon’s husband) were able to make it to the Palm Sunday mass in the Church of Our Lady of Charity, but they were under surveillance by the local G2 (State Security) major known as Evelio. Evelio provoked them verbally, waited for them to come out of Mass, and then followed them back to their homes.
On Saturday, March 31st, various Ladies in White from the province of Santiago de Cuba were stripped from the white clothing with which they march each Sunday, affirmed Ana Celia Rodriguez Torres, a member of the group. .Ms. Torres, a resident of the town of El Caney, said that due to police repression, and because they live in areas far from the El Cobre Church, they decided to travel a day early. Both on Saturday and Sunday, the police took all their white clothing, including the T-Shirts with the face of the fallen pro-democracy leader, Laura Pollán Toledo. Both the arrested and others who were threatened protested in front of the Department 21 (G2) Building, located in Ferreiro Avenue of Santiago de Cuba. They demanded the return of their clothes, which were in fact returned, but only after those involved had been reprimanded. The protesters included Annia Alegre Pecora, Doraisa Correoso, Adriana Pascual, Kenia Eliot, and Yadi Virgen Ortega Montoya. In addition to the usual demands they now also insist on freedom for Andres Carrion Alvarez, the Cuban who was detained and held incommunicado in a dungeon of the political police for shouting anti-Castro slogans during the Mass which Benedict XVI offered in Santiago.
And, something new- during the morning hours of April 2, 2012, more than 20 dissidents were violently arrested when the home of Rahumel Vinajera was raided in the city of Palma Soriano, as they were planning a peaceful march to demand the liberation of Andres Carrion Alvarez, Rogelio Tabio, and Bismark Mustelier. I was able to talk to Tania Montoya at the very moment when the activists were being detained, and she told me “this has been horrible. Rahumel’s mother’s home, which was already in poor condition, has now been destroyed. They beat all the dissidents and also detained one of Rahumel’s brothers who is not a dissident but who only tried to protect my mother in law”.
Tania told me “my house was also raided. This was carried out by the poorly named National Police, together with the repressive State Security Police. The most noticeable thing was that the neighbors did not support the oppressors. On the contrary, they joined in solidarity with us. And that is why the agents beat us even more”.
Seen in that light, everything continues as before. The repression is systemic- measures to break the will of the individual, and the right of citizens to participate actively in the social life of the country, and of not having to behave like docile sheep before those who think they are their owners and shearers forever.
-Luis Felipe Rojas