PEACEFUL WOMEN ARE TARGETS OF ESCALATING VIOLENCE
A Lady in White suffered a miscarriage following a violent arrest by the political police
February 19, 2012
Human rights defenders in the island are sending this week an urgent message alerting the international community that, as the visit of Pope Benedict XVI on March 26-28, 2012 approaches they and their families are being subjected to escalating physical and mental violence in the form of: interference of their telephone communications; blackmail; systematic verbal and physical harassment (including sexual molestation); threats to their lives; threats of losing their jobs; short term arrests; brutal beatings and prison confinements in inhumane conditions. Their homes are at the mercy of: constant surveillance; forced entry; barricades that prevent entering and leaving; attacks by pro government mobs that last days and scream insults through megaphones and throw stones, paint, etc. They are also prohibited from traveling freely in their own country and are systematically forced back to their home provinces any time they venture away.
By this Sunday, around 30 Ladies in White had been arrested since a crackdown began against them on Friday in Eastern Cuba. Most were released and some complained of having their medicine and money stolen. Belkis Cantillo refused to leave the police unit where she had been held without her money which officials would not return. Her husband Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia denounced that she remained in a prison area reserved for men.
Sixteen women were able to reach the Basilica of El Cobre and listen to mass. Fourteen remained in the temple and declared themselves on hunger strike when they were informed that State Security forces were waiting for them on their way back, near Palma Soriano, to beat them up. After several hours at the Basilica, the women were finally able to reach their homes under the protection of the Catholic Church.
Inhabitants of El Cobre, a small town that is home to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, continue under a government curfew subjected to surveillance by the political police and video cameras, to searches and road blocks that control the free movement of citizens, etc. Human rights activists are reporting that the very poor who live near the route that the Pope will take during his visit, are being evicted from their homes with the intention of covering up the prevailing misery in the island.
Yasmin Conyedo and her husband, Yusmani Alvarez both remain under arrest since January 8, 2012 in the central city of Santa Clara. Yasmin Conyedo is an independent journalist of the group, United Antitotalitarian Front and a Lady in White. Her husband, Yusmani Alvarez is an activist of the Young Democratic League of Las Villas. They are both falsely accused of attacking the home of a communist party official in their hometown of Villaclara who had initially subjected the couple’s home to a pro government mob attack the same day of the arrest. Yasmin was transferred to the Prison of Guamajal and Yusmani to the Prison of La Pendiente on January 16, 2012.
On Thursday February 16, two ex-Cuban political prisoners of conscience who were released in 2010, came before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights to testify of the human rights abuses in Cuba. The independent journalist Normando Hernandez http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/112/HHRG-112-FA-WState-HGonzalez-20120216.pdf spoke in Washington D.C. of the cruel and inhumane prison treatment he underwent and stated that the screams of prisoners being tortured are still in his mind and that he is unsure when he will be able to forget them. Dr. Oscar E. Biscet http://cubanexilequarter.blogspot.com/2012/02/oscars-testimony-before-congress.html testified from Havana via webcast from the US Interest Section and ”called on Pope Benedict XVI to use his power and visibility to shine a light on human rights abuses and political oppression under the Castro regime.”
Below are some of the human rights violations reported during the week of February 13 – 19, 2012:
FEBRUARY 13, 2012 - Since the early morning hours of Monday, February 13, the headquarters of the femenine human rights group Ladies in White Laura Pollan, located on #963 Neptuno Street in Havana, was surrounded by paramilitary groups of Rapid Response Brigades and mobs that screamed insults and government slogans at the women during several hours. Twenty six women were able to reach the home of Laura Pollan to honor her memory on what would have been her 64th birthday. Laura Pollan suddenly passed away on October 2011 in a Havana hospital under circumstances that still remain unclear. The Lady in White Mercedes Fresneda and the activist Alfredo Guilleuma Rodríguez, were unable to reach the headquarters of the Ladies in White because they were both subjected to short term arrests.
The Lady in White and leader of the Pro-Human Rights Party in Cuba, Sara Marta Fonseca and her husband, Julio Leon Fonseca, were taken by force by and returned to their home in Havana from the city of Pinar del Rio where they were visiting, Raul Risco Perez, the coordinator of the Democratic Alliance of Pinar del Rio. The home of Risco Perez was surrounded on Sunday, February 12 until Monday afternoon by a mob made up of young cadets and residents of Pinar del Rio dressed in civilian clothes, many of whom Risco Perez identified as “the usual” State Security agents that systematically repress human rights activists in that western province of Cuba. The mob screamed obscenities at Sara Marta and her husband Julio, ordering them to leave Pinar del Rio while Risco Perez’s wife, his elderly parents, and a young child were inside. The couple was eventually overcome by officials when they left the house walking, and were taken back home by a taxi traveling to Havana with passengers inside that was randomly stopped by officials who followed them all the way to the capital city.
Yudisleidy Zamora Alvarez, a Lady in White and the wife of UMPACU member, Alexey Aguirrezabal, was threatened by a Communist Party official in Palma Soriano with being dismissed from her job as a librarian if she continues as a member of the Ladies in White.
FEBRUARY 15, 2012 - The ex-political prisoner of conscience, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique reported from Havana that he as well as other activists, were subjected to short term arrests when they were on their way to the house of Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, a human rights defender and an ex-political prisoner of conscience who is the head of the “Red de Comunicadores Comunitarios” (Network of Community Communicators). Martha’s home was blocked by State Security agents who surrounded her home. Her telephone lines were also interrupted.
Sara Marta Fonseca reported the violent arbitrary arrest of Aurelio Antonio Morales Ayala in the Havana suburb of Rio Verde. Morales Ayala was taken to an unknown destination.
FEBRUARY 17, 2012 - The Lady in White, Caridad Caballero Batista, denounced that forces of Cuban State Security, the political police, agents of the Ministry of the Interior and of the Rapid Response Brigades in Holguin were she resides, have been posted for weeks around her home to instill panic and intimidate the residents of Holguin to prevent their solidarity with the pro democracy movement such as the Ladies in White.
The following Ladies in White were violently arrested in Eastern Cuba: Karina Quintana, Belkis Cantillo, and Madelaine Santos Grillo, Arelis Rodriguez Chacon, Maria Elena Matos Creach, Teresa Da Roman Lopez and Doraisa Correoso Pozo.
Aurora Martin, wife of the activist, Antonio Gonzalez, reported that her husband was arrested and beaten when he left his home to visit his sick father in the city of Santiago de Cuba.
FEBRUARY 18, 2012 - Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina and Isael Poveda of the “National Front of Civic Resistance and Desobedience Orlando Zapata Tamayo” were arrested in Guantanamo (Eastern Cuba) and violently searched by the political police.
Ex-political prisoner, Aurelio Antonio Morales Ayala, who was arrested in Havana on February 15, was forced back to his hometown of Holguin by State Security forces.
Taimi Vega Biset of Palma Soriano suffered a miscarriage following the violent arrest of several Ladies in White. Prison authorities had to release her because she felt so ill: her blood pressure went up, she felt numbness on one side her face and she was vomiting. Taimi’s husband makes the Cuban regime responsible for this loss he called “a part of me” that he says occurred as a result of the terror tactics carried out against peaceful human rights defenders in the island. Though the exact number of women who were arrested on this date in Eastern Cuba is not known, there may have been at least twenty according to a report by Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia. Aime Garces Leyva, Yelena Garces Napoles were taken to a police station and confined in cells.
FEBRUARY 19, 2012 - In Eastern Cuba around 30 Ladies in White were arrested and the homes of human rights defenders and Ladies in White were placed under surveillance throughout the Eastern cities of Holguin, Santiago de Cuba and Guananamo. Among those Ladies in White arrested were: Liudmila Rodriguez Palomo, Adriana Figueroa Fernandez, Yurislaisis Zamora Alvarez, Alina Fonseca Guevara, Eduviges Isaac Rodriguez, Yanet Figueredo Cruz, Yarivirgen Montega Montoya, Lisandra Leal Garces, Dayami Banyobre Clare, Isabel Peña Torres.
In Banes, a city in the Eastern province of Holguin, the homes of Ladies in White, Marta Diaz Rodon and Gertrudis Ojeda ,were surrounded and subjected to violent police operations. Antonio Lima Dalmau reported from Holguin province that Mariblanca Avila Esposito was one of several Ladies in White threatened with bottles of paint, sticks and stones and that Avigilia Cruz Segrero and Santiago Jordan Rios were among several activists that were arrested. The home of human rights defender of UMPACU, Alexey Aguerrizabal Rodriguez, was subjected to an “act of repudiation” and he was eventually arrested as was the activist Angel Lino Isaac Luna, and a family member Lazaro Corbelo Mejias.
The telephones of the coordinator of UMPACU, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia and of the activist Abram Cabrera Torres were out of service. Ferrer Garcia had to use other phones to denounce all the repression, detentions, and the verbal and physical violence perpetrated against peaceful human rights activists in Eastern Cuba this weekend.
Arrested in Palma Soriano UMPACU activists: Dany Lopez de Moya, Bismark Mustelier Galan, Osmany Cespedes Napoles, Sergio Lescay Despaigne, Angel Lino Isaac Luna, Jose Batista Falcon and Rolando Humberto Gonzalez Rodriguez, and the three brothers, Victor Campa Almenares, Pedro Campa Almenares, Luis Campa Almenares. Of the twelve activists arrested, only two had been released by Sunday evening, February 19.
In Pinar del Rio, Raul Risco Perez reported that activists in that western city were blocked by authorities from leaving their homes. The Lady in White, Maria Cecilia Ramos Morejon was arrested and taken to the outskirts of the city to an unknown location.
In Havana, Sara Marta Fonseca was arrested in the morning on her way to attend Mass and march with the Ladies in White.
Members of the National Front of Civic Resistance and Disobedience Orlando Zapata Tamayo and of the Patriotic Union of Cuba carried out peaceful protests in several cities protesting against the systematic arrests and violence against human rights defenders.
The Coalition of Cuban-American Women alerts the international community that the lives of those members of Cuban civil society who are actively and publicly struggling on behalf of fundamental freedoms are in danger. We are particularly concerned with the cases of the activist couple Yasmin Conyedo and Yusmani Alvarez, with the continued physical and mental harassment against members of the Ladies in White, Laura Pollan throughout Cuba. International recognition of the peaceful resistance and solidarity for these human rights defenders is crucial. We make an urgent call on religious, civic, political, and cultural entities and its leaders, as well as to non-governmental human rights organizations worldwide.
Coalition of Cuban-American Women / Joseito76@aol.com / Laida A.Carro
Facebook Page: Coalition of Cuban-American Women
FURTHER INFORMATION IN CUBA:
Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia + 5353631267 / Karina Quintana + 53 52997678 / Caridad Caballero Batista + 52629749 / / Raul Risco Perez + 5348763910 / Sara Marta Fonseca + 5353379011 / Martha Beatriz Roque + 52902212