Mass Celebrated At Ladies In White Headquarters ‘For The Freedom Of The Cuban People’

The priests Castor Álvarez and José Conrado Rodríguez celebrate Mass at the Ladies in White headquarters in Havana. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 18 June 2017 — On Monday afternoon, in the presence of 27 people, priests Jose Conrado Rodríguez and Castor Álvarez celebrated a mass at the Ladies in White headquarters Havana’s Lawton neighborhood.

Berta Soler, leader of the women’s group, explained via telephone that they gathered at the building with “a lot of discretion” to avoid State Security preventing the Mass. “It was very important to hear from those two priests, as we are not able to get to the church, the church has to come to us.”

José Conrado Rodríguez told 14ymedio that the Mass was also a way to show that they both support “the right of the Ladies in White to attend Mass every Sunday” in the Church of Santa Rita, in the Cuban capital. continue reading

“That is also part of religious freedom and the right that people have to practice their faith,” added Castor Alvarez, who presided at the mass with Rodriguez.

“We feel as priests a concern to bring our faith to Cuban society,” added Alvarez, a native of Camagüey and for whom it was a joy to be able to share with the activists and “pray together for the freedom of the Cuban people.”

“We are part of the people and we want to enjoy freedoms, we want them to let us have peace and tranquility and share all the good that we Cubans have in order to progress,” added the pastor.

Along with the Ladies in White, attending the mass were the former prisoner of the Black Spring, Angel Moya, the activist Raul Borges, and the opponent Yosvany Martinez, a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).

For more than a year, the political police have prevented this civil society group from attending Santa Rita Church and carrying out its Sunday walk on Fifth Avenue.

“None of these women have anything better to do at home” / Martha Beatriz Roque

Site manager’s note: The Cuban opposition frequently posts photos of their repressors — in plainclothes as well as in uniform — sometimes naming them as well.

Translation:

Angel Juan Moya: Department of State Security (DSE) and National Revolutionary Police (PNR) repressive operation at the national headquarters of the Ladies in White.

Martha Beatriz Roque: None of these women have anything better to do at home.

Threats and Arrests if Dissidents Continue in Cuba / 14ymedio

The leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, during an exhibition of the work of Danilo Maldonado, known as ‘El Sexto’. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 December 2016 –The leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, was arrested Thursday in the morning when she was about to leave the headquarters of the organization in the neighborhood of Lawton, Havana, in order to connect to the Internet.

Angel Moya, a former prisoner of the Cause of 75 from the 2003 Black Spring and Soler’s husband, told this newspaper that neighborhood witnesses confirmed to him that the arrest had been made with excessive use of force. “She was arrested violently, neighbors testify that they even beat her,” says the dissident who was not at home at the time of arrest. continue reading

Moya speculates that Soler was taken to the detention center in Alamar, but was unable to confirm the information.

The former prisoner of the Black Spring told 14ymedio that the Ladies in White movement has not programmed any activities for today. “Right now, the only thing Berta did was to launch a call for Tuesday, 19 December, at two in the afternoon in Central Park, for the traditional Literary Tea, if State Security continues to operate around the group’s headquarters in Lawton, and prevents the activists from accessing it.

Around two in the afternoon the political police arrested another Lady in White, Marlen Gonazalez, when she went out with her husband to buy food at the agricultural market. “A patrol car came and asked for her ID card and they took her prisoner,” said her neighbors in the San Miguel de Padron area.

While all this was going on, at Jose Marti Airport the activist Jose Diaz Silva, a Cuban delegate to the Democracy Movement, he was approached by police before taking a flight to the United States. According to a report from the dissident, the officials warned him that on his return from Miami he would encounter very serious reprisals and that from now on the opposition’s “days are numbered.”

The latest report of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) said that during November there were at least 359 arbitrary arrests of peaceful opponents on the island, over a hundred cases fewer than in October. However, the independent organization warns of a possible increase in repression following the death of former President Fidel Castro.

Guillermo Fariñas Returns Home After Hospital Visit For Fainting / 14ymedio

Guillermo Fariñas on hunger and thirst strike. (Courtesy)
Guillermo Fariñas on hunger and thirst strike. (Courtesy)

14ymedio, Havana, 6 September 2016 — Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas, after 47 days on a hunger and thirst strike, was transferred on Monday afternoon to Arnaldo Milian Castro Provincial Hospital. The dissident was discharged hours later because doctors felt that he did not meet the “entry criteria for intensive care,” he told 14ymedio activist Jorge Luis Artiles Montiel.

Sources close to Fariñas detailed that the intake occurred at 2:45 pm after he lost consciousness at his home in the neighborhood of La Chirusa. Hours earlier, the daily report on his health issued by members of the United Anti-Totalitarian Forum (FANTU), reported severe pain in the “joints, knees, ankles and shoulders.” continue reading

The note also explains that Fariñas was experiencing “dizziness, weakness and fatigue” and said his weight was 151 pounds, according to Dr. Yorkis Rodriguez Cardenas.

The winner of the European Parliament’s Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is demanding that Raul Castro “publicly state that he will put an end to the beatings of nonviolent opponents,” and that he will schedule a meeting with a member of the Council of Ministers and “representatives of the Cuban opposition,” to explain what the government’s strategy will be “to end the beatings.”

A dozen Cuban dissidents have released a letter in which they call themselves Fariñas’ “brothers in the struggle” and say they share his demands. However, they also state that they need him alive to continue with them “on this path” until they “achieve freedom.”

“We respect you and we are aware of your sacrifice, but we would ask you to put an immediate end to your strike,” says a letter from dissidents Félix Bonne, Eduardo Díaz Fleitas, José Daniel Ferrer, Iván Hernández Carrillo, Ángel Moya, Félix Navarro, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique, Vladimiro Roca, Martha Beatriz Roque and Berta Soler.

Since the beginning, Fariñas has reiterated that, in the event that “Raul Castro will not yield to the demands” he will continue the hunger and thirst strike “until the end.”

Cuban Human Rights Group Reports 12 New Arrests Of Dissidents / EFE, 14ymedio

Cuban activists marching in Havana hours before the arrival of President Barack Obama. (@Jangelmoya/Twitter)
Cuban activists marching in Havana hours before the arrival of President Barack Obama “Obama traveling to Cuba is not entertainment. No more violations of Human Rights. We All March”. (@Jangelmoya/Twitter)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 21 March 2016 – At least a dozen government opponents were arrested this Monday in Cuba, according to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), which also identifies nearly 90 political prisoners on the island.

Among those arrested for the second day are the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, and some members of that women’s group, along with her husband, former political prisoner Angel Moya, according to Elizardo Sanchez, spokesman for the CCDHRN, the only group regularly documenting such incidents in Cuba.

Also on Monday the arrest of Antonio González-Rodiles, who heads the independent Estado de Sats (State of Sats) project, along with his partner, activist Ailer González, near continue reading

their home, a family source confirmed.

Elizardo Sanchez said his group is trying to specify the number of arrests on the island since Sunday, when US president, Barack Obama arrived in Cuba.

That same day, some 60 dissidents were arrested several hours after the Ladies in White’s habitual Sunday march.

With regards to the number of political prisoners in Cuba, Sanchez said he currently has in his record to 77 prisoners convicted for political reasons plus one who is serving a sentence of house arrest.

He explained that that group adds the 11 released under a “furlough,” a legal concept that does not annul the sentences imposed during the crackdown of the “Black Spring” of 2003 that led to the jailing 75 dissidents on the island.

Cuban President Raul Castro denied on Monday that there are political prisoners in the country, in the press conference he gave in Havana with President Obama.

Castro challenged a journalist to present a list of political prisoners and assured him that if they really existed they would be freed that very night.

“Give me the list of political prisoners to release them now,” Castro said in answering the reporter’s question.

Seven of Eleven Former Black Spring Prisoners Allowed to Travel for “Good Behavior” / 14ymedio

Martha Beatriz Roque leaving her appointment at the Immigration and Nationality office at Factor and Final Streets in Nuevo Vedado in Havana.(14ymedio)
Martha Beatriz Roque leaving her appointment at the Immigration and Nationality office at Factor and Final Streets in Nuevo Vedado in Havana.(14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 February 2016 — Former prisoners of the Black Spring Martha Beatriz Roque and Arnaldo Lauzurique received from the authorities “a unique opportunity to travel,” Roque informed 14ymedio this Monday, adding that today she will begin the paperwork to apply for a new passport.

On leaving the Immigration and Nationality Office, located at Factor and Final Streets in Havana’s Nuevo Vedado neighborhood, Roque explained that Major Orestes Rodriguez Bello assured her that she will be able to return to the country without problems. He added that this was an exceptional measure because the beneficiaries “have displayed good behavior.” However, their status as beneficiaries of “parole” is maintained, and this is not a change in their criminal status. continue reading

Seven of the eleven former prisoners of the Black Spring who remain in Cuba have been summoned to the Immigration offices, presumably to regularize their situation and allow them to travel abroad before Barack Obama’s visit to the island. So far only two among them have had their appointments and the rest will do so throughout the morning and the afternoon.

In the citation they are summoned “to the section covering immigration and nationality to resolve their immigration status.” The document is signed by Maria Cristina Martinez Bello, according to a report from the dissident Martha Beatriz Roque to this newspaper.

In addition to Arnaldo Lauzurique and Martha Beatriz Roque, those cited so far include Oscar Elias Biscet, Hector Maseda, Jorge Olivera, Eduardo Diaz Fleitas and Félix Navarro.

Those not summoned to appear include Angel Moya, José Daniel Ferrer, Iván Hernández Carrillo and Librado Linares.

The eleven former prisoners of the Black Spring residing in Cuba have been prevented from leaving the country under the legal justification that they are “on parole,” a situation that has been widely condemned by international human rights organizations.

In March of 2003, the government ordered the arrest of 75 dissidents, including 29 independent journalists. They were sentenced to long prison terms. In 2010, after mediation through the Catholic Church, they were released in exchange for their departure to Spain, but the eleven remaining in Cuba did not want to leave the country.

Jose Daniel Ferrer Arrested And Beaten In Santiago De Cuba / 14ymedio

Ladies in White outside of the parish of Santa Rita in Havana. (Angel Moya)
Ladies in White outside of the parish of Santa Rita in Havana. (Angel Moya)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 25 January 2016 — Cuban activists have again experienced a repressive Sunday with the arrest of more than a hundred opponents throughout the island. The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Jose Daniel Ferrer, was violently arrested in Santiago Cuba, according to sources in his organization.

About 130 members of the UNPACU and the Ladies in White movement were arrested in the eastern province while trying to reach the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre. Police and special forces intercepted them at various points along the busy road to the church, said the national coordinator of the organization, Yriade Hernández Aguilera. continue reading

The testimony of Santiago activists said that the UNPACU leader’s arrest occurred at 7:40 am Pajuil, a place of the road to El Cobre where police often set uptheir checkpoint. Opponents say they were surrounded by more than 35 troops, which threw him down and after he was immobilized on the ground they kicked him.

Ferrer and the other members of the organization arrested in the morning were released shortly afterwards.

In Havana, 70 people, including activists and Ladies in White, made it to the parish of Santa Rita in the neighborhood of Miramar. Angel Moya, a former prisoner of the Black Spring, denounced the previous arrest of 12 women in the organization, to prevent them from reaching the site.

In its summary for last year, the independent Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) reported that “political repression increased steadily throughout 2015 from 178 cases in January to figures in the vicinity of 1000 arrests by year’s end.”

Three Members of Cuban Opposition Released After Three Months’ Detention / 14ymedio

Hugo Damian Prieto and his wife, a few hours after being released. (Angel Moya)
Hugo Damian Prieto and his wife, a few hours after being released. (Angel Moya)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 21 January 2016 – Released on Wednesday, after three months detention, were two members of the Cuban opposition: Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco, leader of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo Front for Civic Action, and Wilberto Parada Milan, a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), according to reports to this newspaper from opposition sources. Also released on Thursday morning was the opponent Carlos Manuel Figueroa, who was arrested after jumping the fence of the US embassy in Havana last October. According to dissident sources, the activist shouted slogans at the time: “Down with Raul” and “Down with the dictatorship.”

Figueroa was a part of the group of 53 political prisoners released in January 2015 after negotiations between Washington and Havana, according to a report at the time from Elizardo Sanchez, head of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN). continue reading

Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco and Wilberto Parada Milan were arrested on 24 October 2015, two days after holding a protest against the Attorney General of the Republic through which they demanded the release of Maria Josefa Acón, Zaqueo Baez and Ishmael Reni, the three activists jailed for approaching Pope Francis before Mass in the Plaza of the Revolution on 20 September of last year

The opponents were charged with disorderly conduct and sent to prison pending trial. The first has been held in Valle Grande and the second in the Combinado del Este in Havana.

After his release, Hugo Damian Prieto and his wife visited the headquarters of the Ladies in White in Havana’s Lawton neighborhood, according to former prisoner of the Black Spring, Angel Moya.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) reported the arbitrary detention of the two opponents in their last three reports and condemned it for going “against the well-known expectations encouraged by the announcement of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States.”

According to the independent organization, “political repression increased steadily throughout 2015 from 178 cases in January to figures in the vicinity of 1,000 arrests by year’s end.”

Ladies in White Headquarters Surrounded by State Security / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma

Kiosks selling food and drink in front of the headquarters of the Ladies in White. (bertasolerf)
Kiosks selling food and drink in front of the headquarters of the Ladies in White. (bertasolerf)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 18 December 2015 — On Friday morning, the political police surrounded the headquarters of the Ladies in White in the Havana’s Lawton district, blocking entrance to several activists who arrived for the traditional literary tea held every Friday, as confirmed to 14ymedio by Juan Angel Moya, former prisoner of the Black Spring and husband of the movement’s leader, Berta Soler.

The opposition also reported that as of last Wednesday several kiosks selling food and drink to the public were placed around the site. State Security in Cuba frequently uses this practice to close access to the homes of activists. continue reading

Despite the arrests and the police cordon, dozens of women have made ​​it to the headquarters of the organization where, as part of the meeting, the film The Empty House, by Cuban director Lilo Vilaplana, was shown.

Opposition figure Martha Beatriz Roque reported that the police took Ladies in White Mayelín Santiesteban and Mirta Ricardo Tornés off the bus they were taking to Havana from Artemisa, to prevent them from reaching the activities at the headquarters in the capital city.

The police operation also seeks to prevent the activists approaching the courtroom for crimes against state security, in the court located at Juan Delgado and Carmen streets in Havana’s 10 de Octubre district, where the trial of Ariel and Ricardo Gonzalez Sendiña will be held on Friday. The young men are the children of Lady in White Lazara Barbara Sendiña and are charged with the alleged crime of theft and slaughter of livestock.

Declaration on the Cuban Migrant Crisis / Forum for Rights and Freedoms

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Forum for Rights and Freedoms, 23 November 2015 — In recent weeks we have observed, with deep concern, the development of a new migration crisis. The human drama that thousands of Cubans are experiencing already affects the entire Central American region, the Caribbean, and especially Costa Rica, a nation that has received migrants with great solidarity, in contrast to the complicity of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.

The Castro regime has decided, once again – we recall the Camarioca exodus in 1965, the Mariel Boatlift in the 1980s, the Rafter Crisis in 1994 – to use Cubans as pieces in their political game, putting at risk their lives and safety. Denunciations of abuse, assaults and every kind of crime against Cuban emigrants has elicited the solidarity of all people of goodwill.

Since coming the Castro dictatorship’s coming to power, the regime has used migratory crises to win concessions from the United States. continue reading

In this case, the regime is pressuring the United States, and involving third parties, in the midst of a process of normalization between the Obama administration and the dictatorship, to win additional concessions from president Obama, without having to take steps to improve the appalling situation of human rights in Cuba.

We condemn the profound contempt, and the indolent and inhumane attitude of the dictatorship towards Cubans. Only a transition to democracy and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms can reverse the misery that exists on the island.

We appeal to international organizations and those involved to be in solidarity with the Cuban people and their right to be free, in the face of his scenario that becomes more complex every day.

Foro por los Derechos y Libertades / Forum for Rights and Freedoms
Ailer González, Estado de Sats
Ángel Moya, Movimiento Libertad Democrática por Cuba
Ángel Santiesteban, Estado de Sats
Antonio G. Rodiles, Estado de Sats
Berta Soler, Dama de Blanco
Claudio Fuentes, Estado de Sats
Egberto Escobedo, Asociación de presos y expresos políticos en Cuba
María Cristina Labrada, Dama de Blanco
Raul Borges, Partido por la Unidad Democrática Cristiana

Other signers
Frank Calzon, Center for a Free Cuba
Lincoln Díaz-Balart, El Instituto La Rosa Blanca
Orlando Gutiérrez Boronat, Directorio Democrático Cubano

Cuban State Security Warns Berta Soler “The End Of Opposition” Has Arrived / 14ymedio

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Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 November 2015 — The leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, was arrested Friday outside Havana’s Fifth Police Station and held for several hours. The regime opponent was there to show her solidarity with the the activist Hugo Damian Prieto, detained since October 25 and charged with the alleged crime of disorderly conduct for participating in a demonstration.

During the arrest, at a police unit in Alamar, east of the capital, Soler was warned by State Security official who called himself Francisco, that “the end of the opposition has already been reached.” The agent added that it was also time for “the end” of the Sunday marches in the area of Santa Rita Church.

Among those also detained during the day were Ladies in White Lismery Quintana, Maria Ancon and Maria Cristina Labrada, as well as the activists Zaqueo Baez, Egberto Escobedo and Angel Moya. All were released hours after their arrest, as was confirmed by this newspaper.

‘El Sexto’ Marches with the Ladies in White This Sunday / 14ymedio

The artist Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto,’ marched with the Ladies in White this Sunday (Photo Angel Moya)
The artist Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto,’ (the tallest person in the photo) marched with the Ladies in White this Sunday (Photo Angel Moya)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 25 October 2016 — The artist Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto’ (The Sixth), joined 48 Ladies in White during their traditional walk down Fifth Avenue in Havana this Sunday. Released last week after ten months in prison, the graffiti artist accompanied the women and about twenty activists who gathered outside after mass at Santa Rita Church.

Also participating in the march were Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), along with the families of the three activists arrested while trying to approach Pope Francis during his visit to Cuba. The regime opponents Zaqueo Baez, Ismael Boris Reñi and the Lady in White Maria Josefa Acon are still being detained, after having been arrested on 20 September at the Mass in the Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution.

In the east of the country, UNPACU reported more than 80 arrests today to prevent individuals from reaching the Sanctuary del Cobre. In Havana, after the march, more than 50 Ladies in White and activists were arrested.

“Wave of Political and Social Repression” in September, according to CCDHRN / 14ymedio

Ladies in White during their march this Sunday (Angela Moya)
Ladies in White during their march this Sunday (Angel Moya)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 5 October 2015 – This September there were at least 882 arbitrary arrests for political reasons, according to a report by the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN). The figure is the highest in the last 15 months, says the independent entity which also warns about an increase in “physical assaults against peaceful opponents by police agents and their collaborators.”

The cases of physical violence reported and verified y the CCDHRN reached 93, “while there were 21 in August.” The Commission, chaired by human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez, points out that “September did not lack many acts of harassment and vandalism, either.” These include “house arrests and extrajudicial bans on movement,” says the text of the report.

As “a true wave of political and social repression” there were “353 arrests of peaceful dissidents to prevent them from participating in massive gatherings” with Pope Francis.

The opposition sector was not the only one that suffered police raids, and the CCDHRN reiterates that “an undetermined number of beggars, panhandlers and other homeless people who seek alms on the streets or search for food or anything else in trash dumpsters were interned without judicial order.”

The case of the three from the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) who “managed to breach the police cordon and approach Pope Francis” in Havana’s Revolution Plaza, is singled out with interest in the report. Zaqueo Baez, Maria Anon and Ismael Bonet “have been jailed for 15 days, under subhuman conditions, in the hands of the secret political police, without access to defense attorneys and without formal charges.” The CCDHRN “is prepared to propose that they be internationally adopted as possible Prisoners of Conscience.”

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Regime Arrests Berta Soler and Martha Beatriz Roque When They Go to Greet the Pope / Diario de Cuba

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, 20 September 2015, Havana–The government opponent Martha Beatriz Roque was arrested this Saturday in Havana, activist Ailer González reported via Twitter. Sources from the Ladies in White informed Diario de Cuba that Roque was invited to the Apostolic Nunciature to greet Pope Francis upon his arrival.

Also invited to welcome the Holy Father before the Nunciature was the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler. Dissident sources fear that she has been arrested along with her husband, the ex-political prisoner Ángel Moya, said Ailer González.

The activist also denounced “power outages” that opponents’ telephone services are undergoing. Attempts to communicate by telephone with various opponents were unsuccessful.

For his part, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), José Daniel Ferrer, sent word via a communiqué of the arrest of 26 activists in Santa Clara who were intending to travel to Havana to attend the Pope’s mass on Sunday. In the capital, Ferrer said, five members of his organization have been arrested.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison