14ymedio, Havana, 30 December 2017 — More than a man who believes, the priest José Conrado Rodríguez Alegre (b. 1951, San Luis, Santiago de Cuba) is a human being who overflows with credibility from every pore of his skin.
He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1976 and since then he has managed to reconcile, without a shadow of contradictions, his devotion to the Church and his love for Cuba. He proved it in the almost 14 years that he was parish priest of the church of Santa Teresita in Santiago de Cuba and continues to do so in his new parish of San Francisco de Paula, in Trinidad, where he was sent in 2013.
In October, José Conrado presented his book Dreams and Nightmares of a Priest in Cuba at the Amphitheater of the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora in Miami; in the book he says, “The Catholic Church of Cuba has a future of hope because despite the forces that have wanted to sow hatred in the Cuban nation, love has always triumphed.”
His pastoral work, his absolute detachment from material goods in favor of the most needy and, above all, his personal courage to conduct himself as dictated by his conscience, against all hierarchies, make this pastor a personality of the first order in today’s Cuba.
The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.
Our apologies for not having subtitles for this video.
14ymedio, Havana, 21 July 2017 — At least 40 activists attended a mass in tribute to opponents Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero on the fifth anniversary of their deaths, on Thursday evening. The ceremony took place in the church of Los Quemados in Marianao, Havana, and passed without incident.
The daughter of the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), Rosa María Payá, traveled from the city of Miami, where she lives, to participate in the memorial. About 60 people attended the mass, among whom were family, friends and opponents of the Castro government.
Among the activists who participated were former Black Spring prisoner Félix Navarro, the dissident Manuel Cuesta Morúa and the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler.
Speaking to 14ymedio Rosa María Payá said she found “the whole of civil society represented” to honor the memory and legacy of his father. “[All opponents] agree fundamentally: this system does not work and we have to change it.”
Berta Soler said that “the Cuban regime thought that killing Oswaldo Payá was going to do away with him” but that was not the case because “he lives among us.”
Oswaldo Payá founded the MCL in 1988 and died on 22 July 2012 with Harold Cepero, after the vehicle in which they were traveling, driven by the young Spanish politician Ángel Carromero was driving, went off the road and hit a tree.
Payá’s daughter is carrying out an intense international campaign to demand an independent investigation of the case and maintains that the death of her father was a murder orchestrated by the authorities of Havana, and that the car was purposefully run off the road.
A report by the international Human Rights Foundation (HRF) points to “solid indications” that the car in which Payá and his companions were traveling was hit by another vehicle before the crash.
14ymedio, 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.
14ymedio, Havana, 8 May 2017 – At least 38 Ladies in White were arrested this Sunday in Havana, Matanzas, Guantanamo, Ciego de Avila and Santa Clara, during the 100th day of the #TodosMarchamos (We All March) campaign for the release of Cuba’s political prisoners.
The leader of the group, Berta Soler, was arrested along with three other activists outside the group’s headquarters in Havana’s Lawton neighborhood. The women carried posters denouncing the harassment against their movement, dissident Deisy Artiles told 14ymedio. continue reading
“The threats they are making against the activists and their families are serious, and many are being fined for simply evading the police cordon in front of their homes”
Soler was leaving the headquarters along with to Yamilet Garro, Aliuska Gómez and Sodrelis Turruella when they were intercepted and arrested by the police. Inside the house were Artiles, along with Ladies in White Zenaida Hidalgo and Cecilia Guerra.
The police also detained, in the vicinity of the headquarters, the former political prisoner Angel Moya Acosta and the activist Jose Oscar Sánchez.
“The operation started on Friday morning,” Artiles said, adding that “an act of repudiation was carried out [against Berta Soler] at the time of her arrest.”
Dissident Ada Lopez was also arrested outside her home when she tried to reach the headquarters of the movement. Her husband reported the arrest and managed to photograph the moment she was taken to a police car.
In Matanzas, at least a dozen of the movement’s women managed to reach the church to attend Sunday Mass, while 19 were arrested on the way to the parish.
“We have had an operation since Saturday in front of the houses of the Ladies in White,” said Matanzas activist Leticia Ramos Herrería.
The police “have been embroiled in trying to end our movement,” says the opponent. “The threats they are making against the activists and their families are serious. Many are being fined for simply evading the police cordon in front of their homes.”
In the town of Palma Soriano, in Santiago de Cuba, a dozen members of the group were arrested, while in Ciego de Avila the police violently arrested the dissidents Lucía López Rondón and Mayden Maidique Cruz.
Cuban Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH) issued a report in which it stated there were 1,809 arbitrary detentions in the island during the first four months of 2017
On Thursday, the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH) issued a report in which it stated there were 1,809 arbitrary detentions in the island during the first four months of 2017.
Throughout the month of April the organization documented 467 arbitrary arrests, of which 335 were women and 132 were men. 147 of those arrested were black and ten of them were “beaten brutally,” according to the text.
The OCDH emphasizes that a climate of repression prevails “at a time when the Cuban Government has achieved important international support such as that from the European Union and the Government of Spain,” and warns that “in the coming months the political climate may be aggravated because of the government’s nervousness over the difficult economic and social situation that Cuba is facing.”
14ymedio, Havana, 25 April 2017 — On Tuesday morning the Court in Havana’s municipality of Diez de Octubre, confirmed the prosecutor’s request of two years and eight months in jail for Micaela Roll Gibert, 53.
The woman, a member of the opposition group Ladies in White, is charged with the crime of attack, alleging that she knocked down Luanda Mas Valdés, an official from the Ministry of the Interior (MININT), during an arrest. continue reading
According to Berta Soler, the leader of the women’s group who spoke with 14ymedio, the incident took place on May 1, 2016, when Roll Gibert left the headquarters of the Ladies in White.
“Roll was beaten by two cops. When they put her inside the bus to take her to the police station, one of the officers twisted her arm and knocked her down. As she fell, Roll took with her another police officer who was trying to repress her,” explained Soler.
Soler says that Micaella Roll Gibert’s 16-year-old daughter was expelled from the School of Nursing because of her mother’s activism and another of her children, a son, was fired from his job in retaliation against his mother
The officer who fell, Mas Valdés, did not appear in this Tuesday’s trial and according to Soler, they explained to those present that she was “nine month’s pregnant” and “has high blood pressure.”
“The trial was finally held without the presence of the officer making the accusation and instead the court accepted an affidavit, taken at the house of Mas Valdés moments before the trial,” adds Soler.
According to the opposition leader the trial was rigged, prepared by State Security.
“It’s one more woman they are going to send to prison,” says the activist, who notes that some time ago a State Security official proposed to Roll Gibert that she “collaborate with them.”
“When she refused him, they warned her that her life would become a nightmare,” Soler adds.
Soler says that Micaella Roll Gibert’s 16-year-old daughter was expelled from the School of Nursing because of her mother’s activism and another of her children, a son, was fired from his job in retaliation against his mother.
The Lady in White also denounced that other women from the movement are “still missing since early this morning.”
“We do not know where the Ladies Yolanda Ayala, María Josefa Acón and Gladys Capote are,” says Soler.
14ymedio, Havana, 21 March 2017 – This Tuesday, the Cuban government prevented Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White movement, from traveling outside the country because of an unpaid fine for for an alleged infraction “against public adornment.” Meanwhile, the authorities accuse her of having thrown “papers in the street,” which the regime opponent clarified to 14ymedio were “leaflets.”
Soler took advantage of the action to denounce the disappearance, this Tuesday, of her husband, the activist Angel Moya. “We consider that he is ‘disappeared’ because when he left the house he was being followed,” she detailed. “Today I am calling him and his phone is shut off or outside the coverage area.” continue reading
“This morning I was supposed to travel to the United States, first to Miami and then to California,” said Soler. However, after passing through the immigration booth and security controls at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, she was intercepted by an immigration official who asked her to accompany him to an office.
The official told Soler that they would not let her board the plane because she had not paid a fine for “throwing papers into the street.” According to Decree 272, whoever “throws into the public street waste such as papers, wrappings, food waste, packaging and the like,” will have a fine of 50 pesos and must “pick them up immediately.”
“Here, the person who owes the Cuban people freedom is Raul Castro,” Soler replied to the accusation. She claims that it was sheets with political slogans. “The fine is from last September, after that I went to Panama and the United States, so I don’t understand this now,” the dissident complains.
The activist was planning to meet in California with David Kaye, United Nations rapporteur for freedom of expression. Instead of Soler, the activist Leticia Ramos will attend the meeting
Last year, when the Aguilera Police Station informed Soler about the fine, she signed a document informing her of the contravention with an ironic “Down you-know-who,” and threw it in the agents’ faces, telling them: “I do not accept any inappropriate fines.”
Subsequently, Soler was informed that the unpaid fine could be doubled, and it was suggested that the police could exchange each Cuba peso (approximately 4 cents US) of the fine for one day in jail or instead not let her travel on Tuesday.
The activist was planning to meet in California with David Kaye, United Nations rapporteur for freedom of expression. Instead of Soler, Lady in White Leticia Ramos will attend the meeting.
“In the report we list all those fines that they assign to us inappropriately,” reflects Soler. “They are illegal and violate the Republic’s penal code,” a situation that is complemented by “the harassment, the threat and violence that is unleashed against our families, against our children and our husbands to try to get us to stop our activism.”
This month marks a year since the Lady in White was prevented from attending mass at Santa Rita parish, and also blocked from attending the Sunday marches on 5th Avenue, a traditional route that goes back to the origins of the movement after the repressive wave of 2003, known as the Black Spring.
14ymedio, Havana, 7 March 2017 — The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) has denounced the death of political prisoner Hamel Santiago Maz Hernández, an activist from UNPACU, who died* on February 24 at Combinado del Este prison in Havana. The opponent had been imprisoned for eight months without trial for the alleged offense of contempt.
The CCDHRN has released its report for the month of February in which it says that “there have been thousands of cases of Cubans killed in government custody,” a situation for which the authorities bear all the “moral and legal responsibility.” continue reading
The report includes the 482 arbitrary arrests of dissidents last month, a “slightly higher figure than in January.”
The CCDHRN also documented 16 cases of physical aggression and 18 of harassment, “by the secret political police and para-police agents,” with the victims being peaceful opponents, adds the report.
The report includes the 482 arbitrary detentions of dissidents last month, a “slightly higher figure than in January”
The text clarifies that, given “the closed nature of the regime that has ruled Cuba for almost 60 years,” it is “impossible to record the thousands of violations of fundamental rights” that occur throughout the island each month.
Nevertheless, it reports that the Ladies in White and the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) are once again the organizations most repressed. In the case of the women’s organization, they have been “subjected to humiliations and other abuses” over and over. For its part, 54 members of the UNPACU “are political prisoners, most of whom remain imprisoned without formal charges or pending trial.”
During 2016, the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) documented 9,940 arbitrary detentions. This figure “places the Government of Cuba in the first place in all of Latin America,” according to the independent organization.
*Translator’s note: Cuban State Security informed his wife that he died of a heart attack.
14ymedio, Havana, 16 February 2017 — Berta Soler, after meeting this Wednesday with Archbishop of Havana Juan de la Caridad Garcia Rodriguez, said that he has offered his full support to the Ladies in White and that the prelate told her he had asked the Government to sit down and talk to the opposition.
“We ask the Catholic Church to speak out, because whoever is silent supports [the government], and he said to me: ‘No Berta, silence is not always support. We have asked the Cuban Government to sit down and talk to the opposition, but what we say is one thing and what they do is another,” Soler told 14ymedio. continue reading
Soler, the leader of the Ladies in White, and Maria Cristina Labrada, a member of the organization, met with Juan de la Caridad Rodriguez early Wednesday morning and the Archbishop told them that that during the trip from their Lawton headquarters they were “monitored by a large operation made up of the National [Revolutionary] Police and State Security.”
According to Soler’s account, at the meeting the Archbishop was “very receptive” to the movement’s complaints, and they explained to the prelate how they are systematically prevented from reaching the church to attend mass and are victims of abuse such as thefts and fines for “violating the security cordon of the Communist Party of Cuba” when they leave their homes.
“We were able to give him some names and surnames of those who have told us that we could never go to mass at any church,” she added.
María Cristina Labrada and Berta Soler received from the hands of the Archbishop “a family Bible with a dedication for each of us,” and they gave him “a CD and two reports with evidence of repression” suffered by the women’s movement and their families. Both left the door open for a future second meeting.
Juan de la Caridad García Rodríguez was named Archbishop of Havana in April of last year after Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Jaime Ortega and Alamino who retired, as established by the Code of Canon Law, after having reached the age of 75.
A few weeks after taking office, Garcia Rodríguez generated a bitter controversy in declaring that he did not want Cuba to “have capitalism or anything like that, but that socialism should progress” to go “forward in a just and balanced society and one of brotherhood.”
14ymedio, 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.
Cubanet, Ernesto Perez Chang, Havana, 9 November 2016 – The elections in the United States, with the victory of the Republican Donald Trump and the defeat of the Democrat Hillary Clinton, contrary to the predictions of most polls, has captured the attention of the world’s public opinion in recent hours due to the decisive nature of United States policy in the international arena.
The normalization of relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States and the diverse opinions generated by the lengthy diplomatic process and packages of measures aimed at easing the embargo, implemented by current US president Barack Obama, have given rise to a broad spectrum of opinions within Cuban civil society, such that some of the main opposition leaders on the island have expressed their views to CubaNet to the election results announced at dawn on Wednesday.
Antonio Rodiles, coordinator of Estado de Sats (State of Sats) and organizer of the We All March campaign, says: “We expect consistency of those who, within Cuba, maintained a policy against Trump and were confident in Hillary’s victory. (…) Maybe difficult times will come for the process of normalization of relations with Cuba and the continuity of Obama’s program. We expect another direction in the dialogue and a president who places the issue of respect for human rights and freedom of expression as a priority, a determinant, at any negotiating table.” continue reading
Jose Daniel Ferrer, a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, UNPACU, argues that the electoral decision does not mean negative effects on the relations between the two countries: “I do not think the difference is notable. The American people have chosen. The new president will do what suits the citizens of the United States and, as he should, prioritize the interests of his nation (…). The candidate the people believed to be better has won (…). (Regarding Cuba) common sense in the process of normalization of relations will prevail and we expect a strong hand with the dictatorship because (Cuba) is a regime contrary to the interests US, it is a regime that no American candidate would never agree to in the style of Venezuela or China. (…) We expect better relations with the new government.”
The regime opponent Martha Beatriz Roque said: “It seems that the American people have passed the bill to the Democratic Party. Many people are concerned about the ways in which Trump has expressed himself during his campaign, but I think that concern should be minimized because surely the Republican Party will take control of the situation. (…) With regards to his impact on the Cuba issue I think there are measures taken by Obama that are irreversible. Especially because America is a democracy, not like Cuba, which is governed by a totalitarian. It will not be easy to give a twist to relations with the island. However, I think this gentleman will be educated by his advisers enough to not make the mistakes of the previous president.”
Eliecer Avila, activist with the movement Somos+ (We Are More), confessed to not having had a previous position in favor or against any candidate, although he said about his expectations: “I didn’t support either of them one hundred percent. In Hillary Clinton I saw very positive support for Obama’s policy (toward Cuba). (…) Donald Trump has shown some strong positions but I do not think that will change the policy of his predecessor but, apparently, will negotiate from other positions.”
The lawyer Laritza Diversent , founder of Cubalex, believes that the elections were a reflection of the opinion of the American people and believes that Cuba will occupy an important place in the policy of President-elect: “The process of normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba is irreversible. (…) There is a responsibility to the legacy of Obama. The United States, with its current policy, is leading positive changes. Many challenges are imposed on the new president. We should also consider the views of the US Congress and other powers in that nation.”
Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, believes it is too early to make predictions about the directions Trump will take regarding policies on Cuba: “We have to wait. I have never preferred one or the other because there is a reality: it is not about the Cuban President but about the President of the United States. Someday I want Cuba to be able to elect a president in a way similar way to that in the United States. (…) We don’t know about Trump, we have to wait. There may be changes but I do not know, I’d rather wait. ”
The election of the 45th President of the United States has not only launched numerous questions in the world’s most important economic sectors. For Cuba, undergoing a process of rapprochement with the United States that could help find a solution to economic stagnation, for the government, or a way for democratization, for civil society, the policies toward the island that will be decisive in the immediate future will be designed by Trump.
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 11 August 2016 – Cuba’s immigration authorities prevented activists Ivan Hernandez and Felix Navarro from traveling outside Cuba this Thursday. The former prisoners of the 2003 Black Spring were invited to participate in the 2ndCuban National Conference that be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, from 12 to 14 August, but were unable to board their flight at Havana’s José Martí International Airport, where they ran into Reinaldo Escobar, 14ymedio’s editor
The answer that each of the dissidents received on presenting their documents to the Immigration and Nationality official was: “You cannot leave a second time.” continue reading
Both Hernandez and Navarro had received, in March of this year, special permission to go abroad “one-time” after being placed on parole, a condition the authorities continue to maintain since release from prison in 2011. All those released from the Black Spring “Group of 75” who continue to reside in Cuba benefited from a similar authorization.
The opponent Librado Linares, also a former prisoner of the Black Spring and general secretary of the Cuban Reflection Movement (MCR), did manage to board his flight on Thursday to participate in the meeting of Puerto Rico, since it was the first time he made use permit leave the Island.
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) recently sent a letter to Raul Castro expressing “deep concern” about the “violent treatment” received by the trade unionist Ivan Hernandez on his return to Cuba after his first trip abroad. He traveled on the same flight as the opponent Vladimir Roca and attorney Wilfredo Vallin, of the Law Association of Cuba.
Hernandez was arrested on July 31 and reported that he received a “savage beating” when he refused to be subjected to a search at the time of arrival. During his trip abroad he met with organizations and activists from Europe and the United States.
Both Hernandez and Navarro cataloged the “injustices” and said they will continue trying to assert their right to travel freely.
The Cuban National Conference is a continuation of one held last year, which involved 23 organizations in Cuba and 32 from exile. It has been convened by the Coordinating Liaison Committee composed of Ana Carbonell, Rosa María Payá, Sylvia Iriondo, Guillermo Farinas, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leyva, Rene Gomez Manzano, Mario Félix Lleonart and Saylí Navarro
Among the participants in the conference traveling from Cuba are also Eliecer Avila, leader of Somos+ (We Are More) and Boris Gonzalez, a member of the Democratic Action Roundtable (MUAD). The great absence the meeting will be Guillermo Fariñas, who remains on hunger strike in Santa Clara.
In the early hours of Thursday, Lady in White Leticia Ramos Herrería was arrested while traveling from Matanzas to Havana to take the flight that would also have taken her to the conference in Puerto Rico, according to the leader of the Ladies in White movement, Berta Soler, speaking to this newspaper. The activist was returned to her home where she is under police surveillance.
Event organizers want to use this 2nd Conference to create a “structure of unity of action in diversity,” whose purpose is to “operate inside and outside Cuba, coordinating the efforts of both shores.” In addition, they discussed “the general principles of the new Cuba” desired, an issue that was left pending at the previous meeting.
Title on video: “The most difficult moment was when they tried to accuse me of spying…”
Cubanet.org, Julio Cesar Alvarez and Augusto Cesar San Martin, 29 July 2016, Havana – Hector Maseda dreamed of designing big ships and hanging his naval engineering degree where everyone could see it, but “since they only built boats here,” he graduated with a degree in electrical engineering.
His excellent grades assured him a post in the National Center for Scientific Research (CNIC) until 1980 when the Mariel Boatlift changed his life, as it did for tens of thousands of Cubans who decided to emigrate, but from a different angle.
Hector did not emigrate but lost his job at the CNIC for refusing to repudiate his colleagues who chose to leave the Island. He stopped enjoying the “political trustworthiness” indispensable for working at the center, the “father of science in Cuba.” continue reading
From a scientist with three post-graduate studies and author of several scientific articles, he became a handicrafts vendor for more than a year in order to be able to survive. After going through several different jobs he began to work in the medical devices department in the oldest functioning hospital in Cuba, the Commander Manuel Fajardo Teaching Surgical Hospital.
It was there, on Christmas of 1991, that he began the courtship of Laura Pollan, a teacher of Spanish and literature who would later become a symbol of the peaceful struggle for human rights in Cuba.
The spring of 2003 was a “Black Spring” for Hector and 74 of his colleagues (known as the Group of 75). Sentenced to 20 years in a summary trial for a supposed crime against the independence and territorial integrity of the State, he spent more than seven years in prison.
From that Black Spring emerged the Ladies in White, a group of wives and family members of the 75 dissidents. Laura Pollan, because of the arrest of Hector Maseda, quit her job as a professor in the Ministry of Education and became the founder and leader of the Ladies in White.
“From that moment, she gave up all her pleasures, all her intellectual and social inclinations, etc., and became a leading defender of human rights,” says Maseda.
But Laura would not survive long after Hector’s liberation. A strange virus ended her life in 2011, although Hector Maseda is convinced that the Cuban political police assassinated her.
President of the National Commission of Masonic Teaching and past-President of the Cuban Academy of High Masonic Studies, Hector has traveled the whole road of Cuban Freemasonry.
From apprentice to Grade 33 of the Supreme Council for the Republic of Cuba, he is one of the 25 Sovereign Grand Inspectors of the order which is composed of about 29 thousand Masons spread through more than 300 lodges around the Island.
He has worked as an independent journalist for outlets like CubaNet, Miscelaneas de Cuba and others. His book Buried Alive recounts the conditions of the Cuban political prison system and the abuses of jailers against political and common prisoners.
But he, who at age 15 was arrested and beaten by the Batista police after being mistaken for a member of the July 26 terrorist group and at age 60 psychologically tortured by Fidel Castro’s political police by being subjected to sleep deprivation in interrogations, still has not overcome the death of his wife Laura Pollan.
“I have not been able to overcome that trauma,” says Maseda.
14ymedio, Havana, 29 May 2016 – From early hours Sunday a major police operation surrounded the headquarters of the Ladies in White in the Havana neighborhood of Lawton, according to denunciations by several activists from that organization. At least “13 women and four opponents were brutally intercepted outside the house” and forced into police cars in the last 13 hours, dissident Luisa Ramona Toscano Kendelan said by telephone to 14ymedio. continue reading
The group that surrounded the property included, as has become customary, a conga line with music through powerful speakers and signs that use the opposition campaign slogan “We All March” together with the phrases “with Fidel,” “with the Revolution” and “with socialism.”
At several points in the city similar operations prevented the women who form part of the human rights organization from reaching Santa Rita Church. Several on-scene witnesses report that at least two Ladies in White had managed to reach the vicinity of the parish on the western periphery of Havana.
Minutes before her arrest and in statements to this daily, Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, declared that she was ready to confront the risks of leaving her organization’s headquarters in order to exercise the right of “peaceful demonstration.” She explained that she was prepared to go “to prison to await the trial” with which they threatened her last week for a charge of resisting the authorities.
“I am prepared, I have my blood pressure monitor, my pills, shots, personal hygiene articles, flip flops … I carry it all. I am again going to commit the crime they accuse me of, so I expect to end up in the Manto Negro women’s prison.”
In the morning hours in the Matanzas province, Lady in White Leticia Ramos Herreria, who urged agents to take her directly to prison to await trial, was detained. Nevertheless, the State Security officers responded to her that “it was still not time.”
14ymedio, Havana, 24 May 2016 — Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, faces a prison sentence of three months to five years for the alleged crime of resistance. The activist was arrested last Sunday when she attempted to go to the Cathedral of Havana for the inauguration of the new archbishop of the capital. After being charged by the authorities, she is required to available to them at all times and cannot leave Cuba before her trial. “I didn’t become an opponent [of the regime] in order to travel and I am prepared to go to prison if that is the decision. I won’t even get a lawyer,” Soler told 14ymedio.
The group of 31 activists, among them 22 Ladies in White, was intercepted on leaving the Ladies in White’s headquarters in the Lawton neighborhood. The repudiation rally against them before the Sunday Mass was organized for 9 in the morning and involved many people who were not even from the neighborhood. “Although we already knew we wouldn’t be able to get there,” Berta Soler said, “we decided to leave [for the church] because our house is not a jail cell.” As commonly occurs, tempers flared and finally the police arrived to arrest them.
“When they stopped us we sat down, which is a common practice in peace movements around the world, except in Cuba,” Soler emphasized.
Berta Soler was driven to the Alamar neighborhood where, she said, there was “a classroom reserved by the PNR (People’s Revolutionary Police).” At about six or seven in the evening they told her that this time there would be formal charges. “At first they said that I had scratched a policewoman, but eventually they dismissed the charge of attack,” she said.
That night an official who said she was the investigator/prosecutor on her case told her that she was accused of resistance. “I didn’t respond in any way and went to sleep. At a quarter to ten at night they came to find me to sign the accusation but I didn’t sign any document. We (and they as well) have videos that show I never lifted a hand to anyone or attack anyone, not even verbally.”
Berta Soler says she has no problem complying with the requirement that she not leave the country. “At the moment I have no plans for any trip. The closest is an idea to go to Geneva, but that still has not materialized. If before [the trial], or at any time I need to leave the country for some event, they will have to stop me from traveling at the airport itself,” she said.