“Paya Was An Example Of Dedication And Persistence” / 14ymedio

Oswaldo Payá holding the Transitional Program for political change in Cuba. (EFE)

Oswaldo Payá holding the Transitional Program for political change in Cuba. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 July 2015 — Three years after the death of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero, 14ymedio has collected the opinions of some Cuban activists who knew the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement. They is people who shared with him projects and risks, who admired or were inspired by his civic labor. Let these seven testimonies serve to approach the legacy of a man who devoted his best years to achieving greater rights and freedoms for the citizenry.

Father José Conrado

He has left us a testimony of life, a consistent life in service to his people, a courageous life that knew how to respond to the difficulties and the circumstances of the times. A life true to his convictions of faith and his love for his country until his last moment. It is a testimony that we will never forget and at the same time something to be deeply grateful for, because men like him are the ones who are needed, men like him are those who build a people from within.

Martha Beatriz Roque

It is very difficult to summarize in a few lines his life and the legacy he left us. First of all we have to note his actions as a father, a husband and a member of the Catholic Church. He knew how to pass on an excellent education for his children and to sow love in his family. Now we have Rosa María [his daughter], who is continuing his struggle and also persevering in seeing that justice is done for those who murdered him. His life’s companion, Ofelita, is doing the same thing.

Payá witnessed in favor of democracy and his legacy is reflected in the continuity of his work. These men who have acted with dignity in life, in times as difficult as those we Cubans have had to live through, one can say they have not died, they continue with us.

Jose Daniel Ferrer

I always had great respect and great affection for him, and joined in with the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) for many years, especially on Project Varela. I would like to highlight one way he is remembered in the eastern region, especially in the province of Santiago de Cuba. The term that we are referred to by, whether we are members of UNPACU, of CID, of the Republican Party, the Citizens for Democracy, or any other organization, is “Varelistas” [“supporters of Project Varela”], and not because of a direct relation to Felix Verala, who well deserves it for his contribution to Cuban nationality, but precisely because of Project Varela, which not only collected thousands of signatures at that time, but also left a lasting impact.

So that is what people call us there and, on occasion, even our worst enemies do. So every time they call us Varelistas, they are remembering Payá.

Dagoberto Valdes

The first thing I want to point out about the legacy Oswaldo left us is the integrity of one person who throughout his life remained consistent with what he thought and believed. Secondly, he left us what in my view is the most important civic exercise of the last decades: the Varela Project. Third, he left us the perseverance of a man who believed in the cause of freedom and democracy for Cuba and who dedicated his entire life to it.

Pastor Mario Felix Lleonart

His legacy goes far beyond even the Christian Liberation Movement he founded. His precious heritage belongs to Cuba and is found in the shared yearning for democracy and respect for human rights, for all individuals who think as he thought. For this he will always be respected. When Cuba can enjoy democracy, he will not be with is, but his teachings will be.

Felix Navarro Rodriguez

He was a great leader in the peaceful Cuban opposition because he accomplished what no one had been able to accomplish, which was to collect those thousands of signatures supporting Project Varela and doing it within the very laws of Cuba.

Still today I feel I see him, with the enthusiasm that characterized him, seeking unity among Cubans so that we can manage the change in a peaceful way, so that the people would be the owners of their own opinions and be able to put their rights into practice. It fills us with great satisfaction to have been able to be at the side of a man like him at those moments before the Black Spring of 2003, and to continue working with his daughter Rosa María today.

Miriam Leyva

He was a very self-sacrificing person who was characterized by believing in what he was doing. He was convinced that he could fight for a better life for Cubans to achieve progress and democracy for Cuba. He was a practicing Catholic and also a tireless worker. In his specialty, medical equipment repair, he was acknowledged and respected, not only in his workplace but in all public health facilities where he went to provide services.

Payá was an example of self-sacrifice and above all persistence, so his legacy extends beyond the MCL and Project Varela; an example as a human being, as a Cuban. That is what remains in my memory and I appreciate all the years I knew him in the midst of such difficult situations.

A List of Cuban Political Prisoners / 14ymedio, Martha Beatriz Roque

UNPACU activists being arrested. Screen shot from Youtube

UNPACU activists being arrested. Screen shot from Youtube

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Martha Beatriz Roque, Havana, 11 July 2015 — What classifies as a political prisoner is a cause for disagreement among the Cuban opposition. There are varying opinions about who has been jailed for political reasons or not, despite the criteria established by the United Nations and other organizations that concern themselves with these matters.

There are several lists of political prisoners compiled by various organizations circulating in and outside of Cuba. Said lists do not come from any specific dissident groups, but rather from individuals who publicize them. I unsuccessfully tried for all parties to agree on one list. Unfortunately, some individuals who have control over the names of political prisoners refuse to even listen to what others who made their own lists have to say.

Then we also have several groups of lawyers who do not actively contribute to lists of political prisoners, and who do not endorse the ones we have now either. Continue reading

Martha Beatriz Roque: “In Cuba there are political prisoners, but they don’t all appear on the lists” / 14ymedio

Martha Beatriz Roque. (14ymedio)

Martha Beatriz Roque. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 June 2015 — The opposition leader Martha Beatriz Roque witnessed the controversial incident that occurred last Thursday, 2 July, at the residence of the head of the United States Interests Section in Havana, during the celebrations of that country’s Independence Day. A group of government opponents rebuked Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino for his statement that there are no political prisoners in Cuba, which has been spread in spoken and filmed versions. Roque talks about these events in an interview with 14ymedio.

14ymedio. The Archbishop of Havana has just denied one version in which derogatory expressions about the independent press were attributed to Cardinal Jaime Ortega. You were there, how do you feel about what happened?

Roque. I think that it wasn’t the proper way to address a person who occupies the position in the Church that Cardenal Jaime Ortega occupies, nor was it the appropriate place to do it in the circumstances in which the incident occurred. There have been references to some videos and voice recordings, in one of which Jaime can be heard to say that the opponents “are blowing the trumpets of Miami.” Continue reading

Another Sunday of Beatings for the Ladies in White /14ymedio

Antonio Rodiles after his arrest. (Ailer González)

Antonio Rodiles after his arrest. (Ailer González)

14ymedio, Havana, 6 July 2015 — The project director of the independent Estado of Sats project, Antonio Rodiles, underwent emergency surgery Sunday for a nasal bone fracture after being detained and beaten by security forces in Havana while participating in the weekly march of the Ladies in White. Opposition sources reported that about 80 members of that organization and human rights activists were arrested, sometimes violently.

The regime opponent Martha Beatriz Roque reported through her Twitter account of the arrest of Rodiles on 42nd street and 3rd Avenue in Miramar, adding that he was, “Beaten until his nasal septum, forehead, finger and foot were all broken,” and taken to the hospital Calixto García for emergency surgery. He was then transferred to the prison known as Vivac, where he remained until 6.30 pm. Continue reading

More than 70 Ladies in White and Activists Arrested / Diario de Cuba

Ladies in White in front of Santa Rita Church on a previous Sunday (fhrcuba)

Ladies in White in front of Santa Rita Church on a previous Sunday (fhrcuba)

Diario de Cuba, Havana, 7 June 2015 – Over 40 Ladies in White and some 27 activists were arrested this Sunday, the ninth of repressive operations in Havana, according to dissidents.

Among those arrested were the musician Gorki Aguila, the director of Estado de Sats, Antonio Rodiles, photographer Claudio Fuentes and artist Tania Bruguera, who has already been released, according to the activist Ailer Gonzalez.

Other Ladies in White and opponents were arrested on leaving their homes, or forced to remain in them, according to the dissident Martha Beatriz Roque. Continue reading

Committees for the Defense of the Revolution and Citizen Participation / Cubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque

cdr-3cubanet square logoCubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque, Havana, 2 April 2015 — Whenever the topic of democracy and the Cuban regime comes up, the top leaders say that this is the most democratic country in the world. The latest version is that “‘democracy’ is subject to interpretation, and every country understands it in its own way.”

This also occurs with citizen participation, which assumes a receptivity on the part of government officials to listen to what the citizens want to communicate to them, to help improve the politics and management of public concerns. It means that all who want to get involved in matters that affect the people will be heard, and they will be allowed to contribute their points of view, concerns and possible solutions.

Even so, although the regime talks a good game, the totalitarian power looms over the practically null power of the people, which makes citizen involvement quite difficult in Cuba, thus preventing the growth of participatory democracy. Continue reading

“No matter where I live, I will keep working for the freedom of Cuba” / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Marta Beatriz Roque, Cabello Ángel Moya, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique, Diosdado González Marrero and Eduardo Díaz Fleitas

Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, Ángel Moya, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique, Diosdado González Marrero and Eduardo Díaz Fleitas

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 18 March 2015 — Twelve years after the Black Spring, 14ymedio chats with some of the former political prisoners currently living on the Island. Two questions have been posed to those activists condemned in March 2003: one about their decision to stay in Cuba, and the other about how they see the country today.

Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello

I left prison in late 2004, paroled by the regime for reasons of health. They never offered me the chance to go abroad, but it wouldn’t have occurred to me. My closest family, and most distant as well, live abroad, but I never had plans to abandon the Island. I am a Spanish citizen because my family did the paperwork, I visited the embassy of that country the day they told me to fill out the forms and then got a passport, about four years ago.
Continue reading

“I do not know if it makes much sense to try to legalize the Hispano-Cuban Foundation on the Island” / 14ymedio, Marta Beatriz Roque

Martha Beatriz Roque, the new president of the Cuban Hispano Foundation. (14ymedio)

Martha Beatriz Roque, the new president of the Hispano-Cuban Foundation. (14ymedio)

14YMEDIO, Havana, 18 July 2013 — The Cuban economist Martha Beatriz Roque has just been named president of the Hispano-Cuban Foundation (FHC). The institution has tried to “promote the presence and relevance of the FHC in the island.” 14ymedio was able to speak with the prominent dissident to get her impressions about the new appointment and her immediate plans.

QUESTION: How do you feel to have been chosen for this position?

ANSWER: It is a tremendous responsibility, because when the board members of the FHC decided to choose me for this position they based it on some expectations that I must now meet. A challenge of this nature, one always takes it as a challenge, with a bit of fear too, because I know it will not be easy.

Q. What are the first steps that you will take starting now?

A. First I must organize the Cuban side. The patronage in Madrid is very well defined, but here there are some steps that need to be taken in that regard. The first is to legalize the situation at the Embassy of Spain in Cuba and then there will be many other steps and concrete actions. But contrary to how Raul Castro thinks things must be done in Cuba, when he advised doing everything slowly and gradually, we will try to make our plans a reality as quickly and swiftly as possible.

Q. Do you intend to try to legally register this entity in the Register of Associations of Cuba?

A. In Spain this foundation is legalized, it is based in Madrid and is well known in the European Union. Legalize it in Cuba? …? I don’t know if it makes much sense even to try.

Q. Will you continue as usual with his work as head of the Community Communicators Network and the Institute of Independent Economists?

A. Yes, of course, one has nothing to do with the others. All tasks that come starting now with this new responsibility will be in addition to what we do every day. I hope I have the time and energy.

Community Network Journalists Arrested and Beaten / Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello

And so the violence starts

And so the violence starts

Juliet Michelena Díaz, José Antonio Sieres Ramallo and Billy Joe Landa Linares, were stopped on San José between Belascoaín and Manrique, talking with me, on the balcony, which they’ve dubbed “The Ferns,” an allusion to the Cuban telenovela, when Patrol Car No 767 appeared to arrest them. They wanted to take the two men and leave the woman. She opposed it.

In this patrol they took Yuleidis López González and Juan Carlos Diaz Fonseca

In this patrol they took Yuleidis López González and Juan Carlos Diaz Fonseca

At that moment, officials from State Security officers and two women in uniform with the rank of Major arrived. They jumped on Billy Joe and Juliet. At first they beat him by squeezing his testicles, and injected something in his left arm, near the shoulder.

When he was released, he had to be transferred to the Poze Bernardo polyclinic of San Miguel del Padrón, where he was supplied oxygen. He didn’t want to go to the hospital to avoid being subjected to the political police.

Juliet was dragged by the two officers and a third woman dressed in civilian clothes. They gave low a low blow and hit her in the mouth when she screamed. The public intervened, saying, “Don’t hit her, she’s a woman,” “Don’t be abusers.” Only one woman shouted “Viva Fidel,” and “Down with the worms,” but it didn’t have any resonance. Also arrested wereYuleidis López González and Juan Carlos Diaz Fonseca, who were driven out to Guanabacoa and abandoned there.

One of the cooperators with the political police

One of the cooperators with the political police

Barbara Fernandez Barrera and Misael Aguilar Hernández, arrested in San Antonio de los Baños, were taken to an unknown place, and had to walk 3 kilometers alone until a truck picked them up and took them to Quivicán in the province of Mayabeque.

In front of my balcony those cooperating with the police hid behind a column so we couldn’t take their picture, but we did.

Wherever the people are concentrated, the regime acts repressively. They can not allow the street to heat up from the “Balcony of the Ferns.”

Cubanet, 13 February 2104, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello

Husband-Wife Human Rights Defenders in Imminent Danger: “Don’t allow them to kill us.”

Antunez & SraUrgent Alert

List email from Cuba, from Martha Beatriz Roque, 2/13/2014, 2:15 PM (translated from Spanish): “Jorge Luis García Pérez Antúnez just called to tell me that his house was invaded for the third time, his wife was arrested, and he regained consciousness while laying on the street next to a patrol car. “Don’t allow them to kill us,” he told me in a groggy voice.”

Martha Beatriz then followed with a message to Cuba Archive: “He sounded like he was in a very bad state, exhausted from feeling un-supported. I am very worried that they will kill him and nothing will happen. He is now all alone and in hunger strike.”

“Antunez,” and his wife, Iris Tamara Pérez Aguilera, are leading members of Cuba’s peaceful opposition movement. They went on hunger strike the morning of February 10th to protest the violent repression to which Cuban authorities have most recently subjected them –-detentions, violent home invasions, and confiscation of their belongings. Their telephones have been cut off and since January 24th  their home has been surrounded by security forces.

The couple lives in in Placetas, which is approximately 200 miles from the city of Havana in the province of Villa Clara.

Read remarks Antunez delivered at Georgetown University on September 16, 2013 here.

Antunez13 February 2014

CELAC Summit Passed Like a Storm / Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello

Informers on guard at the corner of my home — Martha Beatriz Roque

HAVANA, Cuba — There is not a single time that the phone rings for good news; these days every conversation is based on arrests, beatings and demonstrations, an eloquent way to carry out the Summit of CELAC (Community of Latin-American and Caribbean States) which turned into a parody of the famous novel “Wuthering Heights” by Englishwoman Emily Bronte.

But although the meeting was held in Havana, the capital was not the only place where these situations were produced.  In other sites as distant as the eastern provinces also there were moments of tension because of the repressive work of the political police.

In Manzanillo, Granma province, on January 28, some members of the Cuban Community Communicators Network could not leave their homes, as, for example, Xiomara Moncada Almaguer who wanted to visit her ill six-year old grandson; when she came out of her house, six women armed with parasols attacked her in front of State Security officer Camilo Mandiel (alias The Joker), who permitted them to hit the peaceful woman.

Leonardo Cancio Santana Ponce tried to leave his house — on the same day — on bicycle and was impeded by Captain Napoles, Sector Chief, whom he found in the company of four State Security officers, among them Alexis Guerra and the older Able Guevara. Cancio explained that they lifted him and threw him inside his house, together with the bicycle. A drunk neighbor, by the name of Pedro, defended him, yelling “abusers,” and they arrested him.

Also, the house of Tania de la Torre Montesinos, in Manzanillo, was under surveillance by political police, and they did not allow her daughter Ariuska Marquez to go out to the street, in spite of the fact that she is not a dissident activist.

In Holguin province, at two in the afternoon, a demonstration against Doctor Ramon Zamora Rodriguez began at his house on Avenue of the Americas 66 between Comandante Fajardo and Playa Giron in the Ramon Quintana Division; it lasted until 9 at night.  The cheerleaders broke the fence of the house, the windows and the door by stoning and body slams; but what is most regretful is that they hit his 13-year-old son. When they withdrew, those in the dwelling tried to fix some of the damage, but they had to put furniture behind the door in order to be able to sleep with some security.  The next day, several dissidents went to try to repair all the breakage done by the mob.

In the basement of my home

On the 29th — like one more Wednesday — no one was permitted to enter my home, and I was under house arrest. A mob of some 10 or 12 people on the stairs, some of them neighbors who were paid in the morning to dedicate themselves to those functions, did not let anyone up. Our collaborator Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique asked them to identify themselves in order to learn with what authority they were doing this, and one of the repressors, by the name of Juan Carlos, (a well-built man of about 35 years of age), who in April 2013 beat me inside my house, went up to Arnoldo, and the State Security officer there had to intervene so that he would not hit him, because he surely had orders to do so if something occurred. You have to remember that Arnoldo is a man of 73 years of age who suffered 8 years in prison.

From this unclean practice the following community communicators were arrested: Evelyn Pineda Concepción, Laudelina Alcalde, Maritza Concepción Sarmientos, Blanca Hernández Moya, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique, José Antonio Sieres Ramallo, Juliet Michelena Díaz, Billy Joe Landa Linares, Julia Estrella Aramburu Taboas (seized two times because they jumped on her when she returned), Juan Carlos Díaz Fonseca and Judit Muñiz Peraza.

The first three women in this regard were transferred in a patrol car — the same as everyone — but with the special feature that they left them in the township Melena del Sur in the Mayabeque Province. When they arrived at that place, a clearing, they told the police that they were not going to get out there, and they said they were complying with orders, that if they did not get out of the car, they would get them out by force.*

Also, Julia Estrella Aramburo Taboas, in her second effort to enter her home, was arrested and taken by patrol car past the town of Santiago de las Vegas.  She resides in Central Havana township and found herself alone.

If the protagonist of Wuthering Heights saw the specter of a woman, in the Cuban parody we are in front of a ghost that has turned into a nightmare for the opposition, but unfortunately no president of the democratic countries of Latin America, who have just visited Havana, have seen it.

*Translator’s note: A popular tactic now is for State Security or the police to simply pick up dissidents and drive them to ’the middle of nowhere’ and abandon them, never recording any arrest or detention.

Cubanet, January 30, 2014, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello

Translated by mlk.

31 January 2014