Three Activists Arrested During Visit of Pope Francis Are Released / 14ymedio

Activists arrested during Pope Francis’s Mass in the Plaza of the Revolution (frame of a video)

Activists arrested during Pope Francis’s Mass in the Plaza of the Revolution (frame of a video)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 9 November 2015 – This Monday afternoon the three activists arrested during Pope Francis’s visit were released. Zaqueo Baez Guerrero and Ismael Bonet, members of the Patriot Union of Cuba (UNPACU), and the Lady in White Maria Josefa Acon Sardina, were released pending trial as corroborated by 14ymedio in a telephone call from one of those released.

For nearly 50 days, the three dissidents had been held at the police station known as 100 y Aldabó in Havana, for approaching the bBishop of Rome on his arrival at the Plaza of the Revolution in the capital, on 20 September.

Within hours of the arrest, Baez managed to communicate with the leader of his organization, Jose Daniel Ferrer, who told the press: “Zaqueo told me that he managed to make it to where the Pope was and to tell him the truth and to shout ‘Freedom!’.”

During the first days of imprisonment, two of the regime opponents went on a hunger strike, but later they ceased to fast. UNPACU maintained a strong campaign for their release under the slogan “The three who reached the Pope,” which included marches in the east and other cities in the country.

The activists were charged with the offenses of assault, disrespect, public disorder and resisting arrest, according to what was detailed by family members who were able to visit them during their confinement.

More Than 100 arrested in Havana and Oriente / 14ymedio

The Ladies in White marching down 5th Avenue. (Angel Juan Moya)

The Ladies in White marching down 5th Avenue. (Angel Juan Moya)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 1 November 2015 – This Sunday was marked throughout the country by dozens of arrests, particularly against members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and the Ladies in White. The arrests began in the early hours in the Oriente (in eastern Cuba), where 91 activists were intercepted trying to reach the sanctuary of El Cobre.

The leader of the UNPACU, Jose Daniel Ferrer, was arrested along with 36 other dissidents of his organization at the checkpoint known as the Pajuin, on the outskirts of the Santiago capital to prevent them from reaching the church dedicated to the patron saint of Cuba. Hours later this newspaper was able to confirm that all those arrested had been released.

We have gone “without hiding ourselves,” said Ferrar to 14ymedio. The former prisoner of the 2003 Black Spring said that “in the five eastern provinces a total of 91 people were detained, all members UNPACU.”

In Havana, about 51 Ladies in White and 29 other activists managed to gather outside Santa Rita parish, before undertaking their traditional Sunday march down Fifth Avenue. Then, opponents gathered at Gandhi park to take stock of the week.

After the meeting and as they headed toward Third Street, a police operation was waiting for the activists who were arrested and taken to detention centers outside the capital. They were then being released.

‘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.

Another Sunday of Repression of Activists Throughout the Country / 14ymedio

The Ladies in White on their walk this Sunday in Havana (photo Juan Angel Moya)

The Ladies in White on their walk this Sunday in Havana (photo Juan Angel Moya)

14ymedio, Havana, 12 October 2015 – A new round of repression against activists was experienced in Cuba this Sunday. The arrests began in the early morning hours in order to prevent dissidents from participating in the march on Fifth Avenue in Havana, which on this occasion included a tribute to the late leader of the Ladies in White, Laura Pollan.

The march through this downtown street was joined by 57 Ladies in White and 21 human rights activists, in addition to the mother and grandmother of artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto. The walk began in Gandhi Park, next to the Santa Rita Parish in the Miramar neighborhood. Later several dissidents were arrested, among them the blogger Lia Villares and dissident Antonio G. Rodiles.

Activist Arcelio Molina Leyva reported to 14ymedio that “the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) was raided, and they stole everything they could,” besides detaining “those who were there.” The dissident detailed that among those arrested were Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, Ovidio Martin Castellanos and Yriade Hernandez Aguilera. Continue reading

“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

The Ladies In White Face Another Sunday Of Repression In Havana / 14ymedio

Ladies in White during the pilgrimage this Sunday. (Angel Moya)

Ladies in White during the pilgrimage this Sunday. (Angel Moya)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 October, 2015 – Fifty-nine Ladies in White and 20 activists gathered this Sunday in Gandhi Park in Havana’s Playa district, despite the arrests previous to their traditional Sunday peregrination. After a summary of their weekly activities, the dissidents were detained, according to a report from witnesses at the scene.

From the early hours, the regime opponent Martha Beatriz Roque denounced the arrests of 12 human rights activists who had traveled to Santa Rita parish. Among those arrested with the mother and siblings of Zaqueo Baez Guerrero, one of the members of the of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) who had approached Pope Francis in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution.

Others arrested on Sunday included the regime opponents Antonio Gonzalez Rodiles, Ailer Gonzalez and Felix Navarro. The latter lives in the town of Perico, Matanzas, and traveled to the capital to show his support to the human rights movement.

Blogger Agustín López Canino denounced his arrest and reported that he was handcuffed at the corner of 5th and 30th streets, in the Playa district, together with two other colleagues. The activists detailed that he was “taken to the outskirts of Havana” to prevent his accompanying the Ladies in White during their Sunday march.

Meanwhile, in Colón, Matanzas, independent journalist Ivan Hernandez Carrillo reported ten Ladies in White marched in Colón, Matanzas, for the release of the political prisoners.

The leader of the Ladies in White movement, Berta Soler said that Yaquelín Boni, an activist detained since Thursday during a protest outside Combinado del Este prison and accused of “disobedience,” has now been released.

Cuban Exiles Demand The Release Of Danilo Maldonado / EFE, 14ymedio

Danilo Maldonado, 'El Sexto' (The Sixth). (Artist's File)

Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto’ (The Sixth). (Artist’s File)

EFE, Miami, 29 September 2015 — The Assembly of Cuban Resistance in Miami on Tuesday demanded the release in Cuba of artist Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth), who has spent 22 days on a hunger strike to demand his freedom after nine months of detention.

According to the Cuban exile group, the graffiti artist is in “critical condition” in the Cuban prison of Valle Grande, in the province of Mayabeque, along with the activisits Zaqueo Báez, Ismael Bonet Reñé and María Josefa Acón, detained in Havana and also on hunger strike.

The organization explained that Maldonado was arrested in December 2014 for painting the names of the two Castro brothers on the backs of two pigs, before an artistic performance he was going to stage with the animals. Continue reading

Activists Arrested for Approaching the Pope on Hunger Strike / 14ymedio

Activists detained during the Mass of Pope Francisco in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana. (Still from a video)

Activists detained during the Mass of Pope Francisco in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana. (Still from a video)

14ymedio, 24 September 2015 — The three activists of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) arrested on Sunday during Pope Francis’s Mass Francisco in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana remain on hunger strike, according to a Thursday statement from UNPACU.
The regime opponents, who were arrested as they approached the Pope to denounce the situation of human rights in Cuba, are being held at the police station known as 100 y Aldabó in the capital.

“From the day of their arrest, Zacchaeus Baez, Maria Josefa Acón and Ismael Bonet have been on a hunger strike,” the statement says, adding: “As of yesterday the decided that it would also be a thirst strike.” The activists, according to the statement, “belong to the UNPACU Felix Varela Cell in Calabazar” and Ancon is also a member of the Ladies in White.

The opposition group has begun “a campaign in support of the three detainees,” according to its leader, Jose Daniel Ferrer. The first actions are aimed at “informing the public through disks and printed matter about the action in the Square.” The former political prisoner says that the organization is posting notices “on poles, walls and other sites with photos of the three and explanations of what they did.”

Under the theme of “The three who reached the Pope” UNPACU has also organized marches in the east of the country, in Camagüey, Havana and Pinar del Río. The statement warns that, “if they are not released, the next step in solidarity with the three could be a mass hunger strike in public places.”

More Than A Hundred Activists Arrested, According UNPACU / 14ymedio

Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of UNPACU. (14ymedio)

Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of UNPACU. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 8 September 2015 — The Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) denounced on Tuesday the arrest of at least 140 activists in the east of the country between members of the organization and the women’s group Citizens for Democracy. Among those arrested was Ovidio Martin Castellanos, member of the board of UNPACU, said Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the opposition group.

The arrests occurred when the activists tried to reach the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Charity, on the day of the celebrations for the patroness of Cuba. Localities with high numbers of detainees are Mella and Palmarito del Cauto. Some opponents had left their homes at night or Monday at dawn to reach the Mass in the church.

Several of the detainees, according to Ferrer, “were left in remote locations without transport at night.” Among them are the activists Belkis Castillo, Moralina Díaz, Maidolis Oribe, Keila Ramos and Belkis Marta Beatriz Ferrer. The women also reported violence during the arrests and the retention of their mobile phones.

UNPACU Reports More Than A Hundred Activists Arrested / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 16 August 2015 — From the early hours of Sunday the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) denounced the arrest of more than 130 of its activists. Several sources within the organization told this newspaper that the detainees were going to the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, in Santiago de Cuba, when they were intercepted.

Repression in the east of the country coincided with a major operation in Havana, around Fifth Avenue, a place where traditionally the Ladies in White march. The human rights activist movement reported an intense act of repudiation at the end of its weekly pilgrimage, along with arrests and police violence.

The march of the Ladies in White ended with about 40 women and 25 other activists detained and taken to police stations or detention centers. Mobs staged action against activists, markedly larger this Sunday, which was denounced by the leader of this movement, Berta Soler. Continue reading

Activists Will Help Users In Wifi Areas In Santiago de Cuba And Havana / 14ymedio

An Internect connection room in Santiago de Cuba. (Yosmani Mayeta / 14ymedio)

An Internect connection room in Santiago de Cuba. (Yosmani Mayeta / 14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger 14ymedio, Havana, 21 July 2015 — A few weeks since the opening of 35 wireless Internet access zones throughout the country, activists announced a project to help people connect to the web. The Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) circulated a text on Monday in which it explains that the organization will provide services “to anyone interested in using the Internet for peaceful and ethical purposes.”

The project will begin in the provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Havana and the beneficiaries will receive navigating advice, help in creating social networking profiles and the opportunity to use a tablet or laptop belonging to UNPACU if they don’t have their own.

In statements to 14ymedio, UNPACU’s leader Jose Daniel Ferrer explained that among the objectives of this initiative is to “give Cubans access to different sources, but it is also a way to encourage them to seek another version of events.” According to the activist, “so many years of misinformation have caused apathy and an unwillingness to know when inquiring about any event.”

Among the objectives of this initiative is to “give Cubans access to different sources, but it is also a way to encourage them to seek another version of events.” 

The promoters of the initiative also say they are “aware of the great importance for society as a whole of an open, uncensored flow of information.” In promoting this freedom they will help the interested to find data and “to open accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Gmail.”

Contact phone numbers to request UNPACU’s help are + 53-537-40544 and + 53-45-21382 in Santiago de Cuba. In Havana you can seek help at + 53-525-28719 + 53-720-21574.

Eight UNPACU Activists Who Recorded A Video Remain Detained / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Santiago de Cuba, 24 June 2015 — Eight of the 15 Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) activists from the Altamira neighborhood in Santiago de Cuba who were arrested Monday while filming an independent video remain in jail, the leader of the organization, José Daniel Ferrer, said Wednesday/

In a telephone call with 14ymedio, Ferrer said that among those still detained include singer Omar Sayud Taquechel, Fernando Vazquez Guerra and Romualdo del Risco Martin, who continue to refuse food at the police station known as Micro 9. In another detention center in the city, commonly called “the motorized,” Héctor Velázquez Gómez, José Roberto Núñez, David Fernández Cardoso, Anibal Ribeaux Figueredo and Franklin Álvarez Fernández are in jail.

A video posted on UNPACU’s YouTube channel, with hundreds of visitors so far, caught the moment when security forces violently fell on young people who were involved in filming on a Santiago street while carrying a flag Cuban.

More Than a Hundred Activists Arrested in Santiago de Cuba / 14ymedio

José Daniel Ferrer, leader of UNPACU (14ymedio)

José Daniel Ferrer, leader of UNPACU (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Santiago de Cuba, 15 March 2015 — On Sunday morning over one hundred activists, mostly belonging to the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and Citizens for Democracy (CxD), were arrested while trying to reach the Sanctuary of Cobre. Among those arrested was Jose Daniel Ferrer, executive secretary of the UNPACU and former prisoner of the Group of 75.

José Daniel Ferrer told 14ymedio that since last Friday organization members started moving towards the Sanctuary of Cobre, so the political police mobilized Continue reading

One name on the list / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

The above video is of Yojarne Arce’s protest that eventually led to his arrest.

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, 14 January 2105 — Living in Caimanera is like living on an island within the island. On either side of the highway at the entrance can be read “This is the first anti-imperialist trench in Cuba.” The land is arid and three points of police control block any unauthorized person from accessing the town.

In the village adjoining the Guantanamo Naval Base, a young man has woken up in his own bed today after months in prison. Yojarne Arce dreams of being lawyer, although in the last year he has experienced the law from its most arbitrary side, the political prison.

This 35-year-old Guantanameran has been released as a part of the agreements between the Cuban government and the United States. His name is on the list of activists that Raul Castro ordered out of the prisons, in a political game as long-awaited as it is disappointing.

In the cold language of the court record, it says that Yojarne was condemned for the crime of assault, but those who knew his activism said that State Securirty spent time “hunting him down.” It was a matter of time before they trapped him.

In the middle of last year a video raced across social networks and mobile phones. In it the images of a man is seen standing on a telecommunications tower where he displays a sign with the phrase “Cuba violates human rights.” For long minutes he waves the cloth and shouts slogans.

At the foot of the metal structure people are gathered, half curious, half supportive. That day the police could not arrest him, because his neighbors surrounded him and accompanied hi, home. “You’re not going to take him,” shouted some of them at the law enforcement officers.

But the police have the time, all the time, to wait until an inconvenient individual is alone and helpless. That day came. They arrested this young man from Generation Y right in the street, between blows and screams, a few yards from the border than separates Cuban territory and the American naval base.

And what list are you on?

Yojarne spent days of interrogations and threats. Afterwards they took him to the Guantanamo Provincial Prison, a school-style construction in the country where the greatest lesson to be learned is survival. “I went to ‘The Gulf,’ which is what the prisoners call this encampment where I was, because it’s the last, the end of everything.” He spent most of the time among murderers, repeat offenders and rapists.

“From the beginning I behaved like a political prisoner because I helped to organize several protests and defend the rights of other prisoners,” Yojarne said, while his grandfather prepared a taste of coffee to be drunk in one sip, thinking about those days in prison with hardly any breakfast.

Yojarne Arce at home. (14ymedio)

Yojarne Arce at home. (14ymedio)

The life of this Patriotic Union of Cuba activist has gone from one list to another. To visit him in Caimanera it’s necessary to sign in on a form that every family has at the police station. “Relatives note the name of whoever wants to spend some days with them and then the person is investigated to see if they can enter the town.” For someone who was studying fifth year law when he was arrested, these restrictions remain intolerable.

He was in the prison yard with the common prisoners when they called him. “Yojarne, get your things, you’re going,” one of the guards told him. At first he thought it was a joke. Between those walls he had been on hunger strike and was in the punishment cell at least three times. The Guantanamo Provincial Prison was his home for six months, a cruel home where he won some small battles and left on parole.

“I started a protest which several inmates joined to demand that they display the prison rules,” he says in a lawyerly tone. He takes his time between one word and another, as if reliving those days and then continues, “I did it so the prisoners could know their rights and know what they had access to.”

The first visit after his release was to his captive village. “Caimanera remains the same, nothing has changed, the people are fed up.” Thus he explains his first impressions. His grandmother waited for him at home, running back and forth with joy. The neighbors also came to hug a man who was once a sports trainer and an improvised physiotherapist in the neighborhood.

“I lost the school year, because the university took advantage of my being in prison to kick me out,” he explained, sadly. He lacked just a few months to obtain the title of lawyer that he had planned to hang on the wall facing the door. “I am going to try again,” he says loudly, although it seems to be a promise he is making to himself.

The phone rings and it’s an activist from Santiago de Cuba who called to report that they wouldn’t let him enter Caimanera because he isn’t “on the list.” Yojarne is trapped in a Cold War bastion that the official discourse itself seems to be rejecting. He has exchanged Guantanamo provincial prison for the wide prison that is Caimanera.