I spent the night of September 30th traveling, and part of October 1st on the expressway of Farola in order to get to Baracoa. The 7th session of the committee of the Eastern Democratic Alliance was to be held in Maisi, but the detentions began on Friday and did not cease until Sunday. The grand total of detentions was 19, with 6 deportations to Camaguey, Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba, and las Tunas. There weren’t any beatings and there was less confrontation than other times, but it was still a mass operation which included the extensive search of the beaches which they thought we would try to escape by in order to get to Maisi.
In my case, I was detained along with 5 other human rights activists. Amid all of this, I noted something interesting: we spent various hours stationed on the outskirts of the road waiting for a military transport to take us to the police unit in Baracoa. When we got there, a political police officer ordered for us to be removed from the barracks immediately, a much different scenario than the usual, where we are nearly always put in cells instead. While we traveled aboard the olive-green jeep I thought that I was the king of the internet, for I was using Twitter to report the names of those who were detained, in order of the news I was receiving. I could already picture myself turning into a blue bird and flying to the homes of friends outside of Cuba and telling them the news.
But what a fiasco, none of my 140-character messages arrived at their destination, yet each and every one of them was charged to my account. The list of the detainees was the same as always: Rolando and Nestor Lobaina, Idalmis Nunez, Omar Wilson, Jorge Corrales, Belkis Barbara Portal, Virgilio Mantilla — in sum, 19 peaceful dissidents who were impeded from freely walking towards the lighthouse of Maisi, the eastern-most point of the island. There, we were planning to read the calling for the Unity in Diversity document which the Democratic Alliance had launched, but since such acts were impeded two days later, while we had been released we re-grouped in a central area of the city.
Early that day, we silently walked more than ten blocks, all the way to the bust of Marti where we placed a floral gift and sang the anthem before the eyes of hundreds of Baracoa natives. The Cuban G-2 (secret police) watched us during the entire process but did not impede the march. I’m starting to think that they did not want to repeat the macabre spectacle which they carried out last August when they took part in the condemnation mob against the Rodriguez Lobaina family. During those days, I could easily notice the air of disgust towards the political police which permeated among many locals after the beatings and barbaric acts which were carried out in the home of the brothers, where they used rocks to shatter the windows of the apartment where their father lives, and when they beat up some inhabitants.
To top it off, my old Sony digital camera ceased working, and seemingly forever. This is why I haven’t been able to take a single photo as I am used to doing on any of these trips. This time, you will all have to just settle with these bunch of words, believing or disbelieving what I say.
Today, many of us who report from this eastern cave have our cell phones blocked from making calls to places outside of Cuba. Meanwhile, Cubacel still continues charging us their draconian rates. The police continues to restrict our movements, shoving gags in our mouths so we won’t speak up, and strictly spying on us wherever we go. And as if that wasn’t enough, Twitter has just shut off the only ray of light we had left upon their shutting down messaging through the phone. In which direction are we headed? Reporting what really happens in Cuba, which is ignored by the popular media outlets, will become a rare privilege if the Great Blue Bird does not come back.
* Friends who have showed solidarity and who have found out about the difficulty of sending messages through twitter with our cell phones have opened a provisional account, which we dictate through the phone, to cross the barbed wires from Holguin to Guantanamo.
Translated by Raul G.
October 6, 2010