14ymedio, Havana, February 11, 2019 — The opposition leader José Daniel Ferrer was detained for more than five hours this Monday along with several members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu). The detentions occurred during the police raid of the headquarters of the opposition organization and the homes of activists in Santiago de Cuba starting at 6:30 in the morning.
“They told me that what happened was in response to the campaign to vote No on the Constitution [referendum],” Ferrer told this newspaper a few minutes after being released around 11:30am. Unpacu is carrying out an intense promotion for a vote to reject the new constitution via social media, and also distributing documents on the subject among Cubans.
The opposition leader revealed that the police transferred him with his hands cuffed behind his back and that the forces entered the organization’s headquarters “with violence, breaking the door first with instruments and then with kicks.”
The search also included the house of the opposition figure Carlos Amel Oliva. “They’ve been at the headquarters and at Carlos Amel’s house since 6:30 in the morning,” declared the activist Ovidio Martín to 14ymedio. The forces of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) and of State Security burst into both buildings that are still “totally besieged” and “it’s impossible to approach,” he added.
Initially the detentions were confirmed by Luis Enrique Ferrer, brother of the ex-political prisoner and representative of the opposition organization in the United States. On the list of detainees are the dissidents Fernando González Vaillant, Ernesto Oliva Torres, and Carlos Torres Romero, in addition to Nelva Ismarais Ortega (around 25 weeks pregnant) and her grandmother.
All the landlines and mobile phones of the activists from the opposition organization in Santiago de Cuba are still disconnected, confirmed this newspaper, which was only able to communicate with Martín via social media.
The activist Ebert Hidalgo reported on his Facebook account that there were minors at the home of Carlos Amel Oliva at the time of the raid. “The street is full of patrol cars,” he commented, adding that an official from State Security, named Julio Fonseca, warned him to stay in his house and not report the events.
So far eight homes have been raided and among the confiscated objects are “five laptops, four mobile phones, a printer, a wifi antenna, twelve USB memory sticks, three hard drives,” in addition to other personal belongings like bags and T-shirts, detailed Luis Enrique Ferrer.
The entire neighborhood of the national headquarters of Unpacu “is besieged” and “they aren’t letting anyone in or out,” he added.
In the last five years the members of Unpacu have reported more than 40 assaults on their headquarters and on other homes of the organization’s activists, which is considered the biggest opposition group on the island and has a higher number of political prisoners. In July of 2018 the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) calculated that there were some 120 political prisoners in Cuba.
Translated by: Sheilagh Carey
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