‘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.

“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

Regime Arrests Berta Soler and Martha Beatriz Roque When They Go to Greet the Pope / Diario de Cuba

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, 20 September 2015, Havana–The government opponent Martha Beatriz Roque was arrested this Saturday in Havana, activist Ailer González reported via Twitter. Sources from the Ladies in White informed Diario de Cuba that Roque was invited to the Apostolic Nunciature to greet Pope Francis upon his arrival.

Also invited to welcome the Holy Father before the Nunciature was the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler. Dissident sources fear that she has been arrested along with her husband, the ex-political prisoner Ángel Moya, said Ailer González.

The activist also denounced “power outages” that opponents’ telephone services are undergoing. Attempts to communicate by telephone with various opponents were unsuccessful.

For his part, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), José Daniel Ferrer, sent word via a communiqué of the arrest of 26 activists in Santa Clara who were intending to travel to Havana to attend the Pope’s mass on Sunday. In the capital, Ferrer said, five members of his organization have been arrested.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Cuba Awaits the Pope in Record Heat and Repression / Ivan Garcia

Berta Soler when she was arrested... Taken from ABC

Ivan Garcia, 17 September 2015 — For Nicolás Sarmientos, 73, making his usual rounds between the farm market, the bodega and the carters who sell fruits and vegetables in Havana is almost an extreme sport.

Although in theory we are knocking on the door of autumn, in Cuba the thermometers are soaring. The Meteorological Institute announced that the temperature in the capital exceeded 100 degrees, a height never reached.

Under a blazing sun and a numbing humidity, Nicolas searches the stands at the farm market for meat and beans to take home.

“The pantry and the fridge are empty,” he says, while looking at a poster of the Argentine Pope Jorge Mario Bergoglio with a Cuban flag in the background, attached to a column splattered with the red earth of the farms. continue reading

Long ago, Nicolas was a Catholic who attended Sunday mass, his children were baptized and made their first communion.

“But the world takes unexpected turns. I had to stop going to church, because I was working in a State ministry and one day a security guy told me to choose between work and religion. Now everything has changed. The Catholics can even be in the Party and we have a relationship with the Yankees. I’m waiting for a public apology from the government for making many people, like me, renounce our beliefs and customs,” he says.

Despite everything, Nicolas wants to go to Pope Francis’s first Mass in the Plaza of the Revolution on Sunday, 20 September.

Over the last 17 years, three Holy Fathers have visited the island. Since that winter in 1998 when John Paul II said that “Cuba should open itself to the world and the world open itself to Cuba,” some things have changed. But the absence of political freedoms continues, the State administer justice, controls the media and confuses democracy with loyalty to the Castro brothers.

Cuba opened itself to the world, including reestablishing relations with the United States, simply for survival. The economy is a disaster, productivity is in the toilet and the agriculture just can’t get its act together.

Fidel Castro ceded power to his brother Raul and the bragged about changes are not of the depth required to develop the country. The GDP will not grow dramatically with little family businesses that offer pizzas and bread with mayonnaise.

People, it’s true, have more space, despite the continued violation of the inalienable rights of free people. With enough money you can buy cell phone service, stay in a five star hotel or travel abroad.

But the Castro regime maintains an iron blockade on citizen initiatives, economic investments and political rights. The role of the Catholic Church, and the rest of the various religious denominations, has been uneven.

On January 1st, the Yoruba Association of Cuba — 70% of the island’s population practices Afrocuban worship — in its Annual Letter predicted important changes. And the following morning performed a rite under a hundred-year-old ceiba tree for the health of the dictator Fidel Castro.

In pursuit of greater social space, the Catholic Church works with the engine on low. Pastoral letters that dissect the terrible inertia of the society, like “Love can do everything” in 1993, and outspoken bishops, such as the late Pedro Meurice or Jose Conrado, are contrasted with the sinuous strategy of Cardinal Jaime Ortega.

The Cuban dissidence will be forever grateful to Ortega for his mediation with General Raul Castro for the release of the 75 political prisoners in 2010. Probably under the table and without publicity, the national Church asks the regime’s repressors for restraint, the repressors who, every Sunday, beat up dissidents in Miramar, a neighborhood to the west of Havana.

Just ask Berta Soler or Angel Moya about the brutal repression they suffer for demanding democracy and freedom for 60 political prisoners.

“There have now been 22 consecutive Sundays of savage beatings of women and men when we are protesting in a peaceful manner. Last weekend they arrested 34 Ladies in White and 17 men. Berta (Soler) asked for a meeting with Pope Francis to describe the repression first hand. So far the Church has not responded,” said Angel Moya, one of the leaders, along with Antonio Rodiles of the Forum for Rights and Freedoms.

The dissidence asked the Catholic Church for greater support in the struggle for democracy. Moya thinks that “we need the solidarity of all the people and institutions who want a better country. If something has emboldened the regime it is the silence of the Catholic Church and the foreign press.”

And he asks the Pope to take note of the presidential pardon of 3,533 common prisoners. “In prison there are still about 60 prisoners for political purposes, some of them with more than 20 years in prison. This pardon is a typical maneuver to comply with certain formalities before the papal visit. Many of the pardoned could be used as shock troops to repress the opposition,” says Angel Moya.

The systematic beatings of the Ladies in White by the government special services contradicts the campaign against gender violence waged by the United Nations, of which Cuba is a member.

The dissidence just demands a legal space and respect. Within 72 hours of the third visit of a pope to the island, ordinary Cubans will continue their daily effort for survival.

The retiree Nicolas Sarmientos, a devout Catholic, wanders the markets in search of food for his family. Berta Soler and one hundred Ladies in White and dissidents demand democracy in the streets. It remains to be seen if Pope Bergoglio listens.

Dozens of Activists Detained in Havana Following the Ladies in White March / Diario de Cuba, Angel Moya

Ladies in White marching this past Sunday, 26 July*, in Havana (Ángel Moya)
Ladies in White marching this past Sunday, 26 July*, in Havana (Ángel Moya)

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Angel Moya, Havana, 26 July 2015 – Some 60 activists were arrested this past Sunday in Havana following the customary Sunday march of the Ladies in White, reported government opponents on social media. The arrests took place within the context of an act of repudiation described by the opponents as “violent,” and were carried out by “civilian mobs,” tweeted Ailer María González Mena.

The Ladies’ Sunday march was preceded by the arrests of several of the women, along with independent journalists, dissident sources were reporting as of midday. continue reading

The women, as usual, attended mass at St. Rita’s Church, and later met at Mahatma Gandhi Park, from where they began their march along Fifth Avenue.

During the meeting they paid homage to the deceased opponents Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero, who died under mysterious circumstances three years ago last week.

Former political prisoner Ángel Moya posted on his Twitter account that the Ladies Oilyn Hernández and María R. Rodríguez were arrested, as well as blogger Agustín López. Other activists had their residences surrounded by State Security agents.

Activists had predicted there would be a major police presence in the area.*

*Translator’s Notes: *26 July is the date commemorated by the Cuban government as the start of the Revolution

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison