Open Letter from a Doctor to a Dictator

Nelva Ismarays Ortega Tamayo addressed the letter to Raúl Castro because she attributes to him the decisions of what happens in Cuba. (Facebook)

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14ymedio, Nelva Ismarays Ortega Tamayo, Santiago de Cuba | 4 March 2019

To: General Raúl Castro Ruz, Dictador of Cuba

General dictator Raúl Castro Ruz,

The objective of this open letter is to expose, to your regime and to the world, the fundamental reasons why I have decided to renounce my work as a doctor in the service of an inhuman system that violates the most elementary rights of the citizen, that beats children, the elderly and pregnant women, and that uses medicine for political purposes, and doctors and nurses as slave labor.

My decision has been maturing for some time now. There are too many injustices, excessive lies and justifications. Always blaming others for what is the total responsibility of a cruel system that only cares for the human being, hypocritically, to the extent that is necessary for the person to submit itself docilely to the dictates and whims of the dictator of the day. continue reading

Why do I write to you and not to the Minister of Public Health or Miguel Diaz-Canel? For one simple reason: one confronts the master, one speaks with the principal party responsible for the suffering of an entire nation.

Like millions of young Cubans I was indoctrinated and deceived, I am the daughter and granddaughter of people who were also indoctrinated and used by the tyranny that your brother Fidel Castro initiated.

I militated, unfortunately, in the ranks of the Union of Young Communists, UJC. I was pressured by your political police to, as a doctor, monitor and influence peaceful opponents who only seek respect for human rights. Your agents demanded that I should collaborate with them and give them information about the health of and everything I knew about the UNPACU leader, José Daniel Ferrer García.

Drawing me closer to the UNPACU and its leader was the worst mistake they made. While it is true that I had my doubts, disagreements and concerns, it is also true that, like many other professionals, I only thought about my career as a doctor and helping my humble and sacrificed family. In order to do so, I hoped to go abroad for a “mission.” That is, travel as a political instrument and slave labor. But with UNPACU, I learned about dignity, human rights, democracy, justice, and the true and perverse essence of the regime that you lead.

For breaking with the regime, for joining UNPACU and sharing my life with their leader, a very humane and courageous man who truly loves our country, the Directorate of Public Health in the Municipality of Santiago de Cuba has taken unfair measures and sanctions against me. My family has been pressured by your political police so that they, in turn, put pressure on me so I will return to the “fold.”

However, the straw that broke the camel’s back occurred on February 11 when dozens of agents of the Ministry of the Interior, mostly assault forces, broke into 8 homes of UNPACU members with such violence that, had I not lived it, I would not have believed it.

They beat many. They beat my grandmother, a prostrate old woman, and they beat me, five months pregnant. They stole and broke everything. Even the food and medicines, with which we cure sick people, were stolen by their agents.

They also stripped me of my means of work. All these serious actions and others like it in the following days, were in revenge because we campaigned peacefully and legally for the No vote to your Stalinist Constitution in the false referendum on February 24.

For 15 days your repressive forces completely surrounded our home and did not let me go to work. The few times I was able to go out to do personal tasks, I was the victim of violence and humiliation by your aggressive agents.

The siege continues today, and every night they pelt our home. In summary, I’ve lived and seen so much cruelty and nonsense…! I thought that this could only happen in regimes like those of Adolfo Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

I  will abandon continuing to work for the Ministry of Public Health of your tyrannical regime, they will not use me anymore, in the least, but I will never stop exercising my noble profession.

I will continue attending to the activists that are beaten, persecuted and marginalized; I will continue to care for every sick person who requests my services. I will continue to denounce the injustices of your regime against doctors and patients. I will continue to serve my people and fight for their freedom.

I am completely cured of the syndrome that has done the most damage to our people: the “helplessness syndrome” and I will be helping other doctors and health workers to free themselves from such a harmful pathology.

Your dictatorship will fall and we doctors will be able to exercise our sacred profession with dignity and freedom. We will have adequate working conditions and decent wages. Nobody will use us as political instruments. The people will have excellent health and will not have to pay for it with submission and misery.

We Cubans will live in freedom and prosperity. You can be sure of it.

Dr. Nelva Ismarays Ortega Tamayo, Specialist in Integral General Medicine, Professional Registry No.18667, Santiago de Cuba. March 4, 2019

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Police Raid Unpacu Headquarters in Response to Their No Campaign on the Constitutional Referendum

Image of a previous raid, in March of 2016, against the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Cuba in Santiago de Cuba. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 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.” continue reading

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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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The "No" Campaign Gains Momentum Among the Opposition

Kiosks have begun to sell the text of the new Constitution. Here in Calle 23 in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 8, 2019 — Mobilization for the “No” vote in the referendum called for February 24 to approve the constitutional reform continues gaining momentum in the ranks of the opposition.

This Monday, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), José Daniel Ferrer, insisted that a “No” vote “is the option championed by a wide number of opposition organizations, defenders of Human Rights, and other members of Independent Civil Society both within and without domestic territory” via a message published on his personal Facebook account.

Ferrer recognizes that none of the voter’s options on the referendum — Yes, No, abstention or a null vote — is going to democratize Cuba on its own, but he believes that authorities “would prefer a broad abstention” over “a broad turnout at the polls that gives rise to a massive and conclusive No, which can be demonstrated.” continue reading

José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu).

Ferrer counters those calling for boycotting the referendum via a massive abstention with the argument that in a dictatorship people don’t participate in elections and reminds his audience of five cases in which an electoral process derailed a regime, among them Augusto Pinochet’s Chile and communist Poland.

“For someone who is very knowledgeable about the Cuban — and international –reality, it’s not the most effective option [abstention],” believes Ferrer, “unless those who champion it as the only valid form have the ability to mobilize, and demonstrate that they did it, with more than 50% of Cubans with the right to vote.”

The opposition figure called on those supporting abstention to join forces and work together with those who promote voting No, although he also warned that “with those who hold paralyzed and sectarian positions, because of orders or malice, no understanding can exist” and he branded them “very good allies of tyranny.”

The Unpacu leader also calls in his message to “together defend the right of Cubans of the diaspora to participate” in the referendum and “in any question of interest for the country.”

Furthermore, the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH) has asked the European Parliament, United Nations, and the Organization of American States (OAS) to send observers to supervise and give guarantees of the process, according to a statement published this Monday by the organization.

OCDH, headquartered in Madrid, has recommended that the three international bodies “supervise the process and prevent fraud by Havana’s regime” so that “the regime doesn’t have a free hand to change popular will,” says the letter sent to Antonio Tajana, president of the European Parliament.

The petition was also sent to members of European Parliament Antonio López Istúriz, Beatriz Becerra, María Teresa Giménez Barbat, Javier Nart, Pavel Telicka, and Dita Charanzova, among others.

The letter to European Parliament asks that the behavior of Cuban authorities be taken into account “at the time of examining whether to maintain or suspend the Agreement for Political Dialogue and Cooperation with the Island.”

In December 2016 the European Union and Cuba signed their first bilateral agreement, for political dialogue and cooperation, that put an end to the European Union’s “Common Position,” which, as of 1996, imposed on the bloc a unilateral and restrictive relationship with the Island.

Although Cuba is not part of the OAS, OCDH sent a similar missive to Luis Almagro, secretary general of the body, seeking for “the region’s nations to send delegations of impartial observers” to the Island. “The drafting and review process of the new Constitution of the Republic of Cuba has been exclusionary, conceived by and for the Communist Party of Cuba, which has written and imposed its version of the Law that will rule the destiny of the Cuban nation,” reminds the text.

In the petition directed to Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner ofor Human Rights, OCDH underlines the importance of what will happen on February 24 when “the Cuban people are called to approve, or not, a proposal that could jeopardize their future.”

The Observatory, which along with other organizations supports the #YoVotoNo (#ImVotingNo) campaign, warns that that will be “a day of mobilization, complicated and tense.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

14ymedio Faces of 2018: Tomas Nunez Magdariaga, Activist Released After a 62-Day Hunger Strike

Tomás Núñez Magdariaga was hospitalized in Santiago de Cuba and was not allowed to receive family visits as long as he refused to end his hunger strike. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 26 December 2018 — Cuban Patriotic Union activist Tomás Núñez Magdariaga was released in mid-October after spending 62 days on a hunger strike to protest a one-year prison sentence.

Núñez Magdariaga had been convicted of threatening an informant from State Security who later retracted the accusation, alleging that he had not been provided with a job and housing in exchange, as been promised. At that time, the activist had been on a hunger strike for one month to protest his situation.

According to what the dissident later reported, the worst moment of his fast was when he was taken out of the hospital after 42 days without eating. “They took me to the prison of Boniatico, where they have the prisoners with life sentences, and they put me alone in a punishment cell and in underpants, with nothing else and nothing to put on the floor, with the cold and without a mattress.” continue reading

The archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, Dionisio García Ibáñez, visited the activist, which gave substantial support to the cause of his release. At the same time, the US government also expressed its “serious” concern for the health of the opposition figure and called for his immediate release.

In his last week of the strike, after 19 days handcuffed to a bed in the Juan Bruno Zayas Hospital, Núñez Magdariaga firmly rejected the serums that were keeping him alive.

It was then when Major Granja, deputy head of of Aguadores Prison where they had transferred the activist, went to the hospital and told him of his immediate release, which took place within a few minutes, with a list of medical recommendations for recovery and re-feeding.

On November 28 a group of judges of the Supreme Court went to Palma Soriano, where the activist lives, to hear the appeal that his family had made during the days he was in prison. At the hearing, his repentant accuser was presented as a witness who confirmed the withdrawal of his complaint. In this way his freedom was formalized.

Tomás Núñez Magdariaga continues today as an activist of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).

See also: 14ymedio Faces of 2018

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Activist Tomas Nunez Magdariaga Rejects Serums That Keep Him Alive

Tomás Núñez Magdariaga remains in the hospital of Santiago de Cuba and is hardly allowed to receive visits from relatives.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 12 October 2018 — Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu) activist Tomás Núñez Magdariaga, on a hunger strike to denounce his sentence of one year in prison, for several days has rejected the serums necessary to keep him alive, according to his brother Óscar Núñez, who visited him on Tuesday.

Núñez Magdariaga is in the prison ward of Juan Bruno Zayas Hospital (Santiago de Cuba), where he was able to see his brother for a few minutes. On the other hand, the authorities did not allow Unpacu activist Yenisey Jiménez to visit.

“I saw him in very bad shape, he said he would not eat if he was not freed and that he is unjustly imprisoned and they were humiliating him,” the brother told 14ymedio on Tuesday. Oscar Núñez is on his way to the capital of the island to take several efforts legal issues related to the case. continue reading

“I’m crazy to get to Havana to go to the prosecutor’s office because in Santiago they told me that Tomás’s file had been sent there and I’m going to look for an answer,” he said. Currently, as he was informed in the hospital, the case was in the hands of the Attorney General of the Republic, who was reviewing it and who could make a decision on the sentence at any time.

The activist was accused of “threatening” an agent of the political police, but the agent later retracted and claimed that he was blackmailed by State Security to accuse Núñez Magdariaga in exchange for a job and housing.

On Wednesday, Yenisei Jiménez, also an Unpacu activist, returned to the hospital with the intention of personally speaking with Núñez Magdariaga, but was not allowed to see him because, as they explained to him, they “could no longer give out any information about the activist.” The nurse in the prison ward informed him that he again refused to be treated by the doctor and put on serums. “He does not want anyone to touch him,” she told Jiménez.

The archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, Dionisio García Ibáñez, visited the activist last weekend and, according to what Unpacu member Carlos Amel Oliva reported to this newspaper, the archbiship was told that Núñez Magdariaga “would be released in a couple of days because the case [against him] did not hold up.”

“It’s been four days or five days and nothing,” said Amel Oliva.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

UNPACU Activist Pressured by Police to Accuse Jose Daniel Ferrer

Ebert Hidalgo Cruz (right) says he was interrogated four times and threatened by the agents with keeping him in jail. (Video Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 August 2018 – Activist Ebert Hidalgo Cruz has been released without any charges, according to a video released Sunday by the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) shortly after the dissident was released from prison. Hidalgo was imprisoned on August 3 together with the leader of the organization, José Daniel Ferrer, who is still in prison accused of the attempted murder of a State Security agent.

“They were forcing me to say that José Daniel was guilty, that he had run over the officer with the car,” the activist explained before the camera. He says that he was interrogated four times and that he was threatened by the agents with keeping him prisoner.  “I told them not to pressure me anymore, that I was not going to say anything else,” he said about the agents’ insistence that he confirm that José Daniel’s aggression against the agent was deliberate. continue reading

Hidalgo and Ferrer were arrested after an incident involving the Interior Ministry official, Dainier Suárez Pagán, who was allegedly run over by Ferrer while driving without a driver’s license.

Agent Suárez Pagán is known by the dissidents of Palmarito de Cauto, in the province of Santiago de Cuba, for being violent and attacking the activists. According to the judicial version, Ferrer intended to run over the agent while he was crossing the street, a statement that was denied by the two dissidents shortly before they were arrested.

In the video, Hidalgo explained that he spent six days in the Penal Instruction and Criminal Operations Unit, in the Versalles district (Santiago de Cuba), unable to change clothes and in a cell in terrible conditions, which according to the activist, had hardly any light but had plenty of mosquitoes, rats and cockroaches. He received only a brief visit from his daughter during his prison stay.

Before Hidalgo was released from Micro 9, as the prison where he was held is also known, he was warned that he could not talk at all about the case with relatives.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

What Do Cuban Dissidents Think About Diaz-Canel? / Ivan Garcia

On Monday, 22 March 2016, during his visit to Cuba, President Barack Obama met in the United States Embassy in Havana with a group of Cuban dissidents, among them Manuel Cuesta Morua (to Obama’s left), and the independent journalists Miriam Leiva (to Morua’s left) and Miriam Celaya (to Obama’s right). Source: Cubanet.

Iván García, 30 April 2018 — Manuel Cuesta Morúa, a 55-year-old Afro-Cuban historian of average height and thin build, is probably one of Cuba’s most intellectually gifted dissidents.

Morúa’s political proposals are based on a social democratic model. He has tried different strategies, looking for a legal angle that would allow him to carry out his projects legitimately. The military dictatorship, however, has thwarted him. He considers himself to be a man of the left, a position from he articulates his ideas.

The arrival of Miguel Díaz-Canel — a 58-year-old engineer from the town of Falcón in Villa Clara province, about 300 kilometers east of Havana — marks the first time someone born after the triumph of the Cuban revolution has ascended to power. He is part of a generation that, for differing reasons, began to dissent from the Marxist, anti-democratic and totalitarian socialism established by Fidel Castro. continue reading

The hardline, diehard generation is passing away. In the current political climate, the most eloquent spokespersons, both official and dissident, were born during the height of the Cold War. They experienced the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the international communist bastion, the former Soviet Union.

The dialectical struggle will not be resolved at the point of a gun. The system will have to reinvent itself, unleash productive economic forces and rely on the private sector if it wants to bring an adequate level of prosperity to Cubans frustrated by the precarious conditions of their lives.

At one time Díaz-Canel, Manuel Cuesta Morúa, Luis Cino, Angel Moya and the economist Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello were all in the same ideological trenches. For reasons of their own, they stopped applauding Fidel Castro and began a long, arduous journey aimed at establishing a democratic society in their homeland.

For Morúa, the transfer of power to Díaz-Canel, “can be read in several ways, all of them interesting. The generational change, no matter who is its public face, puts society on a more equal footing when it comes to dealing with those in power,” he says.

He adds, “The only thing left to do now is make demands. Díaz-Canel is an obstructionist president. He has very little legitimacy. He is not a historical figure and he has not won an election. Every person on the street says, ’I didn’t vote for him.’ The government is incorrect when it claims that Cuba holds indirect elections. Elections here are by acclamation. To date, this president has no agenda. He comes off as a clone.”

When I ask him if he thinks it is time for dissidents to change tactics and devise a strategy to reach out to ordinary citizens, Cuesta Morúa responds, “I think it’s time to think more about politics, to offer a clearer alternative. It’s time to step up to the plate, but in political terms.”

In Lawton, a neighborhood of low-slung houses and steep streets on the southern outskirts of Havana, is the headquarters of the human rights group The Ladies in White. Most of its members are mothers, wives or daughters who had never before been interested in politics.

Their dispute with the regime centers on their demands for release of their sons, husbands and fathers, who were unjustly imprisoned by Fidel Castro. Their protest marches, during which they walk carrying gladiolas, were brutally suppressed by agents of the regime’s special services. The Cuban government’s actions led to strong public condemnations from the international community.

After entering into negotiations brokered by the Catholic church and the Spanish government, Raúl Castro’s regime agreed, for the first time, to release some political prisoners and to grant The Ladies in White space along Havana’s Fifth Avenue to carry out peaceful protest marches.

After their release most of the seventy-five former political prisoners left Cuba. The Ladies in White are still subject to brutal repression by the Castro regime, which has denied them access to the space it once gave them permission to use.

The Ladies in White’s main strategy involves street protests. Angel Moya Acosta, the 53-year-old husband of Berta Soler, leader of The Ladies in White, believes “that the Cuban political opposition needs to confront the regime. If we want people to take to the streets, the dissident community has to take to the streets and to actively persuade the people. This is not a problem about unity. Changing the electoral system in Cuba is up to the opposition and — except for some exceptions such as UNPACU, the Pedro Luis Boitel Front and the Forum for Freedom — that is not happening. Anything else is an excuse for not doing anything.”

According to Moya, the selection of Díaz-Canel was expected. “Nothing in Cuba will change. Repression could even increase. Díaz-Canel indicated that major national decisions will still be made by Raúl Castro. And he ended in inaugural speech with the outdated slogans ’homeland or death’, ’socialism or death’ and ’we will win’.”  Everyone on the island knows that real power in Cuba still rests with Raúl Castro.”

Luis Cino Álvarez, 61, one of the strongest voices in independent journalism, says he “does not expect any political reforms from the Díaz-Canel government except, perhaps, some slight fixes to the economy. He has already stated what we can expect: more socialism and a continuation of the policies of Fidel and Raúl Castro. Stagnation in its purest form. I believe that now is the time for dissidents to come up with a better strategy for confronting the regime.”

Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, a 71-year-old economist, thinks that “Díaz-Canel is a person with many illusions. He held a meeting of the Council of Ministers that was illegal, saying that new appointments to the council had been postponed until July. Díaz-Canel feels very comfortable governing. And that is not a positive thing. When they govern, all the word’s presidents feel pressure due to multiple demands from different sectors of society.” She adds,”Cuban dissidents followed the wrong path. They should have taken the road of the people. But with each step they get further and further away from it.”

If there is anything upon which the fragmented local dissident community agrees, it is that the government of Miguel Díaz-Canel represents the beginning of a significant new era. They face two dilemmas: either find a way to motivate thousands of citizens to demand democracy or watch the military dictatorship celebrate the centenary of Fidel Castro’s revolution with a parade though the Plaza.

 

Mass Celebrated At Ladies In White Headquarters ‘For The Freedom Of The Cuban People’

The priests Castor Álvarez and José Conrado Rodríguez celebrate Mass at the Ladies in White headquarters in Havana. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 18 June 2017 — On Monday afternoon, in the presence of 27 people, priests Jose Conrado Rodríguez and Castor Álvarez celebrated a mass at the Ladies in White headquarters Havana’s Lawton neighborhood.

Berta Soler, leader of the women’s group, explained via telephone that they gathered at the building with “a lot of discretion” to avoid State Security preventing the Mass. “It was very important to hear from those two priests, as we are not able to get to the church, the church has to come to us.”

José Conrado Rodríguez told 14ymedio that the Mass was also a way to show that they both support “the right of the Ladies in White to attend Mass every Sunday” in the Church of Santa Rita, in the Cuban capital. continue reading

“That is also part of religious freedom and the right that people have to practice their faith,” added Castor Alvarez, who presided at the mass with Rodriguez.

“We feel as priests a concern to bring our faith to Cuban society,” added Alvarez, a native of Camagüey and for whom it was a joy to be able to share with the activists and “pray together for the freedom of the Cuban people.”

“We are part of the people and we want to enjoy freedoms, we want them to let us have peace and tranquility and share all the good that we Cubans have in order to progress,” added the pastor.

Along with the Ladies in White, attending the mass were the former prisoner of the Black Spring, Angel Moya, the activist Raul Borges, and the opponent Yosvany Martinez, a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).

For more than a year, the political police have prevented this civil society group from attending Santa Rita Church and carrying out its Sunday walk on Fifth Avenue.

Several Opposition Leaders Detained On Their Return To Cuba

Eliecer Avila detained at the airport on his return to Cuba (Somos+)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 April 2017 — Cuban opposition leaders were detained at Havana’s international airport on Thursday, when they arrived from Colombia, according to sources in the political movement Somos+ (We Are More) speaking with 14ymedio.

Eliécer Ávila, president of that movement remains “in open protest” at the capital’s airport after the authorities’ attempt to confiscate his electronic devices. continue reading

“Immigration has not allowed us to pass, it seems there are signs on the computers that say: interested in confrontation,” Avila explained in a message addressed to his movement. Later they were allowed to enter the national territory but in the face of the attempt to confiscate their belongings, the opponents rebelled.

Carlos Oliva, a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), is being held at the police station in Santiago de las Vegas. Eliecer Avila has said that he refuses to leave the airport without his laptop. The opponent has been there for more than seven hours.

Customs Officer in the process of confiscating the belongings of Eliecer Avila. (Somos+)

The order to seize his computer was issued by Carlos Pons, Chief of Confrontation at the airport.

In the case of Marthadela Tamayo and Zuleidy Pérez, they were subjected to a “rigorous search” and their personal computers siezed.

José Daniel Ferrer: “This Type Of Assault Does Not Discourage Us” / 14ymedio

Police also raided six properties of UNPACU members on Wednesday. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 9 March 2017 — The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, José Daniel Ferrer, was released Thursday after being detained for more than 24 hours. The opponent denounced an “increase in the repression” against the activists of his movement, in a phone call to 14ymedio a few minutes after his release.

“The search of the homes began at six in the morning,” explains Ferrer, who was taken out of his home at eight o’clock in the morning this Wednesday and taken to the First Police Unit of Santiago de Cuba, known as Micro 9.

The former prisoner of the Black Spring explains that the police raided six properties of UNPACU members. They seized “food, a hard disc, several USB memories, two laptops, five cellphones, seven wireless devices, a stereo, a large refrigerator, an electric typewriter and a camera.” continue reading

“I spent more than six hours in an office with a guard,” Ferrer recalls. “Then they put me in a cell where you could have filmed a horror movie for the amount of blood on the walls of someone who had been cut.”

On 18 December at least nine houses of members of the opposition movement were searched and numerous personal belongings seized by members of the Ministry of the Interior

The dissident was interrogated by an official who identified himself as Captain Quiñones, who threatened to send him to prison for “incitement to violence,” in a recent video posted on Twitter. Ferrer flatly denies the accusation.

During the operation they also confiscated medications such as aspirin, duralgine, acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

“Most of our activists are in high spirits,” says Ferrer. “This type of assault does not discourage us,” he adds. He says that “from November 2015 to date, there have been more than 140” raids of houses of members of the organization.

On 18 December, at least nine houses of members of the opposition movement were searched and numerous personal belongings seized by members of the Ministry of Interior.

Among those who still have not been released are the activists Jorge Cervantes, coordinator of UNPACU in Las Tunas, and Juan Salgado, both of whom are being held in the third police unit in that eastern city. The whereabouts of opponent Esquizander Benítez remain unknown. In addition, about 50 of UNPACU’s militants are being held in several prisons in the country, which makes the it the opposition organization with the most political prisoners in the country.

Police Forces Assault UNPACU Headquarters, Activists Arrested / 14ymedio

The police clear a house of members of UNPACU (@patriotaliud)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 March 2017 — The headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) were assaulted by police forces in the early hours of Wednesday. The troops forcibly entered five homes located in the Altamira and José María Heredia areas in Santiago de Cuba, where they arrested a dozen opponents, according to opposition sources.

Two buildings that operate as UNPACU headquarters and three belonging to members of the movement were the object of a wave of searches carried out by agents of the political police and brigades of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR).

The homes were “looted” simultaneously according to activist Ernesto Oliva Torres, who reported that at the main headquarters the troops confiscated “a refrigerator, a television, two laptops, six cordless phones, among other items.” continue reading

Two buildings that operate as UNPACU headquarters and three belonging to members of the movement were the object of a wave of searches carried out by agents of the political police

The searches were accompanied by arbitrary arrests and the interruption of the telephone communications of most of the UNPACU activists.

Among those arrested on Wednesday morning were Liettys Rachel Reyes, Carlos Amel Oliva and his father Carlos Oliva, Alexei Martínez, Ernesto Morán, Juan Salgado, Roilán Zamora, Yriade Hernández, Jorge Cervantes and his wife Gretchen, David Fernández, Miraida Martín, and the national coordinator of the movement, José Daniel Ferrer.

14ymedio was able to confirm that Carlos Amel Oliva was released on Wednesday night, but several of the dissidents remain incommunicado. Oliva’s telephone line had serious problems that prevented the dissident from communicating with the press.

Liettys Rachel Reyes, 30 weeks pregnant, was under arrest for about three hours and then released. The whereabouts of the rest of the detainees remain unknown.

Cuban Human Rights Group Denounces The Death Of A Political Prisoner Pending Trial / 14ymedio

Hamel Santiago Maz Hernández had been in prison for eight months pending trial. (CCDHRN)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 7 March 2017 — The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) has denounced the death of political prisoner Hamel Santiago Maz Hernández, an activist from UNPACU, who died* on February 24 at Combinado del Este prison in Havana. The opponent had been imprisoned for eight months without trial for the alleged offense of contempt.

The CCDHRN has released its report for the month of February in which it says that “there have been thousands of cases of Cubans killed in government custody,” a situation for which the authorities bear all the “moral and legal responsibility.” continue reading

The report includes the 482 arbitrary arrests of dissidents last month, a “slightly higher figure than in January.”

The CCDHRN also documented 16 cases of physical aggression and 18 of harassment, “by the secret political police and para-police agents,” with the victims being peaceful opponents, adds the report.

The report includes the 482 arbitrary detentions of dissidents last month, a “slightly higher figure than in January”

The text clarifies that, given “the closed nature of the regime that has ruled Cuba for almost 60 years,” it is “impossible to record the thousands of violations of fundamental rights” that occur throughout the island each month.

Nevertheless, it reports that the Ladies in White and the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) are once again the organizations most repressed. In the case of the women’s organization, they have been “subjected to humiliations and other abuses” over and over. For its part, 54 members of the UNPACU “are political prisoners, most of whom remain imprisoned without formal charges or pending trial.”

During 2016, the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) documented 9,940 arbitrary detentions. This figure “places the Government of Cuba in the first place in all of Latin America,” according to the independent organization.

*Translator’s note: Cuban State Security informed his wife that he died of a heart attack.

Police Raid the House of Activist Belkis Cantillo in Palmarito Del Cauto / 14ymedio

José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, reported the raid on the home of Belkis Cantillo, leader of the Citizens for Democracy movement. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 January 2017 — At six on Saturday morning the police raided the house of Belkis Cantillo, leader of the Citizens for Democracy movement in Palmarito del Cauto, Santiago de Cuba. The officers showed up a few hours after about a dozen women of the organization walked to the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, as reported to 14ymedio by Jose Daniel Ferrer, coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).

The opposition leader said that on Friday the activists arrived at the church consecrated to the Virgin of Charity, patroness of Cuba, “with the intention of reclaiming the space that the political police have taken away from us in the Sanctuary.” This morning the police entered Cantillo’s house in the municipality Mella “where elderly people and children live,” says Ferrer. continue reading

“Several witnesses report that the political police arrested a 19-year-old girl who is six months pregnant, Martha Beatriz Ferrer Cantillo,” said Ferrer, former prisoner of the Black Spring. He adds that “the telephones of family members have been siezed, so it has become impossible to communicate with them.”

Citizens for Democracy is a group formed by women and founded in September 2014. Its members are residents in the towns of Palma Soriano, Palmarito del Cauto and the city of Santiago de Cuba. The fundamental demands of the organization focus on respect for human rights and civic liberties.

Last year, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) documented a total of 9,940 arbitrary arrests in the country, a figure that “puts the Government of Cuba in first place in all of Latin America,” said the report of the independent organization.

Activist Abandons Hunger Strike After Promise Of Not Being Deported To His Home Province / 14ymedio

Vladimir Martín Castellanos, a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10 January 2017 — Vladimir Martín Castellanos, a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), abandoned his hunger strike this Monday after the authorities promised that he would not be deported from Las Tunas to Santiago de Cuba, as confirmed by the Castellanos himself to 14ymedio. continue reading

The activist remained 32 days without food in his fight to register himself in the civil registry of Puerto Padre where his wife, Ileana Marrero, resides. Beforehand and on various occasions, the Security of State intercepted him when he attempted to register.

On Monday, an officer who identified himself as Captain Miguelito, visited Castellanos’ wife and promised her he would be allowed to reside in the municipality. Upon hearing the news, Castellanos decided to end his hunger strike.

“I feel very weak and began drinking soup” to regain strength, he commented to this newspaper. “I would like to continue my fight and stay with the Unpacu,” explained the activist.

Martín Castellanos, 53, believes that “the authorities will follow through” this time, but notes that they did not provide him an official document confirming the decision. A family member of the activist is arranging tickets to “travel early tomorrow toward Puerto Padre.”

Translated by Chavely Garcia