14ymedio, Havana, 4 December 2018 — December has started badly for a good part of the island’s civil society. Police operations, arbitrary arrests, a siege of activist homes and multiple threats against members of civil society have been constant in the first four days of this month that had already started with a warning. One of the reporters of this newspaper was warned that if he approached to cover “the provocations of the opposition” he would be arrested. “You know December is a complicated month and if you go out to report you’ll end up in a police station,” the agent said during the interrogation to which one of the members of the 14ymedio team was subjected.
The warning was made on the first Monday of the month with the arrest of several artists who are carrying out a campaign against Decree 349 and who had convened, by using on-line networks, a “peaceful sit-in” in front of the Ministry of Culture to demand a dialogue with the institution and the repeal of the new legislation. Other actors of the independent civil society have organized events around the process of constitutional reform and are also preparing activities directed at showing the repression on the occasion of the celebration of Human Rights Day on December 10th.
Among those who have denounced the harassment, ratcheted up these days, is Ángel Moya, former political prisoner of the group of 75, from the so-called “Black Spring” in 2013, who told this newspaper that as of Monday afternoon the operation deployed by State Security since last Thursday still remained in place.
State Security organizes a police siege every week, from Thursday through Sunday, around the headquarters of the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) women’s movement to prevent the human rights activists from “arriving at Sunday Mass and participating in the campaign ’Todos Marchamos’ (We All March) for the freedom of political prisoners.” This week, the operation was extended beyond the norm, according to Moya’s testimony, who added that there were police patrols and State Security officers on Porvenir Avenue.
Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna, a member of the Committee for Racial Integration (CIR), was also arrested on Monday while leaving his home by one of the officers who had surrounded his home since Sunday afternoon. Madrazo Luna was taken in a patrol to the Zapata and C police station and, shortly thereafter, driven to another station in the Playa municipality, where an officer who identified himself as Alejandro, second in command of the 21st, told him they were not going to allow the activities that his organization had planned throughout the week.
“In the morning I went down to open the door for a friend and to go out to buy bread, and the officer tells me that nobody can leave or come in. I told him that the only thing he could do was detain me, because I was not going to be imprisoned in my own house,” he recounted.
The activist pointed out that, in addition, he was warned that they would maintain “the same rigor against provocative activities that threaten public safety” financed with “money from the enemy.”
Moreover, the daughter of the historian and political scientist Enix Berrio Sardá, Ingrid, denounced this Monday to 14ymedio her father’s disappearance and asserted having no information of his whereabouts for several hours.
This Tuesday, the intellectual recounted that he was detained and held in solitary confinement in Picota and Villa Marista jails. “They detained me on the street at two in the afternoon, they kept me isolated and made me wait from midnight until five o’clock in the morning in a very cold room. Then the interrogation began, first linking me to the campaign against decree 349, under terrible conditions, it was torture; and then to the private transportation strike. At six in the morning the interrogation ended and at nine o’clock they released me. They are tense because of the level of conviction of the people involved in these matters,” he affirmed.
Berrio Sardá was one of the guests invited to the presentation of Por Cuba at Madrazo Luna’s house, where a presentation on the current process of the constitutional reform was to be held.
In Camagüey province, Henry Constantin also endured arrest for more than three hours on Monday. The journalist and editor of the magazine La Hora de Cuba (Cuba’s Hour) was arrested in the street and taken to a police station for no specific reason. “They gave me a warning notice, they said due to spreading false news, and they warned me that I would not be able to do anything else because they would not allow it,” Constantin told the newspaper as he left the police unit.
Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria
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