Dungeons and Physical Blows on Patriotic Anniversaries / Luis Felipe Rojas

Photo/Archive ADO

The news of the arrests of more than fifty Human Rights activists throughout the entire country has only further confirmed the violent nature of the regime which governs my country.

Some people had illusions. Once again, those detained and beaten in their own homes were peaceful dissidents and their families. No voluntary actions, little solidarity among neighbors, and a great wave of fear which can be seen on the faces of people. It is a profound fear which “inspires even further fear.

“The arrests began during the early morning of February 21st, when activists from the Eastern Democratic Alliance, Francisco Luis Manzanet Ortiz, Omar Wilson Estevez Real, Annie Sarrion Romero, her husband Juan Carlos Vazquez Osorio, and Milagros Leyva were all taken to a police unit in the Villa Primada in Baracoa. From this group, Manzanet Ortiz and Estevez Real remained detained until the 24th. The main goal of the pro-Castro soldiers which guard the gardens of the Plaza of the Revolution was to prevent any tributes to Orlando Zapata Tamayo to take place on the 1st anniversary of his death on the 23rd of February, as well as tributes to the shot down pilots of “Brothers to the Rescue” on the 24th.

As usual, the homes of human rights activists, other dissidents, and independent journalists from Santiago de Cuba, Guantanamo, and Holguin were all extensively watched over by the combined forces of the political police (G2), the National Revolutionary Police, and the paramilitary Rapid Response Brigades. On the 21st, in fact, the independent Baptist pastor, Desmides Hidalgo Lopez, was brutally beaten by members of State Security in the town of Buenaventura, Holguin. While I was writing these paragraphs, Desmides had already been released but his house was surrounded by soldiers.

On the night of February 22nd, I received a call from Yanet Mosquera Cayon. She was telling me that her husband, Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, the general coordinator of the Eastern Democratic Alliance, and other dissidents had been detained in the streets of Guantanamo.On the 23rd of February, after a strong military deployment, Reina Luisa Tamayo was able to visit Zapata’s tomb in the cemetery of Banes, but only with 11 other family members.

On the morning of that same day, Jorge Corrales Ceballos, Jose Cano Fuentes, and Isael Poveda Silva (all from the Eastern Democratic Alliance), were detained in Guantanamo. According to the testimonies of ex-political prisoner Fidel Garcia Roldan, in Holguin political police agents began to beat the journalist Maria Antonia Hidalgo, her mother Maria Mir, and the activist from FLAMUR, Marlene Pupo Font. Caridad Caballero Batista, her husband Esteban Sande Suarez, and pro-democratic activist Juan Carlos Gomez, were also all beaten in this eastern city.

Other arrests occurred in Palma Soriano. Raudel Avila Losada confirmed arrests of nearly 30 activists all of which, according to his testimony, were released in less than two hours. On the morning of February 24th, Avila Losada confirmed that Cauto Marino Antomachin and Reinaldo Martinez Rodriguez were still detained in that Santiagan city on the banks of the Cuato river.

Restrictions of movement, with special orders preventing dissidents from leaving their own homes, were confirmed in Antillas, Banes, San German, and Santiago de Cuba. In the latter (Santiago), there were reports of arrests of various dissidents in the town of El Caney, without having a clear figure of who they were or how many there were, because they were all detained while on their way to another point of the city. Idalmis Nunez Reinosa was in her home, but her telephone line would constantly drop.

I also received news that Antunez, just like Idania Llanes and others, also suffered arrests. The home of Antunez was also attacked by Castro forces. From Havana, where I am currently writing this post, a neighbor of the independent journalist Hector Julio Cedeno Negrin tells me that Hector did not return to his house after an opposition activity which took place on Neptune Street outside the house of Laura Pollan Toledo. Cedeno Negrin was beaten and still remains detained.

I have been able to write this short report after calling the few phones which had not yet been disconnected. It is the 24th of February and I do not want to wait until tomorrow to post a partial report. Surely, today there will be more arrests if any dissident goes near the ocean to toss some flowers in memory of the fallen Brothers to the Rescue. I am writing in haste because I am being followed.

My wife tells me that far away in San German there have been troops stationed around my house for more than 24 hours. She does not know if the purpose of this is to detain me upon my arrival, or because they are not sure whether I am inside.

Here, in the streets of Havana, I see a tense calm. But I walked to the cybercafe and went ahead and sent this post.

This time I have avoided walking into the trap of my captors in order to send out some tweets with the little credit I have left in my cell phone, and to write up this note for all of you. I fear that there will be a fight in the afternoon if they try to detain me.

Fellow activists and dissidents have asked me to send them messages through my cell phone. They all want news of what happens.I also had the illusion, or the dream, of Egyptian or Libyan streets lit up at night, of that same sound of the people’s demands which filled the middle-Eastern desert air. But the Cuban reality is different. There have been arrests and beatings, and there are fewer of us than those who filled the plazas of Cairo to demand freedom.

Photo/Luis Felipe Rojas

Translated by Raul G.

February 24 2011