January 8th in Cuba: Jubilee and Repression / Luis Felipe Rojas

What a surprise his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI will find when he visits the two main cities of Cuba. To kick off the Year of Jubilee, the repressive machinery unleashed a wave of aggression in nearly all the cities in the country against dissidents who were simply trying to assist religious mass on Saturday in El Cobre Sanctuary or on Sunday in their respective towns. Will Cardinal Jaime Ortega call on the Cuban authorities to provide an explanation of all the arrests, beatings, and acts of mob repudiation which have occurred during these days? Would he? Regardless, it seems like it will be a visit marked by restriction of movement and temporary and arbitrary arrests.

This Sunday, January 8th- a date which coincides with the official celebration of the entrance of the bearded rebels into Havana during 1959- Catholics throughout the country were trying to celebrate the beginning of the Year of Jubilee. In Holguin, Caridad Caballero, her husband Esteban Sande Suarez, and Denis Pino Basulto- all of whom are members of the Eastern Democratic Alliance- suffered under an operation directed by Political Police Major Yordanis Martinez (aka The Burnt One). Martinez ordered that they be arrested and they were then driven to the Operations Barracks known as Pedernales. The three of them were trying to assist mass in the Catholic Church which is located in Barrio Pueblo Nuevo. At the time of writing this report, they had released the married couple, but Pino Basulto was driven in a police vehicle towards an undisclosed location. The fate of husband and wife Franklin Peregrino del Toro and Berta Guerrero Segura from Cacocum was very similar. Meanwhile, in Holguin they also arrested Zuleidis Pereza, Adisnidia Cruz, Marco A Lima Dalmau, Mariblanca Ávila, and Yonart Rodríguez. That Sunday, I also received a text message detailing an act of repudiation outside the home of a Lady in White Yazmin Conyedo in Santa Clara. In the house, there were also other women which has been cornered by a large police operation which also impeded them from going to Church.

On the previous day, Saturday January 7th, Roberto de Jesus Guerra shared an SMS message with me, which he later published on Twitter. The message read “They are carrying out a mob repudiation attack against the home of Maritza Castro in Cerro, Havana. More than 100 soldiers are throwing stones, sticks, and bottles“. And, from Guantanamo, I received news from Isabel Pena that a neighbor of hers felt offended by someone who put up an anti-government sign in public, and that person aggressively confronted her and shouted obscenities and threats, even of death, to her. That person even told her that he “felt like slicing her open like a pork”.

These acts of vandalism occurred in the midst of certain clerical hype about the improved relations between the cardinals and those who implant terror in Cuba.

The two locations chosen to be visited by the Pope (Santiago de Cuba and Havana) will, once again, display an oppressed people who wish to un-politicize every minute of their battered lives.

Although Meurice Estiu (The Friend) is no longer with us, we are in real need of a titan who tells it like it is…who tells the truth to the General President as he stands before him.

Translated by Raul G.

10 January 2012