It seems that the recent papal visit will be the event of the year in Cuba. The first Sunday of April has passed amid offerings and arrests, while even more arrests, beatings, and violent acts against Ladies in White and other non-violent human rights activists are being reported from a number of provinces. In Holguin, Caridad Caballero Batista and her husband Esteban Sande Suarez suffered an arrest while on their way to the Jesus Christ the Redeemer Church, located in the Pueblo Nuevo neighborhood. According to the testimony of Caballero Batista, they were victims of an exaggerated search, as if they were suspected of possessing weapons or explosives. They were taken to a detention center and released at around noon.
In the same city, Isabel Pena Torres, Nelda Molina, Rosmelia Gonzalez Pina, and Ana Maria Aguilera Paneque were able to arrive to the mentioned temple, though according to Pena Torres, ever since Saturday they had all received threats of being jailed by the majors of the Confrontation with the enemy Department- agents Chapman and Charles.
In the city of Banes, Marta Diaz Rondon, along with Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez (also a Lady in White) and Oriol Verdecia Evora (Rondon’s husband) were able to make it to the Palm Sunday mass in the Church of Our Lady of Charity, but they were under surveillance by the local G2 (State Security) major known as Evelio. Evelio provoked them verbally, waited for them to come out of Mass, and followed them all the way back to their homes.
On Saturday, March 31st, various Ladies in White from the province of Santiago de Cuba were stripped from the clothes/accessories with which they march each Sunday, affirmed the member of that group, Ana Celia Rodriguez Torres. Mrs. Torres, a resident of the town of El Caney, said that because they live in areas far from the El Cobre Church and because their is always looming repression by the political police waiting for them, they take the alternative of traveling one day before. Both on Saturday and Sunday, the police snatched all their white belongings, including the T-Shirts with the face of the fallen pro-democracy leader, Laura Pollan Toledo. The detainees protested in front of the Department 21 (G2) Building, located in Ferreiro Avenue of Santiago de Cuba. They demanded the authorities return their clothes, which did end up happening, but not before being reprimanded. Those who protested along with Ana Celia were Annia Alegre Pecora, Doraisa Correoso, Adriana Pascual, Kenia Eliot, and Yadi Virgen Ortega Montoya. In addition to the accustomed demands, they now also demand the freedom of Andres Carrion Alvarez, the Cuban who is detained and held incommunicado in a dungeon of the political police just for screaming anti-Castro slogans this past 26th of March during the Mass which Benedict XVI offered in Santiago.
And, as if it were not enough, during the morning hours of April 2, 2012, more than 20 dissidents were violently arrested after the home of Raumel Vinajera was raided in the city of Palma Soriano, where they were about to carry out a peaceful and public protest to demand the liberation of Andres Carrion Alvarez, Rogelio Tabio, and Bismark Mustelier. I was able to speak with Tania Montoya during the moment in which the activists were being detained and she told me “this has been horrible, Raumel’s mother’s home has been completely destroyed. They beat all dissidents there and also detained one of Raumel’s brothers who is not even a dissident and who only tried to protect my mother in law”.
Tania also told me that “my house was also raided. This was carried out by the National Police, together with the repressive police of State Security. The most noticeable thing was that the neighbors did not support the oppressors. On the contrary, they joined in solidarity with us. Which is why the agents just beat us even more”.
Seen in that light, everything continues to be the same as before. The repression is systematic, it is a mixture of measures which attempt to crack individual will, the right of the citizens to actively participate in the social life of the country, and of not having to behave like docile sheep before those who think they are their owners and shearers for ever.