ALARMING INCREASE OF REPRESSIVE ACTS AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS, INCLUDING A CHURCH SANCTIONED POLICE RAID
Former political prisoner of conscience, Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina calls on Cuba to be expelled from the UN Human Rights Council
March 18, 2012
The week of March 12-18, 2012, saw an increase in the government’s repression against Cuban civil society, particularly human rights defenders who, in larger numbers, are exercising their right to fundamental freedoms in the island. Mob attacks, death threats, arbitrary arrests, inhumane treatment in prison cells, homes under siege, intercepted phone lines, abandoned in remote areas far from their homes were some of the repressive tactics carried out by Cuban authorities.
Freedom of religion continues under attack, even as the visit of Pope Benedict XVI is one week away. The Cuban Catholic hierarchy’s actions coincided with those of the Cuban Communist regime when paramilitary forces evicted by force, mistreated and placed under surveillance, thirteen activists of the Cuban Republican Party who decided to peacefully occupy the Church of Our Lady of Charity in Campanario St. in Central Havana: Emilio Torres Pérez, Yudit Ferrer Segura, Pascual Pérez Sánchez, Mayelín Lázara Betancourt, Miguel López Santos, Orlando Corzo González, Dionis De la Caridad Piloto, Josiel Diaz Piloto, Vladimir Calderón Frías, Deixis Ponce Arencibia, Niola Camila Araujo Pina, Ferd Calderón Muñoz, and Roniel Valentín Aguillón The activists wanted, among other demands, that independent pro human rights groups in Cuba hold an audience with the Pope during his visit to the island on March 26-28 to inform him of the human rights situation in Cuba. This was part of a plan of coordinated protests that were to be carried out by activists in other parts of the island as well but which ended unsuccessfully. The Office of the Archbishop of Havana publicly said that this was “an illegitimate and irresponsible act” and called on the group to leave the church premises immediately. The activists held on for two days trying to negotiate their demands with high Church officials. The forced eviction took place on Thursday evening, March 15 after they were told by Church officials that they would secure their personal safety and that they would not be prosecuted. The parish priest of the Church of Our Lady of Charity and Monsignor Polcari had informed them that a government official was coming to speak to them but, when the doors of the Sanctuary were opened, around 22 paramilitary agents entered the church. The activists said that they were dragged, beaten, taken to a police unit in Havana (located in Amenidad and Infanta) where they were fingerprinted, photographed, weighed and samples of their hair, urine and sweat were taken. The women were forced to undress. They were then transferred to the State Security headquarters of Villa Marista in Havana and were all threatened to be sanctioned with Law 88 ( Gag Law) after the Pope left Cuba. Repressive forces continue to harass these 13 activists with ongoing surveillance to their homes and their activities. Vladimir Alejo Miranda declared that Cuban authorities are trying to isolate them. The official statement published by the Cuban Catholic Church contradicted the testimonies of the 13 activists: http://www.arquidiocesisdelahabana.org/contens/webs/ind_main2_hoy.htm
On Wednesday, March 14, the former Cuban political prisoner of conscience Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina, gave his testimony as a survivor of Cuban prisons before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. On behalf of the Centrist Democrat International, Rodriguez Lobaina described how he suffered cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment during more than 10 years; giving as an example the mock execution he was subjected to in 1999 and called on Cuba to be expelled from the Human Rights Council.
TEXT OF NESTOR RODRIGUEZ LOBAINA’S SPEECH: http://cubanexilequarter.blogspot.com/2012/03/nestor-rodriguez-lobaina-calls-on.html
Three days before the ninth anniversary of the Cuban crackdown against prodemocracy activists known as the “Black Spring” that took place on March 18, 2003, around 80 human rights defenders were arrested. Members of the Ladies in White “Laura Pollan” from across the island began to gather at their headquarters located at Calle Neptuno # 963 between Aramburen and Hospital in Havana. The streets nearby were blocked off by authorities and on Saturday March 17 and an “act of repudiation” began at 2:30 p.m. as the house was surrounded by a police operative with a pro government mob that screamed “let’s get them with machetes, they are only a few !” . Of the more than fifty women, nineteen Ladies in White wearing masks with the face of their deceased leader Laura Pollan came out of their headquarters and were intercepted by authorities three blocks down. Whereabouts of the women were unknown to their families until they were released hours later, and reported that they were taken to the 4th Police Unit in El Cerro, in Havana.
On Sunday, the crackdown continued, as dozens of arrests and acts of repression were reported in Villa Clara, Santiago de Cuba, Holguin, Bayamos and Matanzas. More than thirty members of the group “Ladies in White Laura Pollan” were arrested in Havana, among them their spokesperson Berta Soler, as they were marching down 5th Avenue after Mass. Many were released in remote areas far from their homes.
Marco Antonio Lima Dalmau reported that paramilitary forces in Holguin Cuba arrested the Ladies in White Adisnidia Cruz Segredo and Nelida Molina Leiva when they left a Catholic Church in Holguin, as well as two activists. In Gibara, among those human rights defenders arrested were: Antonio Caballero Pupo, Magdaly Guerrero Silva, Jesus Frimas, Richard Duputel, Bernardo Torres Roldan, and Jesus Ferrer.
State Security placed guards at the entrance of the Catholic church in the city of San Juan y Martinez in the western province of Pinar del Rio, to prevent the Ladies in White from entering.
In the central city of Santa Clara, six Ladies in White were arrested as they were leaving their homes to attend Mass at the Church of La Divina Pastora.
Among the Ladies in White arrested on Saturday to prevent their attendance to Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Charity in the town of El Cobre in Eastern Cuba and who were mistreated physically by the political police in the 3rd Unit of the PNR in Santiago de Cuba were: Aurora Martin, and Miraida Martin who declared themselves on hunger strike
Ten videos of inhumane prison conditions at the Combinado del Este Prison in Havana, were smuggled outside the island by the independent journalist, Dania Virgen Garcia who stated to the news agency CNN that the videos were shot in January 2012 using a camera smuggled into the prison. The videos show derelict cell blocks, thick grime on the walls, holes in the floor that serve as toilets. Prisoners, many of them foreigners, are heard speaking of rotten food, meager rations, dilapidated cells, moldy walls, overcrowding, limited exercise hours and persistent sewage leaks. Combinado del Este is a Cuban maximum security prison about 10 miles southeast of Havana that holds common prisoners (accused of drug trafficking and violent crimes) as well as political prisoners.
VIDEO 1 - http://www.cubadentro.com/2012/03/camara-oculta-en-la-prision-combinado.html
VIDEO 2 - http://www.cubadentro.com/2012/03/camara-oculta-en-la-prision-combinado_17.html
VIDEO 3 – http://www.cubadentro.com/2012/03/camara-oculta-en-la-prision-combinado_3386.html
VIDEO 4 – http://www.cubadentro.com/2012/03/camara-oculta-en-la-prision-combinado_8814.html
VIDEO 5 - http://www.cubadentro.com/2012/03/camara-oculta-en-la-prision-combinado_7673.html
VIDEO 6 - http://www.cubadentro.com/2012/03/camara-oculta-en-la-prision-combinado_9531.html
VIDEO 7 - http://www.cubadentro.com/2012/03/camara-oculta-en-la-prision-combinado_4516.html
VIDEO 8 - http://www.cubadentro.com/2012/03/camara-oculta-en-la-prision-combinado_8305.html
VIDEO 9 - http://www.cubadentro.com/2012/03/camara-oculta-en-la-prision-combinado_840.html
VIDEO 10 - http://www.cubadentro.com/2012/03/camara-oculta-en-la-prision-combinado_575.html
Yasmin Conyedo and her husband, Yusmani Alvarez both remain under arrest since January 8, 2012 in the central city of Santa Clara. Yasmin Conyedo is an independent journalist of the group, United Antitotalitarian Front and a Lady in White. Her husband, Yusmani Alvarez is an activist of the Young Democratic League of Las Villas. They are both falsely accused of attacking the home of a communist party official in their hometown of Villaclara who had initially subjected the couple’s home to a pro government mob attack the same day of the arrest. Yasmin was transferred to the Prison of Guamajal and Yusmani to the Prison of La Pendiente on January 16, 2012.
The Coalition of Cuban-American Women alerts the international community that the lives of those members of Cuban civil society who are actively and publicly struggling peacefully on behalf of fundamental freedoms are in danger. We are particularly concerned with the cases of the activist couple Yasmin Conyedo and Yusmani Alvarez, and with the continued physical and mental harassment against members of the "Ladies in White, Laura Pollan" throughout Cuba. International recognition of the peaceful resistance and solidarity for these human rights defenders is crucial. We make an urgent call on religious, civic, political, and cultural entities and its leaders, as well as to non-governmental human rights organizations worldwide.
Coalition of Cuban-American Women / Joseito76@aol.com / Laida A. Carro
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