Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Castro regime and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

"When our revolution is judged in future years, one of the matters on which we will be judged is the manner in which our society and our homeland solved the problems of women." ~ Fidel Castro, November 30, 1974

The Castro regime practices institutionalized violence against women in Cuba.

November 25th has been set aside as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the Castro regime in the past attempted to use the date to white wash its dismal record and ongoing institutionalized violence against women in Cuba. Fidel Castro died last year on this day and the regime bots on social media are focused on placing the dead despot in the best light possible.

Unfortunately for them,  the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women presents an opportunity to look at how women are treated in Cuba.

Some Cuban women are saying Basta! (Enough!)

Cuban blogger and journalist Yoani Sánchez took to social media today and made some powerful observations that are reinforced by the past 58 years of the Castro regime.
"When a woman in Cuba opines against the government, they remind her that she has ovaries, accuse her of immorality, question her love life, invent a vice and reproach her for criticizing when "the Revolution gave her everything." That is also gender violence.
When the Federation of Cuban Women refuses to publish statistics of femicides in the country and is silent before the acts of repudiation against female opposition and Ladies in White, that is complicity with gender violence ...  
When a minister or a high official forces his secretary to have sex with him, protecting himself in his power and in the supposed privileges that he can give her in return ... that is also gender violence.
When State Security threatens female opposition activist with reprisals against her children and insinuates in interrogations that they will lock her in a cell with men (no one told me, I've lived it myself), that is also gender violence.
Below is a partial listing of documented instances where agents of the Cuban dictatorship have engaged in repression or violence against Cuban women arranged by the most recent dates on top with a focus on cases where they were trying to exercise their fundamental rights.

Founding member of the Center for Coexistence sentenced to three years 
Karina Gálvez Chiu has a degree in economics and was a finance professor. She was in charge of a group of economists in Civic Center and is a founding member of the Editorial Board of the dissident publication Convivencia.(Coexistence).

She lives and works in Pinar del Río, Cuba.  Karina Gálvez’s house was also the headquarters of the Center for Coexistence studies (CEC) and with its seizure the independent project lost its meeting place. The property is now at the disposition of the Municipal Housing Department, subordinate to the Council of the Administration of the Municipality of Pinar del Río.

This is the second time a property has been confiscated to end the meeting place of this organization. In 2009, the yard of the home of Galvez’s parents, where their members met, was also confiscated and closed. She was arrested on January 11, 2017 and brought to trial and sentenced on September 21, 2017 to three years house arrest with her mother. Her home has been taken by the regime. The court ruling says that the conviction seeks to “make the defendant understand” the seriousness of the crime and also “serve to educate the people in general.” 

Sirley Avila Leon was the victim of a brutal machete attack in 2015
Over a three year period (2012 - 2015) regime agents made a series of threats and took actions that culminated in the attempted murder of Sirley Avila Leon on May 24, 2015. Another round of threats and harassment when she returned to Cuba on September 7, 2016 following medical treatment in Miami  led to her decision to leave Cuba on October 28, 2016 and request asylum in the United States when death threats against her person escalated and her attacker, Osmany Carriòn, was free and bragging that he would finish the job he started.

Background information
Sirley Ávila León was a delegate to the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power in Cuba from June 2005, for the rural area of Limones until 2012 when the regime gerrymandered her district out of existence. The Castro regime removed her from her position because she had fought to reopen a school in her district, but been ignored by official channels and had reached out to international media. Her son, Yoerlis Peña Ávila, who had an 18 year distinguished career in the Cuban military was forced out when he refused to declare his mother insane and have her committed to a psychiatric facility.

Sirley joined the ranks of the democratic opposition and repression against her increased dramatically. On May 24, 2015 she was the victim of a brutal machete attack carried out by Osmany Carriòn, with the complicit assistance of his wife, that led to the loss of her left hand, right upper arm nearly severed, and knees slashed into leaving her crippled. Following the attack she did not receive adequate medical care and was told quietly by medical doctors in Cuba that if she wanted to get better that she would need to leave the country.

On May 24, 2015 Sirley Ávila León was the victim of a machete attack
On March 8, 2016 she arrived in Miami and began a course of treatments over the next six months during which she was able to walk once again although still limited due to her injuries. She returned to Cuba on September 7, 2016 only to find her home occupied by strangers and her attacker free and bragging that he would finish the job. She moved in with her mother and within a short time a camera and microphone were set up across from her mother's home on a post.

Threats against Sirley's life intensified leading her to flee Cuba to the United States and request political asylum on October 28, 2016. Below is a video in Spanish explaining the circumstances that led her to leave Cuba.

Ladies in White mistreated in Cuba for peacefully assembling
Lady in White Daisy Cuello Basulto denounced that her 21 year old daughter was arrested, violently stripped and forced to urinate in front of police officers in a police station in Cotorro. The 21 year old was arrested along with her mom and other family on September 27, 2015 while on their way to attend the Sunday march of the Ladies in White. In the police station "she was humiliated," although she refused to urinate in front of the agents, who constantly jeered at her, explained her mother in an interview with Radio República. The young woman was locked in a cell with a strong smell of hydrochloric acid and now suffers from a sore throat. "She has a fever and feels very bad," reported her mother.

Yunisledy Lopez Rodriguez: Brutally murdered at age 23 in 2014
 Yunisledy Lopez Rodriguez was just 23 years old, the mother of two small children and she lived in Vista Alegre, in the Municipality of Majabiquoa in Las Tunas, Cuba. She had suffered harassment, state security agents had wanted to evict her and her children from their home for her activism in the Civics and Truth movement.

Yunisledy found out that her then current boyfriend "Ruber" had been given the order to kill Cuban dissident Sirley Avila Leon by state security. Yunisledy immediately informed Sirley Avila Leon of the danger and on May 21,  2014 when Sirley's home was set on fire formally complained to the police. She reported that her partner had told her that he would murder Sirley and that through the above action had attempted to carry it out. The police never made a pronouncement on the matter and did nothing. Afterwards "Ruber" threatened Yunisledy and told her that if she did not want to be killed that she should join him in Camaguey where he had been given the possibility to work as a "cuenta propista"  as a reward for carrying out his murder attempt against Sirley Avila Leon and to give the impression that he was in a prison elsewhere. [This is an aspect of the job sector opportunities that Amnesty missed in their recent report.]

She  denounced the new threat to the police but no action was taken against him and he went away. After two months approximately September 20-21, 2014 the father of her young son appears at her home and tells her that he'll kill her. But instead rapes her in front of her children and leaves.

Immediately she went to the police and made a complaint because was supposedly a prison escapee, but the police take no action. They tell her not to worry that he is already back in prison. Yunisledy calls Sirley on September 24, 2014 and tells her that they both knew why he was being sent to kill her. Yunisledy asks Sirley to please care for her children because she had no police protection.

On September 26, 2014 while preparing food for her children the individual known as "El Tejon" entered the house and stabbed her 18 times in front of her two children. This was done to give the appearance of a crime of passion.

Cuban human rights defender, Sirley Avila Leon, was the target of a brutal machete attack on May 24, 2015 that she miraculously survived  in order to provide the information about what happened to her and to this young woman, mother of two orphans. 

Yris Pérez Aguilera shows cyst result of state security beatings. (Photo: Yoani Sanchez)
On September 20, 2013 human rights defender Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera briefly described the abuse she had been subjected to by agents of Cuban state security earlier that same year to the 24th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva:

I have been the victim of several acts of aggression on the part of the Cuban authorities, especially by the agents Yuniel Monteagudo Reina and Eric Aquino Yera. They have beaten me into unconsciousness in the pavement, as took place most recently this past March 7 in Santa Clara. The hits to the head, neck, and back have caused me serious health problems that I have not been able to recover from. In addition to beating me, they have threatened me with death on various occasions, these agents have told me that they are going to rape me, and have shown their genitals during arbitrary arrests. 
On Sunday, July 21, 2013 Sonia Álvarez Campillo was brutally beaten by agents of the Cuban government for her dissent and suffered lasting physical damage.  Over twitter the aftermath of the attack was posted by her daughter Sayli Navarro who tweeted: "My mom Sonia Álvarez Campillo, shows x-rays and arm fractured by her repressors on Sunday" and independent journalist Ivan Hernandez Carrillo tweeted: "This is the Lady in White Sonia Álvarez Campillo after today's first act of repudiation against Ladies in White."

Sonia Álvarez Campillo's arm fractured by regime repressors July 21, 2013
There for everyone to see, a woman with a her left arm in a cast holding up her x-ray showing where the breaks are following a savage attack on Sunday by regime agents. This is not an isolated case but a disturbing pattern of increasing violence against nonviolent activists that is primarily but not only targeting women.

Marina Montes Piñón age 60 beaten by regime agents. Needed 30 stitches

Marina Montes Piñón, a 60 year old woman and long time opposition activist, was beaten with a blunt object by regime agents on December 15, 2012 in Cuba. The end result, three deep wounds in the skull and a hematoma in the right eye. She needed nearly thirty stitches to patch up the wounds. 

Berenice Héctor González mutilated for verbally defending Ladies in White
Berenice Héctor González, a 15-year old young woman, suffered a knife attack on November 4, 2012 for supporting the women's human rights movement, The Ladies in White. News of the attack only emerged a month later because State Security had threatened the mother that her daughter would suffer the consequences if she made the assault public. 

Laura Pollán repeatedly beaten and died under suspicious circumstances

Laura Inés Pollán Toledo, one of the founders of the Ladies in White in March of 2003 and its chief spokeswoman was widely admired inside of Cuba and internationally. She fell suddenly ill and died within a week on October 14, 2011 under suspicious circumstances that a Cuban medical doctor described as "painful, tragic and unnecessary." This took place within days of the Ladies in White declaring themselves a human rights organization dedicated to the freedom of all political prisoners, not just their loved ones. 

Maria Elena Cruz Varela in 1991
 On November 19, 1991 the Cuban poet Mariela Elena Cruz Varela, who peacefully dissented asking for nonviolent change, was assaulted by a mob organized by the dictatorship who tried to force feed the poet her own words. She wrote about the assault in her book, Dios en las cárceles cubanas (God in the Cuban jails):
"They broke my mouth trying to make me swallow the leaflets that members of my group had distributed throughout Havana. Afterwards I spent three days brutally besieged, imprisoned in my own home with my two children, with no water, no electricity, no food, no cigarettes. We heard what the huge speakers never stopped amplifying, allegorical songs to the country, the necessary punishment of traitors, and anyone who wanted to could shout at me, organized, of course, the slogans they pleased: Comrade worm, we are going to execute you by firing squad!"
On February 26, 1961, Cuban state security agents arrested 23-year-old medical student Ana Lazara Rodriguez she had been distributing literature and speaking out against Fidel Castro as he assumed dictatorial powers in Cuba. She spent 19 years in the women's prison at Guanajay, located in Eastern Cuba, and was exiled to the United States on February 26, 1980. She was subjected to beatings, starvation, threats, hard labor, and solitary confinement for months at a time. Ana described in a 2007 interview with the Hudson Reporter how: "The men constantly beat us with their bayonets, and they would cram the cells so that we couldn't all fit," ... We used to take turns standing and sitting. Many women became ill because the conditions were so confined and there was a lack of oxygen. We were treated like animals." 

Cuban attorneys Yaremis Flores and Laritza Diversent in their 2013 report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) touch on the institutional nature of the violence upon women in Cuba by the Castro regime:

"The brutality of the police and state security agents, including women members of these bodies, against women dissidents, is supported by the state, which exemplifies the institutionalized violence as a means to repress women opposition activists. Arbitrary detention is one of the methods to prevent them from exercising their rights to speak, associate and demonstrate. In detention centers agents use violence, sexual assault and insults as means of repression. The cells enclosed in unsanitary and sometimes sanitary services have no privacy or are not appropriate for women, even having them share prison cells with men. In some cases, they forced to strip naked or forcibly stripped, obliging them to squat to see if they have items in their genitals and claims that have been reported that they have introduced a pen into the vagina, under the justification of seeking recording objects."
Due to increasing repression human rights lawyer, Laritza Diversant was granted political asylum and went into exile on  May 4, 2017.

Due to increasing repression by Castro regime  Laritza Diversant went into exile
This is a partial and incomplete summary. The plight of women in Cuba over the past 58 years would fill a library, but it is important to recall that the above repression and violence is promoted, coordinated and carried out by agents of the Castro regime. 

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