Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Human Rights First: Cuban Attacks on Ladies in White Must Stop Immediately

Cuban Attacks on Ladies in White Must Stop Immediately

August 31, 2011

Washington, D.C—The attacks and detention of human rights activists in Cuba—including members of the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), a group of human rights defenders honored by Human Right First in 2006 —should stop immediately and those detained should be released, said Human Rights First today. According to reports, members of Damas de Blanco are among the human rights defenders in Cuba who have been targeted in recent weeks by the authorities, and some have been beaten.

“This most recent spate of harassing and intimidating activists has been going on for some weeks now, and dozens remain in detention,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “For the last month, the Ladies in White have been prevented from carrying out their weekly peaceful protest. These brave women have been targeted and physically assaulted by police as they go to and from Mass. We urge that the arrests and violence directed against peaceful human rights activists be halted immediately.”

The Ladies in White trace their roots back to 2003, when the Cuban government arrested and summarily tried and sentenced 75 human rights defenders, independent journalists and librarians to terms of up to 28 years in prison. Many of them were organizers for the Varela Project, a grassroots initiative for constitutional reform. The repressive move was roundly condemned by foreign governments, the United Nations and human rights organizations. Following the arrests, the wives and relatives of those imprisoned in the crackdown formed the Ladies in White. The last of the 75 dissidents was finally released in May 2011. The Ladies in White and other supporters—Ladies in Support—continue to peacefully protest for the release of others who they believe have been imprisoned due to their dissident activities. The groups recently spread their peaceful protests to eastern provinces.

The Nation Project of the Lawton Foundation by Dr. Oscar Biscet

The following is Alberto de la Cruz's translation of a statement from the Lawton Foundation by its president Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet.

Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet
President of the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights
Presidential Medal of Freedom Winner

In 1997, the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights decided to put into practice the theoretical fundamentals of non-violent civic struggle, and chose the event that would take place at the Jose Marti Civic Plaza where Pope John Paul II offered a homily to the Cuban people as its stage. The objective of our non-governmental organization is to promote among Cuban citizens the idea that it is possible to liberate themselves from the tyrannical regime of the Castros through non-violent political defiance with minimal cost in terms of suffering for the Cubans themselves.

An hour before the Pope made his entrance into the Havana plaza, the members of the Lawton Foundation had already raised a banner with the inscription “Remember the prisoners and those who suffer,” and on the backside of the banner it stated “Liberty for political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.” This last phrase was accompanied by a list of prisoner names, among them those from “The Nation Belongs to Everyone.”

Five minutes before the entry of leader Fidel Castro, we were violently removed from the premises. Thanks to the protection of some French priests and two journalists from Fox News, we were able to leave the plaza very worried but without major injuries.

Since then, the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights has operated with decorum, intelligence, altruistic love, and perseverance for the respect of the lives of unborn children and the human rights of the Cuban people.

The merits of the beautiful and intense work done by the Foundation have brought national and international recognition. Nevertheless, the majority of its work has been conducted in silence and without publicity, and untainted by self-promotion. For that reason I congratulate all its members and encourage them to continue carrying out this worthy cause.

We propose to promote the strategy of non-violent resistance as the most suitable weapon that should be used by the opposition democratic movement in search of respect for human rights and liberty for our people. And the valiant, loving, wise, and patriotic words of the Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, Pedro Meurice, have filled us with an intense patriotic love, which inspires us to challenge the terror imposed on this unfortunate nation by the state. Those words were:
“[…] Cuba is a country that has a profound calling to solidarity, but throughout its history it has seen its spaces for association and the participation of civil society dismantled or run aground in a way that I present to you the soul of a nation that yearns to reconstruct fraternity based on liberty and solidarity.
“I want to present in this Eucharist all of those Cubans and citizens of Santiago who cannot find sense in their lives, who have not been able to choose and develop a life project because of the road to depersonalization, which is the fruit of paternalism.
“In addition, I present a growing number of Cubans who have confused country with political party, the nation with an ideology. They are Cubans who upon rejecting everything at once without discernment, they feel rootless, rejecting what is from here and overvaluing everything foreign.”
A decade later, our people feel inspired by the internal examples of the peaceful opposition, and by the external examples of non-violent paradigms provided by the peoples of North Africa and the Middle East. The Cuban people, under the direction of the democratic opposition movement, have consolidated behind non-violent civic struggle as the strategic and tactical method to obtain its liberty and create a State with democratic rights in our country.

According to Nathan Sharansky, dictatorial regimes such as that of the Castro brothers are fearful societies, and “they are characterized by an inexorable process of stagnation, regression, and subsidence that the only way to defeat them is with external help.” For that reason I have over the years vehemently condemned those civilized and developed countries who continue to prop up the communist dictatorship.

According to Sharansky, the socialist system in Cuba is in its final phases. Fearful societies that are in the terminal stage are identified by the increase in state terror and the growing number of duplicitous individuals. If we add to this the lost ideology of the system, the regime is even weaker because of the fact it is a post-communist state whose ideology has failed in an emphatic way. This is the ideal moment to put an end to the Castro dictatorship through massive, non-violent political defiance and not offer it any support whatsoever, which might provide it with political legitimacy and with financial and economic resources both internally and externally.

Many ideas come to our minds, but they serve little purpose if we do not put them into practice out of our own free will. The dictatorship, in order to avoid allowing liberating ideas to develop in our daily lives, blocks our will through fear and depersonalization, in the same way it eliminates our self-esteem in order to convert us into instruments of their design.

In order to get out of this apathetic and weak state, it is necessary to open the internal sources of our own free will. This is only possible through healthy and pure activism, as the Pope described to the young people when he said: “be protagonists of your own personal and social history.” That is why I tell the Cuban people to resist those who are tired, who have failed, whose love of country is weak, who are devoid of hope and self-love, who are traitors, and to be protagonists of their own history in order to be a free people.

The hour has arrived for Cubans to topple the communist dictatorship that for more than fifty years has destroyed our economy, our educational and religious structure, our morality, and our ethics for civilized coexistence. Let us not allow ourselves to be deceived by the false proposal of change within the same government that has enslaved us for more than half a century regardless of the institution, group, or person who presents it. It is very difficult for the Communist Party to initiate profound changes when in the last five years it has purged from its ranks its most moderate thinkers. The communist orthodoxy persists at all levels of leadership, and they use democratic centrism, or better said the subordination of all its members with no respect for the minorities.

Nevertheless, let us presume for a moment the utopia that the communist regime will voluntarily accede and grant profound transformations. What should they be?
  • Ratify the international human rights pacts, especially those dealing with civil and political rights.
  • Preemptively put into practice inalienable rights.
  • Repeal Article Five of the Communist Constitution.
  • Allow the entry, exit, and permanence of all Cubans on the island with a full guarantee of their rights.
  • Guarantee the direct participation of every Cuban in exile in all the processes of democratic change in their country.
  • The resignation of all current members of the Council of State and of the government, and those linked to crimes against humanity.
By putting into practice these indispensable requirements, they would become the preamble to recognizing, analyzing, and debating the process of change towards a transition of the country to a democracy and towards liberty. Without these requirements there is nothing to talk about.
On another front, it is necessary to be on guard because the Castro government has immense political and economic power to conduct policies of subversion. The classic example can be found in how from the island the regime has been able to subvert the social order of Venezuela, Nicaragua, has strong influence in Bolivia, and great potential in Honduras. If they can accomplish this in foreign lands, there is nothing they cannot do here.

For example, they have the capacity, which they have demonstrated, to infiltrate with their intelligence agents the leadership of democratic organizations, to destroy opposition organizations, and to perpetrate extrajudicial assassinations of the true leaders committed to the liberty of their nation.

Because of this, the wisest thing to do is not to trust the government, or those who want to prolong its existence and who forget the many years of failure and cruel tyranny. It is better to place our trust in the Biblical God and in our own efforts, supported by our own people, organizing and training them in the methods of non-violent civic struggle in order to strengthen them. That is the only way to obtain a quick and lasting victory.

A fearful society is kept that way with state terror combined with scientific methods to unleash psychological and psychiatric disorders in the population. Among them is post-traumatic stress disorder and learned helplessness disorder. These mental processes do not disappear overnight or immediately with liberty; in fact, there should be prolonged medical treatment or the reinforcement of democratic institutions so that the people can begin to trust in them and start feeling fulfilled and free.
This is why I am left astonished and incredulous when I hear proposals to carry out plebiscites or general elections under the control of the dictatorship, or recently liberated from it. The triumphant allies in Nazi Germany, Afghanistan, and Iraq prudently waited for a time to reestablish the self-confidence of every free citizen.

The period of transition in Cuba should begin with reestablishing the historic memory of the nation through the applicable clauses of the 1940 Constitution, with a balance of independent powers and a provisional government made up of all the democratic forces in the country. Once the country is stable, within that transition period, a provisional democratic constitution should be instituted as a basis for local and regional elections, and a democratic transitional government in preparation for general elections and the founding of the Free Republic of Cuba.

An independent judiciary, from the beginning of the transition period, will determine the integration of the Superior Electoral Tribunal, which will guarantee the organization and transparency of elections under the supervision of international bodies. It is important that Articles 184 and 185 of the 1940 Constitution be reviewed. In the communist Constitution there exists the constitutional atrocity that the judiciary is subordinate to the Legislative Assembly and the Executive power.

I believe also that it is of vital importance that the future Free Republic of Cuba is organized as a secular state where the market economy is predominate and the plenitude of fundamental liberties of every citizen is respected. In addition, I think that the republic should be constructed beginning now with responsibility and intense public and professional debate in all branches of knowledge, including the political sciences. In conclusion, I aspire to promote the triad of Livingstone: Christianity, commerce, and civilization. Remembering that we are part of the western world, the one with a Socratic civilization and a Greco-Roman/Judeo-Christian culture.

I conclude with the enduring words of the much loved and admired Monsignor Pedro Meurice:
“Over the years this country has defended the sovereignty of its geographic borders with true dignity, but we have forgotten the point that independence should sprout from the human beings who sustain from below every project as a nation.”
Original statement in Spanish can be found here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cuban sculptor Tony López, requiescat in pace

"The most important thing is to be free... to express yourself. Although the environment helps to determine the creative process, the evolution my work has undergone was inevitable." -Tony López
Tony López, Master Sculptor (1918-2011)

“I believe I was born with a ball of clay in my hand.” - Tony López , Luis J. Botifoll Oral History Project.

Cuban sculptor Tony López passed away at age 92 on Sunday. Two of the most impacting sculptures that the late artist worked on were the Torch of Friendship in downtown Miami built in 1960 and the Holocaust Memorial on Miami Beach. These sculptures are important cultural and artistic landmarks in South Florida.

On the late sculptor's studio website there is a description of his role in assisting in the creation of the holocaust memorial:
Tony Lopez worked closely with architect and sculptor, Kenneth Treister who has described it as, "a large environmental sculpture". Located in Miami Beach, Florida, the completed monument was erected in 1985 and remains as one of the greatest memorials to the victims of the Holocaust.

The University of Miami Digital collection has a June 13, 2009 interview online with the great Cuban sculptor which is part of the Luis J. Botifoll Oral History Project. The Miami Herald gave a brief overview of his life's work in its Monday, September 29, 2011 edition:
In 1939, López won his first important award, a medal of the Bellas Artes circle with the bust of a union militant. In the next two decades he was known for his “caricature sculptures,” in which he carved images of public and political figures that were later published in the Bohemia magazine.

The most controversial of these was of President Ramón Grau San Martín characterized as a devil.

Persecuted by the government of Fulgencio Batista because of his political views, López came to Miami as an exile in 1958. Here he left his imprint with a statue of Cuban military hero Antonio Maceo and other monuments in Little Havana. He also made the original models of the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach and a sculpture of Cuban anti-Castro fighter Jorge Mas Canosa for a park in Miami Beach.

His rooster figures, inspired by his pet rooster Pepe, on Calle Ocho were very popular.

López also leaves behind the sculpture of a small siren at the entrance to Marco Island and a bust of Latin American military hero Simón Bolívar in front of the Miami Beach Library, as well as one of Pope John Paul II in Angola and one of Cuban scientist Carlos J. Finlay at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.

A more complete biography is available at The Tony Lopez Studio website:
"I can't remember which came first to me, crawling or drawing, When I was in school, art was my favorite subject and I excelled in it." Tony Lopez smiled mischievously, "My father couldn't keep me away from his studio. Many times he would tell me to go and play ball with the other kids."

Tony's father was a sculptor, and little Tony learned to shape clay and carve, while others his age were learning the alphabet. By the time he was a teenager, he was quite skilled in what was to be his profession. His father died while working on a commissioned monument, which was finished by the eighteen-year old Tony.

He has sculpted all his life. "There is nothing else I want to do; sculpture is my only means of expression. It is my passion in life."

"I have never followed one school of sculpting or sculpting trend. In politics and philosophy as well, I cannot align myself with one discipline. There is good and bad in everything."

An abstract expressionist, Lopez' works are soft, rounded and sinuous. Wavelike swellings ripple within the works. Strong and tender, almost vibrant with emotion, they reflect the intensity of the artist. "When working the feeling is ecstatic, it is almost indescribable."

Tony López's work has made an impact in South Florida that will be there for generations to come. The Holocaust Memorial is a work that preserves memory for future generations and the Torch of Friendship symbolizes hemispheric solidarity and the space left for Cuba hope for the future. Master sculptor Tony López will be sorely missed but he lives on through his work.

Franklin Brito One year later: Venezuela's Orlando Zapata Tamayo

"I’ve learned of the death of hunger striker Franklin Brito. It appears that Hugo Chavez now has his own Orlando Zapata" - Yoani Sanchez, August 31, 2010 on twitter

Franklin Brito ( September 5, 1960 – August 30, 2010)

They died less than seven months apart. One by vocation was a carpenter and a handy man who had grown up under communism in Cuba. The other a farmer, biologist and landowner who'd come of age in Venezuela under Chavez and his brand of 21st Century socialism. Both were human rights defenders who after exhausting all other non-violent options resorted to the option of last resort: the hunger strike.

Franklin Brito's last interview

Prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died on February 23, 2010 after suffering physical and psychological torture and Franklin Brito died one year ago today on August 30, 2010. His land seized by the Chavista regime and his ability to provide for his family crippled. The politicized courts unwilling to provide a just decision. He began series of protests and demonstrations that ended in a hunger strike to the death. In his last interview, Franklin Brito called on Venezuelans to be the authors of their own destiny and not to rely on the politicians. One year after his death, it is worthwhile to remember this principled man and to defend him against the slanders and libels of the emerging totalitarian regime in Venezuela.

Union of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC), An Instrument of Repression

Union of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC) is the mask of a culture of fear. - Oswaldo Payá

Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas

Art is a gift of God to humans, just as is the ability to express and create, and imbue poetry in everything one does. To attempt to control, submit, censor, repress, and confiscate art in any way is a sacrilege to the human soul. That has been the mission of the powers that dominate the Union of Cuban Writers and Artists (Unión de Escritores y Artistas Cubanos, UNEAC). That power has been the joke of a dictatorship, while it has monitored, censored, excluded and repressed many of its own members and others, because of their ideas, their expressions and their “disrespect.” This persecution has not only occurred during the last so called “gray five years,” but also during more than half a century of closed darkness.

The UNEAC is the mask of a culture of fear. It can deceive many people in the world, but not Cubans, and I believe it is less likely to deceive its own members. Now, no one tear up their clothes saying that I am offending artists and writers. On the contrary, I denounce the sustained oppression against these Cubans and the takeover of their identities. I defend their right to have authentic organizations that are free and that represent them, defending their greatest right, which is freedom. To claim that the UNEAC represents Cuban writers and artists is like saying that the executioner and the jailer represent the condemned and the confined.

The UNEAC and the politics of cultural repression of the regime have been a constant attack against poetry and the human soul. That mockery, oppression and usurpation against the human being and his right to think, to free expression and creation, can only exist in totalitarian regimes. And the power that controls UNEAC can only be sustained by supporting and being supported by the system of coercion and terror that is communism. Thus, in a forced manner, and with absolute submission to their bosses, but not the people, we can celebrate the fifty years of UNEAC, in a country where people are monitored, where everyone has a file and where those who express themselves differently or do not express their unconditional support of the regime with fervor are incarcerated.

The totalitarian regime implemented its own cultural sector whose leaders and activists dominate and confiscated the theaters, the books, the universities and schools, the Works, the cinema and photography, and movie production, the media, the press; storytellers emerged and cinematographers that captivated many audiences, built the language and the subculture of the revolution, won applause, tears of emotion and intoxicated audiences, but in the end fail.

And they failed because everything was a mega-fraud built and supported by the silence of the soul of a people deprived of freedom and to sustain the totalitarian power, first, of a man and now of an oligarchy. They always failed, in the end, lies and oppression fail; they failed in the hearts of Cubans, and they failed in the human spirit, which always seeks liberty.

Mr. Miguel Barnet, President of the UNEAC from the comforts of his position of oppressive advantage, speaks with hate of the “dissidence rattlers.” But, Mr. Barnet, it is the UNEAC that better symbolizes the rattlers of the totalitarian communist regime that subjugates Cuba. The lies die and the truth resurfaces, because hate ends and love endures, because fear leaves and transparency has come, because oppression succumbs and liberty triumphs, because tyranny is ending and the people beginning again. End.

Epilogue: Dedicated to Humberto León, ex guitarist of the band KENT, friend and colleague of forced labor in the Isle of Pines camp, who was then sentenced to four years of prison (from 1980 to 1984) for trying to write his book, that “the official intellectual censors” considered subversive. Do you know something about this Mr. Barnet?

Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas

La Habana, August 21, 2011

Original text in Spanish

Monday, August 29, 2011

Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia's call to action for a free Cuba

Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia

Just five days ago, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia founded together with other opposition activists who desire to finalize the democratic process in Cuba, the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) that has as its principal objective the massive growth of the nonviolent struggle for democracy. It is an organization that describes itself as nonviolent but not passive.

In the midst of the descriptions of violence and repression visited on Cuban pro-democracy activists this past weekend by agents of the regime in Cuba, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia made the following call to action for a free Cuba over twitter:
To democratize Cuba we should obtain the massive growth of the resistance. For the resistance to become massive we need rapid and effective communication with the populace.

To achieve change in Cuba, we have to reach the people. For rapid communication with the populace, we need the technical means.

We cannot advance more in the democratization of our homeland for lack of technical means and the resources for them.

There is no struggle for the good without loses and without risks. Who fears the risks never will achieve any advance in the struggle. Being careful is one thing, not risking is something very different. Great achievements are not obtained without great sacrifice.

Jose Daniel and the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) are right but this does not only apply to people on the island but off the island as well. Solidarity with those risking everything inside of Cuba is needed along with the willingness of people of good will to take risks for freedom on the island.

The images of Cubans losing their fear and demonstrating their solidarity with activists in the face of brutal regime repression is a challenge to Cubans and friends of freedom abroad to take the same risks.

Lets be clear, its a brutal, despotic regime and confronting it is not a safe thing to do that requires courage. However, if Cuba is to be free of this half-century long nightmare courage and risk combined with strategic thinking are key.

The original Spanish text is reproduced below from twitter with hyperlinks to the original tweets:

Para democratizar Cuba debemos masificar la resistencia.Para masificar resistencia necesitamos rapida y efectiva comunicacion con el pueblo.

Para lograr el cambio en Cuba,tenemos que llegarle al pueblo. Para rapida comunicacion con el pueblo, necesitamos de medios tecnicos.

No podemos avanzar mas en la democratizacion de nuestra patria por falta de medios tecnicos y recursos para ello. No hay lucha por el bien sin perdidas y sin riesgos. Quien teme a los riesgos nunca lograra ningun avance en su lucha.

No hay lucha por el bien sin perdidas y sin riesgos. Quien teme a los riesgos nunca lograra ningun avance en su lucha. Cuidarse es una cosa,no arriesgarse es otra muy diferente.No se obtiene un gran logro sin un gran sacrificio.

Another Sunday in Raul Castro’s Cuba: Beatings, fractures, tear gas and detentions

The attacks on the Cuban Ladies in White continue

The Ladies in White

September 1, 2011 Update: Amnesty International denounces repression against Ladies in White in Cuba: Further information: Women denied right to protest

Another Sunday that Raul Castro orders State Security to beat up women attempting to attend Mass then march silently demanding their loved one’s freedom. Cuban blogger, Luis Felipe Rojas (@alambradas ) on twitter described it as the 6th consecutive week of women beaten up, detentions, deportations and canceled telephones in Palma Soriano.

Even before Sunday arrived starting on Friday, state security began operations to prevent Ladies in White from attending Mass at the Cathedral in Santiago de Cuba. The homes of nonviolent activists were targeted by paramilitary squads and state security organized acts of repudiation.

On Saturday two Ladies in White, Caridad Caballero and Marta Diaz Rondon, were on their way to Palma Soriano to attend Mass on Sunday when they were intercepted by state security agents who dragged, beat and sexually harassed the women and detained until August 28, 2011. Both women were covered in bruises and Caridad Caballero suffered a broken finger reported the Coalition of Cuban-American Women that had been in contact with activists on the island.

First reports arrived in the early morning via Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia (@jdanielferrer ), a former prisoner of conscience who had a leadership role in the Varela Project and has now begun a new initiative called the Patriotic Union of Cuba [Unión Patriótica de Cuba] ( UNPACU ), that at El Caney, Santiago de Cuba Guillermo Cobas Reyes and Agustin Magdariaga Alvarez were violently detained during a strong act of repudiation. They did not go silently. The activists respond to state security repression chanting against violence, the lack of liberty and misery in Cuba.

A short while later, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia (@jdanielferrer ) tweets that the cell phones of the Ladies in White inside the home of Aimeé Garces Leyva do not respond and are without service. In a series of tweets from Ferrer Garcia the state security operation carried out against the women and other opposition activists are summarized in 140 character increments:

The home of Aimeé Garces Leyva is completely surrounded for over two blocks there are hundreds of agents of repression.

13 women at the home of Aimeé Garcés Leyva in Palma Soriano, Santiago de Cuba were just violently detained.

Palma: Minutes after the violent detention of 13 Ladies in White when they left Aimeé's home, police agents carried out a search of the home.

The search was carried out by Lieutenant Colonel Alejandro and Major Dorkis of the political police with other officials of repressive bodies and the National Revolutionary Police (PNR).

Objects & equipment taken in the search belong to various persons that visited said home during the weekend.

In Palma Soriano, on Paquito Borrero Street the situation grows more complex, lots of armed police some even carrying sticks. There are many cars.

Caridad Caballero Batista and Marta Díaz Rondón detained since yesterday and beaten have now been freed.

Palma Soriao: Some activists wounded, tear gas used opposition activists and family of Antomarchi affected.

Palma Soriano: Neighbors of Antomarchi’s barrio are in solidarity with opposition activists and the agents are also using tear gas against them.

Palma Soriano: Neighbors in solidarity shouted against the dictatorship and abuse of nonviolent opposition activists

All repressive forces of the dictatorship in eastern region are mobilized to try to flatten us. Until now they have been unable to achieve it.

Following the detentions the twitter account of the Ladies in White (@DamasdBlanco ) tweets that Laura Pollan, spokeswoman for the Ladies in White, is reporting that the location of Lady in White Berta Soler is unknown. Soler had traveled to Santiago de Cuba to be in solidarity with the Ladies in White in the East. At the same time Luis Felipe Rojas (@alambradas) reported that Hector Julio from Havana said that: “We consider Berta Soler who went out to support the Ladies in the East and doesn't appear as missing.”

Guillermo Fariñas (@chirusa32) reported that special riot troops launched tear gas into homes in Palma Soriano and Palmarito de Cauto and that 54 activists had been arrested.

Either through laziness or a well justified fear of being expelled from the country the news bureaus, based out of Havana, have not covered these events in Eastern Cuba. Something is changing in Cuba. Everyday Cubans are losing their fear and now are openly demonstrating their solidarity with the democratic opposition even in the face of repression.

On Monday afternoon Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia (@jdanielferrer ) over the course of a few tweets listed the names of the 27 detained at Antomarchi's home on Sunday:Bismar Mustelier Galan, Miguel Rafael Cabrera Montoya, Dany Lopez de Moya, Alexander Cala Reyes, Nibardo Amelo Ramirez, Osmanis Cespedes Napoles, Sergio Lescay Despaigne, Alexander Colon Fernandez, Alexeis Aguilsabal Rodriguez, Julio Cobas Rivero, Jose Enrique Martinez Ferrer, Ruben Adrober de Armas, Juan Carlos Figueroa Cala, Jose Antonio Elegica Zulueta, Roberto de la Rosa Estrada, Antonio Maso Cespedes,Angel lino Isaac Luna, Armando Sanchez la O, Reimundo Lopez Landazuri, Vitor Campa Almanares, Rolando Humberto Gonzalez Rodriguez, Rosney Vejerano Silo, Angel Luis Campa Almenares, Alexis Yancoy Cuan Jerez, Misael Valdes Vegas, Bismar Alvarez Arias and Ezequiel Pulido Pacheco.

"These are the names of our detained brothers and sisters" concluded Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia. He then went on to add that "Marino Antomarchi Rivero, Jorge Cervantes Garcia and Guillermo Cobas Reyes remain detained since Friday. That brings the total number of activists still in detention at 30.

Jose Daniel then went on via twitter to list those worse wounded over the weekend by the riot police: Miguel Rafael Cabrera Montoya, Alexeis Aguirresabal Rodriguez, Juan Carlos Figueroa Cala, Angel Lino Campa Almenares, Reimundo Lopez Landazuri and Angel Lino Isaac Luna.
The list concluded with those hurt with injuries to the head: Ruben Adrober de Armas,Victor Campa Almenares and Miguel Cabrera Montoya

The massive response by the dictatorship indicates that there is an inverse relationship between the regime and the populace. As the populace loses its fear the regime’s fear increases. Now is the time for friends of the Cuban people to be vigilant in observing events on the ground in Cuba. It is also important for international human rights organizations and institutions to remind the Cuban government and its agents that they will be held individually responsible for gross and systematic human rights violations.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The power of music and art to resist totalitarian deadness

Photo taken by Pedro Luis Castro

Over half a century into a brutal totalitarian regime that banned and censored The Beatles and rock n roll in the 1960s along with some of the best traditional Cuban music ever produced because it did not accord with their "revolution" the cultural landscape has been laid waste. However symbols of resistance have arisen on the cultural front and despite repression and censorship continue to have an impact in the island.

Successful cultural resistance to repression, especially in totalitarian regimes, revolve around wit, humor and irony. The arts have also played and are playing an important role. In Belarus today there is Belarus Free Theater, an outlawed underground theater group, whose creativity is a threat to the tyrant there. You can help them here in the Zone of Silence.

In Cuba a while back a group of performance artists organized a non-violence performance in the streets of Havana with signs that said "No + Violencia" (No more violence) and shocked the regime. Although they were quick to say it was not a protest but a performance art piece.

Also in Cuba a punk rock group, Porno para Ricardo, that has challenged the tight boundaries of censorship inviting prison to the lead singer along with detentions and interrogations to the rest of the band but they courageously continue to rock on. Below is a video of one of their concerts in Ciego de Avila. The irreverent lyrics against the dictator are being sung by scores of young Cubans. Ironically, the video is titled "no tenemos coro" - we don't have a chorus because the crowd is acting as the chorus.

At the same time the dictatorship continues to try to censor, control and manipulate authentic cultural expressions. Most recently they seized a music festival called Rotilla from the founders to replace them with party apparatchiks in what is being called a kidnapping. This has led to a response both with direct language by the organizers and in the video below made by Coco Solo Social Club musical performance artists living in Cuba.

The best way to help these artists is to let others know about them and through the increased visibility provide them with a measure of protection.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Amnesty International issues Urgent Action for Cuba's Ladies in White

Document - Cuba: Women protesters must not be silenced

UA: 256/11 Index: AMR 25/003/2011 Cuba Date: 25 August 2011



F emale relat ives of former prisoners of conscience , and their supporters , have been prevented since mid-July from carrying out a weekly peaceful protest calling for an end to political imprisonment . They are likely to face similar repression on 28 August.

The Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco), a group of female relatives of former prisoners of conscience and current political prisoners, and the Ladies in Support (Damas de Apoyo), have for the last month faced arbitrary arrest and physical assault from members of the security forces and government supporters in the south-eastern city of Santiago de Cuba and surrounding towns. They have tried to march in silent protest every Sunday to call for the release of prisoners they believe have been jailed for their dissident activities, before going to mass.

On 21 August, 11 Damas gathered at the home of Aimée Garcés Leyva in the town of Palma Soriano. Some 100 people, including police and government supporters, surrounded the house for several hours. When the women tried to leave, police pushed them and pulled their hair before forcing them into buses. They were driven a few kilometres, then taken in police cars and dropped near their hometowns in the provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Holguín. At the same time the house of Tania Montoya Vázquez, in Palma Soriano, was surrounded by police for several hours, preventing her and two fellow protesters from leaving. Five other Damas who live in the city of Santiago were arrested before they reached the cathedral and held in police stations for several hours.

On 7 August, 21 Damas attended mass in the Cathedral of Santiago de Cuba. As they left they were surrounded by dozens of government supporters and police officers, and said they were physically and verbally attacked. Police forced them onto a bus, took them back to their own provinces and released them several kilometres from their homes. They were also prevented from carrying out their peaceful protests on 17 and 24 July, when they tried to attend mass in El Cobre and Palma de Soriano respectively, both in the province in Santiago de Cuba. On 28 August, they plan once again to carry out a silent march and attend mass at the Cathedral of Santiago de Cuba.

Please write immediately in Spanish or your own language:

calling on the authorities to permit the Damas de Blanco and Damas de Apoyo to march peacefully on Sundays and attend religious services without unreasonable restrictions;

asking them to cease immediately the harassment and intimidation of the Damas de Blanco, Damas de Apoyo and any other citizens who seek to exercise peacefully their rights to freedom of expression and association.


Head of State and Government

Raúl Castro Ruz


La Habana, Cuba

Fax: +53 7 8333085 (via Foreign Ministry); +1 2127791697 (via Cuban Mission to UN)

Email: (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)

Salutation: Su Excelencia/

Your Excellency

Interior Minister

General Abelardo Coloma Ibarra

Ministro del Interior y Prisiones

Ministerio del Interior, Plaza de la Revolución, La Habana, Cuba

Fax: +537 8556621

+1 2127791697 (via Cuban Mission to UN)


Salutation: Su Excelencia/

Your Excellency

And copies to

First Secretary , Cuban Communist Party of Santiago de Cuba

Primer Secretario del PCC de Santiago de Cuba

Lázaro Espósito

Primer Secretario del Partido Comunista de Santiago de Cuba

Avenida Garzón 51

Plaza de Martes

Santiago de Cuba

Provincia de Santiago de Cuba


Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.

Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.



ADditional Information

In 2003, over several days, the Cuban authorities arrested 75 men and women for their peaceful expression of critical opinions of the government. They were subjected to summary trials and were sentenced to prison terms of up to 28 years. Amnesty International declared the 75 convicted dissidents to be prisoners of conscience, and the last of them was released in April 2011.

The Damas de Blanco organize peaceful marches where they distribute flowers and call for the release of their relatives and friends. In 2005, the Damas de Blanco were awarded The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament.

The Damas de Apoyo emerged as a solidarity group who support and participate in activities organized by the Damas de Blanco.

There are now 35 Damas de Blanco and Apoyo from the eastern provinces of Santiago de Cuba, Holguín, Las Tunas, Granma and Guantánamo.

The Damas de Blanco and Damas de Apoyo have repeatedly suffered harassment and intimidation during their peaceful activities. In central Havana on 18 August 2011, 49 Damas were prevented from carrying out a protest in support of their members in Santiago de Cuba and other eastern provinces. Government supporters physically forced them to return to their homes. On 14 August only three of 22 Damas who travelled to Santiago de Cuba managed to enter the Cathedral for mass. Five of them were arrested before mass began, and taken to various police stations in the city and held for several hours. The 14 other Damas were stopped at a police checkpoint 11 km outside the city and forced off the bus they were travelling in by women police officers. Nine of them, including Belkis Cantillo Ramírez, the wife of former prisoner of conscience José Daniel Ferrer García, were kicked and slapped as they were pushed into police cars and returned to their homes.

Name: Damas de Blanco and Damas de Apoyo

Gender m/f: f

UA: 256/11 Index: AMR 25/003/2011 Issue Date: 25 August 2011

Worldwide demonstrations for a free Belarus on 20th anniversary of independence from the USSR

“The solidarity of the shaken can say ‘no’ to the measures of mobilization that make the state of war permanent. … The solidarity of the shaken is built up in persecution and uncertainty: that is its front line, quiet, without fanfare or sensation even there where this aspect of the ruling Force seeks to seize it.” - Jan Patočka

It was twenty years ago today that Belarus achieved its independence from the Soviet Union after more than 7 decades. Nevertheless, this day is not cause for celebration because for the majority of that time and currently the people of Belarus have been subjected to what today is the last dictatorship in Europe under the autocratic regime of Alexander Lukashenko.

Activists gathered on Miami Beach

On August 21, 2011 a group of young people met on Lincoln Road Mall in South Beach to demonstrate their support for democratic activists in Belarus who suffer repression for trying to exercise their fundamental rights. Today in Belarus silent protests have been outlawed.

As a descendant of Cubans whose homeland has suffered under a brutal dictatorship for more than a half century the repression suffered by the Belarusians is all too familiar. On the same day that we marched through the heart of Miami Beach and educated bystanders on what is taking place in Belarus, in Cuba the Ladies in White were being brutalized by Castro’s state security agents to block them from attending mass at the local cathedral and peacefully marching in a public space.

Yesterday video emerged of four Cuban women nonviolently demonstrating on the capitol steps in Havana, Cuba calling for an end to the dictatorship and a democratic Cuba they were detained and beaten up by Cuban state security.

Dictators Alexander Lukashenko and Raul Castro embrace

Although separated by language and distance the brutal repression against nonviolent activists is unacceptable whether it is in Belarus, China, Cuba, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tibet, Venezuela or elsewhere. The tyrants are working together to perfect their respective tyrannies and human rights defenders must join together in resisting them. It is for that reason that we engaged in a demonstration of solidarity with the democrats in Belarus and salute all those around the world today engaged in actions in their support.

Please today, take action for a human rights defender unjustly imprisoned in Belarus. His name is Ales Bialatski and Amnesty International has an urgent action to obtain his release.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Cuban Regime's International Impact on Human Rights: Syria

“Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres”. ["Tell me with whom you walk, and I will tell you who you are."] - Spanish proverb

Bashar al-Assad and Raul Castro

Update: On February 5, 2012 ALBA Countries reiterated rejection of "foreign interference" in Syria's internal affairs, expressing support for President Bashar al-Assad and confidence that he would resolve the Syrian crisis. ALBA Countries include Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua. Meanwhile in Syria President al-Assad has been engaged in massacres throughout the country to put down a predominantly nonviolent opposition.

On Tuesday, August 23, 2011 the Cuban government along with China, Russia and Ecuador voted against investigating gross and systematic human rights violations in Syria. Those who follow the human rights council closely would not be surprised by the behavior of the Castro regime.

The dictatorship in Cuba engages domestically in the systematic violation of human rights of the Cuban people. Over the past few months the regime has returned to the practice of beating nonviolent women peacefully attending mass and silently marching to demand that their imprisoned husbands, political prisoners be released. Internationally the regime collaborates and is allied with the worse human rights violators in seeking to subvert international human rights standards and with their position on the United Nations Human Rights Council have assisted China, Sri Lanka and other countries in avoiding accountability for gross and systematic violations in addition to attempting to make a mockery of the institution itself and in at least one case physically assaulting a human rights defender after the regime lost a vote that criticized its human rights practices.

Thankfully, yesterday the Cuban regime’s machinery and their allies lost a key vote at the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Cuban diplomat, Rodolfo Reyes Rodriguez, gave an impassioned presentation (video above in English - but also available in Spanish) saying that the available information was partial and politicized and blamed the United States and Israel as having a strategic objective to do away with the regime in Syria, and called for a special session on the "barbaric acts" of NATO in Libya. Making no mention of the massacres committed by the Cuban dictatorship's close ally Muammar Qaddafi. The diplomat for the dictatorship also brought up the issues of torture in Guantanamo and spoke of double standards. He concluded that the government and people of Syria should resolve the problems themselves and keep the international community out of it and rejected all calls to investigate the situation on the ground. His presentation was a mixture of outright fabrication combined with half-truths to avoid dealing with the substantive issues of what is taking place in Syria which was the subject of the special session held in Geneva. At the last special session human rights experts were to conduct a fact finding mission to Syria to assess the situation. It was the Syrian regime that blocked their visit.

Ms. Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to the Human Rights Council is from South Africa and she has an extensive background as a human rights defender who battled the racist South African apartheid regime. She spoke at the start of the special session on Monday,August 22, 2011 (video of her statement is embedded above) her statement is reproduced, in part, below:
Allow me to recall that the Human Rights Council in its sixteenth Special Session on 29 April 2011 requested that I dispatch a fact-finding mission to Syria to investigate all alleged violations of human rights law and report on the situation of human rights in Syria to the Council during its eighteenth regular session in September. This report was released on 18 August, as you may have seen. In a closed session on the same day, I also briefed the members of the Security Council on the findings of our report and urged them to consider referring the current situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court. The situation remains under consideration by the Security Council. I wish to begin today by highlighting the Mission’s key findings.
OHCHR fact-finding mission found a pattern of widespread or systematic human rights violations by Syrian security and military forces, including murder, enforced disappearances, torture, deprivation of liberty, and persecution. Although the report covered the period of 15 March to 15 July 2011, there are indications that the pattern of violations continues to this day. It is our assessment that the scale and nature of these acts may amount to crimes against humanity.

It is regrettable that the Government of Syria did not give access to the Mission, despite my repeated requests. Nonetheless, the Mission gathered credible, corroborated, and consistent accounts of violations from victims and witnesses, including military defectors, and Syrian refugees in neighboring countries.
The Mission concluded that while demonstrations have been largely peaceful, the military and security forces have resorted to an apparent “shoot-to-kill” policy. Snipers on rooftops have targeted protesters, bystanders who were trying to help the wounded, and ambulances. The Mission also documented incidents of summary execution outside the context of the demonstrations, and during house-to-house searches and in hospitals. Victims and witnesses reported widespread attempts to cover up killings by the security forces, including through the use of mass graves.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights went on to report that "over 2200 people have been killed since mass protests began in mid-March" and that the fact finding mission had also found that: "Torture and ill-treatment were found to have been widespread. Former detainees cited cases of death in custody, including that of children, as a result of torture."

Hafez al-Assad and Fidel Castro

Now the regime in Syria, like that of Cuba's, has been in power for a long time and one family has transferred power when the founding dictator became incapacitated. The father of the current dictator in Syria, Hafez al-Assad, ruled from 1971 until his death in 2000. He is credited with having carried out the bloodiest crackdown in the Middle East in modern times in 1982 when he put down an uprising in the city of Hama surrounding it with regular military troops and attacked killing between 10,000 and 25,000 Syrians. Since 2000, Bashar al-Assad took over his father's dictatorship and is currently engaged in a crackdown on a predominantly nonviolent movement in which over 2,200 people have been killed as of today.

Fidel Castro visited Syria on more than one occasion and endorsed both generations dictators with warm praise. One of the Syrian regime's propaganda sites contains pictures of Fidel Castro with Bashar al-Assad with the location and date reported as Damascus, Syria on May 16, 2001. The following text describes the encounter between the two men when Bashar had just recently assumed power following his father's death on June 10, 2000:
Cuban President Fidel Castro and his accompanying delegation visited al-Assad library and laid a wreath at late president Hafez Assad's statue.In a statement to reporters, Castro described the late President as was one of the bravest men in the world. "The Syrians, Arabs, and the world freedom-loving people would never forget President Hafez Assad. The late Assad tops all in firmness, pride, and dignity; he never surrendered in all his life. Assad, indeed, knew how to raise his cause up to the top of glory and how to build for Syria her glory.’’ President Fidel Castro of Cuba said of the late president."In President Bashar Assad, I have seen all success, an identical image of his late father in features, morals, sense of responsibility. President Bashar definitely enjoys the full support of the Syrians and would achieve the sublime status realized by his late father,’’ President Fidel Castro of Cuba said of president Bashar Assad.

Hafez al-Assad and Fidel Castro in Havana on February 9, 1979

Relations between the dictatorship in Cuba and Syria have been close throughout the rule of both the father and son with both Castro brothers. They have paid visits to each others countries over the years and maintained close diplomatic ties and relations. Bashar al-Assad visited Raul Castro in Cuba on June 28, 2010 and on the second day of his visit visited a biotechnology and genetics center in Cuba.

Raul Castro and Bashar al-Assad

Beyond the obvious desire to assist in crushing the popular aspirations of the Syrian people to avoid the Cuban people getting any ideas that they can actually free themselves of the Castro brothers dictatorship there also appears to be an international strategic dimension that will have an impact throughout the hemisphere in the future. It appears that the Castro brothers have a strategic interest in maintaining the al-Assad dictatorship and are willing to assist in the cover up of mass killing of nonviolent demonstrators by their Syrian allies.

Bashar al-Assad and Fidel Castro, Damascus May 16, 2001

There are also common links to Lukashenko in Belarus and a close relationship established with a key ally of the dictatorship in Cuba and that is with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. The first country visited by al-Assad on his June 2010 visit through Latin America was Venezuela and the second was Cuba.

Bashar al-Assad and Hugo Chavez

The trouble that Syria's dictator faces is that the international environment is changing and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International are demanding that they be held accountable because there is "a growing body of crimes against humanity, the Human Rights Council should support a move which would demonstrate to Syria’s leaders that the international community intends to hold those who have committed such crimes individually criminally responsible for them. This is particularly crucial given the Syrian authorities’ ongoing failure to bring an end to such crimes in response to the international community’s repeated expressions of concern. "

Bashar al-Assad lays wreath at tomb of Jose Marti in Cuba

This is also a problem for the Castro brothers on two levels. On one level they also have a track record of having had and continuing to commit serious human rights violations including extrajudicial killings and could also find themselves before an international tribunal having to answer for their actions. Secondly, the loss of Syria is the loss of a staunch ally of the dictatorship. Add to that their public defense of mass murder in Syria and Libya the odds are that if new governments replace them they will not be as keen to develop strong relations with a regime that supported repression against the peoples of those respective countries.

Bashar al-Assad and Raul Castro during June 2010 visit to Cuba

It is a good sign for the international human rights movement that the regime in Cuba and their international allies are losing more votes at the UN Human Rights Council and that systematic human rights violators are being called to account. The vote at the council for a commission of inquiry on the events in Syria was 33 votes in favor, 9 abstentions and 4 against (China, Cuba, Russian Federation, and Ecuador).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Amnesty International denounces climate of fear and repression against Ladies in White

Cuba’s ‘Ladies in White’ targeted with arbitrary arrest and intimidation

22 August 2011

The Cuban authorities must end their intimidation of a group of women campaigning for the release of political prisoners, Amnesty International said after 19 of the group’s members were re-arrested yesterday.

The latest detentions took place yesterday in and near the south-eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, where the women were due to march silently and pray for the end of political imprisonment.

Over the last month, the “Ladies in White” (Damas de Blanco) and their supporters have repeatedly faced arbitrary arrest and physical attacks as they staged protests in several towns in the region.

Ladies in White

“The ongoing harassment of these courageous women has to stop. The Cuban authorities must allow them to march peacefully and to attend religious services as they wish,” said Javier Zuñiga, Special Advisor at Amnesty International.

The latest arrests took place as “Ladies in White” gathered in several locations to make their way to a planned march at the Cathedral in Santiago de Cuba.

Eleven of the “Ladies in White” gathered yesterday morning at the home of a supporter in the town of Palma Soriano. A crowd of some 100 people, including police, officials and government supporters, surrounded the house for several hours.

When the women attempted to leave, police pushed them and pulled their hair before forcing them into buses. They were driven a few kilometres away where they were transferred to police cars and dropped near their hometowns in the provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Holguín.

Police also surrounded the house of Tania Montoya Vázquez, another “Lady in White” from Palma Soriano for several hours yesterday, preventing her and two fellow protesters from leaving.

Five other “Ladies in White” who live in the city of Santiago were arrested before they could reach the Cathedral and were held in police stations for several hours. It is believed that they have all been released.

Beginning on 17 July, groups of the “Ladies in White” have gathered on Sundays to stage silent protests and attend mass in Santiago de Cuba and several nearby towns.

The “Ladies in White” and the “Ladies in Support” (Damas de Apoyo) are a nationwide network of activists in Cuba that have recently escalated their peaceful protests in eastern provinces. In Havana and elsewhere, they have repeatedly suffered harassment from Cuban authorities for their peaceful protests.

In central Havana on 18 August 2011, 49 “Ladies in White” and their supporters were prevented from carrying out a protest in support of their members in Santiago de Cuba and other eastern provinces.

In 2003, Cuban authorities rounded up 75 of the group’s relatives for their involvement in peaceful criticism of the government.

The 75 dissidents were subjected to summary trials and sentenced to prison terms of up to 28 years. Amnesty International considered them all to be prisoners of conscience, and the last of them were finally released in May 2011.

The “Ladies in White” and “Ladies in Support” continue to peacefully protest for the release of others who they believe have been imprisoned due to their dissident activities.

“It is unacceptable for the government under Raúl Castro’s leadership to perpetuate a climate of fear and repression to silence ordinary Cubans when they dare to speak out,” said Javier Zuñiga.

Amnistía Internacional denuncia clima de miedo y represión contra Damas de Blanco

Las Damas de Blanco de Cuba, objetivo de detención arbitraria e intimidación

22 agosto 2011

Las autoridades cubanas deben poner fin a la intimidación ejercida contra un grupo de mujeres que hacen campaña en favor de la liberación de presos políticos, según ha afirmado Amnistía Internacional después de que ayer volvieran a detener a 19 mujeres pertenecientes a este grupo.

Las últimas detenciones se practicaron ayer en la ciudad suroriental de Santiago de Cuba y sus inmediaciones, donde las mujeres se disponían a marchar en silencio y rezar por el fin del encarcelamiento político.

Durante el último mes, las Damas de Blanco y sus simpatizantes han afrontado repetidamente agresiones y detención arbitraria al protagonizar protestas en varias localidades de la región.

“El acoso constante a estas mujeres valientes tiene que parar. Las autoridades cubanas deben permitirles marchar pacíficamente y asistir a servicios religiosos si lo desean” manifestó Javier Zúñiga, asesor especial de Amnistía Internacional.

Las últimas detenciones se llevaron a cabo cuando las Damas de Blanco se concentraron en varios lugares para iniciar la marcha prevista hacia la Catedral de Santiago de Cuba.

Once de estas mujeres se reunieron ayer por la mañana en el domicilio de un simpatizante en la localidad de Palma Soriano. Una multitud de alrededor de un centenar de personas, formada por agentes de policía, autoridades y simpatizantes del gobierno, mantuvieron la casa rodeada durante varias horas.

Cuando las mujeres intentaron salir, la policía las empujó y les tiró del pelo antes de obligarlas a subir a autobuses. A unos kilómetros de allí las cambiaron a vehículos policiales y luego las abandonaron cerca de sus ciudades natales, en las provincias de Santiago de Cuba y Holguín.

Ayer, la policía también rodeó durante varias horas la vivienda de Tania Montoya Vázquez, otra mujer de las Damas de Blanco de Palma Soriano, evitando que salieran ella y otras dos manifestantes.

Otras cinco integrantes de las Damas de Blanco que viven en la ciudad de Santiago fueron detenidas antes de que pudieran llegar a la catedral y estuvieron varias horas privadas de libertad en comisarías de policía. Se piensa que todas han sido liberadas ya.

Desde el 17 de julio, grupos de Damas de Blanco se han concentrado los domingos para celebrar protestas silenciosas y asistir a misa en Santiago de Cuba y varias localidades cercanas.

Las Damas de Blanco y las Damas de Apoyo forman una red nacional de activistas en Cuba que recientemente ha intensificado sus protestas pacíficas en las provincias orientales.

En La Habana y otros lugares, los informes recibidos indican que han sufrido hostigamiento repetidamente por parte de las autoridades cubanas a causa de sus protestas pacíficas.

El 18 de agosto de 2011, en el centro de La Habana, se impidió a 49 mujeres de las Damas de Blanco y a sus simpatizantes que celebraran una protesta para apoyar a las mujeres del grupo en Santiago de Cuba y otras provincias del este.

En 2003, las autoridades cubanas detuvieron a 75 familiares de mujeres del grupo por su implicación en críticas pacíficas al gobierno.

Los 75 disidentes fueron objeto de juicios sumarios y condenados a penas de hasta 28 años de cárcel.

Amnistía Internacional consideró que todos eran presos de conciencia; finalmente, en mayo de 2011 fue liberada la última persona de este grupo. Las Damas de Blanco y las Damas de Apoyo siguen protestando pacíficamente para que se libere a otras personas que, en su opinión, han sido encarceladas por sus actividades disidentes.

“Es inaceptable que el gobierno dirigido por Raúl Castro perpetúe un clima de miedo y represión para silenciar a los ciudadanos corrientes de Cuba que se atreven a expresar su opinión” manifestó Javier Zúñiga.